Eurotrip Part 1: The Netherlands and Belgium 🇳🇱🇧🇪

Me on the IAmsterdam sign

A quick update: three weeks ago, I graduated from college. I did the ceremonies, took some pictures with family, and after four years of college I finally left Champaign-Urbana. To celebrate, I planned a trip around most of the European continent for the summer.

On Wednesday, May 16, I flew into Amsterdam to start the trip. In the following two weeks, I’ve also travelled to Noordwijk aan Zee, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Antwerp, and Ghent.

Overall impressions

The Netherlands and Belgium were great countries to start my trip. Most people spoke English and the public transit ran frequently.

However, I’ve noticed some minor inconveniences. Some stores wouldn’t accept my Visa credit card, so I had to pay by cash. Also, the trains in the Netherlands were somewhat annoying to deal with. I had to buy an OV-chipkaart and load it with some credit. And then, I had to maintain a minimum level of credit to be able to enter the train stations. I forgot to get a refund for the card when I left the Netherlands, so some money is currently sitting in that card. At least the card won’t expire until 2023.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam canals
Lining up the canals during a boat tour.

My first stop was Amsterdam. I’ve previously visited two years ago during one of my travels in my study abroad semester. I stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown Hostel right next to Vondelpark. It was a chill and quiet location that was still close to nightlife.

Like with other cities, I spend most of the day exploring the city. My favorite experience was cruising the canals with Captain Dave in the early morning; shoutout to Airbnb Experiences, it’s definitely worth looking at if it’s available in whatever city you’re going to.

Noordwijk aan Zee

Noordwijk aan Zee
The streets of Noordwijk.

I was happy to explore more of the Netherlands besides Amsterdam. My first stop after Amsterdam was in the nice and charming beach town of Noordwijk aan Zee. There seemed to be a lot of retirees and a fair number of expats living there. I only stayed for one night at the Flying Pig Beach hostel, but it was pretty pleasant.

Utrecht

Dom Tower
The Dom Tower in Utrecht, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

To me, Utrecht seemed like a less touristy version of Amsterdam. It’s also much quieter. There were a lot of expats living in this city as well as international students who study at the university here. I can see Utrecht being an up-and-coming city for young people to move to.

Eindhoven

I met up with a friend who studies at TU Eindhoven and he gave me a tour of the city and some bars. Eindhoven doesn’t seem like a popular tourist destination, and apparently there’s only one hostel in the entire city. However, my friend told me that it is pretty nice to live in as a student.

The city’s buildings looked modern and futuristic. The headquarters of Phillips is located here, and a lot of young students move to Eindhoven to study at the university.

Antwerp

Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

After the Netherlands, I headed over to Antwerp to visit some friends living in the city. One of them even hosted me, which was really nice! We biked around Antwerp and went to some bars. The city was also pretty sprawled out, but there were bikeshare stations all around the city. My friend seemed to know where they were by memory.

Unfortunately I was bitten by a lot of mosquitoes, which continued in Ghent. My friend told me that mosquitoes are a normal occurence around here, but at least they don’t carry any diseases. 🤷

Ghent

Ghent
The canals and rivers of Ghent.

I thought Ghent was the best city of my trip thus far. Ghent was very walkable and there aren’t too many tourists. I saw plenty of locals, and the best areas in the city center and near the rivers weren’t filled with tourist traps. I stayed in Hostel Uppelink, which was centrally located and had an amazing view of the River Leie and St. Nicholas’ Church.


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Gravensteen Castle
Conquering Gravensteen Castle in Ghent.