Long time reader, first time poster. I've scoured the forums reading several threads that have proved invaluable, and wanted some "expert" opinion on a multi-city European trip I'm planning to take this May with my wife and toddler. I'm a Platinum elite and plan on using MR points for stays everywhere.
Given that I've never been to Europe, we wanted to spend about 8-10 days in 3-4 different locations to get a sampling of what I'd like to come back for.
My wife and I are considering:
- 5 nights in London (London Marriott Hotel County Hall)
- train to Brussels
- 2 nights in Brussels (Brussels Marriott Hotel Grand Place)
- train to Amsterdam
- 3 nights in Amsterdam (Amsterdam Marriott Hotel)
I prefer hotels that offer a concierge lounge that is complimentary for Platinums, since it helps with the kid!
The questions are whether we can do enough "basic" sightseeing with our baby in tow, and if we are spending too much or too little time in any one place or in transit. Also, hotel recommendations are GREATLY APPRECIATED~! London and Zurich in particular, since AMS and BRU dont have too many options.
I'm considering the JW Marriiott (Grosvenor House?) in London as well, along with the other couple of hotels in that vicinity, but all the threads I've read on London seemed to indicate County Hall as being the most convenient.
TIA, and I look forward to hearing from my fellor Rewards Insiders!lon
Was just in Zurich for 2-nights mid-November. We got in late in the evening on day 1 and departed for Italy early on day 3 so my recommendation would be to have at least two full days in Zurich if possible. A beautiful city, with a fantastic public transit system (true to form it runs like clockwork). We had great meals at:
Zeughauskeller - located just off the Paradeplatz. You could take a nice walk from the Marriott, walking through Old Town and empty out a few steps from this restaurant.
Aktuell - Wirtschaft Degenried - fantastic setting in the woods above Zurich. Had fantastic fondue.
I am sure you have Chocolate on your agenda, my favorite was at Läderach – chocolatier suisse.
Enjoy your trip!
Hi, I will give you my perspective having done this over the past 30 years with little kids and grand children and by ourselves. First thing is based in your handle THRIFTY and SCROOGE you may like saving money
I always would start in London but unless you are on points, staying in the center of London does not always pay. I have stayed in Kensington at the Marriott there and saved 50 to100 quid a night or more from the property you mention, but it is only a few subway stops to the action. It had a good lounge, breakfast and treats and snacks later and adult beverages.
You are maybe being too optimistic on trying to visit 4 cities. I did that too first time, I found that I could easily spend 8 days in any of the 4 cities you mentioned. I would pick 2 unless you think this will be your only venture into Europe. Zurich is actually disappointing in my view and either of the other two are in close proximity to London on train (Brussels) or cheap flight organized from there (Amsterdam). There is so much to do in London for the first time, I think you would be disappointed spending only two days there.
I also found with really little kids it was best to find a home base. They do not suffer jet lag the way adults do so they may be happy to stay on there own time and keep you up all night.
I would do London 5 nights Brussels or Amsterdam 2 nights. You may look also at some of the English country. There is a nice blog on here on Yorkshire. I am hoping to get there later this year, I have a meeting in Leeds, but there are apparently good properties in that area.
Hope this helps
Thanks to everyone for their valuable input - this is EXACTLY the kind of helpful info I was hoping for! We re-considered the 4 destinations, and shrunk down our plans to LON (5 nights), BRU (2 nights) and AMS (2 nights). Already spent the 350K points to book the trip !! :-)
On a separate note, are there any resort fees/gotcha's I should watch out for at these places? I've only traveled to Marriott locations in USA, CAN and PR, so any advice is greatly appreciated.
It's unfortunate we wont be able to cover ZRH on this trip, but I dont think we can do any longer of a trip, and honestly the distance from AMS-ZRH would require another flight, or an overnight train, neither of which is appealing with a little one.
Any other tidbits/nuggets of information are greatly appreciated as well.
One more question - i've booked 5 nights at the London Marriott County Hall, but am still debating whether to switch to the JW Marriott Grosvenor House or the Marriott London Park Lane.
The county hall location seems great for tourism, but if the hotel is under construction (seeing some recent reviews on TA that show scaffolding) it might be an issue. Also, from some of the reviews here and on TA, it seems that the Park Lane Marriott is excellent with their customer service and very convenient to the tube and other things.
Can anyone chime in?
I would say it depends on what you really are looking to accomplish. Are there specific things you want to see or do in London that would push you in either direction. For me, I would stay at the County Hall. The JW is very nice but the area is also very expensive, even for London. I've been to both many times, both are very very nice but if you are going "tourist" mode then County Hall is great. You can easily get over to that part of London, which is very nice and well worth the journey.
