One of the most popular tourist destination chosen by travelers in recent years is Holland, a super recommended place to visit for its variety of colors, scents and enchanting landscapes. If you think that a trip to Amsterdam means you've visited the Netherlands, you're wrong.
Here is a list of 10 beautiful experiences to do in a few days in the country of tulips, between fairytale canals, windmills and flowering gardens, with essential tips to save time and avoid inconveniences.
- Van Gogh and Rembrandt: Discovering the Dutch masters
- Advantages for holders of the "I Amsterdam City Card"?
- Not only Amsterdam: Giethoorn, Leiden and Delft, the cities of the canals
- A walk along the Amsterdam Canal Belt
- Giethoorn, the Dutch Venice
- Leiden, discovering little Amsterdam
- Delft and the blue ceramic
- Mills, clogs and cheese: Zaanse Schans and Alkmaar
- Houses in the greenery and windmills: this is Zaanse Schans
- Alkmaar, a tour of the cheese market
- Spring and winter: Holland among flowering tulips and snowy landscapes
- Perfumes and colours of Keukenhof Park
- A tour of the mills of Kinderdijk-Elshout, UNESCO heritage
- Visit Friesland by bike
- Volendam, Edam and Marken: like in a fairy tale
- Holland and the Flemish countryside
Van Gogh and Rembrandt: Discovering the Dutch masters
We start from Amsterdam, a popular destination for millions of tourists who celebrate two masters of art such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt with museum exhibitions dedicated to them (one of the most important squares in the city is also named after Rembrandt).
If you are planning a trip to the Dutch capital, you cannot miss a combined visit to the Van Gogh Museum and at Rijskmuseum, the National Museum of the Netherlands celebrating the works of the foremost painter of the Golden Age.
You could visit the two museums on different days but, as both landmarks are located in Museumplein and less than 5 minutes walk from each other, it is convenient to visit them on the same day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then, it would be a good idea to plan to have lunch in the area.
If you purchase them as individual entries, the cost of the two priority tickets is over 35€. There are, however, different types of tickets, such as combined tickets that for a few more euros include other experiences in addition to the admission to museums, often with audio guide included and "skip the line" option.
When you decide to visit museums of international stature we advice to buy online skip the line tickets, avoid the visit at the weekend and visit it early in the morning.
Advantages for holders of the "I Amsterdam City Card"?
Holders of this Card, have free admission in both museums. Since the beginning of 2018, the card also allows you to skip the queue at the Van Gogh Museum: how to book your entrance time to the museum? You can collect your card at the airport, though you first need to go to tickets.vangoghmuseum.com and follow the steps to complete your online ticket reservation. You will receive a confirmation email with the voucher that you can show directly at the entrance of the museum, without having to go through the ticket office. Booking is free!
One flaw found in both museums by many visitors is the absence of some of the most important works of the two painters: "The Starry Night", Van Gogh's undisputed masterpiece, is on display at MoMa in New York or that the wonderful "The Anatomy lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp" can be found at the Mauritshuis in The Hague (not to mention "Christ in the storm on the Sea of Galilee", kept at the Gardner Museum in Boston until the theft of 1990).
Though, you will find other wonderful paitings: works such as "The Yellow House", "The Potato Eaters", "The Night Watch" or "Syndics of the Drapers' Guild" are absolutely worth the ticket price!
- How to get to Museum Square also known as Museumplein: The easiest way to get there is by tram: take line 2 or 5 and get off at the Museumplein (Museum Square) stop. Alternatively, if you prefer reaching the Museum on foot, keep in mind a-fifteen-minutes walk from the central Dam Square.
Not only Amsterdam: Giethoorn, Leiden and Delft, the cities of the canals
Do you like cities overlooking the canals? Besides Amsterdam there are many other destinations not to be missed in Holland. Discover here our selection of the best day trips from Amsterdam and things to see not far from the capital.
A walk along the Amsterdam Canal Belt
One of the features that makes Amsterdam famous all over the world is its wonderful belt of canals (the Grachtengordel). So one of the things to do in Amsterdam is to have a walk in the Grachtengordel district during the day or at sunset, when they offer breathtaking views. If you travel in Holland in winter, you may find the canals of Amsterdam frozen, so the best time to visit the Canal Belt in Amsterdam is spring.
On a beautiful sunny day travel independently by renting a bike, the perfect option that allows you to enjoy every inch of the city. The alternative is to have a relaxing walk (a must-see is the Bloemenmarkt, the beautiful floating flower market, a unique attraction in the world! ). If you prefer a guided tour, you can book a boat trip or a dinner cruise (best between sunset and evening): Amsterdam offers charming views of the city and of its bridges lit up at night.
