Tuesday 07 April 2020

Had enough of the Amsterdam crowds? Try a day trip instead

This is Weesp, not Amsterdam. Photo Evaline de Bruin via Pixabay

With more and more tourists visiting Amsterdam, why not combine your visit to the Dutch capital with some time spend exploring the countryside? Website ThingstodoinAmsterdam.com has lots of suggestions for day trips.

One of the best things about Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, is its size, which makes it easy to get around. That, combined with great public transport and cycling routes, means day trips from Amsterdam are relaxed and easy. Even The Hague is less than an hour away by train.

Visit a village

What better way to get away from the busy city than a visit to a Dutch village, where it often feels as if time stood still.

South of Amsterdam, Weesp is full of listed buildings and bridges, with a charming water front and a great choice of cafes to sit and watch the world go by. Nearby Muiden, with picturesque cottages and a boat-filled marina, has a wonderful castle to explore as well.

Naarden too, is rich in history, with its fortifications and narrow streets. It also hosts an annual art fair at the end of January.

If you are looking for something more traditional, why not go north and explore the windmill village of Zaanse Schans. It is pretty touristy and you should avoid peak holiday periods. But it does have some of the best preserved windmills in the country, with a sprinkling of small, specialist museums.

Once you’ve seen the windmills, the next Dutch tradition to see is the bulb fields – if you are here in the spring of course. The Keukenhof gardens are the most popular place to go. The park is only open a few weeks a year so you’ll have a hard time avoiding the crowds. Your best shot is to go Monday to Thursday in the early morning.

Alternatively, you can simply skip the Keukenhof and rent a bike in Lisse, Noordwijk or Hillegom and explore the surrounding flower fields on two wheels. However, do make sure to reserve the bikes in advance to avoid disappointment! And don’t be tempted to walk into the fields and pose for photos among the flowers – you may have an angry farmer coming at you.

The Keukenhof bulb gardens. Photo: Dguendel via Wikimedia Commons

If you are up for a day’s shopping rather than exploring the countryside, Amstelveen has a big, busy shopping centre with all the main brands, as well as the Cobra museum of modern art for a more cultural break.

Amstelveen may have merged into Amsterdam – although the two are different local authorities – but it does still have a distinct town centre and the Amsterdamse Bos – a large area of woodland where you can enjoy a variety of walks. The goat farm is a very popular place to visit for families with young children.

Haarlem too, is a great place to explore the shops and pick up some culture at the same time – and it is just 15 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam. The Frans Hals museum is well worth a visit if you are interested in art, while the Teylers museum has a great collection of scientific instruments and fossils.

Visit a city

A 30 minute train ride will take you to Utrecht, and while you might wonder what you have let yourself in for when you leave the station complex – an example of uncontrolled modern development – the pretty canals, the museums and the churches are just a short walk away.

Leiden, also 30 minutes by train, has its own take on the canals and 17th century houses, with charming streets and plenty of bars and cafes to while away the hours. You can also pick up a canal cruise or visit Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands.

If you are prepared to travel a little further afield, Alkmaar in the north, has a splendid main square and plenty of old buildings to admire. The much-advertised cheese market is a cheesy event for tourists in the summer, so don’t worry if you miss it.

Enjoy some nature

Are you lucky enough to be in Amsterdam with good weather or do you simply face blowing the cobwebs away? Then why not take a day trip to the seaside?

There are trains and buses from the capital to Zandvoort and Ijmuiden, where you will find plenty of places to eat seafood as well as wide sandy beaches to walk along in winter.

For the real walkers among you, the dune area west of Amsterdam has some terrific walks, where you will find yourself surrounded by countryside, with not a fellow tourist in sight. Now that is really getting away from it all.

Check out website ThingstodoinAmsterdam.com for more suggestions.

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