Choosing between Amsterdam vs Brussels in Europe

Choosing between Amsterdam vs Brussels in Europe

Choosing between Amsterdam and Brussels can be a challenging decision for travelers. Both cities offer unique experiences and a rich cultural tapestry that can make your European adventure unforgettable. This article aims to provide an impartial comparison between Amsterdam and Brussels, helping you determine which city best aligns with your travel preferences.

Key Takeaways

  • Amsterdam and Brussels both offer rich cultural experiences, but each city has its unique attractions and atmosphere.
  • Amsterdam is known for its extensive network of museums and historical landmarks, while Brussels is famous for its culinary delights and green spaces.
  • Both cities offer vibrant nightlife and entertainment options, but Amsterdam is more renowned for its live music and events.
  • Accommodation and travel costs can vary between the two cities, with Amsterdam generally being more expensive than Brussels.
  • Each city has its own charm and appeal, making either a great choice depending on your personal interests and travel goals.

Cultural Attractions

Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a treasure trove for museum enthusiasts. The city boasts a wide array of museums, from the historically significant Anne Frank House to the world-renowned Rijksmuseum. Art lovers will find the Van Gogh Museum particularly captivating, while those interested in contemporary and abstract exhibits should not miss the Museum of the Mind. Amsterdam's diverse museum offerings ensure that there is something for everyone.

Museums in Brussels

Brussels is a quirky city with a rich cultural scene, featuring over 70 museums and art galleries. Families will enjoy the unique museums dedicated to comics, classic cars, and chocolate. Art enthusiasts can explore a variety of galleries, while history buffs will appreciate the city's numerous historical museums. The Grand Palace, located in the heart of the city, is perhaps the most iconic landmark and a must-visit for any traveler.

Historical Landmarks

Both Amsterdam and Brussels are home to numerous historical landmarks. In Amsterdam, visitors can explore the Royal Palace and the historic canals that define the city's landscape. Brussels, on the other hand, offers the stunning Grand Palace and the Atomium, a unique structure that provides panoramic views of the city. Each city offers a distinct historical experience, making it difficult to choose between the two.

Whether you're an art lover, history buff, or simply looking to explore unique cultural attractions, both Amsterdam and Brussels have something special to offer. The rich cultural heritage and diverse attractions in each city ensure an unforgettable experience.

Culinary Experiences

Local Cuisine in Amsterdam

Amsterdam offers a rich culinary landscape that reflects its diverse culture. From traditional Dutch dishes like stroopwafels and herring to international cuisines, there's something for everyone. Don't miss out on trying bitterballen, a popular Dutch snack, at one of the city's many cozy cafes.

Local Cuisine in Brussels

Eating is an integral part of the travel experience when you visit Brussels. While the city is most known for its waffles and fries, the diversity of dishes and international restaurant selection continues to grow. Popular local dishes include moules-frites, waterzooi (a stew), and stoemp (made with mashed potatoes and vegetables).

Famous Dishes to Try

  • Amsterdam: Stroopwafels, Herring, Bitterballen
  • Brussels: Waffles, Moules-frites, Waterzooi, Stoemp
Exploring the culinary scenes in both Amsterdam and Brussels offers a delightful journey through traditional and modern flavors. Whether you're indulging in street food or dining at a high-end restaurant, each city has its unique gastronomic charm.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Nightlife in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, making it a must-visit destination for party enthusiasts. The city boasts an array of bars, dance clubs, and other nighttime activities that cater to all tastes. From the laid-back vibe of Jazz Café Alto, where you can enjoy great cocktails and live jazz all week, to the bustling dance floors of popular clubs, Amsterdam offers some of the best nightlife in Europe.

Nightlife in Brussels

While Brussels may not be as famous as Amsterdam for its nightlife, it still has plenty to offer. The city's nightlife is quieter and more mellow, but you can still find an eclectic array of nocturnal delights. From sleek cocktail lounges to bustling bars and pulsating clubs, Brussels provides a variety of options for a memorable night out. Just be mindful of your surroundings, as some areas can be a bit rougher after dark.