If you aren't married to either there are plenty of options depending on the "what you want to accomplish" out of your London trip.
As for Amsterdam, there's been plenty of threads on the various places to stay. I've written one once upon a time that details my Ren stay. I am a fan of the Ren but also not as concerned with the more "cultural" aspects of the city center areas. I've been many times, never a bad stay and never any issues with the area.
Brussels, eh, 2nights is probably the top for me in the city. The full service is nice, there is an exec apartment place next door, not sure if they are available but they are very nice if you want space.
When I went to Amsterdam we got the Holland Pass that offers "skip the line" entrance to museums and stuff. It was pretty much a rip off as we had to stand in line at the VanGogh Museum for like 2-3 hours with all of the other passholders.
If you want to do it or the Anne Frank House I would definitely recommend buying a timeslot ticket in advance. Anne Frank House sells out months in advance, so it's not too early.
7, thank you for the insight, it's appreciated.
Fistuk and Jakeal, I have spent a LOT of time reading a LOT of threads about the various properties in London, however most of them tend to be a few years old. I'm hoping that someone with more current knowledge can chime in.
Again, everyone here is a treasure trove of information, and I greatly appreciate the help.
I stayed at County Hall last year (2015) and it was fabulous. I can't speak to the current scaffolding, however. Westminster Bridge will be crowded with tourists in May (but worse in June). I found that the early bird gets the worm. If you get to the Library Lounge early for breakfast, you will have the run of the place, can pick your table right next to a tall window overlooking the Thames, and enjoy a lovely view of Big Ben while breakfasting. Then, if you can get out and about before 9am (I think I did some treks out as early as 7:00am), you'll have the bridge and the sidewalks all to yourself, except for the young business people, who are scurrying (or cycling) off to work. The staff at County Hall are nothing short of tremendous. You must meet Nic, the Concierge. He'll take good care of you.
There is no shortage of good dining in London. These are some of the places that we dined at and enjoyed every one:
Red Lion on Whitehall was excellent for our first and only pub dining experience, and is within easy walking distance of CH.
I would recommend The Criterion in Piccadilly Circus, but I read that it has gone into administration, so not sure what the current status is. Ask Nic about it.
If you get to Covent Gardens, you've got to at least try a macaroon, if not lunch at Balthazar's Boulangerie.
Balthazar London Boulangerie | Home-made artisan bread, pastries, salads and sandwiches to eat in, take out or have delivered. Or dine at the restaurant next door.
La Barca is a nice Italian restaurant not too far from CH near Waterloo. Walk 1/4 mile or taxi. Authentic cuisine, not touristy.
We found all of these places to be reasonably priced for London, while still offering good food. We didn't do any high-end dining, but if that is where your interest lies, I'm certain that others here can weigh in on many of those establishments.
Never have bought passes in advance. If you're staying at Marriott, concierge desk can help with not only guidance but also some site tickets. Museum entrances and wait times are largely dependent upon times of the year - I'd think visiting in May (when students are in school) might not be too taxing. Never have experienced wait times at either museum.
Agree about Ann Frank House as this is a very popular tourist spot, so advance ticket might be best to consider. Quite frankly, I've never thought it was worth the cost of admission, much less long waiting line.
To me, the canal tour is the highlight of visiting Amsterdam, along with museum visits. I'd much prefer renting a car and touring the countryside and small villages, such as Huesden - even staying overnight in Einhoven, Brugges, Ghent and/ or Antwerp,
I've been to all four cities, and to be honest, I'd drop Zurich and give myself another night in London and Brussels.
I'd try for at least 4 in Lindon since there is so much to see, there. I enjoyed Zurich but it fell way short of the other three cities and it's further off the track of your trip. If you want to do 4 cities, I'd recommend Paris, which is my favorite destination in Europe. The best thing in Zurich is the chocolate and Brussels is even better, anyway.
Incidentally, if you are gold or Platinum, the Marrioott in Amsterdam has the best CL that I have been to, with everything cooked on the premises by the CL's own chef. There is no reason to go out for dinner when you stay here!
I've got to agree with phctourist, Zurich is ok but really a business-oriented city and very expensive, and the chocolates in Brussels are better. Lucerne might be more fun for a young family. I agree 100% with peymanagement about having a home base for the toddler so that you can easily get back to the hotel if you need to. Hats off to you for trekking about with the little one. Transcontinental flights and touring big cities with babies and toddlers is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure! @john_thai also makes a good point about narrowing down to one or two cities. There is so much to see and do in London alone, and it would be less stressful with a toddler to not move around so much.
I'm not saying that the chocolates in Brussels are better, but they certainly are comparable. I enjoyed Zurich, but it is definitely not worthy of one's first trip to Europe when time is limited. The other cities mentioned are really a cut above!
