Choose from the 11 best day trips from Amsterdam. One good thing about Holland: everything is close by. Most of the best day trips from Amsterdam are no more than an hour away. The following 11 destinations are the best day trips from Amsterdam.
Haarlem is very close to Amsterdam and only half an hour’s drive. The best way to go there is by taking the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem Centraal Station. This is the oldest train station in Holland and a destination in itself.
From the station you directly walk into the old centre, a pedestrian area where cars are not allowed. Haarlem is very compact. De Grote Markt (Big Market) is the centre of town and in summertime this is where the Haarlemmers meet. On the Big Market there’s the Grote Kerk (Big Church). This gigantic church seems a bit oversized for this little town.
The Grote Kerk of Haarlem is probably the best church to visit when in Holland. Attached to the church you can see some very small houses that seem glued to the building. The rent of these houses used to pay for the upkeep of the church.
Nowadays the entrance of the church is through one of these tiny houses. After entering you immediately stand in the huge nave: quite a transition!
The floor is completely covered with tombstones. The church has a famous organ, which Mozart played on when he was a child. It is considered one of the best organs in Europe.
2. Tulip fields in springtime
The Dutch love with flowers dates from the 17th century, when the cities were so filthy that people tried to cope with the stench by hanging bouquets in their houses.
The most famous Dutch flower of course is the tulip. After the tulip was first introduced in the 17th century, the Dutch went nuts. At the height of the ‘tulipmania’ rich merchants payed fortunes for a rare tulip bulb.
Even today, we Dutch consider flowers as a necessity, not a luxury. We buy them with our daily groceries. That’s why you’ll see a flower stand on every street market and shopping area. Not bringing flowers to a date is considered very rude!
Holland is by far the biggest flower producer in the world. Most flowers are grown near the North Sea coast, where the soil is nice and sandy.
Although the Keukenhof near Lisse is famous for tulips, actually most tulips come from the top of Holland from an area called the Anna Paulowna Polder. This reclaimed land area has the best conditions for our demanding little tulip: sub-zero temperatures in winter and lots of water and sun in springtime.
The tulips bloom in april and the first weeks of may. The Anna Paulowna Polder then becomes the biggest tulip field in the world, with millions and millions of flowers in brightly coloured fields. The fields of tulips, narcisses, hyacinths and daffodils are a yaw-dropping sight. During our springtime tulip tour we drive through these fields. Of course we have lots of photo opportunities.
Dozens of colors
The public gardens in the village of Anna Paulowna are freely accessible. The gardena are a showcase for the flower producers in this area. You can see dozens of different types and colors of tulips. At Holland Windmills we do tulip tours during the tulip season, roughly from april to may. We believe this is one of the best day trips from Amsterdam you can do in springtime.
On this tour you often have these enormous tulip fields for yourself, with no other tourist in sight! Very different from the Keukenhof, which receives millions of visitors in the space of a few weeks. During the tour, you can buy as much flowers as you want. At the roadside the farmers offer huge bouquets for just a few euros.
Bruges is the most popular tourist destination in Belgium, and rightly so. This wonderful Flemish town is the best preserved medieval town in Europe, unscathed by wars and modern times.
A visit to Bruges is one of the best day trips from Amsterdam. Holland Windmills can provide transport by van (about 3 hours drive). We also can guide you through this wonderful city.
Back in the 13th and 14th century Bruges was the wealthiest city in the north of Europe. The houses, churches and public buildings from this ‘golden age’ were famous even back then. All the sights are within the medieval ramparts that once encircled the town.
The centre of Bruges is very compact. It’s best visited on foot. Walking through Bruges is like stepping into the Middle Ages. Take a stroll past picturesque little canals and ancient leaning town houses, or take a canal cruise through this ‘Venice of the North’.
A highlight is Market, the heart of Bruges. There have been public markets on this big square since the 10th century. It’s an impressive open space surrounded by old townhouses.
As soon as the sun shines, the cafes and terraces on Market fill up with people drinking a Belgian beer or two. In the middle of Market you can rent a horse and cart for a romantic guided tour through town.
Towering over the square is the Belfry, the most important monument of Bruges and the symbol of the town as an important free trade centre. Inside the tower are kept the scrolls with the rights and privileges of Bruges, wrestled from the emperor of Austria after a long struggle.
Also don’t miss the marvelous city hall, that dates back to the 13th century. The façade is covered in statues of nobles, monks, saints and everyday people of the middle ages.
Next to this gothic building there’s an alleyway called Blind Donkey’s Alley. It leads to the river that runs through Bruges. The river Dijver has some very pretty little bridges, from which you can take in the view.
The south part of Bruges is formed around the Minnewater, the old harbor that once connected the canals to the sea. Nowadays it’s a peaceful park with dozens and dozens of tame swans, the totem animal of Bruges.
4. The Hague
The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands.
