Holland and Belgium are among the most popular countries in Europe when it comes to travel. For good reason, as these small but uniquely styled countries are full of special attractions worth visiting.
In this article, you can discover a 7-day itinerary that explores the best places in the Netherlands and Belgium. Our itinerary takes you from the canals of Amsterdam to the hidden gems of the Dutch countryside and on to the historical buildings of Belgium. We’ll share our thoughts on how to make the most of a week-long journey through Belgium and the Netherlands.
You can also find travel tips related to the trip, such as when and how to travel, must-see attractions, and what to consider during the planning.
First, let’s look at the general questions that arise when planning a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, followed by a day-by-day list of the 7-day itinerary.
General questions about a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium
How many days to spend in the Netherlands and Belgium?
Our itinerary is for 7 days, where you can get a good look at the best places in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 7 days, you have time to see the main attractions in both capitals and go out into the countryside for a few day trips.
Basically, you don’t need more than a few days for either country if you only want to see the main attractions. That’s why our itinerary includes 4 days in the Netherlands and 3 days in Belgium.
If you want to spend more time at each place, explore lesser-known spots, relax, and have a more leisurely trip, then plan 10–14 days for the two countries.
Best time to visit Belgium and Netherlands
The best time to visit Belgium and the Netherlands is undoubtedly spring, specifically in April. There’s a simple reason for this – tulips bloom in April, making it a highlighted attraction in the Netherlands.
Additionally, summer is a good time to travel, as the Benelux countries don’t experience as hot weather as other parts of Europe. This allows for pleasant sightseeing during the summer.
Autumn is also a great choice, with colorful trees welcoming you, especially in October.
We recommend avoiding winter, it’s cold, rainy, and the overall scenery tends to be gray.
Where to start your trip
We start our itinerary in the Netherlands, as most international flights land at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
If you travel by car or have a flight to Brussels, you can of course tailor your itinerary to start elsewhere.
How to get around the two countries
If you’re arriving from neighboring countries with your own car, then it’s likely you’ll want to travel around the two countries by car.
Even if you arrive by plane, we still recommend renting a car, as it can be difficult to reach rural destinations without a car.
Highway usage is free in both countries, and driving is relatively easy, although heavy traffic is common.
Driving can be complicated because both capitals have low emission zones, where only certain vehicles are allowed to enter. In Amsterdam, if your car meets the requirements, you can easily enter the city without needing a sticker or permit. Brussels is a bit more complicated, requiring registration or even payment. You can find more information on this on the official Dutch and Belgian websites.
By public transport
In the Netherlands and Belgium, public transportation is highly developed, so you can easily travel between major cities by train.
There are regular train services between Amsterdam and Brussels, as well as to the Belgian destinations we present, making it easy to get around by train. Therefore, it’s mainly challenging to reach rural Dutch attractions without a car.
Where to stay during your trip
Our suggestion for this itinerary is to book accommodation in the two capitals (Amsterdam and Brussels) for 3–4 nights and make day trips to the countryside.
For the two capitals, we recommend the following hotels:
Best things to do on this trip
- Tasting Belgian waffles: Try Belgium’s famous waffles at a local bakery or café. Belgian waffles are softer and thicker, while waffles are usually crispier and thicker.
- Boating on Amsterdam’s canals: Discover Amsterdam’s beauty and history on a boat trip along the canals. See the city’s unique buildings and bridges while cruising on the water.
- Exploring Dutch tulip fields: Visit one of Holland’s tulip fields, especially in spring when the flowers are in full bloom. Enjoy the colorful landscape and take beautiful photos.
- Walking among Dutch windmills: Take a walk in the area of Holland’s famous windmills and explore the traditional Dutch engineering marvels. Learn about the history of wind energy and enjoy the beautiful views.
- Visiting a Belgian beer tasting: Learn about the rich world of Belgian beers on a beer tasting visit. Taste different types of craft beers and learn about Belgian beer culture and history.
- Walking and discovering in old towns: Discover the beauty and uniqueness of historic towns in Belgium with a walk through the old towns. Admire historical buildings, narrow streets, and squares, and enjoy the atmosphere of the cities.
