For most travelers, Amsterdam is the ultimate destination in Holland. A quaint city, brimming with eccentric adventures that leave visitors on a high, it is not unusual to get lost exploring its quaint streets and miss out on discovering some of the other remarkable places across the country. As a nation of rich cultural heritage, the Netherlands' real beauty lies in its picturesque villages, ancient handicrafts, and natural setting. The following essential day-trips from Amsterdam provide holidaymakers with a chance to fall in love with a distinct region that has so much more to offer than just sex, drugs, canals, and cheese.
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Located an hour away from Amsterdam is the beautiful town of Delft. Known world-wide for its unique blue and white pottery, it's home to the 17th century Delftware factory where artisans still make intricately designed household items and showpieces. Visiting the factory to watch craftspeople work their magic, and to pick up a bargain, is a fascinating experience. However the town also attracts visitors with its old-world charm reflected wonderfully through its market square. The square is typically the center of daily activity and houses the Town Hall and the New Church. An interesting fact about the New Church is that ever since William the Orange, most royals are buried in a special crypt under the main building. However, the area is not open to the public out of respect for the families.
Seeing the famous sights is an essential aspect of visiting a new country, but getting a chance to engage with its culture is genuinely extraordinary. Zaanse Schans is a specially developed neighborhood, a short 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam, with 16th-century well-preserved windmills and old-style houses. The mills and green colored houses were brought to their present location from across the region in the 1960s. Shining a spotlight on the old traditions practiced in the Netherlands, visitors are transported back in time to life during the 17-18th century. Furthermore, Zaans Museum offers an interactive and fascinating look at the different crafts famously associated with Holland. Old costumes, barrel making, a history lesson on cheese, classes on clog manufacturing, and chocolate making, all add a sense of authenticity, making Zaanse Schans an ideal excursion for the entire family.
One of Giethoorn's claims to fame is the fact that this village in the northeast of the country is primarily car-free. With only bike and walking paths, in addition to the picturesque canals, there is a rare tranquility to the place that is both admirable and infectious. Giethoorn, situated an hour and a half from Amsterdam, achieves an Insta-worthy status from the countless bridges, more than 180 in fact, that dot the village at various locations. An idyllic day trip at Giethoorn comprises of a boat ride in the canals, followed by a lazy brunch at one of the waterside cafes, a quick stopover at the Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus and a walk along the many footpaths to admire the thatched roof houses that give the village its vintage appeal.
Most tourists are amazed to find out that Amsterdam lies less than an hour away from an idyllic seaside beach destination, Zandvoort. Busy and bustling with activity during the warm summer months, Zandvoort has something for everyone from a motor race track in the dunes to the state-run Holland Casino. The beaches here are golden with smooth sand whereas the boardwalk is alive with activity, especially on weekends and holidays. Keeping up with the broad-minded nature of the country, most of the beaches at Zandvoort are topless, yet family friendly. However, during the winter months, the town transforms into a sleepy and quiet little escape with only the occasional dog walker found roaming around the beach.
It's all about flower power at Keukenhof, the site for the annual tulip festival in The Netherlands that takes place from the third week of March to the middle of May. Regular full-day bus tours leave Amsterdam for Keukenhof during this time, situated merely half an hour away from the city. A chance for the local tulip growers to showcase their product, sightseers get to enjoy acres of unparalleled beauty heightened further by a colorful melange of tulip fields that surround the main event area. Inside Keukenhof, the 32 acres of land overflows with multiple varieties of tulips in every possible color, a glasshouse section with indoor plants, art sculptures, picturesque streams with bridges, a windmill, and numerous food-stands to keep visitors replenished from all the walking around. For an exceptionally memorable trip, a canal boat ride through the tulip fields is highly recommended.
A quick 45-minute train ride from Amsterdam, and bordering the North Sea, is The Hague. The city has an aura that is in complete contrast to the fast-moving and often thick atmosphere of Amsterdam. The Hague's importance on an international stage is noteworthy as the International Criminal Court, UN's International Court of Justice and the headquarters of the Peace Palace are all located here. Visitors with an interest in architecture will appreciate the Gothic building of the Dutch parliament, Binnenhof. A short distance from The Hague's town center is Madurodam, a miniature playground that depicts 1:25 scale, often moving, models of famous Dutch landmarks and cities that will impress the young and those young at heart.
A visit to The Netherlands is incomplete without experiencing the rustic allure of original vintage windmills. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kinderdijk is a village that boasts 19 working windmills from the 18th century. Not only a pretty sight, but visitors are also encouraged to immerse themselves into life surrounding the mills through the Nederwaard and Blokweer living museums situated on site. Most importantly, Kinderdijk documents the 700-year-old history of The Netherlands successfully managing water and harnessing its energy for survival and the betterment of the environment. Since it takes roughly two hours by train to reach the village, a day-trip to Kinderdijk can easily include a visit to nearby Rotterdam known for its Cube houses, Rotterdam Zoo, and Witte Huis - a late 17th century Art Nuevo high-rise.
Now that you know where to go on your next day-trip from Amsterdam, keep in mind that The Netherlands is well-connected through roads and public transport. Travelers can drive, take a train, or for a more relaxed and hassle-free outing, pick one of the many organized day tours that leave every day from the city.
From flowers and cheese to picturesque villages and relaxing on the beach, make sure you head on out for a day or two when visiting Amsterdam and unearth a treasure-trove of Dutch encounters bursting with countless moments to cherish for years to come.