The Netherlands is a stunningly beautiful country known for its canals, windmills, gorgeous buildings, and more. Many travelers make visiting Amsterdam a priority because of its fame and international reputation, but there are lots of things to see in the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam. Because the Netherlands is a relatively small country with a wonderful train and tram system, it is very easy and efficient to get around. That means that taking day trips from Amsterdam couldn’t be simpler. Whether you want to explore just a half-hour away or are up for a bigger journey, there are so many options to choose from.
Here’s a look at the best places to visit in the Netherlands on a day trip from Amsterdam.
The second largest city and one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is modern and energetic, filled with unique contemporary architecture, art, and lots of great food. There are so many fun things to do in Rotterdam. There are two good ways to get the lay of the land—one from the water and one from up above.
A Spido boat tour will take you around Rotterdam’s harbor, the largest port in Europe. You can see the workings of the commercial area and get a look at some of the city’s most famous attractions from water level. To get the bird’s-eye view, head up the Euromast, the city’s 185-meter-tall tower that offers 360-degree views. There, you can visit the observation tower or dine in the restaurant. Adventure seekers can even abseil their way down.
Much of the city was destroyed during World War II, so Rotterdam’s modern architecture is its hallmark. You can see the striking, bright yellow Cube Houses and visit the one that has been opened as a museum. Plus, don’t miss the Potlood (Pencil) building, the intertwining De Rotterdam building, or the magnificent Erasmus Bridge.
In a city full of architecture, culture, and museums, don’t overlook its great food scene. One of our favorite stops was the Fenix Food Factory, a complex of restaurants built in a 100-year-old port warehouse. You’ll find a brewery, bakery, cheese monger, and more with places to enjoy your meal right along the water. Another top stop is the city’s Market Hall which has over 100 food stands and 15 restaurants in the market. Pretty much anything you can think of from tapas to hamburgers is available here.
Only 15 minutes away by train, Haarlem is the easiest day trip from Amsterdam you can take. The beautiful city has similar history, cafes, canals, and museums to Amsterdam, but it has a fraction of the crowds, which makes it a great destination. It’s a must-visit on a trip to the Netherlands.
One of the top things to do in Haarlem is a visit to the Corrie ten Boom House. The Ten Boom family secretly housed Jews and members of the Dutch resistance hiding from the Nazis and put their lives on the line to provide haven to others. You can learn about their efforts and sacrifices and see the false compartment they built to provide a hiding place for people in need.
Not far from the Ten Boom House, you’ll find some of the prettiest attractions in the city. There is the Wijngaardtuin, a patch of green laced with tulips in the middle of some of the city’s oldest buildings. From this oasis you can see St. Bavo Church (Grote Kerk) nearby. The church dates from the 15th century and is famous for its organ once played by Handel and a 10-year-old Mozart.
Take a spin through Grote Markt, the city’s main square lined with stunning buildings, and consider a visit to one of the brilliant museums. The Teylers Museum is full unusual natural objects and artworks from the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael. The Frans Hals museum is all about art from the Dutch Golden Age including the world’s largest collection of portraits by Frans Hals, the noted artist who lived and worked in Haarlem in the 1600s.
When you’ve seen all the main sites, pull up a seat at a café in Grote Mark or head for DeDAKKAS, a rooftop bar with spectacular skyline views.
Zaanse Schans is the perfect day trip plan if you’re looking for lots of fun activities in a beautiful outdoor setting. This charming village is intended to replicate a replicate a typical Zaan district neighborhood from the 18th and 19th centuries complete with cheesemakers, artisans, and windmills.
Original buildings from around the area were assembled to create the Zaanse Schans open-air museum. Many needed repair and restoration because of their age and the project took 15 years to come together. The result is one of the few places in the world where you can still find functioning traditional windmills.
There are lots of shops and displays around the park that highlight Dutch traditions. You’ll learn about and sample traditional Dutch food like Gouda cheese, stroopwafels, and krokets. You can visit workshop, see clogs come to life before your eyes, and see the tools of traditional coopers. You can also visit the Zaans museum and learn about the culture and industry.
