Amsterdam is an amazing place, but there is so much more to the Netherlands than just the city of canals. If you’re a local or visiting Amsterdam, check out these 5 fantastic places near the lively capital. This is a great way to witness the Dutch countryside, visit other towns with small, cute cafés and even explore some magnificent castles! Have you been craving a day out of the busy streets of Amsterdam? Are you dying to experience a road trip abroad? Or do you just have a couple of extra days in your itinerary to explore more of the Netherlands? If you answered yes to any of those questions, stick around and I will tell you about FIVE great towns to visit outside Amsterdam. All are just a short car, bus or train ride from Amsterdam Central.
Before we jump into the details, I would like to answer the most frequently asked question: How many days should I spend in Amsterdam? I would recommend three full days. This duration is just the right amount of time. Spend two days exploring the great city of Amsterdam and leave one full day to enjoy the countryside that I will take you through today!
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1. Zaanse Schans
About Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is a beautiful riverside town with historic clapboard houses and windmills from the 18th century. Some of these windmills are still working and you can hop in to see how they work. They were and are still being used to grind spices, produce paint, saw wood, and make oil.
Along with the windmills, you can see how the iconic Dutch footwear, Clogs, are made. There is a wooden shoe workshop that shows you the process and you can also purchase a pair! It is also a great place to buy some souvenirs to take home with you.
How to get to Zaanse Schans?
Zaanse Schans s a quick 20-minute car ride from Amsterdam and a very scenic one, I would say.
If a rental car is not an option, taking public transportation is also very easy. Take Bus 391 Zaandam, Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Zaandam, Zaanse Schans.
It is a 40 to 45-minute scenic bus ride that takes you right to the centre of Zaanse Schans.
Volendam is well-known for its beautiful old harbour, fish trade, seafood, colourful timber houses and traditional clothing.
It's a great place to try some Poffertjes, the traditional Dutch battered treat that resembles small, fluffy pancakes. They have a light, spongy texture and were served with custard when I ordered them, but are also often paired with simple icing sugar and melted butter. You'll find a lot of street vendors lined up in the harbour.
How to get to Volendam?
Volendam is a quick 23-minute car ride from Amsterdam Central.
Take Bus 316 Volendam-Edam from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Katwoude, Hotel Volendam. It is a 25 to 30-minute bus ride to Volendam.
3. De Haar Castle
About De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle is one of the largest castles in Holland and is just a 30-minute drive from Amsterdam Central. Castle De Haar has everything you would expect from a castle: towers, turrets, moats, gates, and suspension bridges.
There is a beautiful park and garden you could also visit on its own if you don’t want to go into the castle. An afternoon picnic in the park looking at this magnificent castle definitely sounds like something I want to do next time I’m visiting and, if you have the museum card, you gain free entrance to the castle. Entry to the castle costs €18, including the park, but you would prefer just to explore its ground then the entry fee is €7.
How to get to De Haar Castle?
De Haar Castle is a 30-minute car ride from Amsterdam Central.
Take the Sprinter 4023 Rotterdam Centraal from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Breukelen.
Once off at Breukelen, take Bus 524 Woerden from Breukelen and get off at Kockengen, Dreef.
Once off at Kockengen, Dreef, take Bus 127 Vleuten Station from Kockengen, Dreef and get off at Haarzuilens, Eikslaan/Kasteel.
This journey takes a little longer on public transportation. Two buses, one sprinter and a full 1 hour 40 minutes later you will reach the castle but I can assure you it is so worth it. You can also make a whole day out of it. Spend some time exploring the castle in the afternoon and once you’re tired, throw yourself a small picnic under a tree in the garden while taking in the view of the magnificent castle, making you feel like Dutch royalty.
The windmills of Kinderdijk are one of the best-known Dutch tourist spots and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for “Children dike” - dike being a barrier to hold back water - due to a 14th-century story. Etymology says that during the 1421 Saint Elizabeth storm, a nearby area fell victim to major flooding while another remained unaffected. It is said that when a villager went to inspect the dike between the two areas, he saw a wooden cradle on the water in the distance. As it drifted closer he realised a cat was inside trying to keep the cradle afloat by jumping back and forth. Eventually, the cradle arrived at his feet and the villager could see that there was a baby sleeping inside, kept nice and dry by the cat that was keeping its cradle balanced.
If you only have one day to spare outside Amsterdam, I recommend Kinderdijk over any other day trips. Waterways, footpaths, and bike trails crisscross the area, leading to the main visitors’ centre and museums in preserved working windmills.
How to get to Kinderdijk?
Kinderdijk is a 1 hour 12-minute car ride from Amsterdam Central.
Sprinter 4037 Rotterdam Centraal from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Rotterdam Alexander.
Once off at Rotterdam Alexander, take Bus 36 Kralingse Zoom from Station Alexander and get off at Rotterdam, Kralingse Zoom.
Once off at Rotterdam, Kralingse Zoom, take RET Metro C Bus 489 Nieuw-Lekkerland via Kinderdijk (Red line) from Rotterdam, Kralingse Zoom and get off at Kinderdijk, De Klok.
In total, it will take you 2 hours 21 minutes. If you don’t have a rental car and don’t want to take public transportation, there are different companies that have day excursions to Kinderdijk.
Onto our last town, Delft. Delft is this small, cute canal town near Amsterdam. There are so many cafes where I can totally see myself reading a book every afternoon while sipping on my latte. There is a lot more to this town than just the small city vibe. Delft is a popular tourist destination in the Netherlands, famous for its blue pottery and for being home to the painter Jan Vermeer. The town has a central market square with different street vendors and right in the square, there is an old church opposite the City Hall that is worth visiting. If you have some time, go up to the top of the church tower for some never-ending views of Delft.
How to get to Delft?
Delft is a 50-minute drive from Amsterdam Centraal.
There is a direct train from Amsterdam Centraal to Delft and takes only 1 hour. Take the Intercity 2274 Vlissingen from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Delft.
These are five fantastic places to visit near Amsterdam, all of which I have experienced myself, recommended by a Dutch friend of mine. If there is a rental car at your disposal, you can do all of these in one day, something I had done, however the public transport routes are very simple, too. Bookmark this article for your next trip to Amsterdam, the city of canals, and get in touch to tell us how you found your trip.
Photo credit: Milan Thakkar