Amsterdam is the Netherlands' capital city and also has the largest population, with nearly 2.5 million people living in the metropolitan area. Many people have called Amsterdam "Venice of the North" due to similarities such as the complex canal systems, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and focus on the arts and culture. Amsterdam began as a tiny, 12th-century fishing village, however by the 17th-century, the city was a very important port during the Dutch Golden Age.
Amsterdam is in the top 20 cities with the greatest quality of living when it comes to the environment and infrastructure and is known for being the home of Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. More than five million visitors come to Amsterdam from all other the world each year for long weekends and vacations. Because Amsterdam is the capital city, access to nearby destinations for day trips is easy and convenient.
1.Alkmaar Cheese Market
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With a history dating back to 1365, the Alkmaar Cheese Market is one of the most popular markets in the Netherlands and famous for its artisan cheesemakers. The market is located in Alkmaar on the Waagplein and opens on Fridays from the last weekend in March through the end of September each year. People can visit the market between 10 am and 1 pm. During the height of summer, an evening Cheese Market is also held on Tuesdays. The market hasn't ceased since the official founding in 1622.
Visitors to the Cheese Market can also visit The Dutch Cheese Museum, which was founded in 1983 and features exhibits on the history of the cheese trade, cheese making, and dairy farming. There is also a portrait collection displayed as well as some historical artifacts. Alkmaar is also home to many other cultural attractions such as a beer museum, history museum, and Beatles Museum.
2.Beverwijk Flea Market
The Beverwijk Flea Market, or Bazaar, is the largest covered market in Europe and is located in Amsterdam. The market has everything anyone could want from food to makeup, electronics, clothing, books, and housewares, among other things. There are more than 50 restaurants in and around the market area, as well as nail salons, brick and mortar retail stores, and salons.
The market is family-friendly and most people couldn't hope of being able to see everything being sold in one day. More than 60,000 people come to the Beverwijk Bazaar every weekend for the last thirty years, and today there are more than 2,500 vendors that participate. Paid parking and admittance is required for this weekly event.
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Visitors to Amsterdam who want to experience a less touristy town that is rich in culture and history can do so at Fort Bourtange. The 1593 Fort was constructed in the shape of a star by order of William the Silent, who was the King of Netherlands at the time. Fort Bourtange’s purpose was to disrupt the trade road between Spain and Germany, and it held five garrisons, and a large network of canals and lakes that surrounded the fort as a moat would. The fort was converted into a village in the mid-19th century, and the Fort was restored and opened as an open-air museum in 1992.
Fort Bourtange is less than three hours from Amsterdam near Groningen and has a population of fewer than 500 people. The entire village is within the Fort, which is the only attraction now that it is restored to the 18th century period.
Bruges is the biggest city and also the capital of the West Flanders Province in Belgium. This Flemish city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site at its historic center and is sometimes called “Venice of the North,” like a few other Netherlands cities. Bruges is known for being the College of Europe’s seat and an important port. A popular historic place to see in Bruges is the Burg, a palace that was built in the second century.
Popular attractions to visit in Bruges include Tanners Square where the Market and Burg are both found, Rozenhoedkaai is a popular spot for photography, and the Fish Market and Belfort are iconic of Bruges. There are also many museums such as the Archaeological Museum, the Arentshuis City Mansion, Seapark, Chocolate Museum, Salvador Dai Museum, and Beer Museum.
Brussels is a large region of Belgium that is comprised of nineteen municipalities. The City of Brussels is the capital of Belgium and is found in the center of the country. The city is made up of the Flemish and French communities but is not part of the Flemish Region. Brussels is a very rich region and densely populated, with more than two million people in the metropolitan area. The area began as a rural settlement along the banks of the River Senne and now is the de facto capital of the European Union and is the host of many political events.
There are hundreds of places to see and things to do in Brussels; however, some of the most popular attractions include Mini Europe theme park, Atomium, Parlmentarium, Train World, Kanal-Centre Pompidou, Musee Magritte Museum, Natural Sciences Museum, Center for Fine Arts, the Royal Military Museum, and several other cultural museums.
The world-famous Blue Earthenware pottery has been created in Delft, a city in South Holland just an hour from Amsterdam since 1602 at the exclusively family-owned factory, Delft Pottery De Delftse Pauw, where each piece is hand-painted. Delft is also known for its connection to Johannes Vermeer, the famous Dutch painter.
