As you can imagine, living in Amsterdam is pretty cool. However, the hustle and bustle of city life can be pretty exhausting, especially when trying to explore the city at the weekend. There are HUGE amounts of tourists cycling around with no clue where they are going…and booking up lots of the museums far in advance. So, I decided to explore some of the less ‘touristy’ places in the Netherlands – they are well worth a visit!
It is super easy and cheap to get to the Hague from Amsterdam, you can take a train or a bus (FlixBus cost me €10 for a return and it took less than an hour). There are LOADS of things to see when you’re there, but these are some of my favorites.
- Mauritshuis Museum – The stunning museum displays the works from Rembrandt, Rubens and Steen. What is really great about the museum is that it has a free audio guide which you can download on your phone and it tells you about each individual painting. The main attraction is the Girl with the Pearl Earring (but I actually think loads of the other paintings were better!). For such a great museum its also quite cheap (€11 for students).
- Binnenhof – It barely takes any time to visit, but its pretty cool to see the centre of Dutch politics and the buildings are pretty.
- Noordeinde – This really cool shopping street has lots of galleries, antique stores, restaurants and fancy coffee shops (very much out of my price range but fun to look at none the less).
- Scheveningen beach – you can either cycle or take the tram to the beach (it takes about 25 minutes) – which is definitely worth a visit. There is a big pier, big sandy beaches and LOTS of ice cream.
You can take the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Utrecht, which takes about 20 minutes and costs around €5. The city is quite small, but definitely worth a visit! There is not THAT much to do there, but it is a quaint dutch city, which is much quieter and less touristy.
- Dom Tower – there is a really beautiful tower in the centre of the city. Its nice to look at from the outside, but you can pay to go inside it for a tour (if walking up 300+ steps is your thing).
- St. Martin’s Cathedral – again, the cathedral is very pretty and worth a visit
- Canal tour – we decided to take a canal tour (€12) which was a great way to see the main parts of the city and get some historical context.
- Hoog Catharijne – I think this shopping centre is called the ‘biggest in the Netherlands’ which makes it sound a bit more exciting than it actually is…none the less it does have some good Dutch and international clothing shops.
The train from Amsterdam Centraal to Haarlem takes less than 30 minutes and costs €4.50. The city is very old, beautiful and quiet. It is great for wandering around and shopping in both boutique shops as well as high street brands.
- Grote Kerk – this beautiful church dominates the skyline, and it is definitely worth taking a look inside. If you visit on a Saturday like I did, you can go to the market which is hosted inside.
- Grote Markt – this beautiful big square has a historic feel, with numerous shops and bars located in old buildings. Every Saturday there is a street market where you can buy food, gifts and clothes.
- de Gouden Straatjes – people from Haarlem call their shopping district the streets of gold…why? Because it is some of the best shopping in the Netherlands. The main shopping strip is great to visit, but don’t miss the smaller side streets which boast a wide variety of products.
- Corrie ten Boom House – for a bit of modern history about Haarlem you can visit the place where Jewish people hid during the war. The house has been turned into a museum and is worth visiting (especially if you have a museumkaart because it is free entry).
Travel to Rotterdam can be taken by either train or bus, again I took the Flixbus for €5 each way and it took just over an hour and a half. I had heard mixed reviews about the city before I visited so I was intrigued to see what I would think of it. The weather was not good, with grey skies and rain for the majority of the day which did not create the best conditions for exploring a city. Once we arrived I realised why people had said it was not their favourite place in the Netherlands…the modern city did not have loads to see. Despite this, I would say it is worth a day trip.
- Cube houses – the very funky architecture of the cube houses is worth a quick visit. You can pay €2 to go inside one of the houses, which I would say is probably worth the money…however you could just look from the outside.
- Foodhallen – if you are into eating street food then I would recommend going for a meal in the Foodhallen. There is a wide variety of food to chose from and most stalls give out tasters of the cakes, chocolate, wine and cheese they are selling. Moreover, the venue is inside which was a haven from the awful weather we experienced!
- Erasmusbrug – it is probably worth taking a look at the 800m long bridge which connects the north and south of Rotterdam together. It is nicknamed the swan…not 100% sure why, but it is cool to see it lit up with vibrant colours at night time.
- The port – the largest port of Europe is located in Rotterdam. The port and shipyard has some historical information about the importance of shipping which is interesting to read and its a nice area to have a look around.
It is possible to cycle to Zaanse Schans, however it takes approximately an hour and a half, so you’d probably want to chose a nice sunny day. If you don’t have an hour and a half to travel each way, you can take the train from Centraal station for less than €5 each way which takes about fifteen minutes. Zaanse Schans is home to a traditional farming village, with lots of working windmills (which you can pay to go inside of). The town also smells of chocolate because there is a massive chocolate factory there – you can buy some tasty locally made chocolate there.
If you fancy going to the beach on a nice sunny day then Zandvoort is the place to go to. The beach is long and beautiful, and there is also a national park located by it. You can take the train to Haarlem and then the bus, meaning it takes an hour or so to get there and is definitely worth visiting!
You can take the train to Leiden directly from Amsterdam centraal, which costs around €5 and takes 35 minutes. The city is very quaint, peaceful and relatively small despite it being home to one of the Netherlands biggest universities. Apart from wandering around, shopping and taking a boat ride (which I would say its a good way to see the entire city), there is not loads to do in Leiden. However, if you have the time I would suggest going to the Hortus Botanicus as it is beautiful and the oldest one in the Netherlands.
Maastricht is located on the southern tip of the Netherlands, so approximately 3 hours away from Amsterdam. You can take the train or the Flixbus to Maastricht, and while the train is a little quicker I would recommend the bus as it only costs €10.99 if you book in advance. Maastricht is beautiful, quirky and feels very different to a lot of the Netherlands (due to it being part of Belgium in the past). There are lots of nice places to eat, wander around and to drink at – but there is also a lot of history in the city. I would suggest taking the free city tour, which is on twice a day as it is only 2 hours long and shows you the best spots in the city.
- Boekhandel Dominicanen – this is an old church which has been converted into a book shop. It is pretty cool to have a look at, and free to enter so definitely worth going to. You’ll also notice when in Maastricht, that there are tonnes of old churches which have new purposes – there is even a club in an old church!
- Basilica of St. Servatius – there are loads of pretty squares and churches across the city, St. Servatius is a lovely church in the centre.
- Market Square – the clue is in the name, market square hosts a market daily and also has lots of nice cafes and bars surrounding it.
- Maastricht underground – this was definitely the highlight of our trip – the tunnels and fort are well worth a trip. It takes approximately half an hour to walk to the tunnels from the centres and they cost €12 to enter. You get an hour guided tour of the tunnels, stopping at interesting places and hearing about the history.
Muiden Castle is located in Muiden, a town 15km south east from Amsterdam. You can cycle there in less than an hour and its a pretty journey. Muiden is a beautiful little town, which doesn’t feel touristy at all (which is an added bonus). The castle is from the middle ages and you can visit it for free using your museumcard.