The heart of the official residence of The Netherlands is formed by the Binnenhof, the Inner Court. Dutch politics is a bit different from other European countries. Like most Dutch people, Dutch politicians are quite open and accessible. Laid back, even.
On the square in the Inner Court you can see ‘free roaming politicians’, as we in Holland call them. Members of parliament and ministers talking with the media, or anybody that wants to chat about politics. You can even spot our Prime Minister arriving for work on his bike. His office is in het Torentje, the Little Tower.
Surrounding the Inner Court are old palaces, and the most famous one is the working palace of the Dutch king Willem-Alexander. Noordeinde (North End) is just one of his palaces in Holland.
Every year on Princes’ Day the king and queen depart from this palace to the Inner Court. They sit in the royal golden carriage and wave to the spectators. The route is lined with people wanting to see the royal couple. This event is always broadcasted live on national television.
After arriving in the Inner Court, the king gives his King’s Speech on his throne in the Hall of Knights. This Ridderzaal is the oldest building in The Hague, dating from the 13th century.
The King’s Speech is considered the most important speech of the year, when the king talks about some major issues in our country and how we can respond to them.
Although the centre of The Hague has lots of ministries and NGOs dedicated to achieving world peace and justice, The Hague is also a very lively town with many different nationalities, mainly people from the former Dutch East Indies. The Hague is the best place to try that other delicious Dutch food: Indonesian. Try a Rijsttafel, a Dutch-Indonesian meal with lots of little dishes.
The Hague has some of the best museums in Holland:
The Mauritshuis for example has some of the most famous paintings from the Dutch masters, like Rembrandt and Vermeer. The museum itself is housed in an wonderful old house with small rooms.
If you’re into cubic art, the Gemeentemuseum is the place to go. It has the biggest collection of Mondriaan paintings in the world.
Another famous museum is Panorama Mesdag, a panoramic landscape in a circular room. This 19th century painting is 120 meters long and shows the area of Scheveningen.
When you’re traveling with kids, Madurodam is a fun option. This open air museum shows the highlights of Holland, build in miniature. Tiny houses, churches and canals, moving trains, ships, windmills and airplanes: you can see all the things Holland is famous for, build in detail. At night even the streetlights light up!
It not very well known that Holland has the best beaches in this part of Europe. The North Sea coast of Holland has hundreds of kilometers of broad, sandy beaches. And yes, in summertime they are very sunny indeed. It can be completely overcast in Amsterdam, with and not a cloud in sight on the beach!
Beaches are a must see during your day trips from Amsterdam.
The most ‘posh’ beach in Holland is Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague. It’s only 15 minutes by tram from the centre. Next to the Scheveningen beach is an avenue 3 kilometers long, simply known to us Dutch as ‘the boulevard’.
In summertime both beach and avenue are filled with terraces and people enjoying the sunny side of Holland. On the first of january this is where the brave dive into the freezing waves during the Nieuwjaarsduik, New Year’s Dive. Most swimmers wear a woollen orange cap. The most beautiful women make it to the front page of next morning’s tabloids.
Towering above the beach is the impressive Kurhaus, an old hotel from the 1900’s. This is where the rich and famous spend their summer holidays. It had some famous guests, like Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn and the Rolling Stones (who trashed the place). Leading into the sea is the Pier van Scheveningen, a pier on piles with a viewing tower at the end.
Delicate Delft is a dreamy little place. It’s probably the prettiest town in Holland, a 17th century picture postcard, perfectly preserved. The old centre, the houses with their leaning facades, the quaysides with their shady lime trees, the canals with their round bridges… Delft looks exactly like it was in the Dutch Golden Age.
The best view is from the bridge of the Nieuwstraat (New Street).
In the centre of Delft lies de Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), with the mausoleum of the royal Orange family. Almost every member of the House of Orange since the 1600’s is buried here.
The most impressive tomb is that of William of Orange, the founding father of the royal dynasty. It stands in the choir of the church.
You can walk up the church tower, one of the highest in Holland, and look out over Delft, The Hague and even see as far as Rotterdam.
Delft is known for ceramics, Delft Blue. Inspired by china from China, Delft started to produce its own ceramics in the 17th century. Delft Blue is very shiny and light, and always depicts a blue scene on a white background.
There are still a few factories left in Delft which you can visit for a tour, like De Porceleyne Fles.
Rotterdam is the biggest harbor in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It’s the biggest employer in The Netherlands: more than 300.000 people earn their living with this harbor! All in all Rotterdam earns about ten percent of the gross national income.
You can visit the harbor on a cruise, passing huge container ships, wharfs, dry docks and cranes lifting goods from all over the world. Rotterdam also has the biggest oil refinery in the world, at Pernis.
The harbor is ever growing westward. The latest addition is a huge piece of land, 2000 hectares reclaimed from the North Sea. The centre of Rotterdam was bombed by the Germans at the beginning of the Second World War to force the Dutch to surrender (which we did).