Many tourists who visit Delft spend time at the Delft University of Technology, which is the best tech school in the Netherlands, the pottery factory, and the House of Orange-Nassau. There are also several markets that make shopping fun for locals and tourists. Visitors can take boat rides on the canals and visit the Delft City Hall which is one of the city’s most important landmarks.
Edam has its origins in the 12th century, where it was settled by fishermen and farmers on the banks of the Little Ye River. Shipbuilding helped the town to prosper through the 17th-century, and most of the structures and historic landmarks in town are from the 17th and 18th centuries. Fort Edam, as well as Beemster Polder, are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Edam is known all over the world for its famous cheese market that is held every Wednesday through July and August. There are also many boutique and retail shops, cafes with outdoor terraces, and the best part is Edam is less than one hour from Amsterdam. There are guided city walks and cruises that can provide a wonderful history and site seeing in the town.
Efteling is the Netherlands’ largest theme park and has a magical, fairytale theme. The park was opened in 1952 and was designed by Anton Pieck to have an enchanted ambiance. Along with the theme park there are also overnight accommodations, a golf park, and produces its own musical theater productions, radio shows, and even television programming.
Efteling is open each day of the year and offers playgrounds, boat tours, a Fairytale Forest and Forbidden City, a fairytale castle, as well as rollercoasters and other rides that are suitable for the entire family. There are also shows featuring ravens, horseback riders, and water shows. Visitors can also choose between fifteen different restaurants, cafes, and snack huts to get food and drinks.
Giethoorn is a quiet, tranquil water village in Holland where visitors typically visit by way of boat and cruise along the canals that are lined with thatched-roof cottages and farmhouses. The town is also the center of the Overijssel canal system, and some homes and businesses are only accessible via boat. Giethoorn is also another city that is referred to as “Dutch Venice,” or “Venice of the North,” and is surrounded by green pastures, rolling hills, and rural countryside.
Most visitors to Giethoorn come to travel the waterways and enjoy a quiet, scenic afternoon. More adventurous visitors can rent a giant inflatable ball and walk or float on the canal waters. Visitors can also rent bicycles and bike through the Dutch countryside to visit the farms. There are also many restaurants and museums in town.
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Another city in South Holland that is famous for its cheese is Gouda, for which the Gouda cheese is named after. Gouda began as a settlement in the Middles Ages that was founded by the Van der Goude family, who also built a fortified castle on the Gouwe River. After World War II, Gouda tripled in population size and expanded with a focus on urban renewal.
Some of the best sites to visit in Gouda on a day trip from Amsterdam include the 15th-century city hall building in the Market Square, Saint John Church, which features famous stained-glass windows from the 16th century. Museum Gouda, Museumhaven Gouda, and Verzetsmuseum are great cultural museums to learn about Holland and Gouda.
Haarlem is a charming, medieval city located in North Holland, just a fifteen-minute train ride from Amsterdam and is a popular attraction for locals and tourists due to the vibrant cultural scene, amazing shopping, and dining, as well as some of the best beaches in Netherlands. Haarlem is also at the center of the Dutch flower-growing district, which is in close proximity to the world-renowned Keukenhof Gardens, as well as fields full of lovely tulips.
Visitors to Haarlem also love to explore the Amsterdam Gate, which was constructed in 1400, the Big Market in the town square, Saint Bavo Cathedral, windmills, and the Corrie Ten Boom House. There are also several cultural museums that highlight the history of Dutch art.
12.Hook of Holland
People looking for a quaint, waterside getaway from Amsterdam can visit Hook of Holland, the small town along the Nieuwe Waterweg Ship Canal. The port is a popular ferry port for travelers between the East of England and Holland, and the town is a municipality of Rotterdam, making it a hub of transportation and travel.
Most people come to Hook of Holland to visit the Europort, which is the largest port on earth, Futureland Visitor Center and Tours, go on sailing tours, or visit the museums. There is also a storm surge barrier called Maeslant Barrier which is one of the largest movable structures on earth. A popular nudist beach is also located in Hook of Holland, and there are many opportunities for water recreation such as surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboard.
Much of the city of Hoorn is made of waterways that connect it to the villages of Zwaag, De Hulk, and Bangert in North Holland. The town was founded in the eighth century and was the center of trade in the North Holland due to its ports and trading centers. Hoorn became an official city in the mid-14th-century and thrived under fishing, shipping, and dairy farming.
Today, some of the best attractions to visit in Hoorn include the West Frisian Museum and the Noorderkerk Church, which was built in the early fifteenth century. There are also many shopping districts with large retailers as well as boutique shops, antique stores, and artisan craft shops. A market with local vendors is also arranged every Saturday in the shopping center.
