Travel by car. Itinerary in Holland and Belgium.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: ITALY – LUCERNE – STRASBOURG 800 km
Today our car itinerary begins that will take us to visit Holland, part of Belgium, Paris and Provence. We will cross Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Belgium again, and again France. We leave home at 6.30.
Crossing the Swiss mountains we realize that the landscape of this country is truly relaxing, we traveled the Canton of Ticino, full of peaks and small waterfalls, but the most beautiful show we had after the Gotthard tunnel, when we saw the lake of the Four Cantons with its mountains that make it almost a fjord (like Lake Como). We passed through the city of Lucerne where we had lunch, unfortunately we could not visit this city because having little time we could not find a parking space near the center. However from the little we saw and from the memory I have of my distant stay, certainly worth a thorough visit.
We arrive in Strasbourg at 4 pm. We stay at the Hotel Campanile Lingolsheim, located outside the city, because for us it was only a stop along the way, for those wishing to visit the city I would certainly recommend staying overnight in a more central area. Strasbourg is an interesting and beautiful city, for those who want to follow an itinerary similar to ours, if you have a little more time, I recommend a stop of at least two nights to be able to dedicate at least one full day to your visit.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: STRASBOURG – MAASTRICHT – GOUDA 680 km
We leave Strasbourg around 8 in the morning, cross Luxembourg *, a city-nation full of banks and large characteristic old buildings with many green parks. After a short stop, we set off again and we enter Belgium: here we see a very green landscape with low hills full of wheat, the Ardennes.
*It may be interesting to make an alternative route through Germany, skipping Luxembourg, to visit the ancient city of Trier where Roman remains such as the famous Porta Nigra are very important. Among other things to see: the market square with its historic buildings, the cathedral of St. Peter, the Gothic church of Liebfrauenkirche, the Palatine Hall, the city castle (Kurfürstliches Palais), the imperial baths and finally the birthplace of Karl Marx.
We pass through Liege in Belgium and immediately after the Dutch border we stop in Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands, with the beautiful facades of the stately homes and interesting churches, such as the basilica of Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek, which dates back to 1000, and the Romanesque basilica of St. Servaas. Maastricht is a very beautiful town. The canals, the people on bicycles, the characteristic houses were the details that impressed us most.
At 16.30 we reach our destination of today. The small town of Gouda, which we will use as a base for our visit to the Netherlands,. We are staying at the Hotel Campanile & Restaurant Gouda located near the motorway exit, we will stay in this hotel for next 4 nights. Gouda is truly a delightful town, it seems for a moment to be in Venice. There are houses flanked by canals and many flowers, the streets are paved with good taste, with red herringbone bricks. There are many shops and the point more interesting is the square with the particular town hall from the 1600s and the huge cathedral. At 7 pm from the town hall we hear the notes of a music box, I think it is the city clock that marks the hours.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: GOUDA – AMSTERDAM – LEIDA – GOUDA 140 km
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we left for Amsterdam, which is about 70 km away.
This is truly an incredibly beautiful city, its main characteristics are the canals, bridges, houses of different shapes and colors. Amsterdam is full of clothing and souvenir shops. Negative note: some streets are not very clean, there are some strange characters.
We visited the historic center and the Naval Museum (Rijksmuseum Scheepvaart, Amsterdam), where boat models are exhibited, a copy of an eighteenth-century sailing ship. An interesting route that illustrates the rise of the Dutch maritime power which had its climax between the 17th and 18th centuries, when Dutch trading companies controlled the trafficking of goods and spices from all over the world and Amsterdam was the most important world port.
Tip: at least three days to visit the city and its interesting museums: the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank Huis, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Rijksmuseum Scheepvaart, Tropenmuseum etc. .. We, after a half day dedicated to Amsterdam , since we wanted to privilege the visit of the smaller towns, we move to Leiden which is about 40 km away.