For most visitors, the top attraction at Zaanse Schans is the windmills. You can tour the inside of them and watch them still at work grinding paint pigments, cutting logs, and doing other tasks. Watching the giant propellers turn along the coastline is one of the best things to see in the Netherlands.
If you’re looking for one of the best places to see in the Netherlands in the springtime, there is no better choice than a day trip to Keukenhof. In the small town of Lisse, the beautiful Keukenhof gardens cover an enormous 32 hectares. The spectacular complex traces its origins back to the 15th century when the lands provided herbs and vegetables to Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria. Today the tulips, hyacinths, roses, and more attract visitors from around the world.
Each spring, Keukenhof is open for about seven weeks—generally from late March through the first week of May. Every year, 1600 flower varieties are planted on the grounds and bloom in staggered patterns. While peak bloom is entirely weather-dependent, the gardeners ensure that there is something beautiful to see no matter when you visit.
In addition to the thousands of flowers, sculptures, and designs throughout Keukenhof, a visit here offers a chance to explore the adjacent flower fields. Rent a bike from the kiosk in the parking lot and take off on one of their recommended routes. You’ll see stunning rows of flowers everywhere you look.
The seat of government in the Netherlands, there are lots of fun things to see and do in The Hague. This culturally rich city has nearly 800 years of history plus amazing museums, beautiful green spaces, and more that combine to make it one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
The Peace Palace— home to the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and other institutions—is the most photographed building in The Hague. Some of the most important disputes in the world are settled there, so it’s a popular spot for visitors. Schedule a guided tour, if you can, or stop in the Visitors Center to learn the history of this important place.
There are lots of great museums in the The Hague to fill your time on a day trip from Amsterdam. The most well-know is Mauritshuis, a 17th-century count’s residence that showcases over 200 works of art from the Dutch Golden Age. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson are among the most famous works displayed here. For something more contemporary, head to Escher in Het Paleis which features the graphically perspective-altering works of M.C. Escher.
If time allows, head out to the massive park at Landgoed Clingendael. See the manor house and gardens and enjoy the walking trails and lake. If you’re visiting in spring or fall, don’t miss a chance to go to the century-old Japanese Garden that was created using stone lanterns, sculptures, bridges, and other pieces brought from Japan.
The Hague isn’t just about culture—it also has lots of fun places for food and drink. Snag an outdoor table at one of the cafés in the Plein and enjoy people watching or head to MingleMush, a fun food hall near the central train station where you can find dancing, food, and flavors from around the world. Check out Van Kleef Distillery, the only distillery in The Hague that features genever, the traditional Dutch spirit. For something even more sophisticated, go to the Skybar and sip a craft cocktail while gazing over the city skyline.
Scheveningen is ideal for a beach break. The North Sea resort is just 15 minutes by tram from the center of The Hague, making it a convenient getaway and one of the most unique trips from Amsterdam.
When you arrive, you can’t miss the grand Art Nouveau-style Kurhaus, a grand hotel along the beach. You can explore inside the 19th-century building and admire the architectural details and various artworks. Nearby, take a walk down the massive pier and enjoy the shopping opportunities. You’ll even find a Ferris wheel, bungee jumping, and zip lining right on the pier.
On the beach itself, you can be as adventurous as you’d like. Wind surfing and kite boarding are popular here, and you can even learn to play beach volleyball from the experts. For a low-key afternoon, simply swim or relax by the water.
When you’re ready for something to eat or drink, there are endless options along the beach. From simple pub dishes to elevated seafood and great cocktails, lots of spots have lovely views over the water.
Delft is a lovely destination for a day trip, and since it’s only 15 minutes from the Hague, it would be possible to combine both cities into one trip. This city of 100,000 residents is easy to navigate and offers lots of chances for sightseeing.
The city is most renowned for its Delft Blue pottery, a ceramic that has been produced in the same way for centuries. About a kilometer from the train station, you’ll find Royal Delft (De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles) the 17th-century pottery factory that still brings the Delft creations to life every day. Exhibits trace the history of the brand and showcase amazing pieces and collaborations. You can even watch artisans at work.
