The capital city of The Netherlands can easily be a trip in itself with fantastic cultural activities and a busy international nightlife. It is no excuse to miss out on other great cities that are close by and offer other fantastic opportunities to sightsee in a day or two. With an easy to use rail system, each of the following cities are easy to get to if you’re looking to explore other interesting Dutch cities the next time you’ve got a flight to Amsterdam.
Leiden: This city can easily be nicknamed the historical capital of The Netherlands. Home to the oldest University in the country (Since 1575), it is a medieval like old city that dates its history to the Roman Empire. Whether it is the picturesque views of the old city or the fun you’ll find in pubs and shopping in the city center with the local youth, there is something to love about Leiden. After all, it is notable for its famous inhabitants such as Rembrandt and Jan Steen.
Haarlem: The city of Haarlem is so close to Amsterdam, those who have the lung capacity could even bike to the little Dutch city. You’ll notice the similarity to the New York City neighborhood of which its name derives (Harlem) as it is also an old Dutch city. Those looking for excellent shopping without the craziness of Amsterdam will enjoy leisurely walks down the old town into the city center. The market square is always filled with Dutch natives enjoying a local brew (if the weather cooperates) and you’ll truly feel Dutch by joining them. Make sure to check out the Amsterdamse Poort; the former gateway to the city of Amsterdam which is the last piece left of the former city wall.
Rotterdam: Those with a good sense of humor will understand the silly rivalry between those who are native to Amsterdam vs. Rotterdam. Don’t dare say one is better than the other; there is so much to do in each city. Rotterdam is the second biggest city after the famous capital city and for good reason. It is known for being a working class city of those who work hard to party hard. It is recognized also as a port city, since it has the largest port in Europe and at one point, the world. Rotterdam is one of the most modern cities with an up and coming skyline since it was heavily bombed in WWII; thus being one of the few Dutch cities that doesn’t resemble its historical past. It’s interesting to see pieces of what was left of pre-WWII Rotterdam with the new modern infrastructures.
Texel: Just slightly off the coast of North Holland is a small island called Texel. It is part of the Wadden Islands; a diverse place with white beaches and lush nature reserves. Historically, this was a place where explorers from all over the world stopped. It is known for its outdoor activities; simply enjoy the bike paths along the shoreline and all throughout the island. Today is a place where tourists enjoy a nice retreat from the busy work days. The best part is its proximity to Amsterdam; simply a 20 minute ferry ride away.
Zandvoort: If Amsterdam had an accompanying beach town, it would definitely be Zandvoort. It actually is one of the major beach resorts of the entire country with the North Sea being its playground. What is interesting about the beach town is its border by coastal dunes; which gives the land diversity since most of The Netherlands is flat or under sea level. On a warm summer day, the highways are backed up with locals ready to catch some much needed sun in a country which tends to have a lot of rain. Nonetheless, it is a naturally lovely place to enjoy water sports, annual music festivals and simple relaxation.