Zaanse Schans windmills

10 Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

There’s no doubt Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ most exciting city, but if you’re there for a while then you might feel like getting away for a day. You might be surprised how much more there is to the country than Amsterdam and within such a short, easy distance. So many fascinating towns and cities are just a quick train ride away from Amsterdam. From the windmills of Zannse Schans to Rotterdam’s urban architecture, explore the traditional and the modern sides of the country on a day trip to these incredible, underrated cities in the Netherlands (and beyond). Check them out.

Looking for a hostel in Amsterdam? The Flying Pig Downtown is just a 5 minute walk from Centraal Station

Rotterdam

Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal (40 mins). From €34,80 return

Giving Amsterdam a run for its money is the country’s ‘second city’. Whether you’re into architecture, museums, food or drink, it’s impossible to get bored in Rotterdam for a day. The city is famed for its unbelievable architecture, making it heaven for the photographers amongst you. Visit the insanely Insta-worthy Kubuswoning, a housing complex made up of a load of yellow cubes, and take a walk across Erasmus Bridge, aka The Swan, known as one of the most breathtaking bridges in Europe. The city is packed with urban designs, including the famous Markthal which is one for the foodies as well as the design-seekers. Set inside a huge curved building are 100 food stalls ready to grab your attention and serve up some of the tastiest street food in the city. It’s the ideal place to kick off a food tour of Rotterdam, and for the gin lovers out there, you’re in the right place. Don’t miss a Dutch gin in one of Rotterdam’s many cool, quirky bars - The Ballroom is a great choice, as is Dr. If museums are your thing, head to Museum Park for Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum and Kunsthal gallery.

Kinderdijk

Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal (40 mins), bike ride to Kinderdijk Molenkade (1 hr). From €44,80 return

On the hunt for a stunning photo of some traditional Dutch windmills? The windmills of Kinderdijk are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of 19 spectacular windmills built in the mid 1700s - that’s the most mills packed into one place in the world! While it’s easiest to visit from Rotterdam via bike, we couldn’t combine the two. They are so different to each other and both deserve a full day of your attention. You could get here by car from Amsterdam if you hire one, but the bike ride from Rotterdam just makes it an even more memorable experience. Cycling or walking around the windmills is totally free, but if you choose to visit the museum and see how families used to live inside the mills then you’ll have to pay a fee. A couple of tips… First, in peak season there are tours by the bus load, so either arrive early in the morning or after 4pm to avoid hectic crowds. Second, bring a packed lunch as the restaurants around here are sparse and expensive.

The Hague

Amsterdam Centraal to Den Haag Centraal (50 mins). From €27 return

Hop on a direct train out of Amsterdam to the Netherlands’ biggest seaside city - The Hague (or Den Haag). Known as ‘the Royal City by the Sea’, visitors have the best of both fascinating history and culture, and some stunning sandy beaches. A number of members of the Dutch Royal Family live in the Hague, but it’s also home to the world’s oldest used Parliamentary House called Binnenhof, built on the banks of Hofvijver Lake. Take a special guided tour around the Binnenhof and make the most of the countless incredible museums and galleries around the city. Mauritshuis (to see the ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’), Escher Museum, the Louwman Museum and Gemeentemuseum are a few of the must-sees. Once you’ve ticked a few of them off, stroll along the Scheveningen beaches nearby.

Leiden

Amsterdam Centraal to Leiden (35 mins). From €21 return

For a place that’s just like Amsterdam but quieter, Leiden is the perfect day-long getaway and you definitely won’t be stumped for things to do. Leiden is a university hub complete with some great pubs, bars and restaurants, but if you’re there on a Saturday then be sure to stop by the market to snack on some local Dutch street food such as stroopwafels and poffertjes. Climb the remains of a 12th century castle called the Burcht for some awesome views over Leiden, and follow the canals until you reach the charming old harbour. Being a university city, Leiden is also known for its incredible history and science museums which could keep you busy for hours. Plus it’s home to one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. Not your thing? Head to the cool neighbourhood of Pieterskwartier where you’ll find shops and cafes around every cobbled corner.