Another way to experience the magic of the canals fully is to sleep in a Houseboat, the famous Amsterdam floating houses: a dream experience! To do that, you just need to book a room - as you would book a hotel room - by renting a boat. But beware: Houseboats moor along the canals and, even if they are well stable, they sway a little so if you suffer from sea sickness perhaps it is better to consider other solutions.
Giethoorn, the Dutch Venice
If you really love canals, one of the most beautiful trips to do in Holland is definitely Giethoorn, considered the "Dutch Venice": a fairytale landscape about a hundred km from Amsterdam, a place nestled in nature and quiet characterized by canals and fairytale houses with windows decorated as shop windows.
You can visit the village of Giethoorn on a day trip on foot so bring comfortable luggage with you. On the web you can find some negative reviews of Giethoorn's food.
A number of travellers complain about poor value for money and suggest prepare a packed lunch rather than stop and eat in the area: a tip to keep in mind if you're planning a day trip here.
We now suggest what to do on a trip to Giethoorn and how to reach teh village from Amsterdam. The top thing to do in Giethoorn is a tour in a traditional boat. This can be done on a day trip, so you may want to plan a visit to this really nice village during your holiday in Holland as a break when you visit the capital. If you prefer to stay for several days in this quiet place, you can book a stay in the characteristic cottages, connected to each other by bridges, or in the accommodation facilities within the village.
- How to get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam: You can get there by car in an hour and a half, via the A1 or A6 motorways. Once there, park and walk along the canals or rent a small boat for an excursion in the canal. By public transport, you can get there by train to Leeuwarden, getting off at Meppel: from there, take bus number 79 to Wanneperveen, near Giethoorn. This journey takes about a couple of hours.
Leiden, discovering little Amsterdam
Leiden, the town that hosts one of the oldest universities in Europe, is a really nice village to visit in Holland, too, full of charming canals, typical houses and windmills but, unlike larger towns, extremely quiet and not chaotic.
One of the top things to absolutely do in Leiden is the mini-cruises along the canals (audio guides in English often available). During the cruise you can see some attractions like the working reproduction of Rembrandt's father's mill, the grain bridge, the fish fountain, the town hall, the narrowest shop in all of Leiden, the old disused factory and the whole panorama of the canals. A really nice experience, the roof of the little boat goes up and down and under some bridges you have to bend your head. In winter, despite the cold weather outside, tea and coffee with biscuits are served on board.
Are you looking for a tip about what to eat in Leiden? Try the stuffed roast potato and sweet and savoury pannenkoeken at Old Leiden or stop for a coffee on the canal beyond the Faculty of Law.
Be careful not to get distracted when walking and not to invade the bike paths; bikes take precedence over cars and pedestrians go quite fast. Another must-see in Leiden is the Botanical Garden, truly spectacular!
- How to get to Leiden: You can get to Leiden by train from Amsterdam train station, by car on the A4 and A44 motorways or by bus through the Connexxion lines.
Delft and the blue ceramic
If you have a great passion for cities on the canals and are planning a trip to the Netherlands, another place to visit is definitely Delft, the birthplace of the painter Vermeer.
Little, almost tiny, a half-a-day trip to Delft is enough to visit this jewel with picturesque alleys, flower markets, shops with vintage objects, small and perfect canals.
Delft is well-known for its blue and white pottery also known as Delftware or Delft Blue. Then, one of the recommended things to see in Delft is the porcelain museum with the factory attached, easily reachable on foot with a walk from the town centre or with some nice three-wheeler.
The tour of the museum is very nice and can be done on your own: maybe the ticket is a bit pricey (about 13€) but it also includes an audio guide that explains the history of ceramics and manufacturing processes. At the end of the visit stop in the courtyard to enjoy a snack or buy a porcelain at the museum.
- How to get to Delft from Amsterdam: Delft is 70 km from the centre of Amsterdam, the train takes little more than an hour and the ticket costs about 13€.
Mills, clogs and cheese: Zaanse Schans and Alkmaar
What about famous things Holland is known for? Cheese markets, wooden clogs and windmills. We explain where to find them and how to get there from Amsterdam.
Houses in the greenery and windmills: this is Zaanse Schans
Probably it's the traveler's favorite excursion outside Amsterdam for its bucolic landscapes and the smell of cocoa in the air. Zaanse Schans is dominated by sensational windmills: in some of them you can even climb up to the terrace and take selfie!...Ideal for your Facebook profile photo....
One of the most beautiful mills is undoubtedly the De Kat, the dye mill that still today produces dyes following the recipes of the painter Rembrandt.
The tickets for the windmills cost about 4€ and can be bought on the spot. Don't miss a visit to the clock and clogs museum (if there is a pair of clogs that you like, you can also buy them): consider that the entrance to the main museums of Zaanse Schans is included in the I Amsterdam City Card.