Live Music and Events

Both Amsterdam and Brussels host a variety of live music events and performances throughout the year. In Amsterdam, you can find everything from intimate jazz sessions to large-scale electronic music festivals. Brussels, on the other hand, offers a mix of local and international acts, with venues ranging from cozy bars to grand concert halls. Whether you're into jazz, rock, or electronic music, both cities have something to offer for every music lover.

Outdoor Activities

Parks and Green Spaces

Amsterdam and Brussels both offer a variety of parks and green spaces perfect for relaxation and outdoor activities. In Amsterdam, Vondelpark is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, offering open spaces, ponds, and cafes. Brussels boasts the beautiful Parc du Cinquantenaire, which is ideal for picnics and leisurely strolls.

Cycling in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is renowned for its cycling culture. With an extensive network of bike lanes and rental shops, exploring the city on two wheels is both convenient and enjoyable. Cycling is a quintessential Amsterdam experience, allowing you to see the city from a unique perspective.

Walking Tours in Brussels

Brussels is a city best explored on foot. Walking tours are a fantastic way to discover its rich history and stunning architecture. Whether you're interested in historical landmarks or modern attractions, a walking tour will provide a comprehensive overview of what the city has to offer.

For a memorable experience, consider taking a day trip from Amsterdam to nearby cities like Bruges or Brussels. Each offers unique attractions and a different atmosphere, making for an enriching excursion.

Shopping and Markets

Shopping Districts in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a fantastic city for shopping, offering a mix of high-street, designer, art, antique, and quirky independent shops. The best street for brand shopping is Kalverstraat, while Jordaan is ideal for independent galleries, antique stores, and boutiques. For a more local experience, shop in the De Negen Straatjes neighborhood, known for its vintage finds and specialty boutiques. Bargain hunters will love Europe's largest flea market, IJ-Hallen, which takes place once a month at NDSM Wharf.

Shopping Districts in Brussels

Shopping in Brussels is a delightful experience, with beautiful arcades like the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries. The city boasts plenty of independent fashion designers and charming boutiques. A popular shopping area is Rue Neuve, and for clothes shopping, head to Avenue Louise. For luxury brands and designer boutiques, browse the stores on Boulevard de Waterloo and Rue Antoine Dansaert. If you're looking for local crafts and gifts, consider picking up some chocolate, beer, and lace.

The abundance of shops in Brussels makes it a world-class shopping destination. Although it's famous for diamonds, the city also has many shopping streets where you can find designer brands, vintage shops, and other unique boutiques that are fun to explore.

Unique Souvenirs

Both Amsterdam and Brussels offer a variety of unique souvenirs. In Amsterdam, you can find items like Dutch cheese, wooden clogs, and Delftware. In Brussels, popular souvenirs include Belgian chocolate, lace, and local beers. Whether you're looking for something traditional or quirky, both cities have plenty to offer.

Accommodation Options

a view of a bridge over a large body of water

For those seeking a luxurious stay, both Amsterdam and Brussels offer a range of high-end hotels. In Amsterdam, the Hotel Estheréa stands out with its opulent decor and prime location. Meanwhile, in Brussels, the Pillows City Hotel Brussels Centre provides plush rooms and top-notch amenities.

Travelers on a budget will find plenty of options in both cities. In Amsterdam, the Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark is a highly-rated hostel offering both private rooms and dorms. Brussels also caters to budget-conscious visitors with numerous affordable hotels and hostels.

For a more unique stay, consider booking an apartment or self-catering option. In Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Jewel Canal Apartments offer fully-furnished flats in a great location. Similarly, in Brussels, the Appart’City Confort provides well-equipped apartments with the convenience of hotel amenities.

