As an American who has lived in Paris, briefly Brussels, and Amsterdam, I know that one of the popular routes for first-time travelers (as well as experienced travelers) is to spend a week (or 10 days) traveling from Amsterdam to Brussels to Paris. This is a great route as there are great train and bus connections between all of these cities. I’ll be doing an overview of what to do in each city along with some helpful tips for planning your itinerary!
- Helpful tips for planning your 10-day trip to Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris
- Day 1: Paris
- Day 2: Paris
- Day 3: Versailles/Paris
- Day 4: Thalys to Brussels; Brussels
- Day 5: Antwerpen
- Day 6: Ghent
- Day 7: Amsterdam
- Day 8: Amsterdam
- Day 9: Another city in Holland (Leiden, Alkmaar, the Hague)
- Day 10: Amsterdam / travel day
Helpful tips for planning your 10 day trip to Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris
Something that many people don’t do is book an open-jaw flight. This means that you fly into one city and fly out of another city. The advantage here is that you often save money, as that you don’t need to backtrack to where you began, leaving you time to enjoy your last destination more! Paris and Amsterdam are both serviced by KLM as well as Air Frances, so if you book a flight with one, it should be possible to fly out of Paris instead of Amsterdam for not much more.
The trains in this region are generally quite good. The best (and most expensive train) is the Thalys, which runs between Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. If you want to take the Thalys, you should book as far in advance as possible as it can be expensive last minute. This also makes it easy to take day trips.
A cheaper alternative is the reliable network of buses that run between various European cities. You can check
Be sure to book your hotels in advance. Peak season (e.g. summer) is when hotel prices in all of these cities increase. Amsterdam as well as Paris have been cutting down on Airbnbs, which is putting more strain on the hotels to accommodate tourists, which is driving up prices.
You should be able to use your card pretty reliably, so there’s no need to take out large sums of cash. You can check out this article about saving money on taking out money in Europe for more information.
Day 1: Arrive/Paris
One of my tricks for avoiding the worst of the jetlag (if you have to deal with this) is to ensure that you sleep on the plane, especially if you land in the morning. You still might be a bit tired, but there’s nothing like a delicious French pastry from a local bakery, a good coffee, and a power nap to get you on your way! With only three days in Paris, you’ll need to choose carefully to decide what you want to prioritize.
Personally, I’d recommend your first day to get off to a slower start within the true center of Paris. See Notre Dame (once it reopens), Île de la Cité, eat some macarons, maybe step into Museum D’Orsay or the Louvre (the Louvre is open late on certain days). Maybe end the day with a nice sunset at a cafe close to the Seine or somewhere where you can people watch! For a more detailed itinerary, including restaurant recommendations, you can head over to my Paris itinerary.
In general, I recommend finding a hotel in Le Marais or in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which will make most of the major attractions easy to walk to or take a metro to. For those on a budget, my friend stayed at Hotel Rivoli, which is in the heart of Le Marais in a historic townhouse.
Day 2: Paris
There’s nothing like waking up early on the second day refreshed and ready to go. I love the cafe culture in France that often involves lingering over a coffee and pastry to start off the morning. The Paris Metro is the cheapest and often the best way to get around Paris.
After some coffee, get up early and head to Montmartre, one of the most charming neighborhoods of Paris. It’s best coming here in the mornings as the crowds that descend upon the Sacre Coeur tend to be minimal in the mornings! You can click for my free self-guided walking tour of Montmartre.
After visiting Montmartre, I recommend walking down or taking the Metro down towards the 1st arrondissement to experience the covered passages! These covered shopping malls from the turn of the century are absolutely beautiful to walk through and 100% free.
There are quite a few great places to eat lunch along the way in the 9th arrondissement close to Rue Notre Dame de Lorette. It should take maybe 1-2 hours to explore the covered passages on foot. You’ll end close to the Seine and the Louvre. You can click here for my self-guided walking tour of the covered passages in Paris.
I always love going to Le Marais for dinner. Whether it’s a quick and delicious dinner at L’As du Falafel (a famous cash-only joint) or a great sit-down restaurant, you’ll find plenty of great options for dinner in this cozy neighborhood. If you’re not too tired, you can always take the Metro to sit next to the Eiffel Tower or the chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood to cafe hop!
Day 3: Versailles/Paris
For your last day in Paris, you’ll need to choose carefully what is of interest to you. Versailles is a whole day in itself and you can visit Versailles pretty easily from Paris on your own. Click for my day trip guide to Versailles with tips for saving money!
Versailles is massive, way bigger than I even imagined in my mind. My feet were killing me by the end of the day and I’d recommend bringing extra cash to pay for the tram that passes through the property to bring you back to the start. Afterward, you might be pretty tired, so besides a quick dinner and a good night to the Eiffel Tower (at night), you might have had enough.
I hope that this is enough to get a brief taste of Paris. I lived in Paris and I can tell you honestly that every neighborhood has its charms. Just like many big cities, you’ll need many trips to really get to know Paris, but these are my personal recommendations.
Day 4: Brussels
Say adieu to Paris and bonjour to Brussels! I recommend taking the Thalys, which is the easiest way to travel between Paris and Brussels. The ride should take just one hour and thirty minutes! See if you can drop your items off at your hotel until you can check-in.
