There is more to the Netherlands than its wonderful capital. Once you have explored Amsterdam, get out and explore the country with some easy day trips that are fun for the whole family!
Amsterdam is great for a city break – stroll around the heritage canal ring, see the marvelous art and architecture, indulge in the cafes and food scene, relax in parks on a bright, sunny day. And then consider these day trips from Amsterdam to explore – the old town of Den Haag, the magical Efteling theme park, the car-free village of Giethoorn, the opulent Kasteel de Haar, the scenic Kinderdijk, the famous Keukenhof Gardens, the island of Schiermonnikoog, and the lovely village of Zaanse Schans.
About 1 hour from Amsterdam sits the beautiful, old town of Den Haag (also referred to as ‘The Hague’). It’s one of the most interesting day trips you can take from Amsterdam city.
Den Haag is the third largest city the in the Netherlands, but it doesn’t have the huge crazy city atmosphere. It’s a relaxed place to be and very safe. It is the city where the royal family lives, and where the government functions.
You can get around the city very easily. Public transportation is awesome, bikes are widely used, and walking is also encouraged. You can spend time walking through cobbled streets looking at the amazing, historic architecture of the city. While exploring, keep an eye out for little historic courtyards called hofjes. They used to be almshouses, and it is fun to peek inside.
One of the best places to be in Den Haag is the Scheveningen beach.
The pier and boardwalk are the best in the Netherlands. It’s packed with activities for all to enjoy in the summer. There isn’t much going on in the winter, but it’s still a nice place to stroll the coast.
One of the most famous buildings is the International City of Peace and Justice. It was designed by a French architect in the Neo-Renaissance style and is a building to admire. You can tour the inside on the weekends and learn about the ins and outs of the building.
The Binnenhof is another great place to see. It’s a 13th-century castle where the cabinet meets. It is the oldest Parliament House in use in the world and has a variety of historic structures for different ministries. There are also a variety of great museums to explore. Most notably is the Mauritshuis which houses The Girl With The Pearl Earring.
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Efteling Theme Park
Everyone knows about the famous Disney Amusement parks around the world. But they are expensive and you need more time to explore them as a family. Luckily, only a day trip away from Amsterdam, the Netherlands has THE best theme park in Europe!
Efteling Theme park is 2 hours by train and bus from Amsterdam. The Efteling is a perfect outing for families with young children and older children.
This fairytale amusement park is built on magic. It is covered with a sauce of nostalgic charm, based on true legends and ancient fairy tales.
The park has rides for the little ones, like the Pandadroom and the Fairy Tale Forest. But older children will love the Flight of Dreams and the Fata Morgana or Villa Volta. The park is also packed with a bunch of outdoor and indoor roller coasters so it is a perfect day trip for the whole family!
I’ve been going to the Efteling my whole life and I know the park like my own backyard. As young kids, we’d hang around in the playground and walk in the Fairy Tale Forest or dance to the theme of the Carnival Festival. As we grew older, we screamed our lungs out at the roller coasters like the Phython or the Flying Dutchmen.
The park is open year-round, so you can even have a great day trip from Amsterdam in winter! Everything is decorated with snow and magic lights. You can warm yourself by the campfires or enjoy a skate at the biggest indoor skating ring in the Netherlands!
If you have more time, you can also stay overnight at the Efteling Hotel. You can book a Cinderella room or the Snow White Suite!
Read more about Efteling in this 101 Guide to the Efteling Theme Park.
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Have you ever heard about the Dutch Venice?
No? It’s about time.
Giethoorn is a car-free village perfect to have some good time with your family! Escape from the frenetic Amsterdam and enjoy a day-trip in this rural side of the country.
Imagine sailing on a boat with your family through this sweet small town, which is only accessible by bike or boat, and is full of houses that are over 200 years old.
This mythical village offers a peaceful destination to relax for a day or even to spend a very pleasant weekend.