Take some time to stroll along the canals and see some of the historic buildings. The 17th-century Delft City Hall is stunning and ringed by cafes that provide a great view. Oude Kerk (Old Church) and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) are also popular stops. Oude Kerk is the site of the grave of famous artist Johannes Vermeer, and Nieuwe Kerk houses the tombs of William of Orange and the Dutch Royal family.
With markets, canals, and a lively and welcoming atmosphere, Leiden is a lesser-known gem in the crown of the Netherlands. Everything about this city near Amsterdam is charming. Visit soon to explore all the things to do in Leiden before it becomes a tourist hot spot.
The Burcht van Leiden is one of the most historic spots in the city. It is the shell of an 11th-century fortress that was once the main defensive structure of the city. Though there is nothing to see inside, there are plaques with historical information and markers showing different buildings around the city that you can see from the elevated viewpoint. It also offers the best view in the city as you can gaze out onto the 15th-century Gothic Hooglandse Kerk nearby.
Leiden is also full of culture. Its top museum is the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave which focuses on inventions and science in the history of the Netherlands. You’ll see lots of instruments and displays and learn about how scientists viewed the world in the 1500s and 1600s. At times, it feels like you’ve stepped right into the lab of Copernicus or Galileo.
Another main attraction is the Hortus Botanicus Leiden, the city’s botanical garden. It has four different garden sections and green houses highlighting plants and flowers from around the country and the world, with a particular focus on Asia. If you visit on Wednesdays or on the weekends, you can take a combined tour with the Old Observatory, Leiden’s astronomical institute that was established in 1633.
On Saturdays, Leiden has one of the best markets in Holland. The canals are lined with vendors selling produce, food, clothes, and household items. It’s an endless array of colors and delicious-looking products. On Wednesdays, there’s also a farmers market at the Aalmarkt. Buy something for a takeaway lunch or head to one of the floating restaurant barges in the canal for a more relaxing, atmospheric meal.
Kinderdijk looks like a postcard. With its canals and rows of beautiful windmills, everything about this historic site is quintessentially Dutch. It’s a perfect candidate for an Amsterdam day trip.
The canals at Kinderdijk were dug by hand in the 1300s and most of the windmills date from the early 1700s, so there is a lot of history to learn here. As you listen to the tour and walk through the old mills you’ll learn about the mills’ importance to the Netherlands as well as how they work and how families have lived here for hundreds of years. Sixteen of the 19 windmills are still inhabited.
On the surface, Kinderdijk seems similar to the open-air museum at Zaanse Schans. The difference is that everything at Kinderdijk is original and in its original location, and it lacks the level of commercialism that exists at Zaanse Schans. If it’s history and authenticity you’re looking for, add visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site at Kinderdijk to your must-do list.
Pretty much the first thing you see upon arriving in Gouda is cheese. There’s cheese in the canals, cheese hanging from light posts, and plenty of cheese for sale in storefronts in the center of town. If you arrive on a Thursday morning in the spring or summer, you’ll also find the town square dominated by the cheese market that has been held here for hundreds of years. Gouda is undoubtedly one of the best day trips from Amsterdam for dairy lovers.
The main attraction is the Gouda cheese market. The rituals of the selling process have happened in a similar fashion for centuries. Cheese porters unload 30-pound wheels in the square between the Town Hall and the Weigh House. For the next several hours, buyers and sellers taste, negotiate, and make deals before everything is hauled away. All around, food and craft vendors sell their wares at one off the most fun markets we’ve ever visited.
Beyond the market, Gouda offers lots of other fun things to do. It is well-known for its 15th-century Gothic Church, Sint Janskerk, which has striking stained glass windows. Like Our Lord in the Attic in Amsterdam, Gouda also has a secret church, the Old-Catholic Church that has a fascinating back story and is well worth a visit.
