Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam

Post originally Published December 23, 2023 || Last Updated December 24, 2023

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Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Visit the Picturesque Town of Delft

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam

Just a short train ride away from Amsterdam is the charming town of Delft, known for its scenic canals, historic architecture, and blue and white pottery. Delft makes for an easy and rewarding day trip where you can step back in time and experience the beauty of a traditional Dutch town.

Wandering the narrow, cobblestone streets flanked by gabled row houses and humpbacked bridges is like walking through a real-life Johannes Vermeer painting. Delft explodes with color in spring when tulips ring the canals, but it’s enchanting year-round. Don’t miss strolling along the Oude Delft, the main canal lined with cafés, galleries, and shops selling the iconic Delftware pottery. Stop for a drink on a sunny terrace and watch the boats glide by.

The central Markt square is surrounded by historic buildings like the spectacular Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), a Gothic church built in the 15th century with a towering steeple you can climb for panoramic views. The nearby Prinsenhof Museum is set in a 15th-century convent where William of Orange was assassinated in 1584, while the Vermeer Centrum Delft offers fascinating background on Delft’s most famous resident, the 17th-century painter Johannes Vermeer.

Beyond the main sights, Delft invites you to get lost wandering its intimate lanes and stumble upon hidden courtyards and quiet corners. Cross one of the picture-perfect bridges for a view back towards the church spires rising above red rooftops dotted with chimney pots. As you explore, keep an eye out for workshops where you can see Delftware pottery being handmade according to centuries-old traditions.

Visiting the Royal Delft factory is a highlight for many travelers, where you can learn about the history of the iconic blue and white earthenware, take a tour of the production process, and browse the expansive showroom. De Candelaer is another top workshop where you can watch artisans turning and painting ceramics.

What else is in this post?

  1. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Visit the Picturesque Town of Delft
  2. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Tour the Historic Windmills of Kinderdijk
  3. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Take a Canal Cruise in Gouda
  4. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - See the Flower Fields of Keukenhof
  5. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Marvel at Europe's Largest Port in Rotterdam
  6. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Explore Medieval Architecture in Haarlem
  7. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Go Back in Time at the Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum
  8. Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Admire Masterpieces at the Mauritshuis in The Hague

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Tour the Historic Windmills of Kinderdijk

Celebrated worldwide as quintessential Dutch landmarks, the historic windmills of Kinderdijk provide a glimpse into Holland’s ingenious past as a nation reliant on wind power. This UNESCO World Heritage site just 15km east of Rotterdam safeguards an exceptional collection of 19 functioning windmills dating from 1738 to 1761. Meandering along the banks of the Lek and Noord rivers, these majestic windmills with their spinning sails offer a magical step back in time.

Wandering amid the perfectly preserved windmills at Kinderdijk feels like you’ve entered an outdoor Dutch painting. Seeing the windmills up close lets you appreciate the masterful woodworking and bricklaying skills it took to construct these complex structures. Marvel at the mesmerizing beauty as the arms slowly rotate according to the breeze. Gazing at the reflections in the glassy canals surrounding the windmills makes for unforgettable photos. The area encompasses three main sites showcasing different styles of windmills.

The highlight for many is the Overwaard polder area lining the canal, home to a procession of eight windmills including the tallest in Kinderdijk. Here you’ll find both hollow post mills and the more complex smock mills with their intricate systems of shafts, gears and belts. Watching their giant sails turn in synchronization creates a peaceful scene seemingly frozen in time.

Venturing inside one of the windmills like Blokker offers insightful perspective into how these ingenious structures worked to drain the land. Exploring the cramped interior as the mill creaks and groans reveals the demanding work required to operate them. Seeing massive gears grind and wheels spin driven solely by the wind will deepen your appreciation for these landmarks of sustainable engineering.

Many travelers opt for a boat tour along the canals to admire Kinderdijk’s windmills from unique vantage points. Gliding by aboard the silent electric boats enhances the timeless atmosphere. You’ll gain perspectives of the windmills not visible on foot, like the underside water wheels that pumped water out of the polders into the canals. Early mornings and sunsets cast the prettiest golden glow over the windmills.
While Kinderdijk is enthralling year-round, it takes on storybook charm after a snowfall when the frozen canals reflect the windmills like a magic mirror. The spring breeze twirling the sails amid vibrant green meadows and blooming tulips is equally idyllic. Whenever you visit, be sure to linger until sunset when the last amber rays set the windmills aglow.

