Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations for a city break in Europe, and it’s not hard to understand why. With picturesque canals, crooked houses, cosy cafes, some of the best museums in the world and boutique stores enough for you to shop until you drop, there are plenty of things to do in Amsterdam.
Although the Dutch capital has lots to offer, you should also allow yourself to go on a day trip to some of the many other fascinating cities and cute villages around the Netherlands. Whether you are into shopping, cool architecture, Dutch tulips, art, or if you’re simply looking for a hidden gem in the Netherlands, there a plenty of great places for you to experience.
6 Hidden Gems: Day Trips from Amsterdam
Here are six suggestions for interesting day trips from Amsterdam with a local’s guide on things to do and see in each place.
Known as a smaller version of Amsterdam but without the big crowds, Haarlem is one of the most loved day trips from Amsterdam for people who are into shopping, sightseeing and dining. And getting there is incredibly easy. Jump on one of many trains departing every five minutes from Amsterdam’s Central Station, and within fifteen minutes, you will find yourself in a new city.
You will arrive at Haarlem’s beautiful old central station which is the only train station in the Netherlands to be built in the characteristic Art Nouveau style. Once you have admired the beautiful train station long enough, it is time for some sightseeing.
Start out with a bit of shopping the many charming, independent shops along Koningsstraat. Many of these stores also have an in-house café – perfect for a little pick-me-up in between all the shopping! Once you reach the end of Koningsstraat, you will find yourself at the most popular attraction in Haarlem; the majestic Grote Kerk Van St. Bavo. Located right at the bustling city square, Grote Markt, this church houses a fine collection of masterpieces from the Renaissance era. You can also just take in every angle of the church from outside as you walk around the city square and its surrounding alleyways.
On your day trip to Haarlem, you should also stroll along the city’s many canals. The River Spaarne connects many of those canals and is a great place to go for a walk as it offers some interesting views of old as well as new buildings, while also passing a typical Dutch windmill, the Molen De Adriaan.
The best way to end a day trip in Haarlem, or any other Dutch city for that matter, is by sipping on a glass of local brew. And the local brewery of Haarlem has a rather unusual setting. Jopenkerk is an old church which happens to also house a craft brewery of the same name. Here you can meet with friends over tasty snacks and drinks, and of course try out the delicious Jopen beer.
The Netherlands is full of great day trips from Amsterdam. But one that really stands out from the crowd is the funky city of Rotterdam. Like many other places around Europe, most of the city centre of Rotterdam was completely destroyed during World War II. Instead of rebuilding the city the way it was before the bombings, the city decided on a more funky and futuristic take on the traditional Dutch architecture. A perfect example is the Cube House, which is without doubt one of the most famous attractions in Rotterdam. These bright yellow cubic homes are tilting 45 degrees and sure are an eye-catching piece of architecture. And let’s be honest: either you will love it or hate it.
Walking through the Cube House, you will find yourself at the Old Harbor of Rotterdam, where you will also see one of the few buildings that survived the bombings of Rotterdam, Witte Huis. Back when it was built more than a hundred years ago, this Art Nouveau building was not only the tallest building in Europe, but also the very first skyscraper to be built in Europe. Although the building’s height of 43 meters is not exactly breathtaking today, it is still worth a stop just for the beautiful architecture, which funnily enough matches incredibly well with the rest of futuristic Rotterdam.
If you are feeling a bit hungry, you can taste some local specialities in the big indoor food market, Markthal, which is another funny piece of architecture in Rotterdam. If you’re craving larger bites, you have the option between several great restaurants in Rotterdam. A unique place to visit is Op Het Dak, which is one of many rooftop gardens found in the city. Here you can grab a cup of coffee, eat brunch in the morning hours or enjoy a green lunch – everything topped with fresh herbs from the garden. If you are more into burgers, you can end your day at the local’s favorite hangout place, Witte de Withstraat, where Ter Marsch & Co serve the best burgers in the Netherlands. Eet smakelijk!
If Rotterdam is a bit too funky for your taste, maybe you would enjoy visiting Amersfoort. Although located only a 35 minute train ride from Amsterdam, a day trip to Amerfoort feels more like a journey back in time. With beautiful brick houses, old city gates, maze-like streets and a unique history that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, there are plenty of things to see in Amersfoort.
This medieval city was a very famous destination for thousands of pilgrims who travelled here after hearing about a miracle that was said to have occurred within the city walls. In the cold winter of 1444, a young girl was traveling through Amersfoort and dropped a small Virgin Mary figurine in one of the canals. A few days later, a local handmaiden had a number of visions about something valuable being hidden in the icy canals. Eventually, the maiden could not resist the urge to go look for this item and ended up finding the Virgin Mary figurine, which she immediately brought to the local priest.