Leiden is a beautiful town with a famous university, the oldest in the Netherlands (founded in 1575). The old part of the city is very characteristic and clean with canals, bridges, houses and very beautiful paved streets. In addition to the university, are of interest, the town hall (Stadhuis), the Hooglandsche Kerk, the Marekerk, the Gemeenslandshuis van Rynland, the house of weight (Waag) and the citadel. Leiden is also the hometown of Rembrandt.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: GOUDA – MARKEN – HOORN – ENKHUIZEN – AFSLUITDIJK – LELYSTAD – GOUDA 450 km
This morning we leave at 8.30, as a first stop we stop to visit Marken, a very characteristic village with colorful houses, colored green, black, brown, white and with beautiful flower gardens. There is also a small port and tourist shops where they show the furnishings of the Dutch houses of the past. Marken is known for the characteristic Dutch customs that its inhabitants still wear.
After Marken’s visit, our next destination is the town of Hoorn, the one that gave its name to the legendary Cape Hoorn. The impression we had from our short visit to Hoorn is that it is far from a peaceful village. There are markets, people who come and go in the central street. It is not bad as a place, but the confusion we found did not make us fully enjoy its beauty.
The most interesting village we visited today turned out to be Enkhuizen. We visited this place on foot, there is a lot of green, the streets are all paved and it is full of canals. However, all these small towns are very similar to each other. The visit we made to the Naval Cultural Museum of Enkhuizen (Zuiderzeemuseum) was also interesting.
We left to cross the large Afsluitdijk dam which shows us the North Sea on one side and the Zuiderzee on the other. The Afsluitdijk was built between 1927 and 1933. The dam is 32 km long, 90 m wide and reaches a height of 7.25 m above sea level. It connects the province of North Holland with the province of Friesland and is crossed by a highway. The Afsluitdijk is the most important of the hydraulic works of the Zuiderzee project. This project separated the inlet of the Zuiderzee from the North Sea, transforming it into a freshwater lake (the Ijsselmeer) and allowing the territories that today constitute the province of Flevoland to be torn from the waters.
After a stop at the dam, we drive around the Ijsselmeer and entered the Flevoland where we stopped in Lelystad. A city of recent construction, home of the Bataviawerf – Nationaal Scheephistorisch Centrum which is the center for the reconstruction and conservation of the ancient vessels of the Company of the Indies. During the journey we witnessed the passage of ships in a canal. This passage blocked the highway we were traveling for about 20 minutes, because part of the highway was raised to allow ships to pass. We return to Gouda around 6pm.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: GOUDA – DEN HAAG (THE HAGUE) – DELFT – DORDRECHT – GOUDA 160 km
DEN HAAG (THE HAGUE)
Today we visited The Hague, where we parked right in the center, because on Sunday the city was deserted. The Hague is the seat of the government of the Netherlands and is the third largest city in the Netherlands, since 1831 it has also been the residence of the Dutch royal house.
The city is full of tree-lined avenues and parks, especially in the central area, the Vredespaleis (Palace of Peace) with its park is very impressive. The Binnenhof is the political and administrative heart of the Netherlands and since 1446 it has been the seat of the General States (Staten-Generaal), that is, the Dutch Parliament. Here it is worth visiting the majestic Ridderzaal or cavalry hall. In The Hague there are interesting museums including the Royal Museum of Painting or Mauritshuis which houses a rich collection of works from the Dutch Golden Age including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and many others. Famous paintings such as: “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The View of Delft” by Vermeer and “The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Tulp” by Rembrandt are here.
From The Hague to Delft it is almost a walk (16 km). Delft is in my opinion the most beautiful Dutch town we saw on our trip. Here too there are many canals and viewpoints and then it is the home of the famous painter Jan Veermer. Very beautiful is the central square with on one side the gigantic bell tower of the Nieuwe Kerk, that is the New Church. A late Gothic 14th century basilica with the tomb monument of William of Orange, a church that unfortunately we cannot visit because on Sundays tourists are forbidden to visit. While on the other side of the square is the Stadhuis, that is the Town Hall, from the 17th century, a Renaissance style work by Hendrick de Keyser.
THE MONUMENTS OF DELFT
Other interesting monuments include the Oude Kerk. An Old Church of the thirteenth century, with its inclined bell tower and the tombs of P. Heyn, M. Tromp, A van Leeuwenhoek and J. Vermeer. The Ostindisch Huis, a palace from 1631 that was the headquarters of the East India Company, the legendary VOC. A visit to Delft is a dive into the past: a walk along the picturesque canals, seventeenth-century buildings, imposing churches, silent courtyards and narrow alleys. There are many museums in the city and we visited the Prinsenhof Museum where in a few rooms we are presented with the history of the Orange when Delft was their residence.
