• Jenny

Holland: Beyond Amsterdam

Updated: Jun 2

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/



2. Gouda

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.



4. Dordrecht

Experience Market Day in one of Holland's oldest cities!

Every Friday and Saturday morning, the Statenplein in Dordrecht comes alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of its local market. Rows upon rows of crafts, clothing, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, and delicious sweets and treats await you.


Just when you think you’re finished, you’ll find even more treasures in the shops and stores throughout the side streets that branch out from the square in all directions. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there during a special event and you may catch a local band playing in the square or festively marching through the streets.


If you can, go during the month of June. This time of year you can snack on fresh Herring served up raw on a small plate with onions scattered over the top. Not sure how to eat this delightful but slightly scary looking treat? Grab your plate and head over to one of the long community tables to watch how the locals indulge. While you're here, you should also try some Kibbeling (battered and deep fried Cod). I’ve been to Wisconsin fish boils and eaten my fair share of southern fried catfish, but this may be the best fried fish I’ve ever had.


Whatever you do, DO NOT leave Dordrect until you have eaten Poffertjes at Pim’s Poffertjes & Pannekoekenhuis, just off the Statenplein. These delicious mini pancakes can be found elsewhere in Holland, but nothing comes close to the ones at Pim's! They come with melted butter and powdered sugar, as well as an array of other toppings, both savory and sweet. They don’t open until noon, though. I would call ahead and make a reservation for 12:00 if you plan to spend the afternoon at Kinderdijk.


As an alternative, you can very easily spend the rest of your day in Dordrecht. Dordrecht has many beautiful historic buildings, the inner city harbors, as well as over 1,000 monuments, many of which have been converted to restaurants and museums. A few highlights are the Grote Kerk (Great Church), the old Mayor's House (Huis van Gijn), the Augustine Monastery (Het Hof), and the art collection at the Dordrechts Museum. The signposted walking route known as Dordrecht Round (Rondje Dordt) will take you past most of these. If you need a break from walking, you can take a boat tour through the old harbors, or maybe even relax with a pint of ale in the Statenplein, Scheffersplein, or Groothoofd squares. Whether you spend a half or full day, it will be time well spent!


Cost: Shopping and food costs, museum admission

How long to spend: Half day to full day

Hours: Market 8am - 5pm every Friday and Saturday

How to get there: 1 hour by car to Dordrecht from Amsterdam. Train to Dordrecht from Amsterdam Central Station takes about 1 1/2 hours.



5. Efteling Amusement Park

This Fairy Tale Amusement Park will bring out the kid in you!

Just an hour south of Amsterdam lies this little gem of a place that will bring a smile to your face and put a skip in your step. You can easily do this in one day and be back in Amsterdam by dinner. Efteling is a fantastic option if you're looking to give the kids a break from museums and walking tours. But don't get me wrong, Efteling has plenty for us "big kids too!


Worth mentioning are the Water Coaster, Wooden Roller Coaster, Indoor Coaster (pitch black!), and the "Barron" Dive Coaster, which stops at the edge of a 90 degree drop and hangs there for what feels like an eternity before plunging you into a mist filled tunnel that you can't see the bottom of!


There are lots of fun rides and attractions for the kids, too. Including an adorable boat ride with miniature scenes from every fairy tale you can imagine, a Fairytale Forest with a walking trail that takes you through life size versions of some of your favorite stories, and a Haunted Mansion and spinning cauldrons that are reminiscent of Disneyworld classics. These are just a few of the highlights. For a full listing of all the rides and attractions, see their website.


Cost: €42 for ages 4 and up. Under 4 free. €2 discount for buying online. €10 parking

How long to spend: Full day

Hours: June 10am - 6pm. July & August 10am - 8pm (Sun.-Thurs.),10am-11pm (Fri. & Sat.)

How to get there: 1 hour 15 minutes by car. For public transportation options click here.

P.S. There are also hotels onsite if you plan to stay late or come the night before your visit.



6. Delft

Discover how the famous blue and white pottery is made!

You will find blue and white pottery, knick-knacks and jewelry in souvenir shops throughout Holland. But where does it come from? For truly authentic hand painted pieces and a unique experience, travel to the small town of Delft.


Here, on a quiet street along a canal, sits De Delftse Pauw, a charming workshop and showroom where you can see the magic happen! Take a free tour of the workshop and learn about the traditional method of creating this exquisitely designed pottery. After your tour you can visit their showroom, where you'll pay factory prices and can even have items shipped home! Painting workshops are also available, where one of their artists will guide you through painting your own personal Delft tile! Detailed information on making reservations for a workshop is on their website. For a full day adventure, try to catch the first tour of the day and combine this trip with a visit to The Hague on your way back to Amsterdam.


