Suggestions for an overnight trip from Amsterdam.
June 29, 2009 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for an overnight trip from Amsterdam.

I will be travelling to Amsterdam on vacation for several days and then on to Utrecht for several more. I would like to do an overnight trip to another town before I go to Utrecht, and am looking for suggestions as to where to stay for one night, as well as some don't-miss activities. I will probably rent a car and visit several towns along the way but I am hoping to get a slightly more, ah, focused agenda.

Interests: food, nature, architecture, art, music, history...whatever! Open to any and all suggestions.
posted by SNACKeR to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, The Netherlands (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From my Dutch husband:

Definitely visit Den Haag (The Hague), about 35 mins drive from Amsterdam. There's a lot of history and a couple museums there, and this is the city where most of the Dutch government buildings reside. There is also the royal palace, the international court of justice, and the beach at Scheveningen. He recommends eating the Hollandse Nieuwe -- a herring from a street vendor -- with onion. I've never been brave enough to eat it, but he loves them.

If you can, try to visit a market. Husband recommends De Haagse Markt, open MWFSat from 8-5. Supposedly, it's the biggest market in Europe. If you make it to the market, definitely buy a fresh stroopwafel (two thin wafers with honey or syrup in between). They're delicious when they're warm. Madurodam is a fun little place to visit in Den Haag as well. It's an attraction that has incredibly detailed miniature replicas of every major site and structure in Holland.

Den Haag is easy driving distance to Delft, home of the famous Delft pottery. They also have a market, but I think it is only on Thursday from 9-5. This is also a large market, and it's a great experience to wander around the stalls. Of course, cheese is a star of the markets. You can bring back cheese through customs if it is sealed in wax and does not contain meat.

For newer architecture, consider going to Rotterdam. This city completely destroyed in WWII, and as a result, most of the buildings are more modern. If you go, visit Kubuswoningen, or "cube houses." There's very good shopping in this city.
posted by theantikitty at 8:23 PM on June 29, 2009

Texel, Netherlands.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2009

My sister used to live in Haarlem. Just outside Amsterdam. It gorgeous, a smaller more intimate version of Amsterdam with out the tourists. Lots of great architecture, canals, a great centre square & market. Some very cool old bars too. I'd rent a bike and do the tour in a half day. There is also a neat beach, Zandvoort, very close to Harlem a 20/30 min cycle or even shorter drive. There are lots of restaurants & even clubs on the beach (late night clubing). It's a big scene in the summer. Or alternatively, you can watch the kite surfers on the ocean and the sun go down with a cold one.

I also highly recommend a visit to the Kroller-muller museum, you could schedule this while in Utrecht. They have a great collection of the more important Van Gogh's, as well as other important collections, it's in a national park with an extensive sculpture garden.
posted by sequin at 9:10 PM on June 29, 2009

I spent a night in Den Haag last year and really enjoyed it. The Mauritshuis in Den Haag is really quite wonderful, with two floors or world class art right next to the Binnenhof, which is like the seat of the Dutch government or something. I also took the tram out to Scheveningen, which was a little touristy but definitely worth a stop, particularly for a gander at the Kurhaus Hotel.

The next morning I took a quick tram ride to Delft to check out the town, which was quite lovely. I guess I got lucky because it was market day and I took a stroll around before checking out the Nieuwe Kerk, which is where a bunch of the Dutch royals were buried. Good stuff if you like architecture and churches.

Between the two, I'd suggest spending the day in Den Haag and the night in Delft, but make sure you have a reservation in advance. I ended up staying in Den Haag because everything I checked in Delft (at the last minute) was all booked up.
posted by dhammond at 9:34 PM on June 29, 2009

There isn't a lot of really great Dutch food (don't get me wrong, the food is fine, but the Dutch just don't seem to have the same traditions of great food that you see here in Belgium or France), but one thing you really should try to eat is rijsttafel, which is awesome.

One thing in Amsterdam that sounds very touristy, but is definitely worth doing is the Anne Frank House. It's very well done and we and everybody else we know who went found it to be very moving. It's open late, and if you go late it's a lot less crowded and you don't have to wait as long to buy a ticket.

Depending on exactly where you want to go, you might want to skip the car and just take the train. The train system in this part of Europe is quite good, and probably cheaper than a car will be. There are a lot of Dutch cities, like Amsterdam especially, that aren't really very car friendly and unless it's really necessary to have a car, it may be a lot more pain to deal with in the city than it is worth.

Last thing, when are you going? We might be able to make some specific recommendations depending on exactly when you expect to be there.
posted by dseaton at 11:23 PM on June 29, 2009

If you're free on a Thursday morning, you can go to the cheese market in Gouda. The city center is nice, with a beautiful city hall.

If you spend time in Rotterdam, you won't be far from Kinderdijk, which is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
posted by transporter accident amy at 11:38 PM on June 29, 2009

+1 Kroller-Muller. It's an amazing place and off the beaten path for most tourists (other than Germans, as it's close to the border). I lived in Den Haag last year and went just before I moved home. It's a magic place.