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The biggest flower garden in the world, Keukenhof Gardens, is found in Lisse, Netherlands, and is known as the Garden of Europe. The garden is planted with more than seven million bulbs each year across 32 hectares of land. Keukenhof Gardens was established in 1949, but the land’s history dates back to the 15th century when the grounds were used for royal hunting and herb gardens at Hainaut castle.
The garden is only open during the blooming season for tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, although there are many different types of gardens and styles represented in Keukenhof. The garden usually opens in mid to late-March and stays open through May. There are a few self-service restaurants that are located within the pavilions that are scattered throughout.
Kinderdijk is most famous for the windmills that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage and are some of the most pictured landmarks in Holland. The first nineteen of these windmills were built in 1740 as part of a flood prevention system and stand today as a symbol of the iconic Dutch water management system.
Two of the windmills are museums and are some of the most visited attractions in Kinderdijk as well as the Wisboomgemaal Visitors’ Center. Rotterdam and Dordrecht, which is the oldest city in Holland, are also very easily accessible from Kinderdijk. Many visitors to the town also spend time in National Park De Biesbosch, which is known for its freshwater tidal pools and wildlife.
Leiden is a city in South Holland that is famous for being the home of Leiden University, which is the oldest university in the country. The city is also full of historic monuments, exquisite gardens, canals, and is just a half-hour from Amsterdam. Rembrandt, the famous artist, was also born in Leiden.
There are several museums in Leiden, including The National Museum of Natural History, which focuses on the ancient world; The Museum Boerhaave is a medical museum and the Theatrum Anatomicum, where anatomical demonstrations were once held. Cruising along the canals is another popular activity for tourists, and there are festivals held in Leiden that bring people from all around Europe.
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Over one million people visit the Flower Village Lisse annually during the blooming season in the spring. The town is located centrally in the Bollenstreek, and the town is surrounded by fields of tulips with a beach not far away. The town history goes back to 1198. There are four significant historical attractions in Lisse—Keukenhof Castle, ‘t Huys Dever, Museum de Zwarte Tulp, and the Lisser Art Museum, which recently opened in 2018.
Lisse is also a great town to visit for hiking and cycling, ATV tours on the dunes, as well as shopping and dining. There are also theaters, cinemas, bed and breakfasts, and many other local spots to spend time.
18.Marken & Volendam
Marken is an island located just twelve miles from Amsterdam that is one square mile and was connected via a causeway to the mainland in the 1950s that turned the island into a peninsula. In 1991, Marken became part of the Waterland municipalities.
Visitors who are spending the day in Marken should visit the authentic Wooden Shoe Factors where clogs are made. Visitors can watch shoes being created and learn all about the history of clogs. The Original House of Marken is a reconstruction of the early days of Marken. The Museum of Marken is another great place to learn history, and there are also places to get pictures taken in a traditional Dutch costume.
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Dating back to the 13th-century, The Muiderslot Castle in Muiden sits on the mouth of River Vecht and is just a few miles from Amsterdam. Count Floris V constructed the castle, but it was owned by P.C. Hooft, a famous poet, and author, in the 16th-century. During his four-decade stay at Muiderslot Castle, Hooft had a group of contemporaries that often stayed at the castle and were referred to as the Muiderkring.
Today, the Muiderslot Castle is a national museum that has been restored back to its 17th-century glory, and many rooms have been converted into showrooms for the collections of armor and arms. Guided tours of the castle begin every fifteen minutes.
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Travelers looking for a modern, young city will enjoy their time in Rotterdam. The global city is dynamic and constantly evolving wit a robust port, hip restaurants, trendy food markets, a big-city atmosphere, and is home to world-renowned festivals. Rotterdam was completely rebuilt following World War II and today is known for its architectural innovation.
The Rotterdam Central Station is a very popular attraction in the city and an iconic site that was retrofitted with solar panels and eco-friendly building techniques. The original clock from the former 1957 iteration of the station is still used in the front façade. There are many shops, as well as access to public transportation at the train station. The Cube Houses at the Waterfront area is another well-known attraction, and the indoor market hall that also features luxury housing is a must-see.
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The only big city beach on the North Sea Coast is found in The Hague, which is also home to the government of Holland in the historic Binnenhof. The King’s offices are also found on the Noordeinde and are a great place to learn about politics and government in the Netherlands and Holland.
