Cities and towns around Amsterdam can be explored easily by doing a day trip. If you have a 5 day trip to Netherlands, then one can keep a day easily for North Holland and a day for villages in South Holland. Even though many prefer to called Netherlands as Holland as well, There are two distinct regions as North and South Holland within Netherlands. This blog is mostly walk down the memory lane for me as even though I have visited all these places and enjoyed doing so, these memories range from 7 to 10 years back. Keukenhoff gardens, Rotterdam, Delft and Madurodam in Hague are worth visiting in south part of Holland while Volendam, Marken and Zaanse Schaans form distinguishable regions of North Holland. I will cover the rest of these regions but you can find about Zaanse Schaans in my previous blog here.
A trip to Keukenhof gardens is highly recommended when in Netherlands specially if you are visiting around the end of April and start of May. It is in these crucial months of spring that Tulip gardens bloom and Keukenhof Gardens attract the maximum tourists. Online price of entry ticket to Keukenhof gardens for an adult is 17 euros, but a combination ticket is highly recommended as it covers your to and fro travel from Amsterdam Central till the gardens as well as the entry ticket. Also to remember is that Schipol airport lies between Amsterdam Central and Keukenhof gardens.
We visited Keukenhof Gardens in 2013 April and were glad that we planned our trip in this month. Fortunately we had help of a car to visit this place but the memories of countless tulips, never ending gardens and colors on flowers that previously seemed unimaginable made this one of the most memorable trip. We as a family are anyway obsessed with flower/ flower plants, hence my parents were the happiest people during this visit.
Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port and is also known for it’s Erasmus university. After Amsterdam, Rotterdam is the second- largest city of Netherlands. It is located in the province of south Holland, even though both are about same size in terms of population. Distance from Rotterdam to Amsterdam is 58 kilometers and can be easily reached by train. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal station or Amsterdam Sloterdijk station and costs around 17 euros. One of the attractions that I distinctly remember is Cube houses. Cube houses are homes that are literally tilted over by 45 degrees making three sides face the ground and three face the sky.
May be keep 2-3 days to explore the place as there is soo much to see. As a student, I spent only January 1st 2012 (FYI, not a great day to explore new city, everything is closed or relaxed). In fact, I was staying at Stayokay Hostel Rotterdam which is inside the cube houses, I remember how weird but fun experience it was also had the best breakfast in the hostel on 1st day of the year.
Back in 2009, I took a day tour called ‘North and South Holland tour‘ with Lindbergh Travels from Amsterdam. It was my first trip alone to a new country and this seemed the most appropriate way to explore. It was a full day trip with the tour company. Trip was arranged by bus and it stopped at various spots of North and South Holland. I was super glad to experience and visit the best attractions of Netherlands in a single day. Next three places were part of this tour and unfortunately I couldn’t locate any of the pictures from that trip. Cannot even relocate Orkut backup or Picassa backup. (What is now left is to search my Dad’s laptop because he used to save any random pictures I sent him back then :D)
Madurodam in Hague
One of the worth visiting attractions of the Hague region is Madurodam. Madurodam as a miniature park is home to a range of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch castles, industrial projects and historical cities. Madurodam is open throughout the year. Opening hours are usually from 9:00 – 20:00 on weekdays. It takes 45 minutes from Amsterdam and 25 minutes to Rotterdam to reach by public transport. Cost of an adult ticket is usually 19.50 euros but one can get a two euro discount. This attraction is suitable for families and children will have fun to see miniature planes and buildings. Also, Scheveningen Beach lies nearby if you wish to visit something else on same day.
Volendam and Marken
Volendam is a popular Dutch town and Marken is a well known village situated in North Holland. Volendam and Marken are both known for it’s colorful wooden houses and old fishing boats in its harbor while Marken. Easiest way to get to Volendam from Amsterdam Central Station is by bus 312 and 316 (R-NET travel services) and take about 35 minutes. Buses are available every 10 to 15 minutes from Platform G-A. Marken can be reached by bus no 312 from Amsterdam but even an expressboat ferry from Volendam can also be a good option. While walking around these villages, exploring the culture, meeting the locals in traditional outfits are the top things to do yet Lighthouse and Marker museum are places to visit in Marken, while a Cheese factory and museums are popular in Volendam. Also, do not forget to try the seafood!
Our tour took us to Delft for introducing us to the exquisite blue and white Delft pottery workshop. We were shown how these pots are made and painted in these workshops. Delft is known for this kind of pottery and it seemed most appropriate to visit. It’s easy to reach Delft by train by Intercity trains and takes about an hour. Delft has attractions like churches, city hall and museums with paintings. It’s easy to book tickets to these workshops online
At the end I would just like to say that Lindbergh Travels have since stopped the combined tour of North and South Holland or the Grand tour. They have other combination tours on their website. I guess, now exploring and prioritizing the places to see would be ideal way to explore Netherlands. All these locations are worth visiting if you are spending extra days in Netherlands.