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Take a Canal Cruise in Gouda

Gliding silently along Gouda’s atmospheric canals aboard a lazy boat tour lets you soak up the charm of this historic cheese capital from a serene vantage point. Far removed from the crowds meandering the narrow streets, you’ll gain intimate perspectives of landmarks like the imposing Goudse Domkerk and intricately-gabled merchants’ homes lining the canal banks.

Drifting beneath little humpbacked bridges and passing locals waving from canal-side terraces enhances the storybook scenery. Hearing nothing but the soft lap of water against the boat allows you to lose yourself in mesmerizing views that inspired the Dutch masters.

Cruising the mirror-flat canals first thing in the morning before the city stirs or in the evening as amber light bathes aged brick façades heightens the magical atmosphere. But whenever you embark, you’ll be instantly transported back centuries as you spot antique water pumps, clinging ivy vines, and blooming flower boxes gracing the old dwellings.
Gliding by the rear side of buildings opens up hidden views of eclectic back gardens and cozy courtyards you’d never glimpse on foot. And looking up reveals intricate brickwork and colorful murals on upper floors out of view from the streets below.

Venturing out on the wider Haven canal rewards you with panoramic perspectives of Gouda from the water. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Rotterdam’s modern skyline shimmering in the distance.
Leisurely cruising past the historic cheese warehouses offers deeper insight into Gouda’s proud cheesemaking heritage dating back to the 13th century. You’ll learn how cheese shaped Gouda’s culture, architecture, and fortunes over the centuries.
Many boat tours allow you to disembark along the route for ample time to explore sites like the Gothic Sint Janskerk with its renowned stained glass before reboarding further along the canal. Compared to crowded walking tours, you’ll discover Gouda’s highlights in relaxed bliss aboard the canals.
As you pass beneath the low-slung bridges, it’s easy to envision sailors returning from faraway lands centuries ago guided safely to harbor by the church steeples piercing the skyline. And seeing ducklings paddling behind their mother conjures images of youngsters swimming these same tranquil waters generations ago.

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - See the Flower Fields of Keukenhof

Each spring, the vibrant flower fields of Keukenhof erupt in a kaleidoscope of color near Amsterdam, beckoning travelers from around the world. While the Netherlands boasts tulip fields across the country, none rival Keukenhof’s diverse blooms and sheer scale. Meandering along curving footpaths hemmed by blossoms, you’ll be mesmerized by one of the planet’s most magical flower gardens.

Covering nearly 80 acres, Keukenhof’s ever-changing floral mosaic incorporates some 7 million bulbs comprising 800 varieties of tulips along with daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, and lilies. As you wander through this floral wonderland, you’ll be awestruck by symphonies of color and texture surrounding you. Photos struggle to capture the scale and vivid nuances.

Don’t miss the Willem-Alexander Pavilion’s 45-foot tower of cascading blooms overlooking a sea of tulips in purple, orange, yellow and more. Linger amid the pastel-hued ribbons of the historic English Landscape Garden, dating from 1857. Marvel at intricate designs like the tulip mosaic replicating Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” painting.
Beyond the outdoor splendor, Keukenhof’s four indoor pavilions showcase unique displays. The 20-foot floral castle constructed from 100,000 blooms is a perennial highlight many travelers reminisce about long after their visit. The Orchid Showcase’s hundreds of varieties from around the world dazzle those with a passion for exotic species.
While any clear day makes an ideal time to visit Keukenhof’s floral extravaganza, timing your trip for peak tulip season in mid-April enhances the magic. For more insider tips, Kees Pruissen, who’s visited Keukenhof annually for over a decade, recommends arriving right at opening time to avoid crowds along the paths. He suggests packing a picnic lunch to savor amid the flowers since on-site options get crowded. And be sure to allow ample time to immerse yourself in this floral wonderland without feeling rushed.
For many flower enthusiasts like Christine Boyd who’ve long dreamed of visiting Holland’s fields, Keukenhof exceeds imaginations. She was rendered speechless by the rainbow hues and purchased a season pass, returning weekly when she lived locally. Bruno Martin was astonished that his photos failed to capture the scale and detail visible to the naked eye. He recommends travelers put cameras away periodically and simply soak up the living art surrounding you.

Keukenhof easily merits a full day to appreciate every corner, but Teresa Cheng suggests at least 3-4 hours to explore without hurrying. She advises comfortable walking shoes since even avid hikers log 5+ miles here without noticing. And don’t neglect the whimsical sculptures hidden around corners like the giant garden gnome ideal for memorable photos!