I’ve visited Brussels many times (and even lived in Brussels). It’s often easier to stay within the city
Once you’re settled in, start off your day indulgently. (You’re in Brussels!) My personal favorite way to start off a day in Brussels is with a delicious Liege style waffle and a good coffee. After a waffle and a coffee, enjoy Brussels on foot by seeing the Manneken Pis (who is often in costume as a warning) as well as the stunning Grote Markt/Grand Place.
Once you’re done with seeing Grote Markt, you need to taste the chocolate in Brussels! You don’t need a chocolate tour if you have the addresses of the best chocolatiers in Brussels. You can follow my self-guided chocolate tour of Brussels here, which will work out considerably cheaper than a chocolate tour. Also, you can pick your favorites and just pay for them.
You’ll want to decide whether you want to move with your luggage or stay in Brussels for the next two nights with doing day trips. Hotels in Brussels tend to be surprisingly affordable although I always find rates in Antwerp and Ghent to be reasonable. I find one day in Brussels to be just about right although you can easily swap Antwerp and Ghent out for two days in Brussels if you’re intrigued by the off the beaten path neighborhoods!
Belgium has surprisingly decent and affordable trains, making day trips to Antwerpen and Ghent very easy. Personally, I’m biased and vote that you experience nighttime on the canals in Ghent–and stay overnight. It’s also quite affordable.
Day 5: Antwerpen
I love Antwerp. It’s such a beautiful Belgian city and although the crowds often flock to Bruges and Brussels, Antwerpen has remained mostly unscathed by the selfie sticks.
The historic city center of Antwerp is very walkable and it is filled with history. You’ll need to choose carefully whether you want to visit the UNESCO-recognized Platin-Moretus Museum to learn about the history of printing at one of the oldest printing houses in the world or visit the Reubens House to learn more about Reuben’s paintings.
The center with its stunning Grote Markt is a delight to visit, especially if you stop into the wonderful quirky Elfde Gebod bar, which is full of religious statues and great beer. I always love to find the hidden entrance one of Antwerp’s prettiest streets, Vlaaikensgang, while wondering around the city. You can find my one-day itinerary for Antwerp here.
Day 6: Ghent
I recently spent a whole weekend in Ghent and I have to say that it’s the most underrated city in Belgium! If you’re looking for the awe factor of Bruges (with the stunning canals) and none of the crowds, you’ll love Ghent.
If you only have a day in Ghent, be sure to visit Gravensteen, Ghent’s grand medieval castle that dates back to 1180. It’s truly a castle straight out of a movie and some parts of the castle have a fascinating history. It’s easy to spend at least two hours here exploring the high and low parts of the castle.
Beyond the castle, you’ll want to explore the picturesque Patershol with its many crooked medieval alleys to discover some of the best food in Belgium as well as numerous small boutiques. For something truly unique, head to Confiserie Temmerman for sweets. You can also enjoy street art in other parts of Ghent!
After a great meal, consider sitting out along the canals on a lovely day to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere in the city along with the rest of the city. You won’t be alone in soaking up the atmosphere and many bring drinks with them.
If you want to stay overnight in Gent, consider booking early as there aren’t that many hotels in the city center for Ghent. I recommend staying at Hotel Onderbergen, an affordable and cozy boutique hotel walking distance from the river.
Day 7-8: Amsterdam
Of course, you want to visit Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is incredibly charming although often quite busy! The picturesque canals make for great photos. I personally always love to enjoy a drink at one of Amsterdam’s historic brown bars.
As someone who lived in Amsterdam until recently, I have to write that there’s far more to Amsterdam than just the tourist attractions in the Red Light District. You’ll find many neighborhoods outside of the city center from the modern yet cool De Pijp to the picturesque Oude Zuid neighborhood bordering Vondelpark. You can click for my perfect itinerary for three days in Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, I recommend staying at Max Brown, a boutique hotel in Amsterdam. This stunning hotel is made of various canal houses sewn together along one of Amsterdam’s most scenic canals. For something more basic yet still a hotel, the Student Hotel is a great choice and StayOkay Vondelpark is a cozy hostel that friends of mine have stayed at. It’s a great location!
Day 9: Day trip to another city in Holland
It is a lot cheaper to stay outside of Amsterdam, so it might be better to spend three days and two nights in Amsterdam prior to moving with your suitcase to the other cities mentioned here. You’ll save a lot of money and have more time to enjoy these stunning cities without having to worry about heading back early! I include hotel picks for a few of the cities (with more recommendations within the dedicated city guides).
A lot of people spend most of their trip in Amsterdam when visiting the Netherlands, which I think is a bit of a shame. There are many other charming places in the Netherlands to visit, including day trips less than thirty minutes away!
You’ll need to choose where you want to visit, but I always recommend visiting Leiden (mini Amsterdam without the crowds!), Hoorn for a quieter day trip full of V.O.C. history, Delft for art and pottery, Rotterdam for modern architecture, and the Hague for culture and politics. You can read my full overview of the best day trips from Amsterdam here.
Day 10: Amsterdam/Leave
Schiphol is a great airport to fly in and out of! I always recommend arriving at least three hours early, but one big advantage of Schiphol (compared to CDG) is that it’s pretty close to Amsterdam, which leaves you more time to enjoy the day if you’re leaving in the evening!
If your flight is in the afternoon or evening, I’d recommend having a lazy day along the canals just enjoying Amsterdam’s beauty after a good breakfast. Perhaps a Dutch pancake? You can read my guide to Schiphol Airport here and a step-by-step guide for getting from Amsterdam to Schiphol airport here.