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Do you harbour a secret dream to drop everything, climb aboard a campervan, and set off journey across the continent—say, on a Netherlands to France road trip?
Europe, with so much fascinating culture, history, and breathtaking nature crammed into its square metres, is one of the best continents for a cross-country road trip. This itinerary takes in some of the best of Northwest Europe.
Starting in Amsterdam, a favourite for travelers with its laid-back, fun-loving personality, set off east into Belgium. Here you’ll take in three of the country’s major cities, each totally unique. First, the ultra cool and creative Antwerp.
Then the underrated charms and fantastic beer of Ghent. And third, impossibly picturesque Bruges. And to round it all off? Paris. The ultimate finale.
Starting your Netherlands to France road trip in Amsterdam is a real risk. There’s so much fun to be had here there’s every danger you might never leave.
With its canals and wonky timbered buildings, it’s a photographer’s dream. And for culture lovers, there’s museums dedicated to everything from Van Gogh to fluorescent art. And for those just here to treat themselves, there are restaurants, bars, and cafes for every taste and mood.
Hire a bike to explore the old town or hop aboard one of the free ferries to see the city from a different angle. Head to the Jordaan to explore quirky art galleries.
And when night falls, move on to a bruin café and put away a few pints in the cosiest of drinking dens. Or, for a touch of sleaze that only Amsterdam could pull off with such charm, wander through the Red Light District. Because it’s not Amsterdam without a dash of debauchery.
from Amsterdam depot
Culturally significant history and art museum.
Anne Frank Huis
Former home now dedicated to famous diarist.
Viewing platform with Europe’s highest swing.
Farm-to-table dining in a early 20th century greenhouse.
Try the hearty local speciality called Stamppot.
Tiny quirky cafe serving only pancakes.
Amsterdam City Camp
Overnight motorhome parking short ferry ride from city.
If Brussels is like Belgium’s sensible, straightlaced daughter, then your next destination on this road trip from the Netherlands to France is its too-cool-for-school sister.
Stylish and sophisticated Antwerp is a mecca for fashionistas and party lovers, not to mention dealers in diamonds - 80% of the world’s diamonds are traded here each year. Enjoy innovative meals in sharp, modern restaurants, peruse elegant boutiques in Nationalestraat, soak up the sparkles in the Diamond District, and at night, catch a show at de Singel arts centre.
Beginning with the Grote Markt, the old town’s main square, stroll the city’s medieval heat and find a charming cafe from which to people watch. Visit the extravagant Gothic masterpiece that is the cathedral and spot the Rubens on display inside.
Fancy something more contemporary and cool? Head to MoMu, the city’s Fashion Museum. And when your feet are tired, relax with a drink and a view of the meandering River Scheldt. Life could be worse, right?
Huge diamond showroom.
Museum Aan de Stroom
Striking contemporary museum all about Antwerp.
De Koninck Brewery
Enjoy a tour, tasting session, or even a workshop.
Two Michelin-starred restaurant in a renovated church.
Trendy bakery with delicious croissants, bread, and pastries.
Concept store with restaurant serving vegetarian food.
Free, uncovered, walking distance of center.
Camping Het Veen vzw
30 minute drive from Antwerp.
We’re not sure why Ghent hasn’t got more tourists descending on its picturesque streets. But we’re glad they don’t. All the more for you to enjoy on your Netherlands to France road trip.
Ghent offers the perfect recipe for an up-and-coming holiday destination. Beautiful historic architecture, a buzzing student population, a trendy post-industrial edge - and, for you boozehounds, the highest concentration of top-quality beer bars in all of Belgium.
Wander the mostly pedestrianized city-centre. Discover Graffiti Street, canvas for the city’s artists to make their mark. Stroll the Gravensteen area, with its galleries, antique shops, and great restaurants.
Make sure to catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most famous paintings, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert van Eyck - on display at St-Baafskathedraal. And end the day in a cafe on the gorgeous Graslei quay, watching the city reflected back at you in the waters of the River Lys.
Imposing 10th century castle complete with moat.
Museum of contemporary art.
Kouter Flower Market
Enjoy the floral display at this market on Sundays.
Intriguing decor, serves Italian influenced dishes.
Bakery and restaurant in quiet backstreet.
Brewery and restaurant in former industrial building.
Uncovered parking 20 minute walk from center.
20 minutes drive from Ghent center.
Do you believe in fairytales? You will once you arrive in Bruges. This last stop in Belgium on your Netherlands to France road trip is swiped straight from a storybook - one featuring princesses, knights on horseback, and possibly a dragon too.
Think cobbled lanes, Gothic churches, gabled houses, and white swans gliding down winding canals. To truly feel the part, consider seeing the sights from atop a horse-and-carriage.
Wander the UNESCO-listed centre, surrounded by a moat. For great views, ascend the Belfry in Markt Square. Check out Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child in the Church of Our Lady. Refuel on some crispy, salty frietjes, or fries, and rehydrate with a witbier.
Or go one step further and check out the Frietmuseum, the world’s only museum dedicated to fries. Explore the countless chocolate shops or relax at the Lake of Love (no joke, that’s really what it’s called). And later perhaps catch a show at the contemporary performing arts centre, Concertgebouw.
Lace Center, where you can buy lace and watch it being made.
De Halve Maan
Brewery tours and tastings.
Early Flemish art.
Den Gouden Harynck
Michelin starred dining in secluded location.
Fairytale-like restaurant in former farmhouse.
Bistro Den Amand
Traditional Belgian food with local feel.
Centrally located uncovered parking.
Short walk from Bruges.
All the clichés hold true. Paris really is magical. Romantic. Unbelievably fashionable. Although there’s also a psychological condition known as Paris Syndrome, experienced mostly by Japanese tourists who arrive and freak out to find Paris doesn’t quite meet their expectations.
In our view, it’s so much better for being slightly gritty, edgy, and hectic. So continue on to your final destination of this road trip from the Netherlands to France. You’ll certainly end on a high.
Choose your pick of the thousands of sights to see. Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Louvre - the list goes on. Or just wander the city’s gorgeous boulevards, relax by the river, or enjoy some retail therapy in the elegant boutiques or chaotic flea markets.
Find the neighbourhood you like best, from village-like Montmartre to the mansions of the Marais. Pick up campervan supplies at a boulangerie or fromagerie. And, when evening comes, find a seat outside a cafe and watch life go past. Paris was made for people-watching.
20th-century museum designed with an intriguing inside-out effect.
La Seine Musicale
Beautiful performing arts centre on Île Seguin.
Jardin des Plantes
Amazing botanical gardens.
Two Michelin-starred dining with high-quality ingredients.
French cooking in 16th-century Gothic mansion.
Traditional Normandy cuisine in France’s oldest inn.
Place du Pantheon
Uncovered parking at 15-min walk from Notre Dame.
Bastille Saint Antoine
Underground car park, max height 2.90m.
Camping Les Nénuphars
Peaceful camping 20 minutes from Rouen.