Touring the Netherlands! This was not my first time, it wasn’t even my second. My love affair with this small country began in 1988 as a part of a class project for my Travel & Tourism degree from Johnson & Wales University. We were supposed to head to Turkey but at the last minute, there was instability in their government and security risks. This meant Americans were not allowed to travel there or encouraged not to make it a destination. I think it was my fate to head to Nederland (as my Deutsch friends call it.)
Tourism students in college today make their way to Ecuador and Peru, a little more exotic , I know, but in 1988, a European tour was pretty cool. This trip also began my heartbeat for organizing and introducing groups to countries around the world.
Today I organize hosted tours to visit a lot of places and experience authentic, meaningful connections. This annual ADVENTURE to Holland introduces my travelers to this small but impressive country. Here are some suggestions to tour the Netherlands, Amsterdam and more!
One of the most common questions when visiting Amsterdam is how to get there? If you live in the EU, I always recommend driving. Here’s why ~ parking in AMSTERDAM is BY FAR cheaper on a daily basis than traveling around the country by train. It is one of the most expensive countries of train travel in the EU and although the drivers are a bit wonky, the roads are in great shape with good signage too and easy to understand.
Be sure to have an International Driver’s License while traveling here. Whether you are living here temporarily or visiting from the states. Easy to get at any AAA Travel office in America.
The train ~ Since it is a small country getting around by car is not that hard as the roads are in great shape. However, the train can be pretty expensive, unless you are staying in just one place, like AMSTERDAM. The three – DAY ticket is good for a short stay in just Amsterdam and is about €28.
Where to stay?
When researching “where to stay” in the Netherlands I recommend picking a central location. I typically DO NOT stay in Amsterdam central or the heart of the city. I recommend staying outside the city and making it a DAY TRIP. However, there are plenty of reasons to stay IN AMSTERDAM, just be aware it is quite €€€. Especially depending on the neighborhood you choose.
Remember the research for what you are looking for has pretty much done. The travel community of bloggers are mostly out there to HELP! It will just take time to research your particular needs.
THINGS to do! Some of my favorites
Canal Ride ~ if you have traveled a bit around Europe sometimes these can be a bit cheesy but I love taking the canal rides in AMSTERDAM. They are easy to pick up along the Amstel River near the RijksMuseum and if you time it well, you won’t have to wait too long.
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Visit the Markets ~
Albert Cuyp Market ~ one of the oldest and largest MARKETS in all of Europe this market began as a local market, then the wealthy joined in and found exotic merchandise and vendors in the late 1800’s
Waterloopein Market ~ is a flea market and locals market. I LOVE it too, because the merchandise ranges from clothing, to food specialties – CLOSED on Sundays!
Van Gogh Museum ~ if you like art, you’ll want to make this one a stop! DEFINITELY, pre-purchase your tickets, the daily line is L-O-N-G!
Rijks Museum – 2019 is the year of Rembrandt Celebration. Again the Netherlands is filled with many, many talented artists.
Just outside of Amsterdam ~ Keukenhof Gardens and I always love visiting these gardens every spring.
Since 1988 I can tell you visiting the Anne Frank House has changed so much.WOW! It’s almost unrecognizable today from our visit over 30 years ago. MY BIG TRAVEL TIP is BUY YOUR TICKET(s) EARLY! Like a year OUT! You may still have to wait once you arrive. My advice always is to book at the opening. Arrive early and you may avoid the long line. If this stop is in your itinerary know that it will involve a long wait and take up a great deal of your time in Amsterdam. It is unavoidable though for the size of the exhibit and keeping the historical infrastructure intact.
Before you finish your itinerary OR even pick your dates you may want to look at if and when a festival is taking place! I ALWAYS do this when I am building my itinerary. Sometimes picking dates are inevitable but sometimes you can time it so you are close by to a festival.
In Europe, Amsterdam and more dense cities have festivals almost every weekend somewhere. Whether Europeans celebrate the harvest of a new crop, a King’s Birthday in the Netherlands or the Flower Parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem you’ll want to catch one of these!
Be careful of BICYCLES!
In Amsterdam, bike trails are EVERYWHERE and a major form of transportation. ALWAYS look left and right before you cross the street and if you see a red path painted on the road, next to the sidewalk, LOOK for cyclists. Accidents happen all the time with tourists because they are busy looking at all the cool architecture and walking in the bike path. Bells are on most bikes, just be aware if you hear it coming… you better move.
Party! Party! AMSTERDAM
Heineken Factory Tour is one of the highlights in Amsterdam. Pre-purchase your tickets on-line before you go. They book up quickly and even with pre-purchased tickets you may wait.
So YES! You have heard about the “coffee shops” in Amsterdam. There are quite a few around town but they don’t quite offer coffee there, so don’t be looking for a cappuccino mid-afternoon, you’ll be surprised. Marijuana is not exactly “legal” to sell in Amsterdam but does fall under the tolerance law and you can smell it quite a bit as you walk the streets. If this is offensive to you, you may not want to spend a great deal of time walking in the hip districts around the Waterloopein district. Just be careful if you partake… Touring the Netherlands can be a lot of fun, but also a little bit of culture shock.
Also, the RED LIGHT district might be a bit much for young, tender eyes. You would need to head there intentionally, it is not on a normal tourist path. You can Google it to know exactly where it is and then avoid the area if you want. HA! I heard on this last trip they are ticketing tourists if you try and take selfies in front of the storefront. *So please don’t be that tourist.*
With so much to see in Amsterdam, it will be super hard to narrow it down if you don’t have a LOT of time. I would recommend grabbing a coffee or latte at one of the many cafes that line the canals and enjoy the hustle and bustle of this fantastic town.