- Tasting Dutch cheeses at cheese markets: Visit Dutch cheese markets, where you can taste different types and flavors of cheese. Learn about the traditional Dutch cheese-making process and taste delicious local specialties.
After the basic questions, let’s see how we think it’s worth spending a week in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Netherlands and Belgium 7-day detailed itinerary: How to spend a week
Day 1: Amsterdam
On the first day, when you arrive in Amsterdam, start your itinerary with exploring the city center.
Amsterdam is a vibrant and picturesque city with a rich cultural and historical background. Here are some key tourist highlights to explore on a one-day city tour:
- Amsterdam’s canals: Discover the city’s iconic canals on a boat cruise, offering relaxation and wonderful views of the buildings and landmarks.
- Walking tour of the city center: Take a stroll through the historic downtown area, visiting Dam Square, Royal Palace Amsterdam, and interesting churches like The New Church along the way. Don’t forget to stop and admire the decorated bicycles placed along the streets.
- Anne Frank House: Visit the Anne Frank House to gain insight into the story of Anne Frank and her diary, providing a sensitive glimpse into the events of World War II.
- Rijksmuseum: Explore the richness of Dutch art and history at the Rijksmuseum, home to a vast collection including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
These are just a few of the main attractions that allow you to experience the beauty and cultural values of Amsterdam in a day.
While you’re on your way, stop by a local pancake house or another street eatery where you can try Dutch dishes.
In the evening, if you feel like having some entertainment, visit the famous Red Light District, renowned for its lively nightlife.
Spend the night in Amsterdam.
Day 2: Giethoorn
On the second day, if there’s anything left in Amsterdam that you’d like to see, here’s the chance.
When you’re done with the best places in Amsterdam, head to the Dutch countryside, specifically the charming village of Giethoorn.
Amsterdam – Giethoorn: 120 km (75 mi), 1 hour 20 min
Giethoorn is an amazing village located about an hour and a half drive from the capital, set in a secluded rural area. It’s a true hidden gem of Holland. Whether you spend a whole day or just half a day in Giethoorn, make sure it’s included in your itinerary.
Here are some attractions worth exploring in Giethoorn:
- Canal Boat Cruise: Giethoorn is also famous for its canals, often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Rent a boat and enjoy a peaceful ride along the narrow waterways, admiring the picturesque cottages lining the shores.
- Walking Tour: Take a leisurely stroll along the canals, wander through the footpaths, cross over scenic wooden bridges, and discover the beautiful landscape.
- Local Cuisine: Sample traditional Dutch cuisine at one of the village’s cozy cafés or restaurants.
Giethoorn is a delightful destination, situated far from the cities, in an idyllic environment with charming streets and houses – a truly unmissable travel destination in the Netherlands.
Pro tip: If you still have time in the evening, especially if you travel with children, on the way back to Amsterdam, stop at Hans & Gretel pancake house, a fairytale style pancake house.
The night is again worth spending in Amsterdam.
Day 3: Zaanse Schans, Tulip fields or Castle De Haar
The third day’s itinerary depends on the season you’re traveling to the Netherlands.
Generally, in the morning, we planned a visit to Zaanse Schans, located north of Amsterdam, which can be visited year-round.
Zaanse Schans is a picturesque open-air museum located just north of Amsterdam, offering a glimpse into the traditional Dutch way of life.
Here, you can explore historic windmills, wooden houses, and artisan workshops, providing insight into the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Take a leisurely stroll along the wooden pathways, watch craftsmen at work, and learn about the process of making traditional Dutch products such as cheese, clogs, and wooden barrels.
Don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the top of a windmill for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Once you’re done exploring Zaanse Schans, it’s time for lunch followed by exploring the rest of the Dutch countryside.
For the afternoon, there are two options:
- If you’re traveling in spring, head to the famous Dutch tulip fields and Keukenhof garden.
- If you’re visiting during other times of the year, visit the magnificent Castle De Haar, one of the most beautiful castles in the Netherlands with its vast gardens.
Keukenhof and other tulip fields
Spring in the Netherlands means beautiful tulip fields, and Keukenhof is the best place to see them.