The Nusantara Ethnological Museum instead presents a rich collection of Indonesian masks and objects, the old Dutch East Indies. The city is known worldwide for its famous porcelain and very interesting is the Delft Ceramics and Porcelain Museum (Museum Lambert van Meerten) set in an old Dutch house with period furniture and rugs and wooden floors. Finally, we visited the Legermeseum (Museum of the Dutch Armies), an immense complex that presents the history of the war in the Netherlands from the Romans to the present day.
After several hours spent wandering around Delft we decide to go in search of the windmills in the Dordrecht area. But since we cannot find them, we fall back visiting Dordrecht where we admire the Grote Kerk with its never completed bell tower.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: GAUDA – MIDDELBURG – BRUGES (BRUGGE) – BRUXELLES (BRUSSELS) 280 km
Today a stage of transfer, but not an uninteresting one, on the contrary. We leave Gouda and after a few km we cross Rotterdam with its modern buildings and its huge port: the Europoort, with about 9000 docks for anchoring!
On our journey today, we cross Zeeland with its dams and finally its capital Middelburg. A very ancient and very important town during the Dutch golden century (17th century), which preserves ancient buildings from that flourishing period. Among which of notable interest are the Town Hall (Stadhuis) and the 12th century abbey, which is located right in the center of the city.
We continue to the nearby Vlissingen from where with a fast ferry (15 minutes crossing) we cross the Westerschelde and then after a few km of road we cross the border with Belgium. Our next destination is Bruges (Brugge), which will prove to be the most beautiful of the cities visited between Belgium and Holland.
What strikes you as soon as you arrive in Bruges, the Venice of the north, are the beautiful typical houses, colorful with beautiful gardens. The central square (Markt) is very beautiful with wonderful old buildings, then there is a beautiful canal, the Minewater. Among the most beautiful areas are the Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady with the tallest brick bell tower in all of Europe. Inside the church is the Madonna of Michelangelo, originally carved for the Siena Cathedral, which was brought to Bruges by Flemish merchants during a visit to Italy in 1506. Then the Sint-Salvator Cathedral is worth a visit. In this city there is also the Chocolate Museum. Here in Bruges (Brugge) there is a lot of life.
We visit one of the buildings in the central square where we see the Gothic room. I highly recommend, for those who have time, to stay a minimum of two nights in this beautiful city which since 2000 has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We instead leave for the next stop, Brussels (Brussels) where we stay at the NH Atlanta Hotel an excellent hotel in a central location just 500 m from the Grand Place (Grote Markt) and at an affordable price, we will stay in this hotel for next 2 nights.
Itinerary in Holland and Belgium: BRUSSELS (BRUSSELS) – LEUVEN – BRUSSELS
We dedicate this day to Brussels where we see one of the most beautiful squares in Europe: the Grand Place (Grote Markt). Interesting buildings from the late 17th century overlook this square. This square has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the square we see the Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall), the Maison du Roi (the King’s House). We then walk through the St. Hubert gallery, and visit the Gothic cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule. Other places of interest are also interesting, such as the Place Royale and the Palais Royal, the Palais de la Nation. Also characteristic is the monument called Atomium built in 1958 on the occasion of the world fair and the European district, seat of the authorities of the European Union.
In the afternoon we decide to visit the nearby (20 km) city of Leuven. This is a small town, home to an ancient university, with many interesting buildings. A beautiful and strange Town Hall, beautiful churches and abbeys. The beautiful Piazza del Old Market and the Great Market Square. We also visit the Vander Kelen-Mertens Museum, an interesting museum with furniture, porcelain and ancient paintings.
Upon returning to Brussels, a curious thing happens, a band arrives with a cart pulling a tree (it looks like the tree of the cockpit), so we remain to witness the great maneuvers to raise the tree, which after a few attempts comes hoisted up, then always to the sound of music people dressed in local costumes start dancing around the tree, with this characteristic episode our day ends. Leuven we really liked it. Tomorrow we will leave Belgium to get to the mythical Paris.
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