We just scratched the surface in both of these cities, but there’s kind of an art to spending just one day in a new place. We really had to decide about which things were important to us to experience, and which we could set aside. So if you’re ever spending one day in Brussels or Amsterdam, these itineraries might work well for you, too! Both of these itineraries have quite a bit of walking, which is how we like to roll. But you can definitely incorporate more public transportation if you need to. Happy travels! xoxo
Spend the morning at the flea market in the Marolles. You’ll have to dig, but you’ll find some treasures for sure! After you’ve had your fill, stop at one of the cafes facing the market and people watch while you have a bite. Wander over to Mannekin Pis statue and admire its weirdness. The Grand Place is just down the block from the statue — wander around and gawk for a while. It’s such a spectacular place. Be sure to check out the small side streets and alleys off of the Grand Place as well. We found a couple of really amazing kids’ toy stores! When you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a waffle from a stand on a side street. I liked mine just with some good old powdered sugar, but you can get crazy with the toppings!
After that, walk back through the Marolles to the glass elevator, and take it (for free) up to the top. Admire the view, and then start walking past the Palais du Justice. Keep walking down Avenue Louise and check out the shops. Be sure to stop at Dille and Kamille — a gorgeous shop full of fun kitchen supplies and home stuff. If you’re up for more walking, keep going to the Place du Chatelain. It’s a lovely, out-of-the-way area, with a very local feel. Stop and have a beer at a cafe to give your feet a break. Finish off the day by wandering back through the Ixelles area and finding a cozy spot for dinner.
Note: We stayed in this airbnb. A perfect location, gorgeously appointed, all the comforts of home. The host was so gracious and even walked us around Brussels for a bit to get us acquainted with the location. Stay here!
I. Love. Amsterdam. Start the day wandering around The Nine Streets. It’s a grid of a few unbelievably charming streets packed with plenty of shops to wander in and out of. If you start at the bottom and work your way to the top, you’ll end up near the Anne Frank House. I’d definitely recommend taking the time to do the tour. There may be a bit of a line, but it moves quickly and there is lots to look at while you wait. (The museum even provides free wifi while you wait so you can read up on the house and the Frank family.) After the tour, head back toward The Nine Streets and grab takeaway lunch somewhere. Find a comfortable spot on a canal, and sit down to eat while you watch the boats go by.
If it’s market day, be sure to see them! Waterlooplein is a fun flea market along the canals with all kinds of tchotchkes and “antiques”, and Bloemenmarkt is a flower market chock full of blooms and bulbs. We also wandered upon another market — not sure which it was but there were lots of food stands and local delicacies. That’s the magical place where we discovered stroopwafels. We brought home three packages. (So good!)
If you’re feeling curious, wander through the Red Light District. This is the seedy Amsterdam that everyone knows about — the pot coffeeshops and brothels and everything in between. We just took a quick walk through during the day, but I hear it’s popping at night. Choose your own adventure. But in the middle of all of the seediness is Oude Kerk, one of the most beautiful old churches I’ve ever come across. Don’t miss a peek.
Finally, walk (or take the tram) over to Vondelpark. Take a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine or some beers and watch the locals do their thing. The best thing we could compare it to is Sheeps Meadow in Central Park; lots of young locals, playing music, skateboarding, just living life. Leave when the sun goes down (they say the scene changes after dark) and grab some dinner. We had a delicious meal at Bosco and would totally recommend it.
Note: We stayed in this airbnb. Highly recommended for location, cleanliness, and a beautiful view. But definitely don’t stay here if you have issues with stairs or lots of luggage. It’s up four flights of the steepest stairs ever.
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