Most people think of Amsterdam when the subject of the Netherlands comes up, but this city, though vibrant and beautiful with lots to see and do, is not the only place to have a great time in the Netherlands. This small yet historically and culturally rich country has several cities worth a visit, many of which can be visited in about a week's time. We have compiled a list of 7 of our favorite Dutch cities besides Amsterdam to guide you on your journey through the Netherlands, so you can concentrate on enjoying your vacation instead of worrying about having a plan. Each of these cities is only 2 hours or less away with an Amsterdam car rental, so you can pick which cities you would like to visit during your stay. Or if you'd prefer, you can make one of these cities your home base as you travel the country. You can read on to learn more about these wonderful cities.
Read on to Drive to Discover the adventures that await you in the Netherlands
At only 13 miles, Haarlem is the closest trip from Amsterdam on our itinerary. It's like having the best of both worlds - the activities and attractions of Amsterdam without the crowds and noise of a major city. To get to Haarlem, follow the N200 west from Amsterdam.
Haarlem is a typical Dutch city insofar as its construction is concerned. The canal system that lines its streets and buildings lets visitors get a feel for this lowland necessity. Local art is displayed nearly everywhere you go in the city, among the intermingled modern and medieval buildings. Be sure to check out a night tour of the city if you want to have a truly unique experience.
Points of interest in Haarlem include the Town Hall, the Cathedral of St. Bavo, and the Frans Hals Museum. The Town hall was built in the 14th century and still has much of its original character remaining. This is the seat of the local government. Historical objects and art are housed inside, so be sure to visit if you get a chance. The Cathedral of St. Bavo, though much newer, still holds historical weight. Built in the late 19th to early 20th century, this cathedral is home for many of the Roman Catholics who inhabit Haarlem. Its imposing position at the center of the city gives the feeling that it has been at the center of life for centuries, though it has only been for one. The Frans Hals Museum houses many important pieces of art. The work of Jan van Goyen, a painter famous in the Netherlands, can be viewed here. His work is characterized by natural landscapes of the Netherlands, and many of his pieces are inspired by the blooming flowers that sprout by the thousands in the spring.
The city of Utrecht dates to the time of the Roman Empire. It lies 27 miles from Amsterdam to the south, so if you make this the city you base yourself in during your stay, you are just close enough to make the drive every day, should you want to. Follow the A2 to merge onto the N230 to reach Utrecht from Amsterdam.
As the religious center of the Netherlands, Utrecht has many historic and spiritual attractions to offer visitors to the city. For instance, St. Catherine's Convent, which was founded in the 16th century, now houses the Museum Catharijneconvent, inside of which visitors can see the storied past of the country through art and artifacts that have survived the ages. Originally named after Catherine of Alexandria for the Order of the Knights of St. John, this building has housed over the years a school gymnasium, the country's first teaching hospital, and even a student club association. If you like history, you are sure to love this place.
In terms of culture, Utrecht rivals Amsterdam. Theatres and music halls can be found in various parts of the city, so make an effort to see a show while you are in town. Like many other places in the Netherlands, Utrecht's architecture is a great admixture of old and new, modern and medieval. On the modern side of things, the Rietveld Schroder House is an innovatively designed home that was built in 1924. The interior of this house is changeable, allowing the residents to close off and open up entire floors by adding or removing walls. Some areas of the house could even be converted into outdoor living space.
Our next city is Leiden, only 27 miles from Amsterdam. Located to the southwest, this small city is home to many beautiful and inspiring attractions. Much of the 17th century architecture of Leiden is still intact, giving the city a simple, rustic feel. Only Amsterdam has more buildings from the 1600s. To reach Leiden from Amsterdam, drive on the A4 and follow signs along the way.
Windmills are an essential part of Dutch history, so you should make the effort to learn a bit about them on your trip. The Valk Windmill Museum in Leiden has a lot of information and artifacts for visitors to peruse. Another attraction to visit is the Netherlands' oldest university. The Universiteit Leiden is located on the outskirts of town and boasts attendees such as John Quincy Adams, Rene Descartes, and Albert Einstein. Thanks to the university population, the nightlife of Leiden is a big draw for tourists, as well.
Perhaps the most inspiring sight in Leiden, the Botanical Gardens is a great stop for people of all interests. The Garden was originally a private garden of Carolus Clusius, one of the most renowned botanists of the 1500s, though later it was opened to the public. Here you can view one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, if not the world. Flowers such as hyacinths, daffodils, and of course the tulips that the country is known for are grown at the garden. To see the flowers at their peak, visit in April and May. For travelers who are interested in American history, the American Pilgrim Museum offers information on some of the first settlers of the American colonies. Stop in to learn about the Dutch connection to the Americas.
