Slowly but surely, a lot of people around the world are starting to plan for a post-pandemic world. Countries are carefully lifting their lockdowns as the number of infections seems to be improving. Which museums can we finally visit and where can we go on holiday? These are the questions on many people’s minds right now.
Admittedly, many of us in Europe have had to postpone that backpacking trip through Asia for another year. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the holidays altogether. Now is an excellent opportunity to keep your cultural adventures a bit more domestic and start discovering the treasures a bit closer to home.
Planning on visiting Amsterdam this year? With its alluring reputation and beautiful canals, a city trip to the Dutch capital is usually a memory that will last a lifetime. But not everyone seems to be aware that the small, proud nation of the Netherlands has much more to offer than a weekend filled with wacky tobacky and red-lit windows.
Many cities near Amsterdam will fill your day with good food, tasty drinks, and unforgettable experiences. So, why not up the ante of your trip to the Netherlands with these day trips from Amsterdam?
Get ready for a crash course in endless possibilities to see beyond the City of Sin!
Cities Near Amsterdam
There are so many awesome cities near Amsterdam that will blow you away with their culture, art and hospitable nature. Get inspired by these easy day trips from Amsterdam, all of which are within an hour’s drive from the city centre.
Volendam: The city of nostalgia, dikes, and delectable fish
By car: 29 min
By train: 48 min
By bike: 1 hr 14 min
The Netherlands – the land of windmills, cheese, and wooden clogs. Even though this stereotype is probably a bit exaggerated, Volendam actually comes quite close to it. With its colorful houses and typically Dutch architecture, the town’s center is a real joy to walk through. Famous must-sees include the Art Hotel Spaander, where people have been coming for years to marvel at the gorgeous art displayed throughout the hotel.
Or, walk along Volendam dike. Not only does the barrier protect Volendam from the sea, but it is also a popular place for people to gather and enjoy each other’s company. Other possible activities include getting dressed up in old-fashioned Dutch clothing, browsing Dutch souvenirs, eating delicious poffertjes, or sampling a real Volendam delicacy: eel.
Should you still have some time left on your Volendam day trip from Amsterdam, you may want to squeeze in a visit to Marken. This secluded island-peninsula is easily reached by boat from Volendam. From Volendam, it is also very easy to join various windmill tours, cheese tours, and other typically Dutch sights and activities.
Utrecht: The city of students, canals, and impressive views
By car: 50 min
By train: 22 min
By bike: 2 hr 16 min
Drive down the A2 highway, and you will arrive at the quaint and beautiful student city of Utrecht – another excellent city near Amsterdam to visit. The buildings are just as spectacular as in Amsterdam, and there are many things to discover. Aside from climbing the impressive Dom Tower, there are heaps of small alleyways to discover and beautiful parks to relax in.
You can also simply wander alongside one of the many unique canals – the only ones with water-level walkways in the Netherlands – or explore the city from the water with a canal cruise. Squares such as Janskerkhof, Vredenburg, or Het Neude are extraordinary to visit; they’re surrounded by old buildings with timeless facades and plenty of bars and eateries with terraces. Markets are held at these squares regularly, so you can shop until you drop. Other popular areas for shopping include along the Oudegracht and the Steenweg.
Perhaps you’re after a tasty tipple and some people-watching? Some favorite spots include Belgisch Biercafe Olivier and Talud9. Olivier is housed in a massive old church (built in the 1860s) and has countless beers to choose from. The small and cozy Talud9 picks your wine for you! You describe to the staff what you feel like, and they will blow you away with the best pairing you’ve ever had.
If you feel like hanging around Utrecht for a bit longer, there are many other local treasures to discover. For example, if you’re visiting the Netherlands during summertime, there is also a beautiful lake worth exploring named De Loosdrechtse Plassen. It’s situated between Utrecht and Amsterdam. Many locals dotingly refer to it as De Plas. Rent a boat (or do as the Dutch and get a friend who owns a boat) and spend your summer day out on the middle of De Plas, basking in the sun as you sip on a semi-cold Heineken beer since most boat fridges never really work… Still, so good!
Another cool option between Amsterdam and Utrecht is a visit to the Muiderslot Castle. This medieval castle is a fun and educational experience for children and adults alike. It is located on the outskirts of Amsterdam and is included in the I Amsterdam city card deal.
