You could easily spend a few days in Amsterdam and not get to see all the major sights, but if you have more time, consider one of these awesome day trips. Also listen to our podcast episode on Amsterdam to hear what Dutch native, Eva Bernfeld, has to say about them.
1. Leiden - This gem is a smaller, more manageable canal city. The botanical gardens are unparalleled (and better than the one in Amsterdam) because they are associated with Leiden University, which has a long, prestigious history, especially in the field of Botany. Einstein regularly taught at the university, and Leiden was home to Rembrandt and the people who sailed on the mayflower, so there’s plenty of history packed in. They also have 100 poems painted on the sides of buildings in their original language. Find a Shakespearean sonnet on Houtstraat or an ode by Pablo Neruda in spanish on Beerstraat. My favorite walking city when the weather’s nice. 30min. train ride from Amsterdam Centraal.
Leiden is a beautiful more manageable canal town outside Amsterdam
2. Keukenhof - The “Garden of Europe” is only open for a few weeks in March and April, but to many, it’s worth planning their trip around. From Van Gogh portraits made from flowers to seemingly endless stretches of vibrant tulips, this flower show will make your jaw drop at every turn. These magical gardens are the closest you’ll ever get to walking around Wonderland. 1.5 hour drive from Amsterdam.
Keukenhof's famous garden is open in March and April
3. Delft - This quaint town still looks the way it did in paintings from years ago. Though small, the city is perfect for Vermeer fans and those looking to buy some classic delftware. 1 hour from Amsterdam Centraal.
Delft in the summer
4. The Hague - This city, home to the International UN Court of Justice, has plenty of attractions, from the Peace Palace to an M. C. Escher museum that fans of this surrealist artist will love. But by far the biggest attraction is the Mauritshuis. This museum should be a priority even for people who don’t like museums. The building itself is a preserved mansion that now holds the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, including some heavy hitters like Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring and Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson. Situated on the water, this sight will take your breath away, and it’s proximity to the Hague train station means it’s super accessible. You could even spend the morning in nearby Leiden or Rotterdam, and take a 10 minute train ride to the Hague in the afternoon for the museum. 50min. train ride from Amsterdam Centraal.
Vermeer’s "Girl With A Pearl Earring" and other masterpieces can be seen at the Mauritshuis
5. Haarlem - The closest of the suggested day trips, this charming city is just a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam. In addition to the Frans Hals museum, it’s chalk-full of small art museums, churches, and beautiful streets - don’t miss the Teyler's Museum, a natural history museum with fascinating vintage displays. 15min. train ride from Amsterdam Central.
Don't miss the Teyler's Museum in Haarlem
6. Het Loo Palace - one of six historical palaces in the Netherlands, this stunning building from the 1600s is overshadowed by the breathtaking classic Dutch gardens. Worth a trip in the spring. 1.5hours from Amsterdam Centraal.
7. Rotterdam - Until 2004, Rotterdam was the world’s busiest port city (it’s now #3). The main attraction here is the unbelievable modern architecture that’s gone up since the city was leveled during WWII. From cube houses to their public library (designed by the architect of the Pompidou in Paris), every building is a marvel. Download a walking tour (Rick Steves has a great one) and learn about all the architects who had a hand in rebuilding this city. Markets thrive on certain days of the week, and the dome-like apartment building complex that provides cover for an “outdoor” food market is worth the trip. 40min. train ride from Amsterdam Centraal
Rotterdam is filled with stunning modern architecture
8. Kroller Muller Museum - For lovers of art and nature, this is the best day trip imaginable. In the country’s largest national park, you can pick up free bikes for at different stops (for example by the park entrance, or next to the museum) and bike on their extensive trails that look like something out of a Van Gogh painting. If you have a full day: walk from the bus station to the park entrance, hop on a bike (find somewhere in the park to picnic along the way) to the museum, where you’ll see an incredible collection of 19th and 20th century art housed in a light, spacious gallery (including hundreds of Van Gogh works - the largest collection outside the Van Gogh museum). Then walk on the woodsy trails of the outdoor sculpture garden featuring some of the most prominent sculptors in the world. When you’re ready, hop on a bike and take a scenic route out of the park before dropping your bikes at the exit. Getting to the park and museum without a car is a little tricky (train + bus), but definitely doable. 1.5 hours from Amsterdam Centraal.
Kroller Muller Museum outdoor sculpture garden
9. Noordwijk - If you’re looking to hit the beach, this is the place to go. It’s hard (but not impossible) to reach without a car, so Zandvoort is a great alternative for those looking for more accessible sandy beaches. 1.25 hours via public transit from Amsterdam Centraal; 40min. drive.
10. Afsluitdijk Bridge - If you google map this site, you’ll see that this bridge essentially turns a huge part of the ocean into a lake. By car, you can drive across it and stop at different viewpoints, and even continue on into Friesland which has a host of classic Dutch towns. 1.5 hour drive from Amsterdam.
The Afsluitdijk Bridge forms a huge ocean lake
BONUS: Aalsmeer isn't exactly a day trip, it's just a long bus ride to the outskirts of the city. This trading house is the 3rd largest commercial building in the world - most flowers that are sold in the world go through this place. You can watch flower auctions in action and see thousands of moving carts full of flowers beneath your feet. The catch: most of the action dies down around 8:30 or 9am, so you have to commit to going early (arrive by 7:30 or 8 at the latest). 45min. Bus ride from Amsterdam Centraal.
Aalsmeer Flower Market
Be sure to listen to our podcast episode on Amsterdam
Posted by the team at Planit Travel