The following years, it was told that more than 548 miracles had happened as an answer to the locals’ prayers – something which was believed to be all because of this figurine. Therefore people traveled from far and wide to see this miracle figurine in person, hoping that maybe it would also answer their prayers. The only thing that to this day serves as a proof of the many pilgrims that came to Amersfoort all those years ago is the gothic church tower Onze Lieve Vrouwe Toren, which was funded by all the money that was donated to the city by the pilgrims.
Although Amersfoort is not home to many other attractions, you can easily spend hours just wandering around its beautiful streets before you return to Amsterdam. A good itinerary for a day trip to Amersfoort is to first check out the church tower Onze Lieve Vrouwe Toren, then stroll along the street Muurhuizen with some of the oldest buildings in town, and finally see Amersfoort’s three city gates, with Koppelpoort being the most impressive.
4. Keukenhof and the Flower Strip
There is nothing as Dutch as tulips and bikes. So why not combine the two on a day trip from Amsterdam? Biking is without doubt one of the most popular activities in Amsterdam as it allows you to explore so much more of the city or venture outside the city to experience the Dutch countryside. And just outside the city is where you will find blooming tulip fields.
The best time to see Dutch tulips is from mid March through mid May, so if you travel to Amsterdam during this period, it is the perfect occasion to get up close to many tulip fields around the country.
Rent a bike in Amsterdam and jump on the train to Leiden, which marks the beginning of a 35 kilometer long biking route to Haarlem; the Bulb Route. On this relatively easy and completely flat route, you will find yourself surrounded by blooming tulip fields in all the colors of the rainbow. If you have not had enough of flowers just yet, make sure to stop by the world famous tulip garden, Keukenhof, on the way. Be aware that this is a very popular tourist attraction for people visiting Amsterdam, so book your ticket online in advance.
Whether you decide on visiting Keukenhof or not, before heading back to Amsterdam, make a short visit to the city of Haarlem – see the quick guide above. Jump back on your bike and return to Amsterdam, which is located only twenty kilometers from Haarlem. You can of course also catch the direct train and give your legs a well-deserved rest.
Welcome to Delft; the birthplace of the famous Dutch painter Vermeer and the capital of the royal Dutch porcelain, Delft Blue. This southern Dutch city is the perfect day trip from Amsterdam for people who are interested in arts and the Dutch Golden Age. But even if art and history are not your cup of tea, you will still have several things to do in Delft.
Start your day trip by visiting Markt, which is the heart of the city. Just like in any other Dutch town, the central market square in Delft is surrounded by old Dutch houses that are so crooked that it is hard to believe they are still standing after all these years.
But the star of the show is the gothic Nieuwe Kerk located on the end of the square. Apart from being the final resting place of many Dutch monarchs, such as William of Orange, the church also has a 109 meter tall tower which offers the best panoramic view of Delft. The climb to the top is tough, but it sure is worth it!
Once you have taken in the views, it is time to go exploring. Although Delft from the surface looks like a quiet town where not much has changed since the Dutch Golden Ages, the city actually has a very young vibe thanks to its student body. While doing some sightseeing, allow yourself to get lost and just wander around without a goal. This way you might be able to discover some of the hidden corners, not to mention unique murals, honoring the long history of the city.
End your day with a walk along the idyllic canal Voldersgracht, which is not only home to some of the best cafes in Delft, but where you can also hunt down some good deals at the flea market which takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays.
6. Broek in Waterland
The last recommendation for a day trip from Amsterdam is without a doubt one of the best kept secrets of the Netherlands. Maybe you have heard of the fairytale like village of Giethoorn with its idyllic canals and quaint houses? Unfortunately, thanks to its popularity on social media, Giethoorn is not quite as idyllic of a day trip as you might imagine thanks to hundreds of visitors every single day.
But fear not. If you are dreaming of experiencing that true Dutch fairytale, you do not have to travel far from Amsterdam. Broek in Waterland is truly a hidden gem. Located only a short bike ride north of the bustling city of Amsterdam, this picturesque village sure feels like a little piece of paradise. There are no actual attractions in Broek in Waterland. Instead, a day trip here is best spent walking through cobblestoned streets and along idyllic canals, while admiring cute wooden houses. After an hour or two, when you have soaked in the peaceful atmosphere, it is time to travel to Amsterdam with enough time to explore more of what this big city has to offer.
by Camilla Riis