In Giethoorn, you can rent a little boat yourself and navigate through whatever route you choose in the village. You will see many gorgeous farmhouses, cows in the meadows and several restaurants by the water’s edge.
Take the opportunity to have lunch in one of those restaurants and enjoy the view or stroll along the canals as you can take a closer look at the place. The colorful houses, neatly organized gardens, and adorable canals are absolutely enchanting!
Depending on the season in which you go there, it can be crowded. The warmer the weather is, the more people will travel there. And remember, Giethoorn is a small village, so it doesn’t need thousands of tourists to get full. Therefore, if you can, go during the week or spend a night and enjoy the peaceful evenings this idyllic small town offers.
In addition, take a look at the Museum Giethoorn. This is a living museum showcasing a 19th-century farmhouse with costumed actors. Such a lovely place! If you’re traveling with kids, I’m sure they will love it!
Giethoorn is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of big cities, and you will certainly have a deeper experience of the Dutch culture. Go see it for yourself, Giethoorn won’t disappoint you.
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Kasteel de Haar
If you are looking for a magical day trip outside of Amsterdam, look no further than Kasteel de Haar. Located just 30 km from Amsterdam outside the neighboring city of Utrecht sits a beautiful castle for you to feast your eyes on and tour inside.
Kasteel de Haar dates back to 1381, but it wasn’t until 1892 when it got an opulent facelift from Baron Etienne van Zuylen. He inherited the property from his wife Baroness Helene de Rothschild, who paid for the renovation. They dreamed of creating the most extravagant building in the Netherlands and were successful in their endeavor, building a castle that was even more luxurious than the royal palaces at the time.
During its heyday, Kasteel de Haar played host to the world’s elite, including the British royals, and dozens of Hollywood stars including Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins.
Visit Kasteel de Haar and see some of its 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms to get a glimpse of what the luxe life was like back when it played host to the rich and famous.
Kasteel de Haar is a perfect trip for adults and children alike, guests of all ages are delighted by the grandiosity of this castle. Make sure to book your tickets online ahead of time, and when you visit, be sure to speak to the guides in every room who will gladly explain the history to you in English.
Kasteel de Haar is easily reached by car from Amsterdam in about 30 minutes. You can travel by public transport as well. Departing from Amsterdam Central Station, you can take the Intercity train to Utrecht where you will transfer to a Sprinter train to Vleuten. From Vleuten you can take Bus 111 to Kasteel de Haar.
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A day trip to Kinderdijk should not be missed when visiting the Netherlands. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to 19 beautiful working windmills, all built in 1740.
A popular place for tourists and locals, you can find yourself easily spending the whole day here. Buy your entrance tickets and book yourself on a walking, boat or the classic authentic horse tram in advance for a tour past each windmill.
Suitable for all, it’s also a great place to explore a real working windmill, learning the technology that has kept the Netherlands from not getting flooded.
To walk here makes you feel Dutch, so immerse yourself in the nature of the flat open landscape and take your time to enjoy the views.
Kinderdijk is easy to get to with a car or public transport, but what I recommend is renting bikes in Rotterdam and arriving by the Waterbus boat that takes you straight there within 20 minutes. You can explore so much more by cycling the beautiful pathed cycle route to the end and back, counting the windmills as you go. You can also take a picnic or stop at one of the local restaurants or cafe for a delicious lunch afterward.
The best weather to visit is when the sun is shining, but a cloudy day is also worth visiting here. If you are a big fan of photography, arrive here for sunrise and you will be greeted with the best sunrise in a long time. Of course, weekends will be busier here, especially in the summer months, so go on a weekday if you can.
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Keukenhof Gardens are world famous for their display of tulips in bloom. This is one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam in the spring.
One of the largest flower gardens in the world, Keukenhof is located outside Lisse, a town 23 miles south-west of Amsterdam. The surrounding area is one of the best places to see tulip fields in the Netherlands, so it’s ideal if you can combine both a visit to the gardens and the colourful fields.
