The great thing about Holland is that, being so small, you can easily cover the country in a day, and get to most places in a couple of hours. That means that it’s perfect for day trips! Here are some of the best places to go from Amsterdam.
Haarlem: An easy afternoon out from the capital (it’s just 20km away), Haarlem has the same canals and beautiful architecture as Amsterdam, but it’s much smaller and calmer. The Grote Markt main square with the Sint-Bavokerk church is beautiful, while the Corrie ten Boom house has an annex where the (Christian) Ten Boom family hid Jewish refugees during the Nazi occupation.
Alkmaar: The cheese capital of the Netherlands, Alkmaar’s another beautiful canal-side town with cute boutique shops lining the narrow streets and, of course, plenty of cheese. Make sure you catch the cheese “auction” each Saturday – where merchants carry huge wheels of Gouda on sledges around their necks, weigh and “sell” them as they’ve been doing since the 14th century. Sadly it’s more for the sake of the tourist audience than a real sale, but it’s fun nevertheless, and, of course, a great photo opportunity.
Zanze Schans: Fancy a taste of the good old days of windmills, clogs and homemade food? Then take a trip out to the Zanze Schans – an entire village that’s been reconstructed to show how things used to be. Rather than a cheesy themepark, it’s fairly understated and you’re left to walk through the shops and houses at your own leisure.
Rotterdam: Amsterdam’s fun little sister is a gutsy port town (it’s actually the largest port in Europe) with modern architecture, great nightlife and arts and music festivals throughout the year. The locals have a saying that money is “earned” in Rotterdam – go spend it in the shopping streets of the Lijnbaan.
The Hague: One of the global headquarters of the UN, as well as the seat of government of the Netherlands, the Hague is a serious place but there’s beauty in its sternness. The architecture’s more modern than other towns in Holland, and there’s a lot of parkland to enjoy, too. Sit outside in one of the cafes and watch the political world go by.