In addition Zurich is a bit off the route for the other stops.
IMO the temptation is always there for the first time Euro-visitor to "see it all". IMO you are short changing yourself. You're going to be spending so much time moving from city to city when you could spend that time getting to really see something.
I'd recommend cutting it to 2 cities. My choices would be London and Amsterdam. Spend 5 days in London then 3 days in Amsterdam. There is so much to see in London, and just outside London (Windsor, for example) that when your 5 days are up and you're heading out you will wish you could stay a couple more days. Same with Amsterdam.
Just plan on coming back in a few years to see more cities.
phctourist, john_thai, fschumpert : thanks for the feedback.Please keep it coming!
We've already cut our trip to 3 cities - 5 nights in London, 2 nights in Brussels (maybe take a day trip to Ghent) and 2 nights in Amsterdam. I could consider adding one more night to the Amsterdam leg, depending on what we can work out.
I'm currently also looking into which is the best sim card I can buy in the UK that will allow me to use text and data (maybe some voice calls) freely across these 3 countries without killing me with roaming (Yes, I know the EU passed new legislation, but roaming charges still exist until Jun 2017).
Does anyone have any recommendations? Also, since we're in London for the longest period, I'd like to get a provider that offers a multitude of Wifi hot spots through the city. Vodafone/02/Three are all on my list... it's just really opaque on their websites.
I can't help with the sim card, but I think you've come up with a great trip. BTW a good value, in London, is the Kensington Marriott. It's a short walk to the Underground and has lots of conveniences in the neighborhood. (I've stayed there for two of my three London trips.) Across the street is a laundry shop where they will wash dry and fold your was for a fraction of what the hotel charges and provide same day service. There are excellent restaurants in the neighborhood and while they are a bit further from some attractions, they are very close to Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington Palace, Harrods, and Hyde Park.
One sight, in London, that you should not miss is The Churchill War Rooms, from which Churchill ran the Government during WWII. Another is the British Museum.
Regarding phone service - check out www.cellularabroad.com I have acquired SIM cards from them, some with data and phone, and I have rented a phone from them. Great folks to work with. You might pay a bit of a premium, but you get everything delivered prior to your departure, and materials to return when you get home. Help is available when you are in country, for tech support or to add credits. They provide you with either a phone or sim for the country you are visiting - or multiple countries. Rates for calls way more attractive than using your US carrier.
I have gone with an international plan with Verizon a few times. Once worked OK, once not so much. The best situation I have found is to get the Sim and use it in my own phone. Just pop out my Verizon sim and put in theirs, once I am in the plane and in the air. Gives you a French or british or whatever phone number during your visit.
Next trip to London, I will want to stay at County Hall. It looks superb, and location is excellent. Last trip to London, my daughter and I stayed at Grosvenor House. Also a great location. We walked across Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue and then to Harrod's. Also convenient by taxi to West End theatre district (but probably about the same as County Hall). Grosvenor House upgraded us to a suite without asking, which was probably larger than 800 sq.ft. I appreciated that. CL was very nice in that hotel.
In Amsterdam, we stayed at the Renaissance. We walked there from the train station, and it was very convenient to the Anne Frank museum (walking) and the Rijksmuseum (by bus). Very adequate CL. Not familiar with the Marriott there.
As to your itinerary, I've done it both ways. You will be jet lagged when you arrive, but there are ways to mitigate that. Your toddler will have more trouble than you, and may not adjust until near the end of your trip. You'll want to consider how that might affect your plans ... if your little one is still sound asleep at noon.
Have fun! and send us a report.
I would recommend skipping Brussels and putting those nights in Ghent at that Marriott. No CL but they do provide free drink and app tickets and a free breakfast.
Ghent is so much more charming than the business city, Brussels, especially with your limited time.
You could (and should) spend time in Brugges, a wonderful town! Too bad there is no Marriott there (but there is a Crown Plaza if you have IHG points).
You have picked out four of the finest places you could stay in the World!
I have stayed at all of these places and you will be able to see/experience the most from these 4 places.
Let me share a couple of suggestions:
Contact the Concierge at County Hall, and make arrangements to have you picked up at LHR. It will be at the same price as a taxi, but a private car, and you can put the charge on you room bill. Nic, Head Concierge, is a master at taking care of your transportation. Likewise, request an upgraded room, if available, you are in the best location in London!
The view from a Thames River room!
Now, if you have an AMEX Platinum or Black Card, you can relax in the VIP Lounge in London prior to your trip to Brussels! Make sure you make early arrangements to get you to St. Pancreas. Likewise, take you own snacks to enjoy on the train trip.
