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I have this weird plan for September. We're a couple, and we have one week in Amsterdam. It seems Amsterdam is not large enough to keep us busy for a week, and in any case we're more people of adventures.

So my plan was to take a car for 4 of these days, take a tent, and do a round trip around these 3 countries that follows roughly this route:

  • Having a day and a half in Amsterdam, without a car, and then
  • Haarlem
  • Leiden
  • Delft
  • Rotterdam
  • Brugge
  • Brussel
  • Maastricht
  • Bonn
  • Köln
  • Münster
  • Groningen
  • Harlingen
  • Utrecht
  • Amsterdam, another full day without a car

Perhaps it sounds crazy - so many cities in about 24X4 hours... but on the other hand, the entire trip is no more than 1300km, and I've done something similar (less cities, more or less same length, in almost 5 days) in east Germany + Prague.

But is it crazy? Perhaps I shall remove Belgium and Germany from the plan to make it sane?

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City and tent is a bit of a difficult combination, where do you plan to camp? Also, most city centers are not easily accesible by car, and also have high parking costs (talking about euro's per hour). Drop some cities and add some time. – Bernhard Jun 14 '14 at 18:35
Apart from the specifics I developed in my answer, four days instead of five + more places where you need to park and get out of the car to see a little bit of the city already make a lot of difference with your earlier trip. – Relaxed Jun 14 '14 at 20:14
This itinerary is a recipe for disaster. You will see all and nothing at the same time. At hte speed you will be going through the different places they all will look the same to you. Same shops, more or less same architecture etc. If you are people of adventure, rent a car for four days and head to the ardennes in the south of Belgium. A lot of Dutch do this. Around Dinant - the birthplace of the saxophone - there is a lot to do, good food, hiking, kayaking, etc. – user141 Jun 14 '14 at 20:14
With this itinerary you will be unlikely to see much, except from your car window. So unless you prepare everything, you will just be moving about all the time. If with adventure you mean nature, going to the Ardennes might be what you want. You can go "hiking", kayaking, etc. If watching stuff from your car is your thing, you could also have a small roadtrip towards the Black forest. It's about 700 km one way and you could drive through Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France on your trip and try out local cuisines. You'd have two days of driving and two days of having fun in the forest. – Peter Raeves Jun 17 '14 at 8:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The plan does sound a little crazy. As Bernhard already commented, the car is a poor choice to visit Dutch cities (you will almost certainly need to use car parks to the tune of EUR 3-5 per hour, will not be able to see anything or move between landmarks with your car and can't easily camp either, what's the point of having a car in these conditions?). Middle-size German cities like Münster and Aachen are usually more approachable (Cologne I don't know, I went by train). You have to realize that Dutch cities are nothing like East-German cities (where you can park for free or almost for free very close to major sights) and the area is much more densely populated.

If you really want to get a car then head to the North and East of the Netherlands and then to Northern Germany or perhaps to the East of Belgium but forget about the Randstad (Leiden/Delft/Rotterdam). Above all, it would seem to make more sense to use the car to explore the countryside and famous sights outside of cities (the Hoge Veluwe and Afsluitdijk are two that come to mind, the port of Rotterdam is also impressive if you are into this sort of things but there are many more: Zeeland and the “Deltawerken”, Kinderdijk, the Defence Line of Amsterdam, Flevoland, small towns like Hoorn, Harlingen, Enkhuizen, Brielle, Naarden, etc.)

If you are specifically interested in cities, I would think Amsterdam is big enough to keep yourself busy for some time but you can easily add a few day trips to Delft, the Hague, Rotterdam or Utrecht by train (Delft and the Hague can be combined using the tram). That should be more than enough for a week but if you need more, there are somewhat lesser know cities in the area like Haarlem and Schiedam that are also well worth a visit.

You could also rent a bike in one of these cities to explore the countryside a little bit if you want. Incidentally, the Hague is not on your list but it seems more interesting than Bonn, Harlingen (one the few items in your list for which traveling by car makes sense) or even perhaps Brussels to me.

There are also many things to see in Germany and Belgium, the handful of cities you chose do not seem to fit particularly well in your itinerary. I would probably give up on one of these countries instead of driving all the way from Groningen to Maastricht, Cologne or Brugge, seeing very little in between.

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The port of Rotterdam is not easily done by car. There are boat tours of course. But you are ride. Exploring the country-side with the car makes lots of sense. Do not forget to mention the Deltawerken in Zeeland. – Bernhard Jun 14 '14 at 19:25
@Bernhard Good tips! The port of Rotterdam is not easy, you have to know where to go and most of the facilities are obviously closed to visitors but you can see a lot of things with a car (and binoculars!). Especially the newer parts (Maasvlakte, iron terminal, etc.) are not well covered by the usual boat tours. Speaking of Deltawerken, realistically, you also need a car to see the Maeslantkering. – Relaxed Jun 14 '14 at 19:34
As for me Amsterdam could easily fill several days (even with crazy variety of people interests) – Eugen Martynov Jun 15 '14 at 11:20
I don't see how the first half of your question is related to OP's question. It doesn't look like OP care much about travel expenses. OP just wants to see a lot of cities and the car would be the preferred vehicle to get in between cities. Most landmarks are available by foot from the parking lot anyway. (My knowledge is based on Belgian cities only) – Peter Raeves Jun 17 '14 at 8:18
@PeterRaeves There is a whole system of “P-routes” that confuses foreigners. At the end of the day, you might be able to “touch down” in more cities if you spend your day driving but I don't think you will have a better experience or actually see more. – Relaxed Jun 17 '14 at 8:46

If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium.

To each their own, but I think you're trying to do too much in too little time.

You have 4 x 24 = 96 hours. If you manage to drive non-stop, that's at least 15-16 hours (I checked Google maps, but that's assuming you won't get stuck in traffic.
You'll also have to sleep, eat, find a spot, set up the tent, and put it away again the following morning. Even if you do everything very efficiently and sleep short, it'll take about 8 hours out of every 24. Not counting the nights before and after, that's 3 x 8 = 24 hrs. So that leaves you with 56 hours — for 13 cities (not counting Amsterdam).

That's four hours per city and no time to spare.

So what do you want to do? Get out of the car, walk around the city, take a picture to prove you were there and drive on?

What I would do if I were you, is focus on Amsterdam and everything that's doable with a day trip from Amsterdam.

First of all, there's Amsterdam itself, with the big three museums: the Rijksmuseum (Rembrandt, Frans Hals to name but a few), the van Goghmuseum, and the Stedelijk (City) Museum (modern art). That's a day at least.
Then there's the Red Light District, the almost obligatory boat trip through the canals, or alternatively, a bike tour. And that's just focusing on the main tourist attractions.

I you decide to visit Brussels, that's doable as a day trip by train. Brussels has a number of things to see and to visit, including Manneken Pis, the Atomium, the Comics Museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences (featuring the largest group of Iguanodons ever found). That's more than enough for a day.

Going back to The Netherlands, there are day trips to The Hague, where you can visit the Gemeentemuseum (City Museum) for the Mondriaan paintings, Madurodam to see The Netherlands in miniature (that probably will suit your need to see as much as possible as fast as possible), the Vredespaleis (Peace Palace), Panorama Mesdag, Escher in the Palace; more than enough for a day.

Other day trips could include Volendam or Urk (authentic fishermen's villages), the Openluchtmuseum (Open Air Musuem, where historical buildings have been transported to, to show you live in 'ye olde times'), the Afsluitdijk in the north or the Delta works in the south-west.

But by staying in Amsterdam and day tripping, you'll lose less time then when doing a roundtrip by car.

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