Dutch cities I find can have many similarities on the surface. Kroller-Muller is a completely different experience.

If you decide to go to Den Haag be aware the hotels are very pricy there, especially mid-week. It can be hard to get last-minute rooms.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:17 AM on June 30, 2009

i was going to recommend all of the above ;-)

my favourite city cum annex is Haarlem, if you want to walk and wander somewhere very nice on your way to Utrecht, i recommend Lage Vuursche.

beautiful forests and the highlight of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.

have a nice stay.
posted by Substrata at 1:36 AM on June 30, 2009

To me, the prettiest town in the Netherlands is Delft. As an American, when I think of "old European town," I think of a town that looks like Delft -- cobblestone roads, triangular roofs, old majestic church in the town center. Depending on what you like, it may or may not be right for you.

You can easily spend a day there (and travel there by train from Amsterdam, perhaps going to Den Haag for dinner, then back to Amsterdam to sleep if you wish -- all possible by train).
- Royal Delft museum (a really excellent museum that explains the entire history of delftware), and lots of shops that sell delftware -- cheap and expensive
- Vermeer museum
- Oude Kerk ("Old Church") and Nieuwe Kerk ("New Church") in the center of town, which is beautiful
- Prinsenhof museum

Delft is good if you like historical areas and art, and is a good balance/contrast with Amsterdam.
posted by Houstonian at 3:28 AM on June 30, 2009

When you take the train from Amsterdam to The Hague, be sure to stop in Leiden, especially if it's a saturday morning. The center of town is an open market at that time, and like Delft is has a lot of the old Dutch city feeling. Here's the wiki entry.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:40 AM on June 30, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, some great input, thanks all! I am getting excited.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:26 AM on June 30, 2009

Brugge (Belgium) is 3 hours away, and really lovely at night.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:46 AM on June 30, 2009

Yeah, I was going to say Brugge and (well, or) Brussels. Brussels has the most beautiful central plaza in the world, and I don't even have to go see the rest of the world to know it. It's that beautiful. If you did opt for Brussels, a restaurant I really enjoyed there was In't Spinnekopke. Totally up-to-par selection of Belgian beers, and this appetizer of sausage with a sweet onion confit that goes together better than any other two things I've ever consumed.

I understand if you don't want to travel that long, or leave the Netherlands, but eating that dish with enough Chimay in you to keep the feeling going while sitting in the Grand Place ... well, if you like architecture and beer, you can't do much better.
posted by troywestfield at 8:22 AM on July 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Leiden, The Hague, and Delft are all terrific towns to visit. Leiden is my alma mater, The Hague is my hometown, and Delft my default watering hole, so you might expect me to be partial to one or all of these three.

But having been asked this question many, many times I have had to conclude that most askers, especially non-West-Europeans or people unfamiliar with the area, have ultimately been most pleased with Rotterdam, and it's easy to see why.

It's the second largest city after Amsterdam, and it's a completely different vibe. Look, if you had two weeks or so to spend I'd send you on a comprehensive tour of the Randstad, or the country at large, and if you're really into history or classic art and museums then sure, any of the others are great.

But Rotterdam is the ying to Amsterdam's yang: the modern architecture, as mentioned upthread, is delicious, and the contrast between it and what's left of the old town is shocking. As for the atmosphere, many people seem to notice a difference in vibe and attitude, something you tend to quickly pick up on as a visitor, as if Amsterdam exudes more arts and debauchery and Rotterdam is more about the here and now.

I'm veering dangerously into "blurb for a bad coffee table book on pomo architecture" territory here, but let it suffice to say that as a native, and as one who does love Amsterdam dearly, there is some truth to this, where Rotterdam would be a sort of Baltimore or Detroit to Amsterdam's New York (Williamsburg, really).

The irony is that Rotterdam has a very lively, unique cultural scene and cultural output of its own (think the poetry/spoken word festivals, the IFFR film festival, etc. etc.). They just don't like to boast about it, I guess.

Long story short: yes, a strong vote for Rotterdam. Go see a show or a film around Schouwburgplein, stroll down Boompjes along the Nieuwe Maas and have your supper at Bazar. You won't be disappointed.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh BTW, yeah I suppose you could rent a car but I doubt it's necessary unless you're going to some very out-of-the-way places or the great outdoors or whatever. All towns worth mentioning are linked by railway. You may enjoy the convenience of control and going to very specific places but keep in mind that the motorways are congested and parking spots are scarce and expensive in the city centres. I doubt you would save any money, either. Just a thought.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:00 AM on July 2, 2009

Actually, considering the time you have available you could make a brief stop in The Hague and maybe one of Leiden, Delft or Haarlem on your way to Rotterdam, where you'll stay the night. You could maybe check out Gouda on your way to Utrecht.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2009

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