Not only does the city of Amsterdam has a ton to offer, it is also close to a number of amazing places. We did each of these places here while in Amsterdam and did not have to change hotels (Airbnb) for the five nights we were there. Within a short train ride, these towns are great candidates for a day trip!
Getting there: 25 minutes via intercity train from Amsterdam Central Station (southeast of Amsterdam)
Utrecht is a university town southwest of Amsterdam. The ancient city centre features historical buildings and religious structures dating as far back as the 12th century. With one of the oldest and largest universities (Utrecht University), the city also offers an array of cafes and restaurants catered to students and visitors along the canals.
The most unique feature of Utrecht is the impressive curved canal structure in the inner city. We really enjoyed renting a pedal boat (for €9.50 per person for 1.5 hours), which fits 4 people and can be ridden by two people at a time. Not only did canal biking give us a nice little workout, it was wonderful to explore the canals at your own pace without walking (and so many photo ops)!
Cityscape defined by the Dom Tower of the cathedral.
Canal pedal bike
Canal in Utrecht
Facade of Utrecht Dom
Water-repellent cover of canal bike came in handy when it rained for a bit
2) The Hague (Dan Haag)
Getting there: 50-60 minutes via intercity train from Amsterdam Central Station (southwest of Amsterdam).
To most of us, The Hague is the most well known for its international organizations, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations. Unlike many other famous Dutch cities, The Hague does not have any inner city canals, but rather features both small streets and spacious streets in various parts of the city center. Mauritshuis in The Hague is regarded as one of the best museums in the Netherlands, featuring Dutch Golden Age painters, Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Binnenhof is an impressive complex of buildings in the city center, where the Dutch parliament, the office of Primer Minister and other important government offices, are located. We just walked right in to the inner court. We enjoyed taking a stroll down along the man-made Hofvijver lake right outside of Biinnenhof. Bonus: If somehow you are carving Cantonese food, Kee Lun Palace in Chinatown in the Hague obviously offers the best dim sum in all of the Netherlands (Steven, my friend who lives in Groningen, was super excited to get quality dim sum there after almost two years.)
Binnenhof entry gate
Hofvijver Lake outside of Binnenhof
Peace Palace in the Hague
The most beautiful building a Burger King can possibly be in
My friend and dim sum in the Hague
Getting there: It takes about 15 minutes (by train) to 35 minutes (by bus number 1) to get to Delft from The Hague
Located only a stone’s throw from the Hague, Delft is most well known for its Delft Blue pottery. In the historic town center, dozens of shops display the beautiful blue and white pottery, inspired by Chinese porcelain imported by the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th century. Much like other Dutch towns, Delft has a notable collection of churches and canals.
As luck would have it, we visited Delft on a Sunday, and was pleasantly surprised by the outdoor market in the Marktplein plaza. Dozens of vendors selling accessories, fruits and souvenirs, along with many open shops and outdoor cafe, make for a vibrant community and a fun place to spend an afternoon.
Delft town hall
Delft Blue pottery
Canals in Delft
My friend Steven enjoying a cup of Cappuccino in Marktplein
4) Leiden / Sassenheim / Lisse
Getting there: 25 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station with the Sprinter train (southwest of Amsterdam). It takes about 1 hour to ride from Leiden to Lisse (~15km).
We visited these areas mainly to check out smaller towns in South Holland, as well to see the blooming tulips in April. Leiden, where we started, is a suburban town easily accessible by the Sprinter train, and the only place out of the three where we could find bike rental shop. We slowly cycled through Sassenheim, a small cute town, to get to the impressive tulip fields in Lisse.
The combination of an awesome bike ride and a fantastic view of tulip fields has made this day one of my favorites in the Netherlands. Nowhere else in the world have better bike lanes than the Netherlands — not only are they safe and spacious, they are also beautiful and take your across cities with ease and comfort. And the tulip fields? Absolutely stunning!
Renting our bikes from Bison Bike Company in Leiden
Cycling through Leiden
Stroopwafels in Sassenheim
Tosti: two slices of bread, by default with cheese and ham in between
Rows and rows and rows of tulips
Want to befriend some Alpacas along the ride?
5) Zaanse Schans
Getting there: 30 minutes from Amsterdam Sloterdijk Station (northwest of Amsterdam)
Zaanse Schans features a unique collection of traditional wooden houses and, mostly notably, restored windmills. While there were hundreds of windmill in the area, only 13 of them remain today. Some of the windmills are operating to support industry, including a paint and dye mill, two sawmills and two oil mills.
I enjoyed taking in the view of the windmills while sipping a fresh cup of hot chocolate in this lovely part of Holland. The village is a charming, relaxing place offering a picturesque view of the countryside. While touristy, this area isn’t excessively crowded, so it offers an opportunity to take a leisure stroll down the park, sample some fresh cheese, and visit cute shops (that are not too tacky). Bonus: The first grocery store of Albert Heijn (which is everywhere in the Netherlands) also started here.
Traditional Dutch houses
First Albert Heijn grocery store
If you are getting bored in Amsterdam, be sure to check out one of the few places here. Of the 5 places recommended, I love Utrecht and Sassenheim the most, as these two places are uniquely Dutch and are not too touristy.
Have you been to other places around Amsterdam that should be added to this list of day trip destinations?