Travel Destinations

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

5 Fun Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Barteljorisstraat Haarlem Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

The Netherlands is a pretty small country, about twice the size of New Jersey.  Every year millions of travelers to the Netherlands stay only in Amsterdam.  Some visit the Netherlands’ second largest city, Rotterdam.  Smart travelers with enough time head outside of the biggest cities to visit some of the Netherlands’ unique day trip destinations which are easily reachable from Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Delft Canal Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

The Netherlands’ day trip options are varied, including villages, beach towns, cities, and windmills.  Which Netherlands day trips you choose will depend on the time of year and the weather.  During our winter vacation in the Netherlands, we chose Haarlem, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Delft, and The Hague as our day trip destinations.


Haarlem


Haarlem Grote Markt Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Haarlem is a medieval city approximately 12 miles west of Amsterdam.  Haarlem has the charm of Amsterdam in a more compact and far less crowded package.  There are many things to do in Haarlem, so it’s worth setting aside a full day to explore Haarlem.

Haarlem Grote Kerk Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

A Haarlem day trip starts in Grote Markt, Haarlem’s main square.  Centuries ago the square was used for gallows and jousting.  Today it hosts festivals, concerts, and markets.  The largest building along the square is the Gothic Grote Kerk, a church built between 1370 and 1520.  The church has Renaissance art, stained glass windows, and one of the finest organs in the world that was played by Mozart when he was ten years old. 

Haarlem Corrie ten Boom House Hiding Place Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

The most interesting place to visit in Haarlem is the Corrie ten Boom House.  Corrie ten Boom was a Christian woman who was a leader in the Dutch resistance during World War II.  She and her father and sister not only hid Jews and resistance workers in their own home in Haarlem, they also worked with a network of resistance workers to hide Jews around the city. 

Haarlem Corrie ten Boom House Rooftop Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Visitors to the Corrie ten Boom House learn the story of the Ten Boom family while sitting in the family’s living room before touring the house where the family hid six people.  Unlike the Anne Frank house, they didn’t live in a hidden annex.  They lived in the house, sleeping in bedrooms and eating with the family, but there was a hidden space behind a brick wall of Corrie’s bedroom, reachable by a false back in the bottom of a cupboard, where they could run and hide in just over a minute.  The only way they could go outside was by going up to the roof and crouching down behind the banister, out of sight from the neighbors, because you could never know who to trust.

Haarlem Corrie ten Boom House Signal Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

The family had a jewelry shop connected to the home, and Corrie ten Boom used a simple triangular plaque advertising watches to signal to those outside whether or not the house was safe to enter.  In February 1944 the house was raided and the family arrested, as well as resistance workers who came to the house because the Gestapo put the signal back up.  Corrie’s father died in prison and her sister died in Ravensbr├╝ck concentration camp, but Corrie survived, as did the six people who hid during the raid and were saved from the tiny hiding place a few days later.

Visitors to the Corrie ten Boom House should make reservations in advance.  The house can only be visited on a tour, and tours are limited to 20 people.  Morning tours require reservations while afternoon tours are on a first come, first served basis.

Haarlem Frans Hals Museum Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Haarlem was the home of one of the Dutch masters, Frans Hals.  The Frans Hals Museum is housed in the poorhouse where he spent his final years and has the largest collection of paintings by Frans Halls.  Frans Hals is known for his portraits, both individual and group portraits.  He is known for being an impressionist before impressionism was a thing.  His earlier portraits were very detailed and precise while his later portraits used broader, seemingly less careful strokes that gave the impression of what he was painting rather than the detail, yet his portraits looked exactly like who he was painting, with so much more life than some of the other portraits being painted at the time. 

For two hundred years after his death, his paintings were held in such poor esteem that they were sold for very small amounts of money.  In the 1800s he gained popularity again and famous painters would copy his works to learn his techniques.   The museum displays some of these copies next to the originals and the free audio guide shares stories of the artists who traveled around the world to see his art.

Haarlem Hidden Gardens Hofjes Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Another unique thing to do in Haarlem is visiting the hidden gardens, or hofjes, of Haarlem.  Haarlem has 21 hidden gardens, the oldest of which, Hofje van Bakenes, was created in 1395.  The gardens were surrounded by almshouses where poor widowed or unmarried women lived, and the private gardens were a place for them to gather together. 

While a few of Haarlem’s hofjes are closed to the public, most of the hidden gardens can be visited during the day, except Sundays.  There is a good website that lists the locations of Haarlem’s hidden gardens, though you’ll need Google Translate if you don’t read Dutch.

De Jopenkerk Haarlem Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Yet another unique thing to do in Haarlem is to visit De Jopenkerk, a Dutch brewery inside a former church.   A visit to Jopen brewery is the perfect way to end a day trip to Haarlem since it is also a great restaurant for dinner.

Haarlem at Night Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Other things to do on a day trip to Haarlem are to take a canal cruise, visit the Teylers Museum, and climb up the Windmill De Adriaan

Haarlem Street Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Haarlem is easily accessible by train or by bus.  If visiting Haarlem on a day trip from Amsterdam, the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket will get you there.  Also, the I amsterdam city card provides free entrance to some of Haarlem’s museums.

Kinderdijk


Kinderdijk Windmill Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

A trip to the Netherlands isn’t complete without seeing windmills.  There are windmills at some of the day trip destinations in this article, like Haarlem and Delft, but they don’t compare to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kinderdijk with its 19 windmills built in the 1700s.

