Amsterdam is within easy reach of countless incredible places, so why not head out of the city on a day trip? From traditionally Dutch days out sightseeing windmills, sampling cheese and soaking up history to theme parks and bike rides through lush greenery, these are the very best day trips from Amsterdam.
Despite being the largest city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam takes up just 84 square miles of land, which means you can bike across the city in less than an hour. While it’s crammed with a surprising number of things to see and do, if you’re planning to stay longer than a weekend you might want to look further afield and book a day trip or two.
Windmills at the Zaanse Schans (includes Volendam and Marken)
When you think of the Netherlands, you probably conjure pictures of windmills, clogs and Dutch cheese in your mind – so why not see them in real life? On this day trip, you’ll head to the iconic Zaanse Schans windmills and then onto the quaint fishing villages of Volendam and Marken. Stops en route include a visit to a wooden shoemaker and a traditional Dutch cheese farm. Plus, you’ll get a free one-hour Amsterdam canal cruise that you can take any time during your stay.
Only open for a short window of time (March to May) each year, this is where you will witness more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in bloom. Used in the 15th century as a game reserve and herb garden for the kitchen of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, it’s from this that the name Keukenhof (kitchen garden) originates. Spanning 32 kilometres of land, you’ll find windmills and endless winding paths through beautiful gardens to explore.
In less than three hours, you can travel from Amsterdam to the city of Bruges in Belgium. This trip includes a guided tour around this World Heritage Site to discover the history of the country and take in the city’s sights and monuments. You’ll see the famous Burg Square, the Church of Our Lady (where the Madonna of Bruges, masterpiece of Michelangelo, can be found), St Salvator’s Cathedral, the Ten Wijngaerde Beguinage (today a Benedictine convent) and more. You’ll then have a few hours to eat, shop and do more sightseeing before heading back to Amsterdam.
For outdoorsy types, this five-hour guided canoe trip takes you north of the city to Waterland, home to twee time-warp villages, charming waterways and lush greenery. Enjoy a picnic of local foods and, weather-permitting, an outdoor swim, so be sure to pack your swimming attire. Groups are limited to 10 people, and it’s a lovely way to escape the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam’s city centre.
A day trip for families, thrill seekers and big kids, you’ll head to the largest theme park in the Netherlands, Efteling. Opened in 1952, the park is inspired by myths and legends, fairytales, fables and folklore. In fact, legend has it that Walt Disney was inspired to open Disneyland after visiting Efteling. The park is open all year round and boasts seasonal entertainment, breathtaking roller coasters, water rides and plenty of attractions for smaller children, too.
If there was an award for the quaintest village in the Netherlands, Giethoorn would be in the running. This trip takes you on a boat that meanders down sleepy canals and a walk passed quaint thatched-roof houses, while a guide tells you about the history of the area. The ticket price will get you transportation, the boat trip, the walking tour and guide, but food and drinks are not included.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wadden Sea is the largest tidal flats system in the world, extending along the coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. On this seven-hour trip, you’ll travel from Amsterdam to the very north of the Netherlands, where you’ll be on the lookout for seals and various species of birds (Wadden Sea is an avian hot spot). You’ll then head to Harlingen, a nearby fishing village, before finishing up at the famous dike between Noord-Holland and Friesland.
If cheese is your thing, then this two-part cheese market tour, spread over two days, is for you. On Thursday morning, you’ll head south to Gouda’s cheese market, and on Friday you’ll venture north to Alkmaar’s cheese market, which has been trading since 1365. The mornings are spent perusing the cheeses and getting an insider perspective from your guide, then, come the afternoon, you can venture off for a bit of sightseeing.
Cycling in the city can be daunting, so why not head out to the calm of the countryside? This tour kicks off at Central Station, and from there you will cycle passed quaint villages, farms and canals. You’ll learn how the locals manage land reclaimed from the water, plus there are plenty of stops for photo opportunities, like the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands.
The first stop on this tour is the National Park De Hoge Veluwe, a breathtaking landscape comprised of sand dunes, woodland and heathland and plenty of wildlife like deer, boar and mouflon. Nestled inside the park is the Kröller-Müller Museum, home to the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world with almost 90 paintings and 180 drawings, alongside masterpieces by Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. The sculpture garden, one of the largest in Europe, is where you’ll find pieces by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. A guide will show you around before you are given time to explore at your own pace.
This two-part day trip starts in Amsterdam with a walking tour. A guide will talk you through the Nazi occupation and liberation, giving you an insight as to what it was like in the city at that time. After some free time at lunch, you’ll be driven to Camp Vught National Memorial (known as Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch during the war) where you will see how the prisoners lived and get a chance to visit the memorials commemorating those who died.
Travel by train from Amsterdam Central Station to Enkhuizen, where a boat will be waiting to take you to the 15-acre open-air museum. Step back in time and visit authentic buildings from the former Zuiderzee region. You’ll be able to visit the church, a fish-curing shed, a mill, a cheese warehouse, as well as shops and dwelling houses. Head to Marker Harbor and assist the craftspeople making nets, lend the housemaids a hand or chat to the ‘inhabitants’ of the former island of Urk. The indoor museum is packed with interesting exhibits about the history of the surrounding area and boasts the largest collection of wooden ships in the Netherlands. Your train ticket is valid for return travel until midnight, so there’s time for dinner before you head back.