Located about 37 miles from Amsterdam, The Hague is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the country, not to mention the most politically important. To reach The Hague from Amsterdam, you can follow the A4 south.
The Hague's history reaches back to 1230, which means that the city has plenty of historical sites to visit. After the Second World War, The Hague grew into an international city and is now the home of the United Nations, as well as many other international organizations. Visitors can book tours of the city, and given that it can be quite busy, it is recommended that first-time travelers do so to make the most of their time. With a knowledgeable tour guide, you are sure to see all the highlights in a relatively short amount of time.
At the center of this historic city sits the seat of government, the Binnenhof. This conglomeration of buildings dates back to the medieval period. The Ridderzaal has, over the centuries, served the city as a manorial hall, a hospital ward, and a public records office, to name a few. The Gothic spires of the Ridderzaal are an impressive feat of engineering that is astounding to behold. Nearby, the Court Pond serves as a peaceful rest area for politicians and other inhabitants of the city. The water fowl that live in the pond come in many different colors and varieties.
The city also boasts a good number of museums. For example, the Mauritshuis Museum holds some of Rembrandt's best art, as well as that of Hans Holbein. On the outskirts of town, visitors will find Madurodam, one of the most unique experiences in the Netherlands. This 1:25 scale model of the city will keep you busy for hours on end.
Just 39 miles from Amsterdam lies the small city of Delft, minutes from The Hague. This culturally rich city is a great place to stay for your tour of the Netherlands. To reach Delft from Amsterdam, you can take the A4, following signs to Delft once you're near The Hague.
As is typical of Dutch cities, Delft was built around a complex canal system. The name of the city actually derives from these canals - Delft is a derivative of the Dutch word for "delving." Visitors will want to walk among the many medieval buildings that line the streets of the city. Old Church, New Church, Oostport, and the Prinsenhof are all worth a visit, if you are interested in history. To the east of Delft lies the nature preserve of Delftse Hout; here visitors can stretch their legs and take part in some of the water sports available on the lake. Bikes can also be rented for those who would like to get in some exercise as they tour the park.
Our second to last city is famous for the cheese that is made in the area. Gouda, only 45 miles from Amsterdam, has a lot to offer travelers. You can take the A12 from the A2 to reach Gouda from Amsterdam.
The Van der Goude family founded the city of Gouda in the Middle Ages along the bank of the river there. Attractions of interest line the streets of this historic city. Case in point, the Stadhuis is a 15th-century city hall, one of the oldest Gothic city halls in the Netherlands. The Church of St. John, or in Dutch Sint Janskerk, is the longest cathedral in the Netherlands, famed for its stained glass. The church has been a long-time tourist attraction, drawing crowds since the 17th century.
Built in 1667, the Waag (weigh house) was built to weigh the goods that came into the city. Inside is a cheese museum where visitors can learn more of the history of the different varieties of cheese from the Netherlands. During the summer months, a cheese market is held every Thursday. If you're in town, this is something that you don't want to miss. You will be able to see one of the few remaining traditional cheese markets in the country and witness how business used to be done by the town. Make sure that you try a Dutch Stroopwafel, a local treat that originated in the 18th century.
The final city on our list is also the farthest from Amsterdam. About 130 miles and two hours from Amsterdam, Maastricht is not the most easily accessible city in the country, but it is one of the most interesting. Follow the A2 south from Amsterdam to reach the last city on the tour.
As one of the oldest cities in the country, Maastricht is guaranteed to have plenty of historical sites for travelers to visit. During the Carolingian period, Maastricht was the center of trade and commerce for the empire. Saint Servatius' Basilica is a beautiful example of a Romanesque church. Built at a much later date, the Gothic Sint-Janskerk gives visitors a chance to walk among a truly medieval church. The fortifications of the medieval city are also still standing. Among the best areas of the wall to visit are the Helpoort (literally Hell's Gate) and the Waterpoortje.
No matter your preferences, one of the cities on our list is sure to give you a great place to stay during your visit to the Netherlands. You could probably dedicate a week of exploration to each of these cities, though a tour of all seven can also be done in the same time by focusing on only the most magnificent aspects of each. The only way to do this efficiently and cost effectively is to rent your own car, because public transportation is not as reliable or as inexpensive. You can have it all when you visit these cities from the comfort of your own rental car. So what are you waiting for? Book your rental car today, and you will be on your way to a fun, memory-filled trip that you won't soon forget.
|All Road Trips||Germany Road Trips||Netherlands Road Trips||Spain Road Trips|
|Austria Road Trips||Ireland Road Trips||Portugal Road Trips||Switzerland Road Trips|
|France Road Trips||Italy Road Trips||Scandinavia Road Trips||UK Road Trips|