Paris-Belgium-Netherlands Itinerary, 16 nights
Replies: 33 - Last Post: Jan 19, 2013 10:52 PM Last Post By: MTL
Dec 11, 2012 2:33 PM
15We visited Dixmuide and Veurne by train last year the 28th of July and although it was cloudy there was a rather strong northern wind all the time. Not enjoyable. Since there was a Carnivalfair we didn't see much of the marketsquare either which is like the mainsight of the city. In general Veurne is a small and interesting town. It is already a lot bigger then Damme. But with all the unforeseen situations we better had brought our car so that we could visit indoor attractions like castle Beauvoorde or combine the city with other locations for much more variety.
Dec 12, 2012 4:19 AM
16If you have only 16 nigts to spend. I do not recomand goint to the ardenne. It are just some hills. Depending on where you come from this will or will not be what you are looking for. It is popular with dutch people since we are
not used to hills. If you want some nature you could go to the waddenzee, this has more unusual sihts for q visitor from far away.
Dec 12, 2012 5:35 PM
17Right then, your description re Ardennes, dmaas, helps me, since the area seems to require more time, and along with the sentiments here that we can certainly make Maastricht work, we will skip Ardennes and go to Maastricht after Antwerp, and then the two hour train to Utrecht, which seems like a brilliant base, for Kinderdijk and Arnhem open air for the kids. The extra night in Ghent allows for Artemis2's endorsement of Veurne, (as long as there isn't that northern wind) and the fun coastal tram to De Haan. And it looks like Maastricht happens to have Preuvenemint festival on when we'd be there, so I guess that means we will be eating all day.
If anyone can tell me if they see any real advantage to having a car around Maastricht or if it would be a hassle I'd be appreciative-- it is probably the only way I'll get to see any Belgian castles in countryside since we won't have a car in Ghent area. Alden-Biesen castle for example, doesn't have easy PT, although there seems to be a bus to Hoensbroek. Not much info about the South Limburg area in the several guidebooks I have other than the fact that the countryside is 'studded with castles and dotted with crooked timber houses' ...
Dec 12, 2012 11:15 PM
18For someone taveling by train Utrechtt is indeed the perfect base.
In general you can get anywhere with the public traffic, though if you want to see a lot of castles here this will get difficult. My favourite castle is Loevestein by the way, 1 hour drive from Utrecht (no public traffic all the way)
Hoensbroek castle in limburg is similair (and there is a bus going there) so I sugest going there.
Dec 13, 2012 12:29 AM
19Closer to Utrecht and a 15 minutes walk from the nearest bus stop, an alternative could be Kasteel de Haar (http://www.kasteeldehaar.nl/english-summary/castle-park/).
if they see any real advantage to having a car around Maastricht
If you plan to tour the countryside, it certainly makes sense to rent a car for the day. This is indeed a lovely part of the country with hills (a rare sight in the Netherlands) dotted with small, cute towns and castles (though don't come expecting huge fortified buildings or French-style chateaux).
Dec 13, 2012 1:44 AM
20For some nature you could visit the oostvaardersplassen. Day trip from Utrecht in Flevoland province. (which has been artificialy created from the sea)
Dec 13, 2012 7:50 AM
Dec 13, 2012 8:33 AM
22I do not recomand goint to the ardenne. It are just some hills....... It is popular with dutch people since we are
not used to hills.
Allow me to disagree dmaas. I will not say that the Ardennes are amongst the more spectacular parts of Europe nature-wise, but it has a particular and gentle charm with its nature stone villages, castles, fortresses, rivers, and apart from the immense popularity with Dutch visitors there is an ever growing number of French, British, German and other foreign visitors who are very much used to hills and even mountains.
But the OP has to make choices..
I think for touring around Maastricht including a visit to Alden Biesen a car is recommendable. Note that the south of the Belgian province of Limburg, and the Flemish enclave within Wallony around Voeren, just across the Belgian border south of Maastricht has many similarities.
Use Viamichelin for a map overview and scenic roads (and not Google maps)
Here is a great site for an overview of castles in the region, Alden Biesen is listed as well/
Dec 13, 2012 9:23 AM
23You are right, the Ardennes has things to offer (personaly I like the caves the most) but I would not put it in the top ten of belgium and the netherlands. (besides why visit the lowlads and then spending a lot of time in the hills, something that we are not specialized in) Futhermore you would definitely need a car there to see the countryside there the sights are not realy dense, and so as you already noted it would take a lot of time.
So I would say: Yes the Ardenne is a good choice if you are looking for a rustic place to spend a week or so, but it does not fit the profile for a two weeks cultural and natural highlight tour.
BY the way the open air museum in Arnhem is very nice, you also have the kröller müller museum is in that same area (beautiful located in national park de hoge veluwe) But those two together miht be a litlle too much for a daytrip.
Edited by: dmaas
Dec 13, 2012 11:16 AM
24Considering public transport or car be aware of the hefty train rates in NL. Teens will pay adult fare so -for example - Maastricht to Utrecht via Arnhem is going to cost you 4 x € 29, .. = € 119,-
Together with the forementioned practicalities I suggest to rent a car for some days in Maastricht and drop it off in Utrecht.
IMO a car is recommendable by far to cover:
- possible trips to the Ardennes ( a nice loop can be made),
-castle Alden-Bilsen and a nice little village, Rekem. It was chosen in 2008 as the nicest village in Flanders and so a wonderful substutute for your earlier indicated Lissewege. And if interested in minery history, Genk.