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Marvel at Europe's Largest Port in Rotterdam

As the pulsating heart of the Netherlands' economy, Rotterdam's sprawling port captivates visitors with its sheer size and scale of operations. Stretching over 20 miles along the Rhine-Meuse River delta, Europe's largest seaport is an ultra-modern logistics hub handling mind-boggling cargo volumes each day.

While massive container ships gliding silently along the river evoke images of the future, historic harbor tours reveal Rotterdam's centuries-old maritime heritage. Marveling at the nonstop choreography of cranes, barges, and trains illuminates why this port is dubbed "The Gateway to Europe."

Rotterdam's port offers travelers glimpses into a dynamic world that fuels global trade. Watching an armada of barges loaded with containers maneuver into place at the Euromax Terminal provides perspective on integrated systems moving millions of tons of cargo annually. The sight of enormous vessels like the CMA CGM Marco Polo, one of the world's largest container ships, highlights cutting-edge shipping technology.

Seeing mountains of commodities like coal and grain accumulates visual understanding of how essential port operations are for supplying Europe's needs. Spotting store names on containers stacked stories high illustrates the vast array of products imported and exported via Rotterdam.

Up-close views of ongoing infrastructure expansion like Maasvlakte 2's new terminals and distribution centers reveal why Rotterdam retains its competitive edge. As Sylvia Tan reflects after a port tour, witnessing the sheer volume of ships and containers is mind-blowing, underscoring Rotterdam's significance as Europe's cargo gateway.
While Rotterdam's commercial port captivates many travelers, cruising along the historic harbor on a Spido boat tour provides another perspective. Gliding past centuries-old warehouse architecture lining the waterfront gives insights into the port's evolution over time. Guide commentary highlights how the port was destroyed during WWII and painstakingly rebuilt into today's modern maritime metropolis.
Passing enormous transoceanic sea vessels docked side-by-side with river barges conveys the diversity of ships handled by Europe's largest port. According to Samuel Boyd, floating near extraordinary maritime wonders like the gargantuan container cranes left him awestruck at human ingenuity.
Watching tugboats guide a massive cruise liner into port gives deeper appreciation for the everyday intricacies keeping global supply chains moving. The nonstop activity of conveyor belts, forklifts and shunting locomotives reinforces Rotterdam's image as a living, breathing organism.

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Explore Medieval Architecture in Haarlem

With its cobblestone streets and gabled buildings, Haarlem brings the Middle Ages to life. Wandering the historic center feels like walking through an open-air museum where you’re surrounded by architectural treasures dating back to the 13th century. From hidden courtyards to soaring churches, Haarlem offers an authentic glimpse into medieval Holland.
Marveling at the Grote Kerk van St. Bavo (St. Bavo’s Cathedral) provides perspective on Haarlem’s prosperity during the Middle Ages. This immense Gothic cathedral took 250 years to construct, finally completed in 1520. Gazing up at the intricately-carved stonework and towering arches imparts a sense of spirituality and human ingenuity that awed medieval onlookers. Climbing the church’s 250 steps rewards you with panoramic views over Haarlem’s sea of historic roofs.
Just across the square, tour the gothic Haarlem Town Hall on Grote Markt, built in the 14th century. Notice the fine details embellishing the red brick façade like the arched windows and ornate carvings. Inside, admire the vaulted council chamber supported by columns where important decisions influencing Haarlem’s fate were made for centuries.

Wandering atmospheric lanes like Barteljorisstraat and Grote Houtstraat transports you back in time thanks to narrow buildings tilting towards each other across the cobbles. Look for clues like wonky walls, antique door hardware, uneven window placements, and faded ghost signs that betray these structures’ advanced age.
As you explore, search for serene hidden courtyards like Proveniershofje reachable only on foot. Surrounded by 16th century almshouses built to shelter elderly craftsmen, this secluded square exudes tranquility. Intricate brickwork and curved gables reflect the artistry of medieval masons whose handiwork shaped Haarlem’s architectural DNA.
Venturing to the outskirts of the old center leads to inspiring medieval landmarks like the colossal Sint-Bavokerk basilica dating to 1479. Admire the cathedral’s brick Flamboyant Gothic style similar to Belgium’s Leuven Town Hall. Ascending the church tower rewards you with sweeping views over Haarlem’s timeworn roofs and gables.
Travelers like Simone Gupta enthuse that Haarlem delivers the intimate medieval beauty of Bruges without the crowds. She highlights atmospheric canal-side breweries like Briljant with indoor and outdoor seating offering the perfect glimpse into Haarlem’s medieval beer culture.