Whether you're looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or unique lodging experiences, both Amsterdam and Brussels have something to offer for every type of traveler.

Transportation and Accessibility

man sitting and smoking at the train station

When deciding between Amsterdam and Brussels, understanding the transportation and accessibility options can significantly impact your travel experience. Both cities offer robust public transit systems, but there are some differences worth noting.

Getting Around Amsterdam

Amsterdam boasts an extensive public transit network that includes metros, trams, buses, and ferries. Visitors can navigate the city quickly and efficiently using these options. The city's historic areas are highly walkable, making it easy to explore on foot. Additionally, Amsterdam is famous for its cycling culture, and renting a bike is a popular way to get around.

Getting Around Brussels

Brussels also features a world-class public transit system, including trains, trams, metros, buses, and waterbuses. The city's public transportation is well-integrated, allowing passengers to reach any part of the city with ease. While Brussels is walkable, it is not as renowned for its walkability as Amsterdam.

Day Trips from Each City

Both Amsterdam and Brussels offer excellent opportunities for day trips. The Netherlands' compact size and superb transportation network make it easy to visit nearby destinations like Alkmaar and Zaanse Schans, where you can experience traditional Dutch villages and windmills. In Belgium, you can explore charming cities like Bruges and Ghent, both easily accessible from Brussels by train.

For those visiting Amsterdam and Brussels as a wheelchair user, the trams all have a foldout ramp, making them wheelchair accessible.

Cost of Travel

person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook

Accommodation Costs

When comparing the cost of travel between Amsterdam and Brussels, Amsterdam tends to be more expensive. The average daily cost per person in Amsterdam is €175, while in Brussels, it is €137. These costs include accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment. This means that Brussels is 11.69% cheaper than Amsterdam, allowing travelers to either save money or enjoy a more luxurious experience.

Food and Drink Prices

In Amsterdam, dining out can be quite pricey. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant might cost around €15, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant could set you back about €70. In contrast, Brussels offers more affordable dining options, with an inexpensive meal costing around €12 and a three-course meal for two priced at approximately €60.

Attraction Fees

Both cities offer a variety of attractions, but the costs can vary. In Amsterdam, popular attractions like the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House have entrance fees of around €20 each. Meanwhile, in Brussels, you can visit landmarks such as the Atomium and the Royal Palace for about €15 each. This makes Brussels a more budget-friendly option for sightseeing.

If you're budgeting for Brussels, you'll find it to be a significantly cheaper destination compared to Amsterdam. This allows for a more comfortable travel experience without breaking the bank.

Local Culture and Atmosphere

Amsterdam and Brussels both host a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. Amsterdam is known for its laid-back and liberal vibe, which is reflected in its numerous cultural festivals, including the famous King's Day celebration. Brussels, on the other hand, offers a more intimate atmosphere with events like the Brussels Summer Festival and the Christmas Market.

In Amsterdam, the Dutch are known for being polite, cultured, and welcoming. The city’s liberal attitude makes it a place where you can truly be yourself. In Brussels, the atmosphere is more reserved but equally friendly. The locals appreciate when visitors make an effort to speak a few words in French or Dutch.

While Dutch is the official language in Amsterdam, English is widely spoken, making it easy for tourists to navigate the city. In Brussels, both French and Dutch are official languages, but you’ll find that many people also speak English. This multilingual environment adds to the city's charm and accessibility.

Family-Friendly Activities

Kid-Friendly Museums

Amsterdam offers several engaging museums for children, such as the NEMO Science Museum, where kids can enjoy interactive exhibits. Brussels, on the other hand, boasts unique attractions like the Mini-Europe Museum and the Comic Strip Museum, making it a great place to visit with the whole family.

Parks and Playgrounds

Amsterdam is home to numerous parks and playgrounds, providing ample space for children to play and explore. The city's iconic canals also create a picturesque and tranquil urban landscape. In Brussels, the Park du Cinquantenaire is a popular spot for families, featuring vast green spaces and playgrounds.