Noordwijk

€5 shuttle bus from the Flying Pig Downtown hostel

Feel like a breath of fresh air? Get out of town to the coastal city of Noordwijk for some sun, sea and sandy beaches along with as much adventure as you could want. Whether you feel like exploring the sand dunes, an adrenaline rush on the ocean or simply lying in the Dutch sun, Noordwijk is a great summer day trip. Learn to surf or kiteboard at one of the local clubs, eat fresh fish and chips and end the day with drinks in one of the many beach clubs along the coast. To get there, you just get on the daily shuttle bus from Flying Pig Downtown in Amsterdam - it’s as easy as that.

Want to stay longer than a day? Check out the Flying Pig Beach Hostel, just a stone’s throw away from the shore

Haarlem

Amsterdam Centraal to Haarlem (15 mins). From €11 return

The journey is so quick and easy to Haarlem from Amsterdam, it would be rude not to visit. Step into the Grote Markt and marvel at the Church of St Bavo, known as Haarlem’s centrepiece. Make the most of Haarlem’s more relaxed, less touristy vibe, but also be sure to look around one or two of it’s amazing museums. Corrie ten Boom House is a museum once used as a hiding place for Jews during the Nazi regime, Teylers Museum is the Netherlands’ oldest museum and Molen De Adriaan is Haarlem’s windmill museum. Once you’ve explored around and taken a look inside a few hofjes (hidden courtyards), sit down in a quirky cafe or cocktail bar to relax and unwind before heading back to Amsterdam.

Alkmaar Cheese Market

Amsterdam Centraal to Alkmaar (40 mins). From €18 return

Want something totally different? North Holland’s Alkmaar Cheese Market is the best in the country. The main event (because it’s not just your average market) takes place between April and September on Friday mornings, but between July and August they’ll often hold a Tuesday evening market, too. The Dutch tradition has been going on since 1593, when stacks upon stacks of cheese wheels are sampled by appointed samplers, carried to weighing scales by cheese bearers wearing traditional gear for the cheese to be weighed and sold. This is definitely a show to be put on every cheese lover’s bucket list!

Keukenhof

Amsterdam Centraal to Leiden Centraal (35 mins), from €21 return. Take 854 Keukenhof Express bus from Leiden Centraal Station. Combi ticket from Leiden includes Keukenhof Gardens entrance and return transfer, costs €27,50. Total cost (entrance included) €48,50

One of the world’s most spectacular flower gardens, lucky for you lot in Amsterdam, is just an hour and a half away. Keukenhof Gardens contain over 7 million flower bulbs which bloom every spring in every colour on the spectrum, all over 32 hectares of land! The gardens are a real sight for sore eyes. Once you’ve finished marvelling at the beauty of the gardens, hire a bike and cycle around the surrounding tulip fields. Keukenhof isn’t open all year, so definitely avoid visiting on weekends if you can, as that’s when the hoards of people will be going.

Bruges

Amsterdam Centraal to Bruges (between 3hr 15min and 4hr 30min, depending on changes). From €60 return

It may be a bit more of a trek, but if you have limited time in Europe then this is a great way to ticking off as many amazing cities as you can. Venture out of the Netherlands to the quaint Belgian city of Bruges. It’s only a small city so seeing a good chunk of it in one day is possible, just get an early train and have a good nap on the journey there. Bruges is famous for its colourful gabled houses, cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. Tick off some of the city’s main sights like Markt Square, the Belfry Tower and a canal tour, but don’t miss out on some Bruges delicacies. Belgian waffles, frites and beer. Lots of beer. Bruges has so many charming old beer bars that make for a great pub crawl. The perfect way to get you falling asleep for the journey back to Amsterdam!

Feel like staying longer in Bruges? The Bauhaus is a great hostel with dorm rooms, private rooms and a beer bar attached

Zaanse Schans

Cycle in 1 hour or take the 391 Connexxion bus to Zaanse Schans (final stop). Buy a day ticket for €11,50

Step back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries as Zaanse Schans has hardly changed its look since then. The famous windmills have become a real highlight of the Netherlands, and they’re only an hour’s cycle from Amsterdam city centre. The old windmills actually still function today, and their iconic green colour makes for an incredible photo opportunity. Wander or cycle around the century old village and its unique Dutch charm with a bakery museum, cheese factory, barns and workshops dotted around to bring the experience to life.

Article by Darcy King

Looking for the best budget accommodation in Amsterdam? Check out the Flying Pig Downtown

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