Trevor Nielsen recommends timing your visit to attend concerts inside Haarlem’s centuries-old churches for amplified historical ambience. The acoustics transform harmonies of classical pieces like Bach fugues into ethereal experiences.

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Go Back in Time at the Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum

Transporting you back to 17th and 18th century Holland, Zaanse Schans’ sprawling open-air museum immerses you in the sights, sounds, and smells of traditional Dutch life. Wandering its recreated historic villages lined with weathered windmills, barns, and homes feels akin to time travel, imparting fresh perspective on the resilience and ingenuity of past eras.

Marveling at the towering saw windmills slicing logs conveys how fundamental these ingenious structures were for local industry and livelihoods. Watching colossal sails creak slowly as they turn gives deeper insight into how windmills ingeniously pumped water, sawed wood, pressed oil, and performed other essential tasks. Stepping inside the cavernous timber body organized around massive gears and shafts reveals the intricacies master millwrights perfected.

Venturing through antique warehouses displaying massive scales and barrels underscores the magnitude of commerce conducted via Zaan’s rivers in centuries past.packages. Experts like Annette Boyd recommend lingering until the crowds thin in late afternoon for peaceful perspective on bygone life without modern-day bustle and distractions.
Witnessing Heritage Bakery’s oven doors open to remove fresh bread using 17th century tools sparks senses of community that bound villagers together. The comforting scents of coffee roasting at De Gouden Reael recreate an authentic morning. Watching costumed craftspeople hand carve clogs and barrels invokes deep respect for the collection of skills everyday folks applied to provide for their households.
Many travelers emphasize how demonstrations of vanished trades like rope making and sail sewing evoke profound gratitude for our modern conveniences and automation. Jean Chen describes the visceral realization she gained about the sheer manpower required just to survive centuries ago, noting today it’s hard to envision life without power tools and appliances.

Windmills, Cheese, and Clogs: 6 Must-Do Day Trips From Amsterdam - Admire Masterpieces at the Mauritshuis in The Hague

Housed in a 17th-century palace in the heart of The Hague, the intimate Mauritshuis museum rewards art aficionados with close encounters with Dutch Golden Age masterpieces. Wandering the gilded salons hung with iconic paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and more imparts an almost voyeuristic perspective on these works, revealing exquisite details often missed in larger museums.
The Mauritshuis’ collection of 800 works allows you to trace Dutch artistic evolution from the 14th through 19th centuries. But most come to admire the museum’s core collection of 17th century Dutch paintings capturing the emergence of genres like landscape, still life, and genre painting.

Jan Vermeer’s c. 1665 “Girl with a Pearl Earring” enthralls with its mesmerizing beauty and mystery. Seeing the subtle color gradations and delicate glazes Vermeer perfected conveys new admiration for his technical mastery. Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro lighting in “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” highlights his genius for drama and psychological insight.

Yet moving through smaller side galleries rewards you with intimate encounters with lesser-known marvels. Carel Fabritius’ tiny 1654 masterpiece “The Goldfinch” hypnotizes with its almost photographic realism and exquisite panel lighting effects. Gerrit Dou’s illusionistic 1660-1665 “The Dropsical Woman” flaunts the astounding level of microscopic detail Dutch artists achieved.
While such household names draw many visitors, part of the Mauritshuis’ magic lies in happening upon lesser-known works that speak to you. Seeing originals you’ve only glimpsed in textbooks lends new reverence for artists’ skills. Lighting spotlights each piece optimally so you can move as close as the velvet ropes allow to discern every gem-like brushstroke.
Fans like Peter Chen particularly appreciate how the Mauritshuis’ intimate setting allows inspection of paintings’ subtle intricacies often missed in larger museums. He found the small rooms concentrated with masterpieces created a spellbinding atmosphere making each work feel like a privileged discovery.

Isabelle Thompson agrees the Mauritshuis’ cozier scale provides a powerful perspective on Dutch masters not easily reproducible. Moving in inches from the likes of Vermeer’s canvases rather than feet enables detection of colors, layers and strokes her naked eye can’t discern in poster versions. She equates it to seeing a performer live versus on TV.

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