After you’ve seen the cheese and the churches, shop the boutiques on Lange Groendaal and wander along the Gouwe River to see more stores and canal houses. Seek out the town windmill if you haven’t had a chance to visit one yet, and go in search of Hofje van Cincq, a beautiful courtyard that dates from the 1550s.
Utrecht is a great place for relaxing. This university town is full of cafes and bars just made for people watching and enjoying sunny afternoons.
A unique feature in Utrecht is that the city’s canals are below street level, which means you need to walk downstairs to reach them. The many historic buildings that line the canals have cellars that were once used to move goods directly from the canals to land. These old cellars have been converted into waterside restaurants and lounges, making them ideal places to enjoy a meal while watching the boats go by.
The Dom Tower is Utrecht’s main attraction. At 368 feet tall, it’s impossible to miss. Built in the 14th century, it is part of St. Martin’s Cathedral (Dom Church) a few steps away. Visitors who are feeling intrepid can climb the 450+ steps to the top for grand views.
Across the Dom Square, you can visit St. Martin’s Cathedral and its beautiful Pandhof garden, which was part of the old monastery garden. The courtyard is free to visit and is filled with flowers, herbs, and manicured hedges. Surrounded by the 15th-century cloister, it’s one of the prettiest places in Utrecht.
For something more modern, pay a visit to the Rietveld Schröder House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designed in 1924 by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld. Once a family home, the museum is designed according to the principles of the De Stijl art movement. With primary colors and moveable panels that make the home’s design dynamic, it is a unique space.
Want to experience more of Holland’s historic trading culture? Take a road trip along 7 medieval towns, called the Hanzesteden next to the River IJssel. These cities (along with some of our other favorites like Lubeck, Bremen, and Riga) were members of the Hanseatic League, a trading group of cities along the Baltic Sea and the North Sea that dates from the Middle Ages.
Follow the river and start at Doesburg, to Zutphen, Deventer, Hattem, Zwolle, Hasselt and Kampen. Visiting them all in one day will be quite a challenge. You can skip a few or book a hotel in between.
Definitely must-see cities are: Zutphen, Deventer, Zwolle and Kampen because of their authentic charm. You can book a guided tour, rent a bike or explore them on your own. Any of them would be a perfect day trip from Amsterdam.
If Belgium is high on your list of places to visit, Antwerp, Ghent, and Brussels are all easily accessible within 2 hours by train from Amsterdam.
In Antwerp, you can see the gorgeous merchant houses and guildhalls that line the Grote Markt and visit the Cathedral of Our Lady a few steps away. Art lovers will enjoy Rubens House, the former home and studio of renowned artist Peter Paul Rubens, which dates from the 1600s. Shop on De Meir or pop into The Chocolate Line to try some of their unique chocolates.
If you choose Ghent, take some time to enjoy the city’s great views like the one from the top of the Belfry (Belfort) of Ghent or from the roof of the 12th-century Castle of the Counts. Visit St. Bavo’s Cathedral to admire the architecture and the Renaissance masterpiece The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. As you walk around the city, explore the fun things to do in Ghent, scope out some of its famous street art, and sample frites and the local purple candy called cuberdons.
Brussels—Belgium’s capital—is full of gorgeous buildings, especially in and around the main square of Grand Place. Nearby, you can sample the waffles at Maison Dandoy, which are some of the best in the city. Stroll through the grand Cinquantenaire Park or head to the Saint-Gilles and Ixelles neighborhoods to admire the unusual Art Nouveau buildings. If you’re a beer lover, don’t miss Cantillon Brewery, which has brewed its famous lambic beer in Brussels for over 120 years.
Lance Longwell is a travel writer and photographer who has published Travel Addicts since 2008, making it one of the oldest travel blogs. He is a life-long traveler, having visited all 50 of the United States by the time he graduated high school. Lance has continued his adventures by visiting 70 countries on 5 continents – all in search of the world’s perfect sausage. He’s a passionate foodie and enjoys hot springs and cultural oddities. When he’s not traveling (or writing about travel), you’ll find him photographing his hometown of Philadelphia.