There’s only so far you can get on two wheels in The Netherlands’ most well known city, so instead of winding up on a canal boat with the usual crowd, why not take yourself out of town and explore what the real Holland has to offer….you might just be pleasantly surprised.
Clogs and windmills abound in this town, just a short drive from the tourism capital of Holland. Many are drawn to this area of living history, where typically Dutch wooden architecture from windmills to sawmills were relocated in the sixties and brought to life in what is now a working community-come-open-air museum.
Once an industrial powerhouse, this now predominantly tourist town was famed for its Verkade biscuits as much as for the wooden shoes, pottery and cheese, all of which you can buy in one of the many gift shops. But despite the visiting hoards (and the abundance of tourist shops that cater for them) Zaanse Schans has preserved an antiquated charm, making it well worth your time.
A pretty fishing port whose outlying location saw time pass it by is now as popular with day trippers as it once was with painters for its olde worlde charm. Volendam offers the chance to see locals dressed in the national costume of clogs and Dutch bonnets and wander through the labyrinth of fisherman’s cottages that line the narrow streets of the town’s oldest areas.
Every half an hour or so, a ferry departs to the pretty island village of Markem or you could take a trip to nearby Edam – a particular treat in the height of summer when the historic cheese market is resurrected every Wednesday morning throughout July and August.
April is the perfect time of year to visit Haarlem; tulip capital of the world and once the centre of an economic bubble that formed around the price of bulbs. Surrounded by bright fields that stretch as far as the ye can see, the city plays frequent host to bloemencorso (flower parades), as well as a funfair which takes place at the city’s Grote Markt in its historic central square.
Famed also for its brewing heritage, it’s a great place to sample the local brews after a day wandering round Haarlem’s many museums and cobbled streets, although these days, the bock beer popular throughout the region is now brewed elsewhere.
Holland’s government sits (rather sensibly) away from the bright lights and tourist haze of Amsterdam in the rather more refined environs of The Hague, known as Den Haag to locals. Chic and cosmopolitan, it makes for a cultural city break in the heart of international politics.
But you’ll soon find that it’s much more than just sharp suits and big agendas here, as the city lies on the coast near one of Holland’s most popular holiday destinations: the seaside resort of Sheveningen. An ideal destination for families, it plays host to a variety of attractions that appeal to both younger and older visitors, including quaint and quirky features like the Madurodam miniature city.
Once a global ceramic centre – and home to the iconic blue and white porcelain to which it lends its name – Delft still produces china to this day, although only two factories are still in operation.
Birthplace of Johannes Vermeer, famous Dutch master and painter of Girl with a Pearl Earring (who was only moderately successful in his lifetime), Delft now honours its most famous son in the Vermeer Centrum. To experience Delft as the artist might have, head to the Fish Shop on the Hippolytusbuurt Canal at the end of Choorstraat, which first opened its doors for business in 1342. At over 670 years old, it is one of the world’s oldest shops (but the fish, thankfully, is all fresh).