Sand between my toes, sunshine in my face and the noise of waves breaking in the distance. No, I am not sitting at some far away beach in Asia. I am in the Netherlands. Yes you read right – there is so much more to explore in this European country than Amsterdam.
“Let’s do a weekend trip to Amsterdam.” That’s how it all started. My best friend and I wanted to get away for a long weekend. Amsterdam seemed to be a great choice – we both haven’t been there before and it was not that far away. The only problem: flights and hotels were crazy expensive and way beyond our budget. After a little brainstorming we decided to drive by car and to book a hotel at the beach and not in the city. I have never been to the Netherlands before and honestly expected nothing special. Well, I was proven wrong immediately.
Day 1: Haarlem and Zaandvort
After a 6,5 hour drive from Stuttgart we arrived in Zaandvort. This small town is only about 30km away from Amsterdam and lies directly at the sea. Cute little houses, a small city center with lots of restaurants and cafes and the best part: the sea. It was quite windy that day so there were hundreds of surfers out there. We hadn’t really expected to actually have sand beneath our feet that weekend and were happy like little kids.
Afterwards we also visited Haarlem which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to that weekend. It reminds oneself of Amsterdam but is smaller and more laid-back. The typical “Grachten” (small canals going through the city) and the beautiful old buildings make Haarlem truly adorable and I could have walked along the small streets all day. Furthermore, Haarlem was just elected the dutch shopping capital due to lots of small boutiques which invite to stroll and shop through the city all day. For me Haarlem is a must visit city in the Netherlands and can definitely keep up with Amsterdam.
Day 2: Amsterdam
Staying outside the city is no problem at all. There are lots of big park&ride places where you can leave your car for only a few euros and take the train into the city. It took us a little more than half an hour to get from the sea to the city center.
After I have just been to Vienna and was totally impressed by the beauty of it, I thought Amsterdam might not be able to keep up – but it definitely can. Again the small waterways and the amazingly beautiful brick houses make for a unique atmosphere. Most of the city can be explored by foot. We did a lot of walking that day but it was definitely worth it. My favourite spots have been the Vondelpark, the “Grachtengürtel” (circle of waterways surrounding the old town) and the Oosterdokskade (a dock where you can sit down after all the walking and enjoy the water).
In my opinion Amsterdam can be visited in only one day. You can explore the most important sights in the morning stroll around through the city in the afternoon and have a look at the red light district when it’s getting dark. If you want to visit lots of the museums you might need a little more time though.
Day 3: Alkmaar, Egmond and tulips
On day three we decided to drive up north a little further. I can recommend you two cute little cities called Alkmaar and Egmond. In Alkmaar every friday a traditional cheese market takes place and also on saturdays they have a food and clothes market there. Alkmaar reminded me of Haarlem a little and convinces with it’s pretty streets. In Egmond we walked through the dunes and enjoyed the afternoon at the beach. If you want to spend a relaxed day and forget about everything that bothers you at the moment I can recommend to spend a day at the beach and exploring these small cities.
On our way back we also passed some tulip fields which were left. I thought we might be to late for the tulips but we were lucky and able to take some pictures of these typical dutch flower fields.
Day 4: Zaanse Schans
On our way back home we decided to stop at the windmills of Zaanse Schans. We were a bit disappointed about this one as it is very touristic. The windmills and the traditional dutch houses look beautiful though and the place is still worth a visit.