Haarlem: The city of gezellig, coziness, and hospitality
By car: 37 min
By train: 14 min
By bike: 1hr 12 min
Of all cities near Amsterdam, Haarlem is the place in which the Dutch term gezellig truly comes to life. Gezellig is all about being together, feeling comfortable, and it usually involves having a drink or two. Haarlem is unequivocally the place for this. Not only are there many places to enjoy great food and drinks, but you can also even do a beer tasting in a beautiful old church.
There are many delicious options for food in Haarlem. For instance, La Cucina di Georgia and cheese lovers amongst us must try the fondue at T’ Goede Uur. A local thing to do would be to visit the market in the big square (only on Saturdays).
Haarlem is a great place to get your culture vulture on. Why not dive into the life of famous 17th-century Dutch painter Frans Hals? Or spend the day learning about Haarlem’s history as you glide along its canals while enjoying the sun.
As you wander past all the quaint hidden courtyards throughout the city, you will surely fall in love with this cozy place and learn the true meaning of gezellig.
Cities Around Holland
Delft: The city of culture, history, and Dutch ingenuity
By car: 1 hr 5 min
By train: 1 h
By bike: 3.5 hr
Another notable mention on the list cities near Amsterdam is Delft. This quaint and picturesque city is filled to the brim with history, culture, and art. Obviously, Delft is the birthplace of the famous Delft’s Blue pottery style, but it was also the HQ of William of Orange during the Eighty Years’ War (when the Dutch declared their independence from the Spanish empire).
Not only can you visit the very elaborate and decorated grave of the man himself in the Old Church (Oudekerk), but you can also tour the Prinsenhof. This is where William of Orange had his headquarters and unfortunately met his untimely death when he was assassinated by Balthasar Gerards. Try to spot the two bullet holes in the wall that mark the scene of this over 400-year-old crime. Ultimately, the three sons of William of Orange led the Netherlands towards independence. But, William of Orange will always be referred to as the Father of Our Country.
If you are a fan of the Dutch Masters, Delft was also the stomping grounds of the famous painter Johannes Vermeer. You can learn more about this incredible artist at the Vermeer Center.
Rotterdam: The city of creativity, resilience, and fries with shawarma
By car: 1 hr 9 min
By train: 39 min
By bike: 4 hr
Rotterdam (also known as 010) is known for its massive harbor (Europe’s busiest and largest), modern architecture, and the football club Feyenoord and its neverending rivalry with Amsterdam (known as 020). Rotterdam suffered devastating destruction during World War II but has since been rebuilt and is now one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, let alone the Netherlands.
Rotterdam has won an array of prizes over the years and across the globe for its stunning architecture and innovative city culture. It is a melting pot of over 170 nationalities and is known to be a hotbed for fostering young, creative talent. Apart from typical touristy things to do – like visiting the Erasmus bridge or the harbor – there are heaps of other must-sees.
For your next shopping spree, make sure you pay a visit to the Koopgoot or de Meent where you can easily spend an entire afternoon. Other cool places to wander around in include Kralingsepark and Parkhaven. For dinner plans, there are plenty of must-visit venues, such as Hotel New York, De Witte Aap, and basically everything there is on the Nieuwe Binnenweg and the Cool District.
Should you feel like something a bit more greasy, get yourself a kapsalon at Jaffa – which translates to ‘barber’. This typical dish from Rotterdam is widespread across the country. It was only invented in 2003 and consists of fries loaded with shawarma, cheese, and salad, often topped off with a healthy” dose of garlic and chili sauce.
Rotterdam and football go hand-in-hand, so make sure you visit the Kuip football stadium. The Kuip is not only a popular venue for many concerts throughout the year but it is also the home of Rotterdam’s pride and joy: Feyenoord.
Maastricht: The city of elegance, beauty, and good taste.
By car: 2 hr 13 min
By train: 2 hr 44 min
By bike: Mate… don’t put yourself through that!
Of all places to visit in the Netherlands, Maastricht’s elegance and beauty are unrivaled. Because of this, Maastricht has become a popular city trip amongst visitors and locals alike. The car-free center is beautiful to wander around in, and subsequently, there are many online walking routes available. You won’t forget the stunning view of the Maas river while stood on the Saint Servaas bridge any time soon.
The beautiful churches of Maastricht are a sight to behold. One has even been converted into a bookshop (The Domicanen), where they also happen to whip up some great coffee! Unfortunately, there’s no coffee or books at the St. Janskerk or Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk – but both are still well worth a visit!
A must-try delicacy in Maastricht is the classic vlaai. This typically Dutch tarte (pie) is a specialty of the southern regions of the Netherlands – especially in Maastricht where it is a must-try! Not only are there countless shops throughout the city that sell these tasty treats, but you can also even sign up for a workshop to learn to make vlaai yourselves!