Cost: Tours are free, workshop is €35 (reservations needed)

How long to spend: 1 - 2 hours. Tours start every 10 minutes.

Hours: 9:00 - 4:30, 7 days a week. Shorter weekend hours during the winter.

How to get there: 1 hour by car from Amsterdam to Delft. A train from Amsterdam Central Station to the Delft Station takes about an hour. Then take Tram 1 or 19 to the Brasserskade stop and walk to the shop. More information on driving directions here.



7. The Hague

Discover the royal city by the sea!
Schveningen Pier, Source: Shutterstock

Spend some time at the seaside or explore the historic city center. The Hague has a little something for everyone. At the Scheveningen seaside, you can relax at the beach, catch some waves or explore the harbor. Feeling adventurous? Test your fear of heights at the Schveningen Pier on the giant Ferris Wheel, Bungy Tower, or Zipline. There is plenty to keep you entertained here if you're looking for a break from the city. If you time your visit right, you can catch a table at one of the seaside cafes in time for a spectacular view of the sunset!

Binnehof Palace, Source: Shutterstock

This beachside metropolis has plenty to offer in the city center as well. The Hague is a modern city, but it is rich in history. You will find charming squares, historic buildings and sidewalk cafes all throughout the city center. Not to be missed are the Royal Palace (Palace Noordeinde) and the Inner Court. Also known as the Binnenhof, this square has been the center of Dutch government for centuries. Walking into this square is like stepping into a fairytale!


Be sure to visit the Peace Palace as well, which houses the International Court of Justice. For art lovers there is the Mauritshuis Museum, which houses a world famous art collection in a 400 year old palace. These are just a few highlights of this historic city! The Hague has a great website with information about all the tourist attractions in the city, as well as special events and festivals. A number of suggested walking tours can also be found here.


Cost: Admission to museums and historic buildings

How long to spend: Half day to a full day

Hours: See individual websites for opening hours

How to get there: 1 hour by car from Amsterdam to The Hague. A train from Amsterdam Central Station to The Hague takes about an hour as well.



8. Keukenhof

Tiptoe through the tulips!

Flower lovers of the world, unite! Every Spring, Keukenhof comes alive with all the colors of the rainbow at the world's largest flower garden! At Keukenhof you can tiptoe through MILLIONS of tulips in bloom. Just don't tiptoe ON the tulips! Fields after fields of beautiful flowers as far as the eye can see await you here. This is an experience you will never forget!


In addition to the spectacular displays of flowers, you can enjoy flower shows, themed gardens, unique art and special events and exhibitions. There is also fun for the kiddos, with a treasure hunt, petting farm, maze and playground. Keep in mind...if you want to come here, you only have about a 6 - 8 week window from mid-March to early May. They give the dates a year in advance on their website, so you have plenty of time to plan your trip! I would try to visit first thing in the morning, when the crowds are less and the lighting is awesome for pictures. Also, it will give you time to spend your afternoon in one of the nearby cities or towns. Where to go, you ask? My pick would be Haarlem!

Cobblestone streets outline the historic and charming city center of Haarlem. This is the perfect place to find a cafe and relax with a light meal and afternoon refreshment after your morning of walking through the flower fields! Set your GPS for the Grote Markt (Central Market Square) and park on one of the side streets nearby. The main attraction here is the St. Bavo Cathedral, a towering gothic style church that is absolutely beautiful both inside and out! It is also home to the famous Muller Organ, which was played by both Handel and Mozart. The admission fee is small and totally worth it!


There are quite a few cafes and shops around the square, as well as the Stadhuis, a medieval town hall with an ornate facade that dates back to the 14th century. There are also a number of museums throughout the city, including an 18th century windmill and the Corrie ten Boom Museum, which is in the actual home that was used to hide Jews during the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. This was a bit tricky to find, as it is on a very small side street with a sign that just says "Museum" outside. WELL worth the search to find it. For a list of other museums and things to do and see in Haarlem, check out their tourist website.


Cost: Keukenhof: €18 adults, €8 kids (4-11), €25 - €30 for a Combo-Ticket (entrance + bus)

How long to spend: 2 - 3 hours

Hours: Keukenhof hours: 8:00 am - 7:30 pm

How to get there: 30 minutes by car from Amsterdam to Keukenhof. Driving from Keukenhof to Haarlem is 30 minutes, and Haarlem back to Amsterdam is about a 20 minute drive. Public transportation options from Amsterdam direct to Keukenhof are explained well here.