-continue to NP De Hoge veluwe, Anhem (also THE bridge too far epi-centre) and Utrecht.
BTW. Those crooked timbered houses: you can admire them, driving a route between Maastricht (Gronsveld) and Vaals, via Slenaken en Epen
Or visit for example Monschau
The latter being very, very touristy.
Hoping it not making more confusing for you ...
Dec 13, 2012 11:40 AM
25The region east of Liège is called the Land of Herve. It is a hilly region where hedges surround the acres. The region grew important in the 18th and 19th century with the industrialisation of textiles. Belgium became the first industrialised country on the continent. Verviers is the main city. In the shadows of Verviers you have the former capital of the Duchy of Limbourg: Limbourg. Herve is a small town and gave its name to the historic province of Herve of the Duchy of Limbourg and later to the region. In that area you have the abbey of Val-Dieu and the big village of Aubel. Further north you have the small towns of Dahlem and Visé, but with little touristic sights. The beer of Val-Dieu is very popular in Liège. Herve is also a very good regional cheese.
On the other side of the Meuse is Hesbaye. It is the opposite of the Land of Herve. They have open landscapes, no hedges and few trees. You have lots of grainfields there. It is one of the oldest agricultural regions of Belgium. Tongeren is a former Roman City with several interesting sights. . The local museum is one of the best museums in Belgium; It tells the history of the Lowcountries: everything before the Middle Ages. You also have the fort Eben Emael and the Mines of Kanne in that area.
Although all the grain the region is popular for Jenever. In Hasselt you also have a museum for Jenever.
The region north west of Maastricht is called Campines it used to be one big heathland where they held sheep. It industrialised (Genk, Beringen,...) and became a mining region for coal. To build the mineshafts they needed trees so they planted lots of pinetrees in that area. Historic cities/towns of the Campines are Peer, Bree and Beringen. The town of Bilzen and Hasselt are somewhere between Hesbaye and Campines.
And then you also have the Meusevalley where you have Maastricht, Maaseik and the towns of Stokkem and Rekem. Rekem is said to be pretty. Maastricht has a very old herbshop-museum and quite a big towncentre. Stokkem is not very interesting it is more like a fortified village. Near Liège you have the mines of Blegny.
East of Maastricht you have Valkenburg the first tourist resort of the Netherlands. In Belgium this is Spa south of Verviers in the Ardennes near the castle of Franchimont and the town of Theux.
Dec 13, 2012 8:13 PM
26This trip sounds very fun! Just a reminder that this is good "biking country" - great bikes-only paths over mostly flat land ;)
Your teens may appreciate 1/2 a day of biking every so often. The pace of biking forces you to absorb the sights, smell the roses and have leisurely lunches with beer/wine! Additionally, museum fatigue can always be counteracted by being active outdoors!
My experiences have only been biking from Amsterdam to Haarlem, as well as day trips from Brugge, but I did them with a 3 year old. Good luck planning and enjoy your trip.
Dec 14, 2012 9:36 AM
27"Maastricht has a very old herbshop-museum and quite a big towncentre. "
It needs to be Maaseik and not Maastricht. Sorry about the confusion.
Dec 14, 2012 1:34 PM
28Here is a great site for an overview of castles in the region
This is a fabulous website, ardemis2. I like your essential suggestion to do 'scenic' routing in michelin, which I always forget. That, combined with ideas from panoramio pics that link in Google Maps should do the trick.
Aribo, Kasteel de Haar looks A+, and as you say a short hop from Utrecht. I will be there, with or without the family! (Long compulsory guided tour).
Considering public transport or car be aware of the hefty train rates in NL.
Glad you cautioned us, had not looked into pricing yet. We will keep the car for the shift from Maastricht-Utrecht stopping in small towns like Rekem (wow, so pretty,who knew?), Thorn and maybe one or two others that beckon on the drive up North. I would love any more ideas like that (nice villages) up the Maas or in general direction of Utrecht. Keeping the car will mean combine we can easily see Arnhem Open Air, Kroller Muller and my new favorite, Zutphen, so we can spy a bit of the IJssel, clearly not all in the same day.
Those crooked timbered houses: driving a route between Maastricht (Gronsveld) and Vaals
Perfect to have a location for this and quite a bit closer than Monschau, and fun to end up in Vaals, kids would enjoy straddling three countries.
East of Maastricht you have Valkenburg the first tourist resort of the Netherlands
Heard Valkenburg is absolutely packed in the summer... if any of you really like it, I may attempt it.
I'm worried about getting to Amsterdam at all!
Dec 16, 2012 8:06 AM
29+East of Maastricht you have Valkenburg the first tourist resort of the Netherlands
Heard Valkenburg is absolutely packed in the summer... if any of you really like it, I may attempt it.+
#cloisters, Avoid it, in short Valkenburg should be my last resort (if that English expression is completely understood by me;-) Though it has some fame because of the caves.
If you're rough itinerary is Maastricht - Thorn - Arnhem - Zutphen - Utrecht I'll look into some more nice villages later, e.g. Bronkhorst near Zutphen, nice for a short break
Nice, this interactive thread, I assume you get more useful info due to obvious interested and well-prepared questions.
Good to confirm De Haar near Utrecht.
For the moment also this: From Zutphen, cross the river on the nice bridge, direction Apeldoorn. Underway it's possible (in Lieren) to ride the Veluwsche Stoomtrein
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