Amsterdam is one of Europe's most poorly-kept travel secrets, with 15 million tourists having visited the city of 800,000 in 2013 alone. It's hard to find someone not already sold on the charms of Holland's most ubiquitous tourist destination, but what many visitors fail to realize is that being in Amsterdam places the rest of the Netherlands within easy reach. Taking any of these three day trips from Amsterdam makes a great start
Delft has all the bikes, canals and row houses of Amsterdam, without any of its big city pomp and circumstance. Centered around a 15th-century city hall and a 13th-century church, Delft is not only one of the most quintessentially Dutch towns in the Netherlands, but even makes an attractive alternative base.
Places to stay in Delft, from hotels, to hostels, to Airbnb apartments, tend to be a great deal cheaper than hotels in Amsterdam, whose frequent, short train service to Delft makes it one of the easiest day trips to take, in either direction. Or, to flip this idea on its head even more, you could actually stay in Delft and take day trips to Amsterdam instead!
When you think of The Hague, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the International Criminal Court, or some high-profile case it's recently heard. What you might not realize is that The Hague, known in Dutch as "Den Haag," is home to the Dutch Royal Ramily, which you might also not realize still exists.
Although central Binnenhof square boasts structure built between the 13th and 19th century, the most interesting architecture in the Hague is its many (for the Netherlands, anyway) high rise buildings, which are quite a rarity in this low-lying country. The Hague is also the closest Dutch city to Scheveningen, the country's most popular beach resort and a charming spot any time of the year.
The Dutch didn't particularly secure their place in the historical canon until the late middle ages, which is just one reason the city of Utrecht, which was founded in 47 AD by Roman emperor Claudius, might surprise you, especially given what a modern vibe this student-filled city tends to give most days of the week.
Of course, modern times are the last thing on your mind as you explore De Dom, a 13th-century gothic church which took more than 200 years to build, or the dozens other old churches, houses and other buildings that dot the historical center of Utrecht. Utrecht also possesses a great deal of modern charms, from quaint cafés, to eclectic music stores and performance venues, to gastronomy from all around the world.
Few places in the Netherlands are more traditionally Dutch than Kinderdijk, which consists of several 17th-century windmills rising over a low-lying plain that, in any other country in the world, would long ago have been reclaimed by the sea. If you happen to visit in the spring months of April or May, many of the nearby fields will be covered in tulips, a coincidence that will make you feel as if you've stepped into a Dutch daydream of sorts.
Even more Dutch is the fact that you can take a boat all the way there, once you reach the southern city of Rotterdam anyway, which is also a great option for a day trip from Amsterdam – there are, in case you haven't noticed, a lot of them.
Choose Your Own Adventure
The whole of Holland, whose cultural, architectural and historical richness belies its tiny geographical footprint, is quite literally at your fingertips when you stay in Amsterdam. While you could easily spend your entire time in The Netherlands exploring its capital city, but one way to transcend the typical tourist trip is to stay two or three days in Amsterdam, then take one – or all of! – these day trips to fully round out your experience. You can even travel to nearby countries like Belgium and Luxembourg if you find yourself with itchy feet while in the Netherlands.