The first time I have ever been to the Netherlands was last year. My partner got an internship in Amsterdam for 6 months so I was regularly visiting, spending a lot of time here. Finding an apartment in Amsterdam seemed to be a mission impossible, regarding all the scammers we had to face and due to sky-rocking prices we decided to look for accommodations outside of Amsterdam but within a reasonable distance. This is how we came across Zandvoort. The name had a fling to it, it was directly at the beach (which I must say was a big plus at the time) and it was 35 minutes away from Amsterdam Centraal station.
The beach was beautiful and great but the town itself is really small and not much life going on there during off season so every time we had free-time, like weekends to spend together, we decided to travel to close by cities as much as we could. We made little one-day trips to places within 2 hours of car ride distance from the Amsterdam area to check out what this amazing country has to offer.
First of all, I would like to state that I have never thought about visiting the Netherlands before I ‘had to’. Since I had absolutely no expectations, I was very surprised by all the beauty that we experienced. I have never seen so much green, the trees are absolutely stunning not to mention the emerald colored, endless fields connecting towns and cities and farms to one another.
These places are perfect destinations to spend a day!
So, here is a list of my all-time favorite Dutch towns and places to see!
Delft is an amazing yet typical Dutch city with all the romantic canals in the city with origins that date back to the 13th century. This town is old yet lively, like a little jewelry box in between Rotterdam and Dan Haag. It is most famous about the Delftware, which is a typical blue ceramic or pottery, but there is the Johannes Vermeer museum which is absolutely stunning however it doesn’t exhibit real paintings. If you are just up for a few hour walk and then enjoy a nice coffee at a café Delft is a great place to be!
Alkmaar is one of my favorite cities so far in the Netherlands. I don’t know what but this place has an absolutely unique and very friendly atmosphere. It has everything that a typical Dutch town can offer, but somehow it is just very close to my heart. Oh by the way, did I mention that Alkmaar is the city of cheese? Yes! That’s right! If you would like to get to know the exact dates when the cheese market is on, check out this website: https://www.kaasmarkt.nl/en/2017-dates-cheesemarket/.
If you don’t get excited about cheese you still should go and enjoy this romantic town with the awesome restaurants and bars along the canals. I also love the architecture and I found some of my favorite buildings here.
Hoorn is very special, especially because of all the unicorns (the coat of arms) everywhere in the city! I really love unicorns, I have mugs and t-shirts (that I only wear at home) with unicorns so it was easy for me to get to like Hoorn as well. In the Golden age, Hoorn was a major harbor town in the Netherlands and Cape Hoorn (the most southerly point of the Americas) and the Hoorn Islands also got their names of this very peculiar little town. It is at the Zuiderzee which is now a fresh water lake and not part of the Northern Sea anymore. This city absolutely kept its glory. The harbor is very nice there and the nearby park is also a great location to just relax. The city’s architecture is breath taking, especially the Hoofdtoren (the Head Tower) at the harbor.
Zandvoort aan zee and Egmond aan Zee
I have decided to mention these two towns in one take since they are very similar. Both Zandvoort and Egmond are definitely places for people who love the beach and the sand. I tried to go to the water once but for me, it was awfully cold. I honestly admire every person who had no issues (even kids, small kids!) who went for a swim or to play in the water. Even though I couldn’t enjoy the sea itself, the beach of Zandvoort, for instance, has a lot to offer. There are plenty of bars, restaurants on the beach and most of them have very good food and all vegetarians, fish-lovers, meat-lovers, and vegans can find something on the menus. The cocktails and the beers are cold and the sun is shining. In good weather to relax on the beach, both places are great.
Moreover, if someone is as attracted by nature as I am and likes to hike, the national parks next to the sea offer a great opportunity to walk in between the dunes where wildlife is thriving. I have never been there without seeing wild animals. There is a part where you can also walk your dog and that for free, but if you would like to go to the parts where the wild animals are mainly, then you have to pay for the entry into the park. Check it out here: http://www.np-zuidkennemerland.nl/299/en
Naarden is a snowflake shaped fort. The town itself is tiny, but to walk around it is a wonderful Sunday thing to do. We have also been there on a Sunday for our Sunday Funday and we haven’t regretted it all! This place is not full of tourists; it is a perfect little hide away with lovely restaurants and bars, a cute city center and a great park-like moat to walk around. Moreover, Naarden is hosting the bi-annual Naarden Photo Festival and if you visit around Easter, you have the chance to listen to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion in the St. Vitus Church.
I hope you will enjoy all these places as much as I did. I know there is still a lot to see and there are places that I am extremely excited to visit! This country is absolutely beautiful and won my heart over!