9. Utrecht

A visit to this magnificent duo will leave you breathless!

St. Martin's Cathedral, otherwise known as the Dom Church (Domkerk), has a history that dates back to the 7th century. Over the years, churches have been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times on this site. The magnificent structure that stands today is one of only two pre-Reformation churches in the country.


This beautiful cathedral sits across the square from an even more impressive structure, the Dom Tower. With its classic Gothic architecture, this breathtaking tower is 367 feet tall and is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands!


There are multiple ways to experience this historic site. Entrance to the cathedral is free, and the inside is definitely worth a look. Thousands of years of Dutch history have also been uncovered underneath the square! Tour the excavation known as Dom Under and learn about the history of the area dating back to Roman times. Then get your most comfy shoes on because there's no elevator in the Dom Tower...and it's 465 steps to the top! If the climb to the top of this tower doesn't leave you breathless, the view will! Absolutely spectacular is the only way it can be described.


The Dom Tower and Dom Under tours require a guide, so be sure to check the tour times on their websites and give yourself time to do both. You'll need a break when you're finished, so grab some lunch at one of the nearby cafes around the square before heading out of town. If you happen to be in Utrecht on a Saturday, check out the Flower Market in the old town center on the square next to St. John's Church (Janskerkhof).

I would highly recommend starting your trip to Utrecht in the morning, so you have time to visit Kasteel de Haar, which is right outside the city and just a slight detour on the way to or from Amsterdam. Although the history of the de Haar estate dates back to the 13th century, the original structure is no longer standing.


The impressive 19th century castle you see today is like something out of a fairytale, and is a historic monument and privately owned museum. The surrounding grounds and gardens are perfectly manicured and stunning as well! This castle is actually more of a family estate, and has a fun story. Since being rebuilt, the family has carried on a tradition of living in the palace for one month out of every year, usually in September. During that time, they hold lavish parties and entertain guests of international fame and fortune. The castle is used for weddings and other special events, so be sure to check their event calendar before planning your visit.


Cost: Admission fees and parking. Check individual websites for ticket prices.

How long to spend: Full day (Flower Market 8:00-10:00, DomUnder, Tower and Cathedral 10:00 - 2:30, Kasteel de Haar 3:00 - 5:00)

Hours: Flower Market 8:00 - 5:00, DomUnder and Tower 10:00 - 5:00. Kasteel 11:00 - 4:30

How to get there: 50 minutes by car from Amsterdam to the Dom Church. Public paid parking facilities are available in Hoog Catharijne and Springweg. Driving from Utrecht to Kasteel de Haar is about 30 minutes, then another 40 back to Amsterdam. Train to Utrecht from Amsterdam Central Station takes about 45 minutes. It's a 10 - 15 minute walk from the train station to Domplein (Dom Cathedral Square) or you can catch bus 2.



10. Muiden Castle

This Medieval castle will steal your heart!

Drawbridges, ramparts, moats, and secret towers! What more could you ask for in a castle? Add castle gardens and interactive exhibits where you can dress up as lords, ladies or jesters...and you've got a winner! Muiden Castle (Muiderslot in Dutch) is one of my all-time favorite castles, and I've made it my mission to visit as many castles as humanly possible in my lifetime.


The guided tour is fun and informative, and takes you through some of the major rooms where your guide tells entertaining stories. The history of how important this castle was to the defense of Amsterdam is fascinating! There are plenty of areas to explore on your own as well, with so many fun exhibits it will have you smiling the entire time! Muiderslot is the perfect size to get in a full visit in just a few hours, and is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles in the Netherlands.


Muiden is so close to Amsterdam that you have no excuse NOT to go. Also, admission is free with the Amsterdam Museum Card, Iamsterdam City Card, Amsterdam Pass, and Stadspas Amsterdam. For more information, see their website. The town of Muiden itself is also adorable! I would highly recommend walking or driving into town to eat lunch or have an afternoon snack before heading back to the big city.


Cost: Adults €15.50. Children 4-11 €9. Under 4 free. Online tickets available. Paid parking at a public lot with a short walking path. Free parking options are a little further away.

How long to spend: 2 - 3 hours

Hours: Usually 10am-5pm (Mon - Fri), 12pm-5pm (Sat & Sun) See website for exceptions.

How to get there: 20-25 minutes by car. For public transportation options click here.



Happy day-tripping!


Questions or comments? Have other ideas for fun day trips from Amsterdam? I'd love to hear about them!

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