The Netherlands is famous for its rich cultural history, especially in art, painting and architecture. Its world-class museums, the Dutch Windmills, the city of Amsterdam, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese and canals are some of the things people know about this charming country. What they don’t know is that, this relatively small country is packed with many great attractions. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the country has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in less than a week. Depending on your interests and travel priorities, you can certainly mix and match destinations, activities, and attractions.
Things to know before traveling to the Netherlands:
1.Language – The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. English is widely spoken in Amsterdam, as well as other cities in the Netherlands, and you will have no problem when asking directions. It is recommended, however, to learn some Dutch phrases because Dutch people, like any other cultures, appreciate if foreign visitors attempt to speak their language. Some helpful phrases are as follows:
Hello = Hallo
Good morning = Goedemorgen
Good afternoon = Goedemiddag
Good evening = Goedenavond
Goodbye = Dag or doei (pronounced as doowee)
Excuse me = Pardon
Thank you = Dank u
Do you speak English? = Spreekt u Engels?
2.Money and Costs – The Netherlands uses Euros, the same currency now used by most European Union countries with the exception of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Prior to travelling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs, GWK exchange bureaus which can be found at the airports, major railways stations and in other tourist areas.
3.Etiquette – The Dutch are modest, tolerant and independent people. They are reserved and they value privacy. In social meetings, people shake hands with everyone present. Introduce yourself if no one is there to introduce you. If you are invited to dine out, expect the Dutch to say if they will pay the entire bill or they will let you pay your fair share.
4.Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in The Netherlands, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. There are also plenty of apartment rentals if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities. If you would like to get to know Amsterdam from a different perspective, then you can stay for a few nights in a houseboat which are fully equipped and centrally located.
5.Getting Around – Travelling in the Netherlands is relatively easy as all roads are well-maintained and the public transport system is one of Europe’s finest. Buses are the cheapest and most popular way of getting around. Trains are also popular because they are relatively cheap and much faster. Bicycle rentals are common in Amsterdam and other big cities.
6.Getting to Amsterdam – Two words – Extremely Easy! Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the fifth busiest airport in Europe. It serves as a hub for EasyJet which means plenty of cheap flights from all over Europe. Round trip airfare starts at 565 USD if you fly from New York, 611 USD if you fly from Hong Kong and 111 USD if you fly from London.
Detailed Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Amsterdam
Assuming you had to cross an ocean to get to The Netherlands, your first day will be rife with jet lag. Take a flight that arrives in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as early as possible and check in to your preferred hotel/hostel. The airport is located twenty minutes from the center of Amsterdam and there is a direct railway line that connects it to Amsterdam Central Station. To walk off your jet lag, hit one of the quirky breakfast spots set on the edge of Amsterdam’s Baarsjes neighborhood.
Where to stay in Amsterdam:
The Toren (Keizersgracht 164, 1015 CZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The Posthoorn (Prinsengracht 7, 1015 DK Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Ambassade Hotel (Herengracht 341, 1016 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Banks Mansion (Herengracht 519-522, 1017 BV Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Crowne Plaza Amsterdam South (George Gershwinlaan 101, 1082 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Hotel V Nesplein (Nes 49, 1012 KD Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
In the afternoon, begin your Amsterdam tour. There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than canal boat cruise. Don’t forget to book your tour with one of the most notable canal cruise operators in the city (try Those Dam Boat Guys). Most canal cruises take around an hour, so after your tour, pick a neighborhood to explore. You can head to Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected canal ring, De Pifp, De Plantage or Jordaan. End your day with a sumptuous dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in the city (try Restaurant Adam, Vinkeles or Ivy & Bros).
Day 2: Amsterdam
Unless breakfast is included in the price of your accommodation, start your day at one of Amsterdam’s best breakfast and brunch spots. A typical breakfast in Amsterdam includes some bread, pancakes and pastries, cheese, soft boiled egg, bacon and freshly brewed coffee. Some of the restaurants you can try are Bakers & Roasters,The Pancake Bakery, Bar Spek and Flinders Cafe.
After breakfast, dive deeper into local experience by visiting one or two of Amsterdam’s best loved museums like the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum or Van Gogh Museum. In the afternoon, do not miss to see the windmills, an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, located in and around Amsterdam. Marvel at the views and enjoy traditional Dutch beers brewed on site.
Windmills in and around Amsterdam:
Molen van Sloten
The Sloten Windmill is the only one of Amsterdam’s 8 windmills open to visitors. It is still operating and, being a draining mill or tjasker, it is used to pump excess water from the surrounding area that was once the Haarlemmer Lake (Haarlemmermeer).
Address: Akersluis 10, Amsterdam, Netherlands; tel: +31 20 669 0412; http://molenvansloten.nl; Open: daily 10 am – 4.30 pm (except Jan 1, April 27 and Dec 25 and 26)
Kill two birds with one stone by visiting de Gooyer windmill. If you do, you won’t just get to see Amsterdam’s most iconic windmill but you can also sample one of Amsterdam’s best beers at ‘t IJ brewery (Funenkade 7, 1018 AL Amsterdam, Netherlands) next door. The mill itself was built in 1725 and is the tallest wooden mill in the Netherlands. The windmill hasn’t been operating since it was damaged during a storm in 1972.