Family Tours

Both cities offer a variety of family tours. In Amsterdam, you can take a canal tour that provides a unique perspective of the city. Brussels offers family-friendly tours that include visits to chocolate factories and interactive educational attractions, ensuring there's something for everyone.

For families, Brussels is well known for its family-friendly activities, including a Mini-Europe Museum, a Comic Strip Museum, and Train World. The city is also a chocolate lover's dream with many factories and chocolate shops around town.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

assorted-color bicycles park beside blue rails near river

Weather in Amsterdam

Amsterdam enjoys a temperate climate, characterized by moderate winters and mild summers. Spring is particularly delightful, with the blooming, colorful tulip fields making it a picturesque time to visit. Summer temperatures range from 50°F to 70°F (14°C to 23°C), making it pleasant but sometimes crowded. Late summer and autumn offer a more relaxed atmosphere with fewer tourists. Winter can be chilly, with temperatures between 35°F to 44°F (1°C to 6°C), but it's also the season for the Amsterdam Light Festival, a stunning display of light sculptures along the water.

Weather in Brussels

Brussels also has a temperate climate, similar to Amsterdam. Summers are comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F (14°C to 23°C), and the city hosts numerous festivals and events during this time. Spring and autumn are also good seasons to visit, although it can get a bit chilly. Winter in Brussels is cool and damp, with temperatures between 35°F to 44°F (1°C to 6°C). However, the city transforms into a winter wonderland with Christmas markets and seasonal festivities.

Seasonal Activities

  • Spring: Ideal for visiting tulip fields in Amsterdam and enjoying mild weather in both cities.
  • Summer: Best for festivals and outdoor events in Brussels, but expect crowds in Amsterdam.
  • Autumn: A quieter time to explore both cities with pleasant weather.
  • Winter: Perfect for experiencing Christmas markets in Brussels and the Amsterdam Light Festival.
If you have to choose between the two cities, consider the time of year and your preferences for seasonal activities. Both Amsterdam and Brussels offer unique experiences throughout the year.


Choosing between Amsterdam and Brussels is no easy feat, as both cities offer unique and enriching experiences. Amsterdam, with its vibrant art scene, extensive canal system, and bustling nightlife, is perfect for those seeking a lively and culturally rich destination. On the other hand, Brussels, known for its exquisite chocolate, beautiful parks, and luxurious accommodations, provides a more relaxed and indulgent atmosphere. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal preferences and what you hope to get out of your trip. Whether you choose the dynamic energy of Amsterdam or the charming allure of Brussels, you are guaranteed an unforgettable European adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which city is more affordable to visit, Amsterdam or Brussels?

Generally, Brussels is more affordable than Amsterdam, especially when it comes to accommodation and dining. However, both cities offer a range of options to suit different budgets.

What are the main cultural attractions in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is renowned for its cultural attractions, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and its historic canals.

Is Brussels a good destination for food lovers?

Absolutely! Brussels is famous for its chocolate, waffles, beer, and a variety of gourmet restaurants offering Belgian cuisine.

How is the nightlife in Amsterdam compared to Brussels?

Amsterdam is known for its vibrant nightlife with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues. Brussels also has a lively nightlife scene but is generally more laid-back compared to Amsterdam.

Are there family-friendly activities in both cities?

Yes, both Amsterdam and Brussels offer a range of family-friendly activities, including kid-friendly museums, parks, playgrounds, and family tours.

What is the best way to get around Amsterdam and Brussels?

In Amsterdam, cycling is a popular and efficient way to get around. Brussels has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and metro services.

When is the best time to visit Amsterdam and Brussels?

The best time to visit both cities is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists.

Are there any language barriers for English speakers in Amsterdam and Brussels?

Both Amsterdam and Brussels are quite accommodating to English speakers. Most locals in both cities speak English, making it easy for tourists to communicate.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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