After the war this wasteland became a playground for architects. Today Rotterdam has some of the most exciting modern architecture in Europe, like central train station.
Some old buildings survived the bombardment, like Hotel New York, the former head office of the Holland-America Line. The district Delfshaven still has some old warehouses with antiques and art shops.
It was from Delfshaven that the Pilgrim Fathers left for America in 1620.
There has always been rivalry between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In Rotterdam they say that Rotterdam earns money, and then Amsterdam spends it.
Leiden is a lively university town with old roots, dating back to Roman times. Leiden lies at the mouth of the river Rhine and was always an important trading town. During the Dutch Golden Age it was a world hub for trade.
It has the oldest university in The Netherlands, a gift from founding father William of Orange during our war of independence with Spain. It became a centre of scientific knowledge and freedom of religion afterwards.
Leiden has some of the best scientific museums in The Netherlands. The best known is Naturalis, the national museum of Natural History.
Giethoorn is the most cute and fun little village in The Netherlands. Giethoorn has no streets: the only way to get around is by boat.
Right through the middle of the village runs the big canal, lined with old style farm houses with thatched roofs. Some of these are interesting museums.
‘t Olde Maat Uus for example show how farms looked like in the old days. From your boat you can see beautiful gardens with lots of flowers.
Giethoorn was founded as a simple peat colony. Holland hardly has any forests, so peat was a good source of fuel. The canals were used for transporting the peat.
Today, Giethoorn is called ‘Green Venice’ because of the beautiful surroundings, with lakes, reed lands and little rivers. Giethoorn lies next to the most beautiful national park in The Netherlands, de Weerribben. This is one of the last pieces of wilderness in our country, a labyrinth of waterways.
The best way to visit Giethoorn and de Weerribben is by ‘punter’, a flat bottomed dinghy with an electrical engine. It seats about five people. You can rent a punter and a route map anywhere in Giethoorn.
Giethoorn does get quite busy in summer. With all the little boats in the canals, it can feel like a bumper car ride in an amusement park. If you want to avoid the crowds, you’d best visit the north part, Giethoorn-Noord or the villages Dwarsgracht and Jonen.
Don’t worry: if you don’t trust your own navigational skills, you can also book a cruise!
10. National Park De Hoge Veluwe and Kröller-Müller
The centre of The Netherlands (de Veluwe) has big beech- and oak forests, sand drifts and moorlands. Inside this nature reserve -the biggest in our country- lies the former estate of Anton Kröller and his wife Helene Müller. The Kröller-Müllers were one of the richest couples in Holland.
Anton Kröller was a shipping magnate who gained enormous wealth at the beginning of the 20th century. He bought this area as a hunting ground.
He didn’t like hunting, but thought showing off with a big estate could attract investors. His wife, Helene Müller, was a passionate art collector.
After going bankrupt, they donated the estate and the art to the Dutch state. After the war it was transformed into a museum, far out in the woods. Today, national park de Hoge Veluwe is a mysterious mix of nature and art, unique to the world.
The best way to get to de Hoge Veluwe is by taking the train to Ede-Wageningen or Arnhem. A bus then takes you to the entrance of the park. With the entrance fee comes a bike.
There are hundreds of white bikes parked in racks near the entrance.
Even though these bikes are completely identical, do as the Dutch do: check every bike, look serious, make some comments about tyres or saddles, hum and nod a bit, act as if you know everything about bikes and -after half an hour- make a choice. Biking is no joke in Holland.
Riding through the forest of de Hoge Veluwe is a marvelous trip to do in autumn, when you can hear Red Deer bellowing under the shady beech trees. On the way you can see landscape art and monuments hidden in the woods. You can easily spend the day just biking.
The centre of de Hoge Veluwe is the former hunting lodge and the museum. Thanks to the collector’s rage of the Kröller-Müllers, it has one of the major art collections in the world, with paintings from Dutch masters like Van Gogh and Mondriaan. The Sculpture Garden is one of the biggest in Europe, with works from Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore.
11. Paleis Het Loo
The former summer palace of the royal family is a beautiful example of 17th century baroque architecture. Because of all the pomp and splendour it is known as the ‘Versailles of the Low Countries’.
It was built by regent William III as a hunting lodge. The sober facade hides opulent rooms, like the pink bedroom and the elaborate dining room, covered with draperies. Another highlight are the 17th century palace gardens. They were reconstructed from old drawings and documents.
The Orange family used this majestic estate for many centuries. After a big renovation in the 80’s it was opened to the public. A visit to Het Loo takes about three hours.
More day trips from Amsterdam
Holland Windmills provides a carefree package for your holiday in Holland and Amsterdam: an easy pickup point, smooth transport from Amsterdam. See the best Holland has to offer outside of Amsterdam, book your day trips from Amsterdam with Holland Windmills.
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