The gardens are only open in the spring, but I would recommend you do not visit on a weekend or bank holiday. It gets extremely busy, so the best time to visit is first thing in the morning during the week. And if you want to see the tulips in full bloom, the last two weeks of April are your best shot.
The flower displays in Keukenhof are truly spectacular. The sheer number of tulips (more than 7 million bulbs) and the bright colours will make anyone who doesn’t care much about flowers fall in love. It’s like a sea of multicolour!
Keukenhof is divided into a number of different gardens, but the most beautiful areas are around the pond and where the windmill is. And for an extra €8, you can take a boat cruise through the canals that surround the gardens, from which you can admire the tulip fields as you glide by.
It is a family-friendly day trip, as the gardens have a lot of activities for children, including treasure hunts and colouring sheets.
To get there, first get a bus to Schipol Airport and transfer to the 858 bus, the Keukenhof Express.
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Schiermonnikoog is the smallest of the five inhabited West Frisian Islands in the Netherlands (or “Waddeneilanden” in Dutch).
Its name is kind of a mouthful, but its compact size makes it just right for a short visit.
The island is accessible by a one-hour ferry ride from the port in Lauwersoog (about 2/3 hours by car from Amsterdam). Once you arrive, you can either catch a bus to the village, or in true Dutch fashion, rent bicycles for use during your stay.
I say the village because Schiermonnikoog only has one and home to fewer than 1000 residents—and hardly any cars. You’ll pretty much only see people walking or cycling, giving the island a very mellow, easygoing feel.
Though it’s rather quiet for most of the year, Schiermonnikoog is a popular getaway spot for the Dutch during the summer months. Stroll through the charming village center (only a couple of streets); cycle or walk to one of the island’s two beautiful old lighthouses; visit the Wassermann Bunker for a bit of World War II history; head to the beach and go for a swim in the Wadden Sea, or explore the sand dunes. Finish off your day relaxing at a beachside café as the sun goes down over the sea.
Schiermonnikoog takes about 3 hours to reach from Amsterdam, you’ll probably want to plan this for an overnight trip. But don’t worry: it’s well worth the travel time to experience this completely different side of the Netherlands.
Read more: Things to know when you visit Netherlands
Contributed by Emily Melcher | Em Dashed| Follow Emily on Instagram
Zaanse Schans is one of the loveliest villages I’ve ever encountered!
The most popular thing about this fairy-tale place are the windmills. You can even go in! But make sure you have comfy shoes, as the stairs are pretty narrow. There is a small entrance fee, but it is absolutely worth it – the view from the decks of the mills is just breathtaking.
If you’d like to get a closer look into the Dutch culture, you really need to see the wooden houses.
Nowadays there are very few wooden houses left in the Netherlands, but one man actually decided to “collect” them all in Zaanse. Right now about half of these houses are souvenir shops, while the other half are private houses.
There are a few things that are only available if you’re on a group tour. You can book a group tour from Amsterdam by bus. It would cost you about 30-40 euros per person – it’s a half day trip (though I would’ve loved to spend a whole day there!), so you can go either in the morning or in the afternoon.
So what can you see if you’re taking this half-day group trip from Amsterdam? Two very unique demonstrations!
The first one is how clogs are made. And believe me, this one is SO worth it! I am not sure I can truly describe the process, as it involves some very interesting machines, but basically, they start by using special wood that has been soaked. Afterward, they put the piece of wood in one machine, while an already-made clog in another machine.
And voila! The machine starts copying the clog. The most fun part comes at the end, but I’m keeping it a secret, so I don’t spoil it for you guys!
The second demonstration is about different types of cheese – YES, there is lots of yummy cheese in Zaanse Schans. A few girls in original costumes are participating and will tell you how they make cheese. You even get to try a few their varieties while you’re there!
I bought half a kilo of cheese back home, it was delicious!
Contributed by Rosie Kerrigan |Trips With Rosie| Follow Rosie on Instagram
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Have we missed out any exceptional day trip from Amsterdam, that you really enjoyed? Share with us in the comments below.
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