Day Trips from Amsterdam – What to Know & What to See

* As destinations begin to reopen and events resume, hopefully this guide can serve as inspiration and motivation as you plan a future trip. Do check online for the latest information on closures and local measures in place before visiting. *

Whether you find yourself with time to spare on a visit to or are looking for activities outside of the Netherlands’ largest and most recognizable city, I have a few recommendations for easy day trips from Amsterdam that will give you broader perspective of this low-lying but high energy country.

But first, here’s a couple of quick things to note as you plan your visit:

Amsterdam as a city has so much to offer tourists, but keep in mind that its vibe is not representative of the entirety of the Netherlands. While the country is small – it can be crossed north to south in about 3 hours – there is no shortage of things to do, see, and learn across its regions.

The country, especially the city of Amsterdam, has become increasingly diverse culturally. As a whole, Dutch society is known for its embracing of modernity and tolerance, but also a certain “Dutch directness”.

English is widely and well-spoken, but bonus points if you use Goedemorgen (good morning) or Dankjewel (thank you) while conversing with locals.

Also worth mentioning, is that the Netherlands is the name of the country, while Holland is a region of the Netherlands. The North and South Holland provinces encompass about one third of the Netherlands, bordering the North Sea along the west coast. The places I’ve included herein are all within the region of Holland.

Each of the below destinations is accessible by way of the easy-to-use public transit or by personal vehicle. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, I’d highly recommend commuting by bike as the bike lanes seem to have no end and bikes are afforded the same, if not more, respect as cars. Be mindful of the designated bike lanes – as a pedestrian too – and your fellow commuters.

Tulips in Lisse

During the approximately two months of tulip bloom each spring, Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens, welcomes in over a million visitors who arrive in the town of Lisse by tour bus, car, and bike. To take in Holland’s famous tulips, pay the entrance fee at Keukenhof and discover the sprawling gardens of spring-time florals in all colors, and/or rent a bike and cycle away from the garden crowds to view the endless fields of tulips around the town of Lisse that are cultivated by local farmers.

  • HOW TO GET THERE:
    • Getting to Lisse from Amsterdam does required a bit of advance planning as there is no direct public transit link between the two. From Amsterdam Centraal, take the train to Haarlem Station, which takes about 15-20 minutes on average. From Haarlem you can take the Regional Bus Line 50 to reach the stop Lisse, De Nachtegaal, which ends up being a ride of about 40 minutes. Walk the remaining 10 minutes (just over a half mile) to the entrance of Keukenhof. When coming from this direction, you can’t miss the bike rental located at the main entrance of the gardens off N208.
    • If you come to Keukenhof by car, you’ll be directed to park in a designated lot adjacent to the garden and pay 6 € for a day of parking.
  • What to see & do:
    • Visit Keukenhof botanical gardens: For 18.50 € entrance fee, you will be able to visit Keukenhof’s world-renowned gardens wherein every year more than seven million flower bulbs are planted and immaculately maintained. You’ll find tulips with names like “Orange Sunrise” and “Burning Heart”, but also hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, and many more. The garden encompasses nearly 80 acres with accessible, paved paths winding throughout. In addition to flower beds, there is an English landscape garden, a Japanese Country Garden, and several pavilion houses with flower exhibits.
    • Tour Lisse tulip fields by bike: Bike rentals allow you to distance yourself from the often crowded botanical gardens while partaking in a self-guided tour of the countryside. In the course of three hours, you can leisurely cycle past not only tulip fields, but also through the sand dunes along the coast. Bikes can be rented for an hour if you only want a taste of the tulips, or longer if you want to venture further or plan to frequently brake for flowers. The rental company has friendly staff who can recommend a route for you based on how much time you have and what you want to see.

If your route includes a visit to the coast, make a stop at the beachside eateries at Strand Noordwijk 27 to try Hoogies delicious crispy chicken sandwiches and frites.

It’s also imperative to note that while the temptation may be to frolic amongst the fields of florals, it is important to be respectful of the farmers’ livelihood and admire without intruding or trampling. Considering the number of visitors who pass through the area each year, it’s a reasonable request for respectful enjoyment so the town can extend their warm welcome annually for years to come.

  • WhEN TO VISIT:
    • The tulips bloom between March-May each year. Keukenhof is only open during the tulip season with the ideal time for a visit usually falling between mid-April to mid-May. It’s best to check for updates from Keukenhof ahead of your visit.

Keep in mind that Keukenhof draws in over a million visitors annually who arrive in Lisse by tour bus, car, and bike so the earlier in the day you arrive the better. Avoid holidays if possible.

* As a result of the Dutch Coronavirus measures, Keukenhof is not yet allowed to open in 2021. The tulip fields of Lisse can still be toured by bike, respecting local measures in place. *

Recreation in Castricum

The small town of Castricum can boast of its proximity to beautiful nature on the North Sea. Both the beach at Castricum aan Zee and the rolling dunes and adjacent forests of Noordhollands Duinreservaat make for an excellent recreational escape from bustling, urban Amsterdam.

  • How to get there:
    • Castricum is an easy 20 to 30-minute direct train ride from either Amsterdam Centraal or Amsterdam Sloterdijk stations.
  • What to see & do:
    • A bike is the ideal way to get around Castricum and the surrounding area. Near the train station, Tuut Tuut rents bikes, e-bikes, and scooters. If you’re staying overnight at an Airbnb in Castricum, check if they also offer bikes to their guests, like this one I recommend.

