More often than not, most travelers visiting the Netherlands are unable to go beyond Amsterdam. No doubt, there’s so much to do and explore in Amsterdam itself but I bet you don’t want to miss out the gorgeous landscapes, fascinating experiences and history of the country. With that in mind, I have made a list of 10 best places to see in the Netherlands, to inspire you to experience Netherlands beyond Amsterdam.
If you are arriving in the Netherlands in the month of April, you’re in for a treat. A sunny spring day is the best time to go out and explore the Netherlands – the weather is brilliant, the flowers are blooming and the canals paint a dreamy picture of the countryside. Since the Netherlands is a small country, most of these cities & villages can be easily reached from Amsterdam via train. You can even rent a self-driving car and hit the road for a fun road trip, if that fits your budget. So come on, let’s explore the best places to see in the Netherlands.
Starting with the most picturesque village, straight out of the pages of a fairy tale- Giethoorn (pronounced as ‘Heat-horn’) . The charming village with thatched houses, manicured gardens, tranquil waterways- Giethoorn is literally the Venice of Netherlands. You can explore the canal town by foot or bike, or you can even take a boat rental and ride your way through the luscious greenery of this pretty village.
The best way to reach Giethoorn is via self-driven car as there are no direct buses and switching trains is too much of a hassle. We rented our car from Sixt for 50 Euros for the day and explored Giethoorn and a couple of other places (in the list) on the same day. Giethoorn is a favourite amongst foreign tourists, so try and reach as early as possible to enjoy the charm of this quaint village before it gets all crowded and touristy.
Another pretty village in the Northern province of Netherlands- Hindeloopen has a rich maritime history. Home to merchants and sailors in the 18th century, Hindeloopen has a legacy of hand painted artwork and traditional costumes. Walk around the maze of narrow lanes, passing picturesque canals and charming houses or sit by the large marina and welcome the cool breeze coming from the Ijsselmeer lake.
The easiest way to get here is by car. You can explore Giethoorn and Hindeloopen on the same day if you decide to rent a car.
3. Zaanse Schans
Just 20 kms away from Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans is a small town famous for its historic windmills amidst vast green fields. It is one of the best places to see in the Netherlands to learn about the history of the fascinating Dutch windmills and how it drove the industrial revolution in the 16th century. Zaanse Schans is easily accessible by bus from Amsterdam. Bus no. 391 leaves from Amsterdam Central Station every fifteen minutes, and it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach Zaanse Schans. You can climb up to the top of a functioning windmill, take a boat trip in the Zaan river or visit the Zaan museum. You can get free entry to all of these places with your iAmsterdam Card.
Alkmaar is a city in the northern province famous for its weekly cheese market. Besides that, there are many historic monuments, museums, and numerous cafés and perfect spots to enjoy a coffee while lapping up the buzzing atmosphere. You can also take a boat tour and explore the intricate canals of the city. Other highlights include the beer museum and the Grote Kerk church.
Alkmaar can be easily reached from Amsterdam via Intercity trains in 40 minutes, making it perfect for a day trip.
5. The Hague
The Hague is the administrative capital of the Netherlands but as I found out it is much more than a place for politics. It is a perfect blend of heritage, sandy beaches and bustling fashion streets. Holland’s most famous beach area Scheveningen is in the Hague and has a host of fun activities for the tourists. The museums at the Hague have something interesting for all ages, from the Renaissance art collections to modern contemporary style paintings.
The Hague is the third largest city in the Netherlands and the easiest way to get here from Amsterdam is via trains.
Rotterdam is the place to experience modern day architecture with open spaces and edgy buildings. With skyscrapers and a bustling nightlife, Rotterdam is nothing like a typical dutch city but I’d still recommend visiting here if you’re in the Netherlands for a longer time. There isn’t much touristy stuff to see here but I loved soaking in the city vibe while walking around. Visit one of the cube houses with striking geometric shapes and yellow panels, to admire the imagination of the Dutch architect- Piet Blom. Infact, you could stay overnight at one of the cube houses which has been turned into a hostel.
Lisse is famous for the Keukenhof Gardens where millions of flowers are cultivated every year. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Netherlands in the spring season (in the month of April to early May), you must not go back without seeing the beautiful tulips in full bloom. Keukenhof Gardens are one of the best places to see tulips in the Netherlands but I would highly recommend renting a bike and exploring the working farm fields of Lisse. As Keukenhof is a popular tourist destination amongst international tourists, there are direct buses available from the Schiphol airport that take 35 minutes to reach Keukenhof gardens.
Delft is a small city famous for its blue & white pottery (Delftware). It has a relaxed and romantic city vibe and the city can be easily explored by foot. Walk past the canals in the city center and explore the Oude Kerk (Old church). You can also skip the church and head directly to the famous market stalls that come together between City Hall and the Nieuwe Kerk (New church). Like other Dutch cities, Delft can also be explored on bike like the locals. The best way to get here is to take the train from Amsterdam and you’d reach Delft in almost an hour or so.
Utrecht is a modern city but with an old world charm, making it one of the best places to see in the Netherlands. The city is full of intriguing architecture, pretty houses and cute shops. You’d simply love wandering around and having traditional stroopwafels with your favorite topping here. You can check out the best view of the city from the top of Dom Tower, the Netherland’s tallest bell tower. The views are so worth climbing up those 465 steps to the top!
Haarlem is a stone’s throw away from Amsterdam and is famous for its bustling city center with numerous restaurants and shops. It is the perfect blend of old and new with its cobbled streets and hidden courtyards from bygone times to the new and trendy concept stores. One of the best ways to spend your time here is by sipping on a drink at one of the many terraces in the Grote Markt. If you appreciate museums, visit the Frans Hals Museum and the Teylers Museum and delve into the world of paintings, history and science. Haarlem is just a 15 minute ride from Amsterdam centraal station and one of the best places to see in the Netherlands if you don’t want to go farther from the capital.
Have you visited any of these places in the Netherlands? Let me know your favorite place in the comments below.