The Hague is also known for its high-end shopping and art museums. Some of the most popular and notarized Flemish and Dutch Master of Art like Vermeer and Rembrandt can be seen at Mauritshuis, which has more than 800 pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries on display. Other must-see attractions include the Prison Gate Museum, The Panorama Mesday, Louwman Museum, and the many restaurants and boutiques in the area.
22.The Hoge Veluwe National Park
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The Hoge Veluwe National Park was formed in the 20th-century by Mr. And Mrs. Kroller-Muller, who first purchased the land to use as hunting grounds; however Mrs. Kroller-Muller was also an art collector, and the two decided to combine their passions. The park was fenced off, and animals such as deer and wild boar were brought onto the property, and a museum was constructed between 1909 and 1923 however today, the park and the museum remain two separate organizations.
There is more to do than just pursue the art museum or go hiking in the park, however. The Hoge Veluwe National Park offers guided tours of the Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, covered wagon rides through the park, a makers market, a crafting bus for children, and is host to many special events such as the Christmas Market, Military Performance Tour on Horse, and Early Bird Concerts.
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Utrecht is a town that has perfectly combined history and modernity, with many of the historic castles in the city having been restored and converted into hotels, shopping centers, and restaurants. The town was built to surround Dom Tower and is lively with a vibrant cultural atmosphere and nightlife, especially close to the University.
The wharf is full of cozy cafes, boutique retail stores, and other trendy places to explore, like a multi-cultural food market. Visitors to Utrecht can take boat rides through the canals, visit Castellum Hoge Woerd, De Haar Castle, and the Botanical Gardens. There are many other museums, parks, castles, and shopping districts to see and explore, especially if visitors are staying more than one day.
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The 18th and 19th centuries are frozen in time in Zaanse Schans, where visitors can treat themselves to bakeries, clog warehouses, the cheese factory, windmills, and a pewter factory. The town wasn’t built hundreds of years ago, however. Zaanse Schans was designed in 1946 by Jaap Schipper, and buildings started being moved in by 1961.
Zaanse Schans is known for its wooden structures from homes to barns, mills, and workshops that never seemed to evolve past the industrial revolution. Visitors can also go cycling through town, sailing, shopping, or visit the many museums, including the Windmill Museum, Jisper House, The Zaanse Time Museum, and Bakery Museum.
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Visitors to Holland who are looking for historic destinations to visit from Amsterdam can spend a day in the Hanseatic City of Zwolle that features a medieval center and is the last city gate that still remains from the Sassenpoort Fortress. The Old Sassenpoort is more than 600 years old as well as the star-shaped canal, which is lined with merchant houses.
Zwolle attracts large numbers of tourists in July when the Blauwvingerdagen Market takes place. This market is one of the largest in the Netherlands and features 450 vendors. Zwolle also has many modern attractions and amenities such as retail shops, theaters, cafés and restaurants, parks, and exquisite hotels.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Amsterdam
- Alkmaar Cheese Market, Photo: Max Topchii/stock.adobe.com
- Beverwijk Flea Market, Photo: javarman/stock.adobe.com
- Bourtange, Photo: Maurizio De Mattei/stock.adobe.com
- Bruges, Belgium, Photo: cge2010/stock.adobe.com
- Brussels, Belgium, Photo: CPN/stock.adobe.com
- Delft, Photo: dvoevnore/stock.adobe.com
- Edam, Photo: venemama/stock.adobe.com
- Efteling, Photo: julia700702/stock.adobe.com
- Giethoorn, Photo: rob3rt82/stock.adobe.com
- Gouda, Photo: tonyv3112/stock.adobe.com
- Haarlem, Photo: Jbyard/stock.adobe.com
- Hook of Holland, Photo: Demid/stock.adobe.com
- Hoorn, Photo: ArTo/stock.adobe.com
- Keukenhof Gardens, Photo: Keukenhof Gardens/stock.adobe.com
- Kinderdijk, Photo: jojjik/stock.adobe.com
- Leiden, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- Lisse, Photo: Kisa_Markiza/stock.adobe.com
- Marken & Volendam, Photo: resul/stock.adobe.com
- Muiderslot Castle, Photo: dennisvdwater/stock.adobe.com
- Rotterdam, Photo: rh2010/stock.adobe.com
- The Hague, Photo: napa74/stock.adobe.com
- The Hoge Veluwe National Park, Photo: arturas kerdokas/stock.adobe.com
- Utrecht, Photo: mlehmann78/stock.adobe.com
- Zaanse Schans, Photo: Christopher Salerno/stock.adobe.com
- Zwolle, Photo: Comofoto/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Nikolay N. Antonov/stock.adobe.com