Amsterdam may be an amazing city (one of my favorites, in fact), but The Netherlands is actually more than just its famous capital. This country of flowers and cheese is replete with interesting locales that are just as fascinating as their more popular counterpart, Amsterdam.
We’d understand if Amsterdam is your first stop when Netherlands-bound (in fact, we’d recommend it), but do get a more complete feel of the wonderful Dutch culture by visiting other towns as well. You don’t have to venture far and wide to achieve this, as scattered around Amsterdam are several charming little towns you can visit for a day. With rich history and authentic Dutch culture, they’re the perfect day trips to make your vacation to The Netherlands complete in every way.
1. The Waterland
The Waterland is a municipality in the province of North Holland and lie just outside Amsterdam, around 20 minutes by bus. These countrysides are dotted with canals, dikes (hence the name Waterland), windmills, cheese, wooden shoes and colorful houses, making them the perfect landscape to get that quintessential Dutch countryside experience. There are around 7 towns in the Waterline area, but the more famous are Volendam, Edam and Marken. To see some real windmills, Zaanse Schans is the place to go.
Several hop-on hop-off buses ply the Waterland route everyday. You can find them on the second level at the back of Amsterdam Central Station, and tickets are available at the office near the bus station.
2. The Hague
While Amsterdam is Netherlands’ capital, the seat of government is, however, in The Hague, a city located in the west of The Netherlands and around 40 minutes via a fast train from Amsterdam. Known as the judicial capital of the world, you’ll find a lot of international courts in this city, the most famous of which is the International Court of Justice. Also in the area are more than a hundred of different international organizations.
While The Hague offers less ebullience than that of Amsterdam, it, however, boasts of more serene ambience. There’s its scenic coastline, wide and open spaces, elegant neighborhoods, baroque and classical architecture that all contribute to its stately feel.
When in The Hague, be sure to see the Binnenhof, once a castle but is now the seat of government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Also take time to drop by neighboring Plein, the popular square near Binnenhof. Other sights to see include different kinds of museums, royal palaces, and more interesting streets.
Haarlem is a charming town just a few train stations away from Amsterdam Centraal, about 20 minutes ride. Home to the famous Dutch artist Frans Hals, it is rich in history and offers many wonderful sights, including an impressive Gothic church with lots of interesting history, a majestic windmill on the banks of a river, the Frans Hals museum and other museums, and a lively historic centre.
Haarlem also boasts of an exceptional shopping district, which was hailed as one of the best in the country, if not the best. So if you want to escape the crowded downtown scene in Amsterdam, Haarlem is a good place to do some retail therapy.
For a closer look at Haarlem, see Haarlem: A Perfect Day Trip from Amsterdam
The Netherlands is synonymous with beautiful flowers so you shouldn’t miss catching a glimpse of their tulips, hyacinths, lilies, and other blossoms. The best way to do this is via a visit to Bollenstreek, Amsterdam’s bulb belt.
Bollenstreek is located between Haarlem and Leiden, and comprises a wide 19-mile section of land planted with many colourful flowers that is just awesome to behold.
To reach Bollenstreek, take the 20-minute train to Haarlem, and then ride the buses that ply the Haarlem to Leiden route.
Delft in the western part of The Netherlands is home to the famous white and blue ceramics. Like Amsterdam, it’s characterized by canals and interesting architecture. Unlike Amsterdam, however, Delft is quieter and offers just as fascinating a look at the traditional Dutch setting and culture on a more personal way.
Surprisingly for a relatively smaller city, Delft has many attractions to offer. From museums to grand churches to gardens, there are plenty of things to see and do in Delft. The town itself is a joy to stroll through with its many interesting structures and establishments. Vermeer Centrum, which showcases the life and works of the famous 17th-century painter Johannes Vermeer, is one good stop. Don’t miss to visit the Royal Delft factory to see how those popular white and blue ceramics are made; better yet, join a workshop for a new kind of experience.
Have you visited any of these cities/towns? Do you have any other places in mind that would make a good day trip from Amsterdam?