If you’ve seen all of Amsterdam’s sights, discover the city’s surroundings too. You can be part of plenty of different experiences in less than 30 minutes, from windmills to the famous tulip fields, and experiences on the coast of the North Sea. Let’s see what colorful programs are awaiting you in the neighborhood of Amsterdam.
Discover the old Dutch windmills
Not a visit to the Netherlands or to Amsterdam can be complete without windmills. The Zaanse Schans open air museum lies 15 kilometers from Amsterdam, which is the most visited sight of not only the area, but also the Netherlands. Beside the wooden houses evoking the original Dutch countryside, the most interesting features of the place is the eight, wonderfully refurbished windmills. Most of the buildings are original, a lot of them was transplanted here from other regions of the Netherlands in the 1970’s. The historical village ensures us a glance into the countryside life of the Dutch in the 16th-18th century, and is a great insight to the Netherlands’ industrial heritage, when the area surrounding river Zaan was the center of linseed oil, paint, paper and mustard production. Beside strolling around or boating on the canal, you can get to know how oils or cheese were made. The open air museum is only 20 minutes from Amsterdam’s central station by train (to the direction of Alkmaar). From the station, a free map shows the way through the 5-10 minutes walking trail until the village.
For the lovers of sea history
The Bataviawerf museum standing close to Lelystad dockyard takes you back to the golden age of the Dutch sea history, when the Dutch Eastern-Indian Association almost monopolized the Eastern spice trade in the first part of the 17th century. The perfect copy, concordant to the original notorious Batavia commercial sail – which wrecked and sank on its first trip – awaits visitors in its 17th century arrayment. One of the battleships of the Dutch fleet is being constructed on the same spot, the “De 7 Provincien” which took part in plenty of battles led by Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. This 17th century battleship reconstruction is one of the biggest historical ship building projects in the world. With the lack of technical drafts, they construct the battleship with 80 bronze cannons by contemporary paintings and descriptions. And in the wood-carver and rope maker workhouses and smitheries, you can take a glance at the finesse of ship building.
And if you are truly a ship lover, don’t miss SAIL Amsterdam, the biggest historical ship exhibition and march held every 5 years (next time in 2020).
Haarlem, Amsterdam in small
Haarlem is the calmer and smaller version of Amsterdam, one of the most photogenic destinations in the Netherland. This classical Dutch town – with cobblestone streets, historical buildings, amazing churches, great museums, ambient bars, delicious cafés and canals – is just 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Thanks to its compactness, you can discover it with a one-day excursion as well, but it can easily enslave you for more days with its special atmosphere. If you arrive on Saturday morning, you can enjoy the most probably best market of the country in the historical heart of Haarlem, in the stem of the imposing Grote Kerkw.
Flower stock market – petals instead of numbers
Tulips, daffodils, roses, lilies, orchids – it’s a scent orgy. Here, even those not interested in numbers can be part of unforgettable experiences. Near the Schipol airport in Aalsmeer we find the biggest flower stock market in the world. Look behind the scenes, check out the process of auction and trading, as 10 millions of flowers change hands, in the value of millions of Euros, in just a few hours. At the Monaco-sized area computer-controlled robots and aprons ensure that the mesmerizing flower flush gets to the right place.
Flowers, as far as the eye sees
Tulips, together with cheese and wooden scuffers, are the emblems of Dutch culture. Every spring, the area South-Western from Amsterdam turns into a giant flower field. At Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse – also called Europe’s garden – 7 million daffodils, hyacinths and tulips bloom every year between March and May. But don’t miss the surroundings’ wonderful flower fields either. Bollenstreek, stretching 30 kilometers long between Haarlem and Leiden, is the primary flower growing area of the country, but actually anywhere you go during this season, roads are lined by colorful tulip fields.
flickr: Claudia Y. Ros
Enchanting castles right from a story-book
The Netherlands is probably less known from its fortresses and castles, but there are some, also close to Amsterdam, which will for sure leave you open-mouthed. A medieval castle like that – but feel free to call it a fairy tale caste – is Muiderslot. The fortress standing at the outfall of river Vecht was built around 1280. The castle surrounded by towers, a drawbridge, battlements and a ditch, is truly a perfect view. With its magical garden, it’s a great place for some nostalgia for all age-classes.
However, it has a competitor, the wonderfully romantic Dr Haar castle near Utrecht. The 14th century castle went through a serious restoration in the 19th century, led by Pierre Cuypers, the famous architect of the Rijksmusem. The results speak for themselves, as it’s an unexcelled building of Europe, the biggest and most opulent castle of the Netherlands.
flickr: Ryan Beck
Beach and sand dunes
Zadvoort is the best bath town of the Netherlands. At its 9 km stretch of sandy shore, during the peak season, up to 10.000 people can enjoy the sun and the North Sea waft. The sea is very clear here, so I you’re brave enough and not afraid of cold water – as it’s the North Sea – you can take a dip on a hot summer day. Zandvoort is the favourite holiday location of the people of Amsterdam, a lot of them spend the summer here in their weekend houses, but visitors come here from other regions of Europe too, to enjoy the northern summer.
Next to the shoreline there are more than 30 bars, cafés and restaurants. If you prefer water sports instead of classical beach bathing, this place is a hit; thanks to the great winds you can surf or kite. After the sea programs, discover the Dutch dunes on foot, or during a bike trip so you will see that the 28-arce Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland between Zandvoort and Ijmuiden does not attract 2 million visitors per year by accident.
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