Kinderdijk Windmills Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

A thousand years ago this area of Alblasserwaard was a peat bog, which meant lots of fertile soil, but not a lot of dry ground to build on.  Eventually, the solution to the problem was discovered, windmills.  The windmills were used to both pump extra water out and bring water back in when levels got too low, as that could cause the ground to sink.

Kinderdijk Windmills and Haystacks Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Visitors to Kinderdijk can see the visitor center, which is a modern pump station and has an informative movie about the windmills.  There are also two windmills open to visitors.  It is interesting to see how families used to live in these windmills and learn how they would communicate with each other to protect the land.

Kinderdijk Windmills Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Kinderdijk is most easily reached from Rotterdam.  While Kinderdijk can be reached by a combination of train and bus, the best way to get to Kinderdijk from Rotterdam is by waterbus.  During high season the waterbus goes directly to Kinderdijk, while in the winter months there is a transfer to the Driehoeksveer ferry in Ridderkerk.  Waterbus and ferry tickets are payable by cash.  It is possible to buy a combined ticket on the waterbus that includes transportation and entrance into Kinderdijk, but you may not want to do that if using the Rotterdam Welcome Card, which gives a 25% discount off of admission to Kinderdijk.

Gouda


Gouda Canal Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

We are big cheese lovers so we couldn’t pass up the possibility of taking a day trip to Gouda, a town known for its namesake cheese.  Plus Gouda is a very cute town.  One thing to know before heading out on a day trip to Gouda – Gouda is not pronounced goo-da.  The correct pronunciation is gow-da, with a very guttural “g.” 

Gouda Cheese Museum Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

The first place to visit when in Gouda is the Gouda Cheese Museum housed in the original weighing house constructed in 1668.  This is where all Gouda cheese was weighed and taxed before being sold in the market.  In the museum, visitors learn about what makes Gouda cheese special.  One reason is the peat in the ground makes the grass better and the milk fatter.  Another reason is the 1:3 shape of the Gouda cheese disks helps the cheese ripen evenly. 

The museum also features a few other items unique to Gouda including the long skinny curved Dutch clay pipes and candles.  Candles are such a thing in Gouda that Gouda has an annual event, Gouda by Kaarslicht, a tradition where all buildings on Gouda’s main square are lit with candlelight.

Outside of the weighing house is Gouda’s huge market square, Plaza Markt.

Gouda Sint-Janskerk Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Just outside Gouda’s market square is Sint-Janskerk.  The current church was built in the mid-1500s and is named for John the Baptist, the patron saint of Gouda.  Sint-Janskerk is the longest church in the Netherlands and is famous for its stained glass windows.  Visitors to the church can use an audio guide to learn more.

Gouda Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Gouda is a very short train ride from Rotterdam and is reachable by train from Amsterdam as well.

Delft


Delft City Hall Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Delft is another town in the Netherlands with lots of pretty canals and architecture.  It is also famous for Delft Blue earthenware.  Chinese porcelain was very popular in the Netherlands, so when the import of porcelain from China declined because of civil wars in China, Dutch potteries started developing their own versions of the blue and white porcelain. 

Royal Delft Experience Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Royal Delft is the only Delftware factory left today from the 32 that were started in the 1600s.  At the Royal Delft Experience visitors can learn more about the history and production process of Royal Delftware including watching painters paint the delicate patterns, viewing historic Delftware, and visiting the factory floor.

Museum Paul Teter van Elven Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

One of Delft’s canal houses is open to the public as the Museum Paul Teter van Elven.  This was the home of Paul Tetar van Elvan, a painter and teacher at the Polytechnical School in Delft.  He was skilled at copying famous works of art and customers would commission him to paint a copy of a painting.  He was also a collector of porcelain and earthenware.

Delft Nieuwe Kerk Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Other sites to see in Delft are the Oude Kerk (Old Church), Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), City Hall, and the Oostpoort (Eastern Gate). 

Delft Canal Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

Delft can be reached by train or bus from Rotterdam and Amsterdam.  We visited Delft on a day trip from Rotterdam that also included The Hague as Delft is between the two cities.

The Hague


The Hague Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is the seat of the Netherlands’ government.  That made me imagine it would be a modern city, but The Hague is actually a very charming old-world city.  It is also located on the coast of the North Sea.

The Hague Mauritshuis Girl with the Pearl Earring Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

We created a combined day trip to The Hague and Delft, so we didn’t have a full day to spend in The Hague.  The focus of our time in The Hague was Mauritshuis.  Mauritshuis is a very important museum with 800 works of 17th and 18th century art.  The museum’s most famous work is Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer.  There are also works of art by Rembrandt, Rubens, Jan Steen, and Frans Hals. 

Be sure to download the Mauritshuis app before leaving home and bring your headphones so you can learn about the highlights of the museum and any other work of art that piques your interest.

The Hague Hofvijver Netherlands Day Trips from Amsterdam or Rotterdam

A day trip to The Hague is easily made from Rotterdam.  The Rotterdam metro line E goes all the way to The Hague in about 30 minutes, and the trip is free with the Rotterdam Welcome Card.  The Hague can also be reached by train from both Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Thank you to the Bilderberg Garden Hotel Amsterdam, Bilderberg Parkhotel Rotterdam, Amsterdam Marketing, and Rotterdam Partners for hosting our trip to the Netherlands and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are our own.  This article may contain affiliate links.


Travel the World: Netherlands day trips to Haarlem, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Delft, and The Hague.  These day trips can be taken from Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.