Want to see more than Amsterdam? You want to get into the Dutch wonders? Here is a list of 6 of them.
After years of living in Netherlands and traveling around to discover the Netherlands, we wanted to give you some useful tips about the best places to visit outside of Amsterdam.
With the tourist season coming up to Amsterdam, the streets will be full and if you already know the city, why not try to see more and explore the restof the Netherlands as day trips (or multiple days if you can afford the time). Many travellers forget that there are some great places just a few kilometers away from Amsterdam. If you want unforgettable experiences and beautiful landscapes, those places will meet your expectations! And most of them are truely natural gems.
Keukenhof or the tulip heaven
Keukenhof the world famous gardens! What? You never heard of it? You do know that Netherlands are the biggest worldwide exporters of flowers, right? Well Keukenhof is all about tulips and flowers. It’s a powerful display of how colorful, spectacular and impressive all varieties are, gathered in one place for your joy and incredible pictures. It’s a flower Disneyland! If you’re visiting Amsterdam in the spring, you should definitely visit the Keukenhof Gardens!
Watch out you can visit the park only between 24 March 2016 – 16 May 2016. Count the whole day as there is about 45min transportation, each way.
Transportation is easy, either from Central Station or from the Schiphol Airport. You can find details here.
Zandvoort: the beach near Amsterdam
Zandvoort is ideal during sunny weather if you want to spend a day out of Amsterdam and enjoy the wonderful North Sea beaches, with their vast sand dunes and the natural reserve next to them. Another post on the blog details the ways to reach Zandvoort and you’ll find the information on what to do and what to see. We definitely recommend Zandvoort if you feel like relaxing on the beach (like a true local when the weather is good) enjoying a fresh haring with onions and pickles while getting chased by the seagulls craving for your haring.
Zaanse Schans: the famous windmills
This is another exit to Amsterdam. We love this place, it’s simply so typical and so cute, you will necessarily like it. Zaanse Schans is the place where you’ll see well-preserved historic windmills and houses (about 10 pairs of sail continue to turn, you can even visit them). You’ll also find a collection of museums there and small boutiques where to buy handicraft and typical dutch wooden shoes. You can even see in one of the shoe fabric how they make them. It’s all free except if you end up buying them of course. There are many thing to visit in Zaanse Schans so plan ahead and take at least the afternoon there. To reach the place, you can check on the 9292.nl website which has an English version for the train schedule. The nearest station is Koog- Zaandijk and Zaanse Schans is only 15 min walking distance from the train station. It takes about 17min to reach the station from Amsterdam. Or you can take the bus from Amsterdam Centraal (bus number 391 which departs every 15min and arrives directly at Zaanse Schans). The bus journey takes 40min but drops you to the place.
You can also stop on the way to Zaandam and have a look at this excentric house right next to the station. See by yourself the picture below, interesting house isn’t it ? It’s actually a 4* hotel.
Volendam and Marken: typical fishermen villages
Volendam is a beautiful typical fishermen village in the North of Amsterdam, well known for its old fishing boats and the traditional clothing still worn by some residents. It is famous also because some women still wear the traditional costume as their daily routine. Only a few though (less than 50) but it remains a popular attraction for tourists. Their costume is composed of a high pointed bonnet, is one of the most recognizable of the Dutch traditional costumes, and is often featured on tourist postcards and posters.
That there is a legend that says that the Volendam coat of arms is a compliment to the beauty of the Volendam girls ! No wonder that a famous singer sang the praise of this characteristic Dutch fishing village in the words: “Anyone who wants to see the real beauty of Holland, goes to Volendam”. As a result of its completely insulated location, this village preserved its character for six centuries, also because of the tough vitality of the fishermen.
In Volendam, you can eat very good seafood and enjoy a fresh fish from the morning catch at the harbor. Dutch people are very close to nature and do respect life, you can be reassured that the fish will most probably be locally fished and sustainably. At the harbor, you can find a connecting boat that can take you to Marken a tiny fishermen village next to Volendam, extremely well-preserved as where you can only circulate by foot or bicycle. The boat ticket is 9.95 euros per person for round trip. It’s located on a peninsula (which used to be an Island but the Dutch built a road to join it to the main land). The road to reach Marken is literally on the sea. It is really nice to see if you are by car or by bicycle. In Marken, you’ll see all sorts of wooden houses, all exactly as they were in the 19th century. Some people still in here (about a thousand) and you can find a very nice café next to the small harbor.
We strongly recommend to rent a bicycle in Volendam, you have many places where to do so. It will give you the freedom to explore Volendam and go to Marken without having to pay extra tickets, even though the boat trip is also nice! Be careful with the wind though, last time we went and we cycled to Marken on this road in the middle of the sea, the wind was so strong the 3 km separating the island from the land felt like 10! You can also rent electric bicycles to lower the intensity of the ride.
If you only want to visit Marken, you can take a bus (number 315) from Amsterdam Centraal station. To reach Volendam, you can take the bus 316 from Centraal Station, which circulates every 15 minutes. Check the 9292.nl website for all timings! It takes about 40 minutes to reach Volendam or Marken and we recommend you book the day for the visit.
Gouda: the capital of the Dutch cheese
Gouda is another very cute typical Dutch city and the cheese was of course named after it. Every Thrusday morning (8-11h30) from April to September, there is probably the biggest cheese market of the Netherlands hold in Gouda. Every farmer comes to show their cheese and sell them in front of the “(the Weighing House” (in dutch; Goudse Waag). It is so funny to see it, you should definitely go and try some cheese afterwards. You can try the famous Gouda Cheese Soup!