What is a city trip without some shopping? Maastricht also boasts many opportunities to shop until you drop. Around the market, you can surely get your shopping fix. Make sure you pass by Stokstraat, de Rommelmarkt, and Wyck!
If you’re feeling peckish, why not hit up one of the following spots;
- Witloof: They have a huge range of Belgian beers on offer
- Wycker Cabinet: They sport a delicious menu and high-quality dining experience
- Ceramique: A sustainable concept eatery with many vegan and vegetarian options
- SAP: Known for their delicious breakfast
- Cafe Zondag: So good at making tasty paninis, they call themselves ‘paniniologists’!
Lastly, a must-see for the adventure seekers and history fiends amongst us in Maastricht is the ancient cave systems. They date back to the 13th century. Initially, they were built for mining marl (a lime-rich rock variety) but over the years, they have had many different purposes. Most notably, they were used to store precious artworks during World War II. This impressive cave system stretches for over 300 kilometers and has 23,000 different passages.
Day Trips From Amsterdam to Nearby Countries
Brussels: The city of loaded fries, peeing toddler fountains, and the capital of the European Union
By car: 2 hr 46 min
By train: 2 hr 2 min
By bike: Maybe a bit too far, don’t you think?
If you feel like crossing some borders, why not pay a visit to the stunning capital of Belgium: Brussels? Maybe not as near Amsterdam as the other cities, but still only a 2-hour train ride away. Also, the headquarters of the European Union and an undisputed waffle paradise, this city has much to offer. For impressive buildings to see, head towards the Royal Palace in the city center.
If you’re into smaller sights, go and see Manneken Pis, the most famous fountain in Belgium which depicts a peeing toddler. Don’t miss his female counterpart Jeanneke-Pis just down the street. For a more scientific approach to Belgium architecture, you have to explore the Atomium. This landmark was created in 1958 for the Brussels World Fair. Today it’s still a museum and one of Brussels’ most interesting monuments to date.
If you feel like a stroll, head over to the Marollen. This very trendy area is one of the oldest suburbs in Brussels. The Marollen hosts many great restaurants, galleries, and markets which are set beautifully against the picturesque surroundings of the old neighborhood.
For another quirky area, head down to the Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen. Here, you will be overwhelmed with an astounding array of cafes, restaurants, and chocolatiers. Belgium is renowned for its chocolate, so make sure you stuff your face with it while you are in Brussels. All Belgian chocolate is good, but if you genuinely want to have the best, check out Belgique Gourmande.
Antwerp: The city of beers, friendliness, and entertainment
By car: 2 hr 48 min
By train: 1hr 15 min
By bike: We’re not doing that anymore
Cute and cozy Antwerp is the perfect weekend getaway throughout the entire year. With its abundance of food and drink offerings and hospitable atmosphere, time will fly by during your visit.
First of all, Belgium arguably produces some of the best beers in the world and Antwerp is a perfect place to try them all out. While you’re here, try out beers from De Koninck Brewery, an institution that has been brewing beers since 1833. They have many popular beverages on offer, but Tripel D’Anvers is probably the most well-known and drunk across the city. Other notable Belgian beers you have to try are Chimay, La Chouffe, and Tripel Karmeliet.
Explore Antwerp’s tiny streets which are plentifully paved with cobblestones (don’t wear heels and don’t miss Vlaaikesgang). Everywhere you go, you’ll be surrounded by beautifully adorned buildings. You can explore Antwerp by renting one of the city bikes which will enable you to quickly move through the city. You can also opt to join one of the tours conducted by locals, which will give you a whole lot of insider information about the city, its heritage, and other notable details.
Impossible to miss is the Onze Lieve Vrouwen Cathedral and the beautiful architecture of Antwerp Centraal train station. If you want to stray away from more generic museum options, why not give the Fashion Museum or the Photography Museum a try? Another insider’s tip: climb all the way to the top of the MAS museum and enjoy a stunning 360° view of the city.
Shopaholics rejoice – Antwerp has got you covered. Not only are the biannual citywide sales, but the variety and range of markets and shops are also extensive. Good areas to hit up include Meir, Kloosterstraat, and de Wilde Zee.
All these mentioned cities near Amsterdam are only the tip of the iceberg. One could go on for ages because regional Holland (and Europe) is filled to the brim with hidden gems. Let’s support local shops, museums, and institutions and finally take the time to discover what has been right under our noses all this time.