Because this town is a super sought-after tourist destination, try to arrive very early in the morning to avoid the hundreds of buses that start arriving before lunchtime.
How to get to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam: You can get there by bus from Amsterdam (line 391, it takes about 40 minutes and the cost of the return ticket is 10€) or by train from Amsterdam Central Station, direction Koog-Zaandijk: 15 minutes ride, get off at Zaanse Schans station and in a 10 minutes walk you will be among the mills. Going there by bike? It can be done but we do not recommend it! The distance is not prohibitive (less than 20 km) but the road is not beautiful. If you really love cycling, you can rent the bike directly on the spot and then take a nice ride around there, although the best way to have fun and see the village is to have a relaxing walk.
Alkmaar, a tour of the cheese market
The mills and especially the cheese are the traditional and world famous icons of Alkmaar, a small town in North Holland about 40 km from Amsterdam. The best time to visit Alkmaar is definitely between April and September, mostly because on Friday morning the Waagplein (the main square of the city) hosts the characteristic Cheese Market, a folkloristic and popular event not to be missed! The event starts at 10 a.m. and the arrival of the famous cheese bearers is announced by the ringing of a bell: go to the square a little bit in advance and you will be in a great position to attend the nice performance.
If you travel to Alkmaar in another period, when the market is out of season, the recommended things to do include a visit the Dutch Cheese Museum (located right on the square) and take a walk through the old town. A treat for the Beatles addicted: in town you can visit the Fab Four Museum which houses a large collection including John Lennon's first guitar.
How to get to Alkmaar from Amsteram:
- You can reach Alkmaar by train directly from Amsterdam Central Station (4 trains per hour leave from the Dutch capital).
Spring and winter: Holland among flowering tulips and snowy landscapes
Whether you travel in the sun or snow, Holland will always have something wonderful to offer for your holiday.
Perfumes and colours of Keukenhof Park
If you plan a holiday in the spring period, especially from the end of March to mid-May, the not-to-miss attraction to keep in mind is the Keukenhof Park, the world's largest flower park in Lisse.
An incredible sight, the tulips in bloom are the symbol of the Netherlands and the opening of the park for only two months (from March to May) is a real international event.
Considering the number of people who visit the Keukenhof Park every year, the advice is to buy the skip the line ticket online.
A great solution is to buy the full ticket which also includes the return coach trip from the centre of Amsterdam: absolute comfort, zero stress and only one all-inclusive ticket to keep during the whole day. By choosing this option, you can leave at different times of the day and stay inside the Keukenhof for about 3 hours.
If you prefer to visit it on your own, you can also get to the park by car (parking costs 6 euros per day) or by public transport.
A tour of the mills of Kinderdijk-Elshout, UNESCO heritage
Wonderful in spring and winter. Especially at Christmas time, Holland becomes a magical destination characterized by snowy villages, winter festivals and Christmas markets, not only in Amsterdam but also in other cities:Heemskerk, which hosts the Castle Christmas Fair, The Hague with the Royal Christmas Fair and Groningen with the wonderful water market.
If you travel with your family, Kinderdijk-Elshout is an absolute must-see, with its network of mills and a glimpse of old Holland catapulting you back into medieval history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautiful to visit even with the little ones who are enchanted by the snow-covered roofs.
A recommend free tour to do on foot or by bike is the path that leads between the mills. If you would like to visit the mills inside, you need to buy a ticket. You can also get there by car, the parking costs about 5€ per car and you can receive a hot drink at the Information Point of the town by showing the receipt.
Visit Friesland by bike
Low temperatures kick off the Elfstedentocht, the Eleven Cities Skating Tour considered as the largest skating event in the world. The competition takes place in Friesland, one of the most beautiful routes to do by bike; kilometers and kilometers of countryside to run, divided into several bike paths across the center and outside the city, very safe for cyclists and equipped with visible and accurate road signs.
The advice is to park your car in one of the large parking lots in the area and rent a bike at the station. You can choose to organize a trip by bike on your own or to book one of the many guided tours.
Volendam, Edam and Marken: like in a fairy tale
If you want to go big and can plan an "on the road" tour of Holland of 10/15 days, you can't miss a visit of the northern Dutch countryside, divided into short stops: the island of Marken, a fairytale landscape with a small white lighthouse and colourful houses, Edam famous for its cheese and traditional clogs factory and Volendam with its lovely pink beach and pretty windmills.
Stay there, rent a bike and enjoy the immense beauty of the place, where time seems to stand still.
Holland and the Flemish countryside
For every place you decide to visit, there are different types of tours and fantastic experiences to live: choose your favourite destination and set off to discover the Dutch wonders. More ideas for your next trip? A tour in Belgium and Flanders, from Ghent to Bruges up to Antwerp, among the beautiful towns of the Flemish countryside.