Each of our hotels are located in cities that don’t just have loads to see in the heart of town, but plenty of nearby places perfect for an excursion. For the Dutch edition of our four-part guide, we show you how to get out of the 'Dam(s), smell the flowers and get swept away by windmills and waterways.
smell the flowers
The Netherlands is famous for clogs, cheese and cannabis, but none of them get to the beating Dutch heart quite like the humble tulip. While the Amsterdam Flower Market is alright, if you’re here in spring you owe it to yourself to head out of town and see these bad boys at source. Lisse lies a 45 minute-train ride south-west of The Dam, and is home to the magical Keukenhof Gardens: the largest flower park in the world. Seven million spring-flowering bulbs are planted here every year – and it’s not just tulips: you’ll find hyacinths and daffodils, orchids and roses. Spend all day wandering through the beautiful 32 hectares of technicolour flowers, making sure not to miss the Japanese, English and historical gardens en route. And while you’re in town, pay a visit to Keukenhof Castle, just down the road.
If you’re searching for a taste of the traditional Netherlands you may want to check out Waterland. We know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no – this doesn’t have anything to do with that lame Kevin Costner film from the ‘90’s. Waterland is in fact a rural province just northeast of Amsterdam, with a host of quaint little towns that seem to have been cryogenically frozen in time. As it’s close to the city, we recommend exploring the region by bike: you’ll pass through scenic wetlands full of oyster-catchers and birds on the way to the island of Marken, connected to mainland Holland by a causeway. It shouldn’t take more than an hour from the centre of town.
From here, it’s just a short ride to Monnickendam, a historic coastal town and great place to grab a bite to eat. Cheese-lovers should head a little further north to the village of Edam, where you’ll find a museum, cheese market and kaaswaag: a traditional cheese-weighing house. Word of warning: we recommend steering clear of Volendam. Don’t get us wrong – it’s fun, but kind of feels like rural Holland’s answer to Disneyland, and tends to be swarming with tourists.
get blown away
If you’re staying in Rotterdam, you’ve got to make the journey to Kinderdijk to see the iconic windmills. There are nineteen still standing: you can head inside two of them or jump on a canal boat and glide along the adjacent water. Plus, not only are these windmills beautiful, they’ve played a crucial part in pumping water to keep the Dutch dry: if left to nature, 40 per cent of Holland would be flooded! It’s less than an hour cycle from Rotterdam – or you might prefer to catch the waterbus!
Although it’s often overlooked, The Hague is great for a day out, and is just 25 minutes on the train from Rotterdam. There are plenty of world-class museums to visit: don’t miss Escher in Het Paleis – a palace housing the seminal graphic designs of M. C. Escher – or Mauritshuis: an architectural treasure that’s home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The latter is right next to Binnenhof, Holland’s historic Houses of Parliament, making it a great part of town for a leisurely stroll. And when your legs start to tire, there are lovely restaurants and cafes to stop for a spot of lunch, many serving the local specialty of raw herring. Try it if you’re feeling brave, although we think we’ll stick to frites.