Known as the “Garden of Europe,” Keukenhof has millions of tulips, daffodils, and other flowers in its carefully designed gardens. In Keukenhof, you can walk around different themed displays, visit pavilions with floral arrangements, and take amazing photos among the flowers.
Additionally, in the garden, you’ll find a windmill that you can also climb to the top of – it’s a bit simpler than the ones in Zaanse Schans.
Besides Keukenhof, there are many tulip fields all over the Dutch countryside, where you can also enjoy stunning views and take great pictures.
We have written a separate article about the best tulip fields, which you can read by clicking on the link.
In short, for the best flower fields around Keukenhof, look north of Lisse towards Hillegom. Along Loosterweg Noord street and its surroundings, you’ll find numerous fields.
Castle De Haar
Castle De Haar is a beautiful medieval castle near Utrecht, known for its stunning architecture and large garden.
Entry tickets are required for both the castle and its gardens. There are combined tickets available, allowing access to both, as well as separate tickets specifically for the gardens.
In the castle, you can explore the luxurious interior rooms, adorned with exquisite furnishings, tapestries, and artwork, while learning about the castle’s fascinating history.
The well-maintained gardens surrounding the castle feature intricate flowerbeds, peaceful ponds, and lush greenery, providing a picturesque backdrop.
Castle De Haar is not only one of the most interesting castles in the Netherlands, it is also a great place to take photos.
The evening is free, as the attractions listed are not available in the evening.
Spend the night in Amsterdam.
Day 4: Brussels
On day four, our itinerary continues to Belgium, including the capital, Brussels.
Amsterdam-Brussels: 210 km (130 mi), 2 hours 40 minutes
The morning will be mostly spent traveling, leaving the sightseeing tour of Brussels for the afternoon.
So the best things to see and do in Brussels in an afternoon:
- Grand Place: Start your afternoon by exploring the Grand Place (Grote Markt), Brussels’ central square, featuring stunning historical buildings like the town hall and beautifully decorated facades.
- Manneken Pis: Take a short walk to see the iconic Manneken Pis statue, a beloved symbol of Brussels known for its unique charm and historical significance.
- Brussels Park and Royal Palace: Enjoy a leisurely stroll in Brussels Park, adjacent to the Royal Palace of Brussels, where you can admire the park’s beauty and learn about Belgium’s monarchical tradition.
If you have extra time:
- St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral: Visit the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, a stunning Gothic church and one of Belgium’s most significant landmarks.
- Cinquantenaire Park: Take a stroll in the Cinquantenaire Park, featuring impressive arches and museums like Autoworld, offering cultural experiences amidst beautiful surroundings.
- Atomium: Head to the Atomium, a fascinating modern architectural landmark with exhibitions and panoramic views of the city, offering insights into science and art.
With these highlights, you’ll get a taste of Brussels’ rich history, diverse culture, and vibrant urban life during your short visit.
In the evening, if you feel like having some fun, head out to Brussels, which boasts a vibrant nightlife similar to Amsterdam’s.
Spend the night in Brussels.
Day 5: Brussels, Dinant
On the morning of the fifth day, if there are still sights in Brussels you want to see, here’s your chance.
Since only a short countryside excursion is planned for the afternoon, the morning can still be spent in Brussels.
In the afternoon, head to the Belgian countryside, specifically one of its most beautiful towns, Dinant.
Brussels to Dinant: 100 km (62 mi), 1 hour 30 min
Dinant is one of the most photogenic places in Belgium and well worth a short visit.
Here are some activities you can enjoy during an afternoon visit:
- Explore the Citadel: Visit the historic Citadel of Dinant, perched atop a cliff overlooking the city. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Meuse river and the surrounding countryside.
- Admire Notre Dame de Dinant: Admire the Gothic architecture of the church, which is one of Dinant’s landmarks. Discover the beautiful stained-glass windows and intricate carvings in the interior.
- Take a boat trip on the river: go on a scenic boat trip on the Meuse river to admire the city of Dinant from a different perspective. Relax as you stroll past charming riverside buildings.
