(Picture above: Rotterdam, seen from a watertaxi)
If you have 3 or more full days in Amsterdam you could consider visiting another place in the Netherlands. There are various beautiful historical towns and other sights within a 30 minute train/bus ride, even more within a 60 minutes radius.
Zaanse Schans windmills & craft shops
Okay, this was built for tourists, and yes it is very touristy. But even I as a local like it! The site consists of genuine old windmills and houses, moved and put back together at Zaanse Schans. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get there from Amsterdam Central Station. About 2-3 hours is enough to see the windmills and craft shops. Or rent bikes there and cruise around in typically Dutch countryside. Directions and more info on their website.
This pretty medieval town with canals is somewhat similar to Amsterdam but without all the hordes of tourists.
Haarlem has a windmill in the center, a city beach, and many lovely cafes with outdoor seating, and hidden picturesque courtyards. Jopenkerk brews craft beers and serves them in a former church. ‘t Uiltje is another Haarlem-based very good craft beer brewer.
Haarlem is a walhalla for fans of quaint, unique shops.
It also features the country’s oldest museum: Teylers Museum. And the Frans Hals Museum, Dolhuys museum of psychiatry (very interesting), and Corrie Ten Boomhuis: they hid jews during World War 2 and now give tours in the house. A train ride Amsterdam-Haarlem is only 20 minutes.
- streets for shops and cafes: Warmoesstraat, Gierstraat, Schagchelstraat, Zijlstraat, Kleine Houtstraat, Korte Houtstraat
- lunch place: By Lima, or SLA
- bars: ‘t Kantoor, and Bar Boef
You can also view this map on your phone while visiting Haarlem
Cycle in the dunes
You can combine a Haarlem visit with a bike ride through the dune area and to the beach. Rent bikes at Haarlem train station and ride in Zuid-Kennemerland dunes where you will come across Scottish highlander cows. Without stopping, a ride from Haarlem station to the beach would be about 45 minutes.
See Haarlem’s tourist website for more ideas.
Zandvoort or Bloemendaal beach
Zandvoort beach is a 30 minute direct train ride away from Amsterdam Central Station.
It stops in Haarlem along the way. Zandvoort is very mainstream and on a sunny day it attracts some rowdy youths. At the very south end is a gay & nude beach bar (straight-friendly).
Bloemendaal beach is a 20 train ride to Haarlem, then a bus ride. This beach attracts more of a yuppie crowd.
Do not expect to see white sand and turquoise waters… 😉
Use http://www.9292.nl/en to plan your visit there.
Do you want a change from all the pretty historical architecture and the canals? Are you into daring modern architecture, street art, food, water, wide open spaces, a rough industrial vibe? Then no-nonsense, international, foodie Rotterdam is for you. Avoid ugly Lijnbaan in the very center.
- Explore one of the biggest harbors in the world by Spido boat tour.
- Gawk at modern buildings and bridges, for example Markthal, Erasmus bridge, De Rotterdam, the Cube Houses.
- Get around by watertaxi.
- Enjoy street art and vintage shops.
- Have food at the cool, industrial-looking Fenix Food Factory, in good weather you can enjoy your meal and drinks overlooking the river Maas.
Kaapse Brouwers beer cafe is in that same building, offering 30 different beers on draft.
- Visit the best photo museum of the country: Nederlands Fotomuseum.
- Have typically Dutch pastry ‘tompouce’ or lunch at historical Hotel New York.
- Enjoy jazz at cafe Dizzy or rock music at Rotown.
- Have real Chinese food in China Town.
Here is my map with about 100 cool places in Rotterdam, take your pick…
You can also view this map on your phone while visiting Rotterdam
Rotterdam is 40 minutes away by high speed ‘intercity direct‘ train, or 70 minutes by normal ‘intercity‘ train (note the slight difference in name which saves you 30 minutes, but costs €2.60 more one-way). More info on www.ns.nl/en.
Enkhuizen & open air Zuiderzee Museum
Enkhuizen is a very pretty fishermen’s town. It features the open air Zuiderzee Museum, which is like a live town with actors enacting a typical Dutch town of some centuries ago: making ropes, sails, etc. You can even go to school and practice writing with a quill. The open air part is only open in the summer season.
It takes about an hour to get there by train from Amsterdam.
Other interesting places for daytrips
The Netherlands have so many pretty towns, but these are easiest to visit from Amsterdam. Travel times are from Amsterdam Central Station but could be shorter from other Amsterdam train stations.
- Utrecht (25 minutes by train). The tallest church tower of the country, you can climb it too. And cave-like restaurants down in the canal wharves, and university students.
- Leiden (35 minutes by train). A lot like Haarlem. Medieval town with canals, gabled houses, nice market, university students.
- Alkmaar (35 minutes by train). Historical town, cheese market on Friday mornings.
- Den Haag (The Hague; 50 minutes by train). I don’t like the city much, very widespread and grey. But it does have various good museums: Mauritshuis, Escher museum, Louwman car museum, Panorama Mesdag.
- Delft is a very pretty
historical city attached to Den Haag (famous for its Delftware), so they are easy to combine.
- Monnickendam (25 minutes by bus). Historical fishermen’s village, quaint wooden houses. Not as overrun by tourists as Marken and Volendam.
- Muiderslot castle and Muiden town (50 minutes by train and bus; or from Amsterdam IJburg (far east) it’s 45 minutes by ferry).
- Naarden fortress town (one hour by train & bus; can be combined with Muiden).
- Amersfoort (35 minutes by train), a sedate and very pretty historical town with old city gates and nice cafes, for example Boeken, Bonen & Blaadjes for good coffees, cakes and books. If you want to combine it with Naarden, take the slower “sprinter” train that takes 45 minutes in total. You can get off along the way and take a later train to continue your journey.
- Den Bosch (= ‘s-Hertogenbosch, same city, older spelling), a lovely medieval city in the south, one hour by train. Great for just wandering around and bumping into cute shops and cafes and nice historical streets and canals. Not many foreign tourists.
- Iamsterdam offers more ideas for daytrips.
- And have a look at my cycling tips, in that article I’m also listing various nice rides from Amsterdam to cute villages surrounding the city. Some only take 20 minutes ferry + cycling to reach.
Public transport planning
See the page Getting around for public transport planning in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands.
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