Explore the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam
More and more visitors to the Netherlands are discovering that there is more to this country than its amazing capital city. Because Amsterdam has so much to offer, it can be difficult to find the time on a visit to the Netherlands to discover more of the country. Here are our tips for those who want to discover the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam.
Volendam and Marken
The Netherlands isn’t a particularly large country, which means that you don’t have to travel very far beyond the Amsterdam city limits to find yourself in a completely different environment, and it doesn’t take long to reach those city limits either. The fishing villages of Volendam and Marken are both a thirty minute bus ride from Amsterdam Central Station and make for a great day trip to the Dutch countryside.
The traditional Dutch costume that is known the world over because several famous painters included it in their work in the 1900s, is actually the traditional costume of Volendam. Getting your picture taken in the costume is a popular thing to do in Volendam which leaves you with a fun photo to remember you time in the Netherlands’ most famous fishing village.
Volendam is also known for its green wooden houses, eel fishing, music and lively harbour, where you can delight in fish, cheese and stroopwafels. The villages of Volendam and Marken are separated from each other by a body of water known as the Markermeer, crossing this lake with the Marken Express ferry offers 30 minutes of stunning views across the water.
Up until 1959 Marken was an island but it has maintained that island identity and its authenticity. Marken has many narrow alleyways and wooden houses amongst which you can lose yourself (just don’t step into someone’s yard). Even though the two villages share similarities, Marken is more tranquil than Volendam. Visit the clog maker to see how wooden shoes are made with an authentic steam engine, or take a walk across the peninsula to the lighthouse.
If you prefer a guided tour through this piece of countryside around Amsterdam, why not try a bike tour? There are few things more typically Dutch than riding a bike, which makes visiting the picturesque Dutch towns and countryside outside Amsterdam by bike one of the most Dutch experiences available in the Netherlands.
You might think you have to travel all the way to Kinderdijk to see windmills in the Netherlands but the windmills of Zaanse Schans are only a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station. If you want to see more of the countryside around Amsterdam the Countryside and Windmill tour takes you to Volendam, Marken and the windmills of Zaanse Schans.
A visit to Zaanse Schans means you can get your fill of historical windmills. Over ten windmills line the banks of the Zaan river and the area around them is free for you to wonder around in as it is an open-air museum. You can enter some of the windmills to see how they work at a small charge. Zaanse Schans is one of the best places to see windmills in Holland!
This peaceful village is unique even to Dutch standards. Giethoorn, found in the province of Overijssel, is often referred to as ‘Little Venice’ of the Netherlands due to its numerous waterways and the absence of roads and cars. As Giethoorn is almost two hours away by car from Amsterdam, which is pretty far from a Dutch perspective, the easiest way to discover it is with a day tour, such as the Giethoorn Tour which also takes you to see the Afsluitdijk.
Giethoorn’s beautiful canals, picturesque wooden bridges, and farmhouses with centuries-old thatched roofs give it a unique fairy-tale feeling not found anywhere else in the Netherlands. As most of Giethoorn is only accessible by boat, it has become famous for being a village without roads. During your visit, you’ll experience the peace, tranquillity, and natural beauty of this magical place.
There is more to explore during a visit to Amsterdam than the Dutch countryside. Just a 45 minute train ride from Amsterdam brings you to the second largest city in the Netherlands: Rotterdam. It is unlike any other city in the country because it had to be almost completely rebuild after the World War II. This has made Rotterdam the architectural capital of Holland, with iconic sights such as the Cube Houses, the Erasmus Bridge, the Market Hall and Rotterdam Central Station.
Rotterdam is the largest seaport in Europe, from where cargo travels further into Europe via rail or the Maas river, which has resulted in Rotterdam earning the nickname “Gateway to Europe”. A visit to the harbour is therefore a must on any visit to Rotterdam. Get yourself amongst all the ships on the Maas river with a river cruise. And for the best views of the city, make your way to the top of the Euromast.
If you want to visit other big Dutch cities when you are in the Netherlands, you should consider Maastricht. Almost as far from Amsterdam as you can get within the Dutch borders, this city on the Belgian border is known for its medieval-era architecture and vibrant cultural scene. Or if you want to stay a little closer to the Dutch capital, head to The Hague, home to the Dutch parliament and the workplace of the king.