All in all, Dinant offers a delightful mix of culture, history and natural beauty, making it the perfect destination for a memorable afternoon out.
It’s worth returning to Brussels or staying in a nearby hotel for the evening. The next day, we’ll head in a different direction for an excursion.
Day 6: Ghent
On the sixth day of our itinerary, the focus will be on another Belgian countryside excursion: a journey to another captivating Belgian destination, Ghent.
Brussels – Ghent: 60 km (37 mi), 1 hour
Ghent is renowned for its picturesque charm and is definitely worth a visit.
Here are some activities you can enjoy during a one-day trip to Ghent:
- Explore Gravensteen Castle: Immerse yourself in Ghent’s medieval history by visiting Gravensteen Castle, a well-preserved fortress located in the heart of the city. Take a stroll through its ancient halls and climb to the top for panoramic views of Ghent.
- Admire St. Bavo’s Cathedral: Marvel at the grandeur of St. Bavo’s Cathedral, a stunning Gothic masterpiece.
- Along the way, check out the Belfry of Ghent: This is a bell tower built in the 14th century.
- Stroll along Graslei and Korenlei: Take a leisurely walk along the picturesque Graslei and Korenlei, two historic quaysides lined with beautifully preserved guild houses. Don’t forget to check out the Saint Michael’s Bridge along the way.
Roughly, this is what fits into a day trip to Ghent. If you have extra time, consider exploring other Belgian countryside destinations, such as the famous Bruges or the nearby Kasteel van Ooidonk.
It’s advisable to return to Brussels in the evening. The next day, our journey will take us back to the Netherlands.
Day 7: Kinderdijk Windmills, Rotterdam
On the last day of our itinerary, we’ll return to the Netherlands.
Brussels – Amsterdam: 210 km (130 mi), 2 hours 40 minutes
However, there are still some sights worth stopping for a few hours along the way:
Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its picturesque windmills, symbolizing Dutch water management ingenuity.
During your visit, you can explore the historic windmills and learn about their role in regulating the region’s water levels. The windmills are lined up along a path, making for a pleasant stroll.
Parking and entrance fees apply, but walking between the windmills is free.
Rotterdam is a vibrant port city known for its modern architecture, dynamic cultural scene, and maritime heritage.
Highlights include the innovative Markthal, the iconic Erasmus Bridge, and the bustling Witte de Withstraat with its trendy cafés and galleries.
If you have extra time, take a stroll around the city and explore its top attractions.
In the evening, as it’s the seventh day, return to Amsterdam, concluding our week-long road trip itinerary.
We hope we’ve provided enough inspiration for your one-week Dutch-Belgian road trip and given you ideas for your next journey.
Additional destinations for an extended trip
If you have more time to travel, here are some other destinations you can visit during a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium:
- Haarlem: Explore the charming city of Haarlem, known for its beautiful historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and cultural attractions. Don’t miss Adriaan’s Windmill for panoramic views of the city.
- Bruges: Discover the medieval city of Bruges, often called the Venice of the North, with its picturesque canals, well-preserved medieval architecture, and delicious Belgian chocolate.
- Antwerp: Visit Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, renowned for its vibrant cultural scene, stunning architecture, and thriving fashion and diamond industries. Don’t forget to explore the historic city center and visit the Cathedral of Our Lady.
- Walibi Belgium: Experience thrilling rides and attractions at Walibi Belgium, one of the country’s most popular amusement parks, offering fun for visitors of all ages with its roller coasters, water rides, and entertainment shows.
In summary, a week-long trip to the Netherlands and Belgium offers a perfect mix of city sightseeing, countryside excursions, and cultural experiences. From Amsterdam’s canals to Dinant’s medieval charm and Kinderdijk’s iconic windmills, there’s something for everyone.
By following this itinerary, you can make the most of your time and explore the highlights of both countries. Whether cruising Amsterdam’s canals, strolling through Dutch towns, or admiring Belgium’s architecture, each day promises new adventures.
With tips on transportation, accommodation, and must-see attractions, planning your trip is easy. So pack your bags, hit the road, and enjoy a week of unforgettable experiences in these beautiful European destinations.