The quintessential Benelux experience is a city one. Not many foreign visitors come for the Belgian beaches, even fewer for the Dutch mountains, and none at all for Luxembourg's vast empty spaces. On the other hand, Benelux cities -- big and small -- are among Europe's cultural and historical glories. This doesn't mean there are no places of scenic beauty; there are actually more than you might think.
Most important, bring as much time with you as you can afford. You might want to indulge yourself by stepping onboard an occasional slow train rather than always rushing to catch the high-speed Thalys or an InterCity Express; and drive on at least some country roads instead of zipping along on expressways. Even going by bicycle isn't out of the question.
Getting around Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg is a snap, but deciding what to take in and what to leave out is difficult. I hope these suggested itineraries will help you organize your time as you plan your own trip to Benelux.
Taken together, the Benelux nations of Belgium, Holland (the Netherlands), and Luxembourg cover a small area, a mere 75,000 sq. kilometers (29,000 sq. miles) -- around one-fifth the size of neighboring Germany, and not much larger than West Virginia. But arguably, no other comparably sized place in Europe compresses so many points of interest. Topping the list are artistic masterpieces, cultural events, and substantial reminders of a long and colorful history. Space remains for scenery that, while mostly lacking in drama, can still be lyrically beautiful. Then there are the more mundane (but agreeable) advantages of convenience, economy, and friendly populations, not to mention a host of other travel delights -- the exquisite food and drink of Brussels, the exuberant sociability of Amsterdam, and Luxembourg's sidewalk cafes.
The Netherlands is a WYSIWYG kind of country: What you see is what you get. There are no dramatic canyons or towering peaks. The nation's highest point wouldn't top the roof of a New York City skyscraper, and its average altitude is just 11m (37 ft.) above sea level. This makes for few panoramic vantage points; you can't see most of its canals and lakes until you're about to fall into them. Does this mean the views are boring? The answer is a flat "no." As the famous 17th-century Dutch landscape painters showed the world, vistas in Holland are among the most aesthetic anywhere: wide-angle views of green pastures and floating clouds, with tiny houses, church spires, and grazing cattle silhouetted against the horizon.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.