Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Looking for the best day trips from Amsterdam? Venture beyond the Red Light District and discover all that Holland has to offer!
Amsterdam should certainly be on your bucket list, and is an excellent starting point for any trip to Europe! Airfare to Amsterdam from most U.S. major cities is very reasonable, and you can catch a flight for less than $100 to France, Italy, Germany, Spain, or the UK (just to name a few). But before you do that, rent a car or hop on a train and explore Holland on one of these day trips that offer something for everyone!
1. Zaanse Schans
Step back in time into a traditional Dutch village with working windmills!
At Zaanse Schans, you can spend all day exploring working windmills, well preserved wooden houses, barns, and workshops, and discover how some of your favorite Dutch treats and crafts are made. Seriously, you can actually go INSIDE a windmill and watch the wheels turn! The people here are so friendly and love to talk about their work and their craft. This is the cutest little village!
Some of the houses are used as gift shops or small museums, where you can watch demonstrations in the clog workshop, cheese factory, weaver's house, coopery, pewter foundry, chocolate "lab", and liquor distillery. A visit to the bakery is an absolute must! There are plenty of walking paths, and you can explore at your own pace. There are bicycles for rent if you want to explore more of the beautiful surrounding area. There are also a variety of boat tours. The official Zaanse Schans website is very informative, including more detailed information on public transportation, cost, and opening hours.
Cost: Purchase a Zaanse Schans card for €15, (€10 for kids), or pay as you go.
How long to spend: Anywhere from 2 hours to a full day
Hours: Information desk is open 9:00 - 5:00, hours of individual shops and museums vary.
How to get there: 15-20 minutes by car. Bus, train or ferry from Amsterdam Central Station.
Bike there from Amsterdam. https://www.bikingamsterdam.com/en/routes/zaanse-schans/
A delicious day trip!
Where better to visit a traditional Dutch cheese market than in Gouda? Or as it is pronounced in Holland, "How-da". Yes, the famous cheese is named after a city! This is one of my favorite Dutch cities. It's just the right size to explore in about half a day, but you could easily stay overnight and spend more time getting lost in its picturesque streets. The beautiful stained glass windows at the gothic Sint Janskerk are almost worth the trip all on their own.
But let's get to why you really want to come here. CHEESE! Every Thursday morning the famous cheese wheels are brought in by horse and cart, and stacked on the ground by the farmers selling them. This tradition has been going on since 1395, and still takes place in front of the spectacular old city hall building (Stadhuis). As the farmers and traders complete their transactions, they clap hands...it is truly a sight to behold! This usually lasts from 10am until noon and is mostly a tourist spectacle, but still a fun experience!
After the show is over, I highly recommend wandering the streets in and around the city center, checking out the many shops, and finding a cute cafe for lunch and some stroopwafels. We ate at Siroopwafels & Banketbakkerij-Tea Room Van den Berg and it was amazing! They have a lemon pie that will change your life. We also found an awesome cheese store called 't Kaaswinkeltje where we ate WAY too many samples and walked away with more cheese than we could carry.
If you're looking to make a day of your visit, you can tour inside the Stadhuis, explore the Gouda City Museum, learn how cheese is made in the Cheese and Crafts Museum in the Goudse Waag building, or get off your feet and take a relaxing boat tour of the city's canals. Here is the Gouda tourist website for more information.
Cost: Only the amount you spend on cheese. Small fees for the church and museums.
How long to spend: 4 hours to a full day
Hours: Cheese Market is on Thursday mornings from April to August, 10am - Noon
How to get there: 1 hour by car. 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station.
3. Kinderdijk Windmills
Dutch history at your fingertips!
This open air museum may just be the highlight of your trip to Holland. Kinderdijk is a collection of 18th century windmills spread out across 800 acres. One of the windmills even functions as a museum, which you can explore room by room.
Discover what it was like to actually live in a windmill, learn about the family who owned it, and see the inner workings that make the big wheel turn!
In addition to the extremely well preserved windmills, the still functioning dykes, reservoirs, and pumping stations have led to Kinderdijk being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This entire area actually sits below sea level, and Kinderdijk is an amazing example of how the Dutch have become masters of water management. Spend some time exploring this beautiful area on foot, bike, or by boat! Just an hour south of Amsterdam, this is a great day trip the whole family will enjoy. There is even a Kinderdijk app that adds a layer of digital depth to your visit! Use the app to buy your tickets, boat tours, and audio tours (bring your own headphones). Kinderdijk does not rent bicylcles, but they offer a link to local companies who do. Find out everything you need to know on their official website. Combine your visit to Kinderdijk with a trip to Dordrecht for a full day of Dutch culture and history!
Cost: Online ticket/audio guide: €8 adults, €5 kids (4-12), Boat tours: €5.50 adults, €3 kids
How long to spend: Half day
Hours: Kinderdijk hours: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
How to get there: 1 hour by car from Amsterdam to Kinderdijk. Driving from Dordrecht to Kinderdijk is 15 minutes. Train to Dordrecht from Amsterdam Central Station takes about 1 1/2 hours. Public transportation options by bus or waterbus from Dordrecht here.
Experience Market Day in one of Holland's oldest cities!