In Gouda, even if you can’t attend the cheese market, you have many other things to visit. First, you havel like a ton of cheese fabrics and shops to try out all kinds of gouda cheese. Then you also go visit the St. Janskerk, a beautiful church, the Museum of Gouda, relating the history of the city, the Stadhuis (the oldest gothic town hall of the Netherlands) that you can visit for 1.50 euro. Then of course walking or cycling along the canals of the city and admiring the beautiful Dutch architecture is also a nice way to spend your time in Gouda, if not the best!
To reach Gouda from Amsterdam centraal station, take the train Sprinter in direction of Rotterdam circulating every half hour. The journey will take 1h. The train ticket can be bought upfront, and cost 11.30 euros per way so 22.60 for the round trip. Stop in Gouda, not Gouda Goverwelle.
The Wadden Sea Islands: the 5 natural gems of the Netherlands
In the North of the Netherlands, not so far from Amsterdam, there are five beautiful and highly individual Wadden Islands, low-lying, dune-laden, windswept barrier islands, are connected by ferry across the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) from adjacent mainland harbors. This shallow sea’s depth ranges from about 1 to 3m (3-10 ft.), and at low tide it virtually disappears. On a line curving north and east, they are: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog. Texel belongs to Noord-Holland and is covered separately. The remaining four islands belong to Friesland.
The Dutch treasure these small islands as romantic getaways. And we confirm that you can go any time of the year, you’ll find them charming and quiet, perfect for romance. We went ourselves to Texel and Schiermonnikoog. We did a day trip in the first island and stayed overnight in the second. Schiermonnikoog is by far the most romantic of the 2 and the quietest due to the absence of cars.
Texel is the biggest and the most famous island of all 5. It has 7 towns and a lot of cycling paths. We strongly recommend to rent bicycles once you are there. You can rent an electric bicycle too. The first shop is located next to the Ferry harbor. In texel you’ll find plenty of amazing beaches, a brewery where you can enjoy a local beer, and a lot (like really) of bicycle paths. Renting bicycles is probably the best if not the only way to really enjoy the island.
To reach it: take the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Den Helder (about 1h10 journey) and stop in Den Helder. The bus stop will be indicated so take the number 33 at the exit of the Den Helder station (circulates every hour). It will drop you to the ferry station which is called the “Steiger TESO-boot”. Buy your boat tickets at the station (2.50 euros for passengers). The total price for a round trip is around 17euros and it takes about 2h. You can rent bicycles directly from the harbor.
Schiermonnikoog is the wildest island and has been declared as a national park in 1988 as many birds were coming to the island to nest and breed. You can also see some seals and rare plant species. There are a couple of hotels and a great camp site. Cycling around this island was a wonderful memory, especially watching all those birds nesting… Cars are forbidden on the island, only electric buses can circulate.
Did you know that the dutch voted Schiermonnikoog the prettiest place in the Netherlands?
To reach it: the island is farer than Texel but the journey will take you to beautiful places. Count about 4h from Amsterdam to reach the town center of Schiermonnikoog. Take the train to Lelystad Centrum. Then you need to change to go to Groningen, the northest city of the Netherlands. This city worth a visit too, so if you have time, you should stop by! Then take another train, in direction of Roodeschool and stop in Winsum. Right outside the station, there’s a bus stop. Take the bus 68 to Leens via Pieterburen and stop at Priorstraat (about a couple of stops). At this stop, you’ll have to jump into another bus to reach the ferry station. The bus is the 163 in direction to Holwerd Haven. You will stop at station Haven where the ferry departs. The ticket for the ferry can be bought there. It takes 45 minutes to reach the island by boat and the journey is wonderful, a lot of shallow waters, seals and birds on the way. Once arrived, you can decide to take another small bus (bus 1) to reach the city center or rent a bicycle. You can make an online reservation to pick the bicycle directly when you come out of the ferry.
Vlieland is known for its longest naturist beach in Europe. There is not much to do but enjoying the beaches and the dunes and sunbathing. To preserve this natural place, no cars allowed either …
Terschelling has a great marina with over 450 boats. The Willem Barentsz school for navigation is an example of how navigation and the island belong to each other.
Ameland is known for its commander houses. Once a month people can view a unique spectacle: 10 horses pull the old rescue boat into the sea to launch it there, just like it happened in the early days. This is a next on our list of things to do in the NL, but if you plan a trip to the Wadden Sea, Ameland seems like a great stop.
If you want to do this as a day trip to exit Amsterdam, you’ll have to pick up only one island and leave early in the morning because the whole journey might take you some time. Especially if you want to take the time to walk or cycle around. Texel is the most doable in a day trip. For all the other islands, we suggest you stay overnight to really enjoy.
If you have more time, we suggest you start with Texel and Schiermonnikoog, the most famous ones and visit the other ones only if you have a few days. Those islands are the pride of the Dutch people, a lot of them use them as a retreat during summer and to enjoy their quietness to relax with their family while enjoying nature. To stay on the islands, you’ll find many guesthouses, hotels and bed&breakfasts. You can also take a ferry that takes you from an island to the other one without going back to the mainland.
We visited all the places (or almost all) and it is impossible for us to give you our favorite. I personnally loved the Wadden sea islands, especially Schiermonnikoog, but it depends if you seek for more cultural or natural sightseeings. Anyway, in the Netherlands, the best is always to rent a bicycle and explore everything by yourself. The only thing, check the weather!!!