Brussels will be a nice safe place to visit.
Amsterdam will also be most enjoyable.Try to take the "Canal Cruise", and do visit the Anne Franks home!
Zurich, be prepared for "The most expensive city in the World"! The hotel is very nice, and use the streetcar to get you to nearby downtown, if you choose not to walk. BTW, the nearby train station is a wonderful place for inexpensive food. Here are some places that you might enjoy:
You can take a wonderful "Canal Swim" as pictured from a room in Zurich!
Shopping is wonderful in Zurich!
Make sure you review previous posts, and let us all know how we can give you more details about your upcoming wonderful trip!
all, thank you again for your invaluable input.
Jerrycoin, I've read a lot of your previous posts on London and was waiting for you to chime in... Thanks for the great advice.
Do you per chance, happen to have the contact information for the Concierge at County Hall? I figured you might be on a first name basis with said individual !!! Also, i checked Uber rates from LHR to County Hall, and they are roughly about 50 pounds or so; I'm assuming the private taxi will be more than that?
I definitely plan to request an upgraded room, since I will be staying at that hotel for our wedding anniversary that week, and would like to make it special, toddler not withstanding! Zurich is off our list for this trip, but we hope to get there sooner rather than later.
Psudad, thanks for the sim info - i've read about the CellularAbroad product before, but I typically just buy a local sim when abroad and swap it in for the trip. Also, we will be using a lot of google maps, etc. so the data is critical, and their plans wont work for me, since it's just over a 100Mb for $30! At that rate, I might just be better off buying an 02/Vodafone sim in UK and using it as needed in BRU and AMS.
Again, if someone has actually bought a local sim in the UK and used it in the EU like I hope to, your input is very much appreciated.
Looking forward to this trip and to reporting back to all. Bought the flights and booked the hotels last night; 450K MR points poorer, but happier!
Sounds like you have put together a wonderful plan for a fabulous trip!
You can email London County Hall and get details on transportation at:
Please feel free to use my name, I know just about everyone there, and they are all very good people. Try to "Pre-arrange", transportation and room upgrade. You may want to take a "US Gift" for them. I usually take an updated "US Atlas" (State Farm gives them to me), and they are greatly appreciated by people in other countries. Most people have no idea about the size/geography of The US!
Good luck, and don't hesitate with detailed questions prior to your trip. Shopping, Dining, sightseeing, etc., questions are always welcome, just let me/us know!
Thank you for your insight and for sharing the London CH Concierge contact info. You asked me to mention your name; would you mind letting me know what that is? :-) I'm guessing Jerry, but not sure if Coin is your last name, or just because you're a numismatist.
I tried direct messaging you, but am blocked (probably due to being too new to the forums). IF you wouldn't mind messaging me your information, I'd greatly appreciate it.
BTW, I'm a bit of a coin collector myself ; not enough to be a numismatist, but more of a hobbyist. Lately I like collecting stacks of Ben Franklin's when possible ..hahaha!
You are right on the first name, and the last is a popular name in one of my favorite countries, Wales, it's Morgan!
I wish I could be there while you are there to have a laugh and a "Taste" at Happy Hour!
You will see some of the wonderful MRI's that have gathered there for some memorable times. We always enjoy the great staff as well!
Sent you a direct message with some information that may be of interest!
Amsterdam-for me at least, the Marriott Renassaince was wonderful. Quiet location on a little side street. It is about a 5 minute walk from the train station (vs $60 cab ride). Best of all, the Concierge lounge was wonderful. Full breakfast,afternoon snacks, and heavy snacks and drinks in evening. Staff was very good. We were able to walk to the Ann Frank house and all of the attractions in that part of town. If you go to the the Ann Frank house you REALLY need to get tickets in advance oe wait in line 2-3 hours.
We saw the museums too. The tram stop is just a block or so away and cheap.The canal tours are right next to the train station which is just a 5 min. walk.
Great info., @pluto!
Someday our "Paths will cross", sure enjoyed you write up's on Australia!
BTW, If I had one pub to go to in London, it would be this one. A short walk from County Hall, and just South of Trafalgar Square.
Also, here's a nice photo of Nic, a "Golden Key" Concierge, a distinctive honor for Nic, (Pictured)
My favorite in London is Chandos, a block or so from the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar. Great, true London Pub atmosphere - and it is a Samuel Smith house, so fantastic beer!!! And good food! 29 St. Martins Lane. www.yelp.com/biz/the-chandos-london
for one meal, or at least a drink, make sure you go to The Ritz! It is one of the most famous and beautiful places to experience. Don't worry about the cost, it is not that bad, all of London is pretty expensive, but this is "A Big Deal Worth It"!