Address: Funenkade 5, 1018 AL Amsterdam, Netherlands
Located not that far away from de Bloem mill is the small paltrok mill de Otter. Built in 1631 as one of many sawmills that were dotted around this area, it remained in operation until the early 1900s. Due to Amsterdam’s growing population as well as industrialization, all but the Otter sawmill were dismantled. The mill was restored to full working condition in the 1990s. However, the many buildings that have shot up in the area mean that wind conditions are no longer suitable to operate the mill. As a result, the owners have proposed to relocate the mill but, being a national monument, they had to seek permission from the city council. Several court cases later, the Otter remains, for the time being, in its current location.
Address: Gillis van Ledenberchstraat 78, Amsterdam, Netherlands
No mill in Amsterdam seems rooted to its spot, and the same is true for the Riekermolen. Built in 1636 in the village of Sloten, just outside Amsterdam, the Riekermill was moved to its current location next to the Amstel River in 1961. Like the Molen van Sloten, it is a drainage mill, but unlike its operating cousin, it has been retired. Nevertheless, when the wind is right, the Riekermolen still spins on weekends during the afternoon. Next to it, you’ll also find a statue of Rembrandt who favored this area and eternalized it in many of his sketches.
Address: Buitenveldert-Oost, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hop on the ferry to Amsterdam Noord to visit the last remaining chalk and trass mill in the Netherlands (simply board one of the free ferries at the waterfront exit of Amsterdam Central Station, just follow the signs to ‘Noord’. These public ferries depart every few minutes in daytime and even run through the night, transporting pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds). Built in 1792 to grind a volcanic stone from the German Eifel region, used in the making of mortar, it was later used to grind chalk for putty. It was erected (and still stands) in the picturesque Buiksloot, a former village and now part of Amsterdam.
Address: Noordhollandschkanaaldijk 21, 1034 ZL Amsterdam, Netherlands
Built in 1768, flour mill de Bloem started life in the Bloemgracht in the Jordaan. Much like de Gooyer windmill it was later relocated to a windier location on the outskirts of town. Today it is used as an office and can only be visited during the National Windmill Day (on the second Sunday in May).
Address: Haarlemmerweg 465, Amsterdam, Netherlands
De Zaanse Schans
A short train (the nearest station is Koog-Zaandijk. The train from Amsterdam Central Station takes 17 minutes. Zaanse Schans is just a 15-minute walk away) or bus ride (from Amsterdam Central Station, Connexxion bus 391 departs every 15 minutes to Zaanse Schans. The journey takes 40 minutes. For more information www.bus391.nl) outside of Amsterdam you will find the outdoor museum Zaanse Schans. Since 1961, historical mills, buildings and barns from the 18th and 19th century have been transplanted to this area outside Zaandam, creating at once a thriving community and living monument.
De Zaanse Schans is home to 8 windmills with great names such as The Cat (de kat), The Spotted Hen (de bonte hen) and The Cloverleaf (het klaverblad). The mills were used for varying purposes from sawmills to oil mills to mustard mills. With many other attractions at de Zaanse Schans (such as a bakery museum and a museum of Dutch clocks) you can easily spent a whole day exploring the area.
Address: Schansend 7, Zaandam, Netherlands; dezaanseschans.nl; Open: Mon – Sun 10 am – 5 pm
You can book a trip to the windmills with Eating Amsterdam Tours
Day 3: The Hague, South Holland
On your 3rd day, explore The Hague, the seat of government of The Netherlands. The Hague is located in South Holland and is just 51 minutes away from Amsterdam via Dutch Railways. The ticket from Amsterdam Central Station to Den Haag Central Station costs about 10 Euros (11 USD). Some of the attractions you can visit are Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen (art museum that houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, consisting of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings; Plein 29, 2511 CS Den Haag, Netherlands), Escher in Het Paleis (permanent exhibition dedicated to the world-famous artist M.C. Escher, whose art startled millions of people all over the world.; Lange Voorhout 74, 2514 EH Den Haag, Netherlands) and Madurodam (Madurodam is a miniature park and tourist attraction in the Scheveningen district of The Hague in the Netherlands. It is home to a range of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, historical cities and large developments; George Maduroplein 1, 2584 RZ Den Haag, Netherlands; tel: +31 70 416 2400).
Day 4: Utrecht
On day 4, visit the ancient and historic city of Utrecht. Considered the beating heart of The Netherlands, it houses many buildings and structures going back to the early middle ages. Being a relatively small city, Utrecht is bicycle friendly. You can either bike on your own and you can join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. Some of the attractions you can visit are Dom Tower, the Canals area, Railway Museum and Sint Willibrordkerk (Minrebroederstraat 21, 3512 GS Utrecht, Netherlands; tel:+31 30 231 3217). The journey to Utrecht from Amsterdam Central Station is about 27 minutes and one way ticket costs about 7 Euros.
Day 5: Amsterdam
For your final day in The Netherlands, get a one last whirl through Amsterdam to take in any museums or other attractions that you might have missed (check our Amsterdam guide for ideas). For a wide range and reasonably priced locally made handicrafts, you can explore the center of Amsterdam. If your last day happens to be on a first Sunday of the month, then you can visit the Sunday Market Amsterdam (Held the first Sunday of each month in Westerpark, the second Sunday of the month at Amsterdam Roest, and occasionally in IJburg). Some of the common stuff you can purchase are clogs and wooden shoes, flower bulbs, Delftware, Dutch cheese and Stroopwafels.
This is the end of our 5-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel the country. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy The Netherlands!
Have you been to Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht or anywhere else in the Netherlands? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.