    • The Noordhollands Duinreservaat, North Holland Dune Reserve, is one of the largest nature reserves in The Netherlands – about 20 kilometers long and on average 2.5 km wide. Its extensive network of over 100 km of paved, well-marked paths makes it ideal for biking and walking. The dunes also serve a greater purpose of protecting the Netherlands from flooding and filtering the water that supplies much of North Holland with drinking water.

From Castricum, the reserve can be entered off of Geversweg. The entrance is equipped with a dune ticket machine as everyone over the age of 18 needs a dune card to enter the reserve. A one-day pass costs 1.80 € or a one-week pass costs 5.50 €. Passes can also be purchased online here. Be a respectful visitor and mind the rules that protect the natural dunes.

    • You’ll find the beach at Castricum aan Zee just 20 minutes by bike from the center of town. Paths through the reserve are marked with signs that guide you to the beach where you can swim when the weather is decent or dine al fresco (for a bit higher price than in town) at beachside restaurants.
    • After recreating, return to Castricum to enjoy its eateries.
      • Bakkerij van Vessem has an assortment of fresh baked goods for breakfast.
      • There are three side-by-side cafes in the city center on Dorpsstraat – Johnny’s Café, Restaurant Brutaal Grand Café Balu – that are ideal for a casual meal or drink. VRIJ eten&drinken also has as delicious menu in a comfortable setting.
      • Steakhouse Bij de Buurvrouw is more reminiscent of an American eatery, but is delicious and recommendable.
  • WhEN TO VISIT:
    • Late spring and summer are the perfect times to visit Castricum as the weather warms and visitors can fully enjoy the reserve and beach.

Cheese and Canals in Alkmaar

Alkmaar is a city most well-known for its open-air cheese market, one of only five such traditional cheese markets still operating in the Netherlands. Come to the city for the cheese but stay for the canals and culture.

  • How to get there:
    • Alkmaar is a 35 to 45-minute direct train ride from either Amsterdam Centraal or Amsterdam Sloterdijk stations.
  • What to see & do:
    • The cheese market at Waagplein is held weekly on Friday mornings between April and September. The market begins with the ringing of the bell at 10 AM and goes until 1 PM, after which the cafes in the square put out their chairs and welcome visitors for a drink.

The cheese market has been held on Alkmaar’s Waagplein square since at least 1593. Today, the market serves as a demonstration only for tourists, so while you cannot purchase cheese at the market, it can be purchased at the surrounding vendor stalls.

    • When you’ve had your fill of cheese, stroll a few blocks over to take a canal boat city tour with Grachtenrondvaart Alkmaar. Tours commence in June and depart from Mient. During the 45 minutes to one hour tour, keep an eye out for low bridges – you’ll need to duck!
    • End the day with ice cream from IJssalon Laan Alkmaar. Since 1948, this Alkmaar ice cream parlor has served only one flavor: homemade, fresh vanilla. Don’t be deterred by the limited selection, this is quality ice cream and you are free to add on toppings like chocolate, nougat, and sprinkles.
  • WhEN TO VISIT:
    • To partake in the cheese market of Alkmaar, plan your visit for a Friday morning between April and September.

Art and History in Delft

Delft could be considered a miniature version of Amsterdam with its picturesque canals and notable arts and culture scene. This little town is known for its prized blue and white Delfts blauw pottery and as the birth and burial place of both the world-renowned Dutch artist who painted the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring piece and the Father of Microbiology.

  • HOW TO GET THERE:
    • A 45-minute drive by car or train ride from Amsterdam Zuid station, or 1 hour train ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station.
    • If driving there, park your car outside city center, but if parking alongside a canal, be especially mindful of the absence of guardrails that would prevent said vehicle from winding up in the canal.
  • What to see & do:
    • The city of Delft is recognized for its world-renowned brilliant blue and white handmade earthenware (Delftware) that has been produced here since the 17th century. The origins of Delftware date back to the early 15th century when Dutch potters were producing much simpler clay pieces in small factories. Italian craftsmen introduced higher quality and richly decorated Southern European ceramics to the Netherlands, with Dutch replication and production beginning in earnest in the 16th century. The creation of the famed tin-glazed blue and white vases, plates, dishes, porridge bowls, figurines, and tiles in the Netherlands started in the 17th century in response to demand for the much sought after Chinese blue and white porcelain. By the 18th century, Delftware was a major industry with worldwide exports. It is still produced today, but the most highly regarded period of production is between 1640-1740.

Delftware is often imitated, so when determining whether a piece is genuine, look for the makers’ symbols or initials, which can be found on the base or back of an object (see photo below). Outside of city center you can visit Delft Pottery De Delftse Pauw, housed in the original 17th century factory, for a guided tour about the history and production of authentic Delftware.

    • In city center you’ll find two iconic churches. Delft’s Oude Kerk (Old Church) was founded in 1246 and is the burial site of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and the Dutch scientist considered the Father of Microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. Tour inside to see the 27 stained glass windows and then take in the view of the leaning, but stable, tower of the church along the Oude Delft canal.

A five-minute walk away is the Markt square and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). It has views of the city from its 357-foot-tall tower, the second highest in the Netherlands, and is the burial place of the members of the reigning House of Orange-Nassau royal family.

    • Not far from the Markt is Cortado Café, a great spot for a delicious breakfast with a view of the large Thursday and smaller Saturday markets.
  • WhEN TO VISIT:
    • A visit to Delft from April through October will allow you the opportunity to visit the antiques and vintage market along Voldersgracht and search for your own Delftware. Delft can be enjoyed year-round though.

As always, use these suggestions as a starting point for your visit to the Netherlands, and then discover more of these bike loving, canal covered, and floral adorned places for yourself.

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