By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
So much to see, so little time. How to choose? To help you get started, we've listed our top picks for where to go in Holland, and our plan for your best two-week trip.
With affordable flights from the US, minimal culture shock, almost no language barrier, and a well-organized tourist trade, the Netherlands is a good place to start a European trip — but also highly worthy of a visit all on its own.
Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are our recommended priorities:
- 2–3 days: Amsterdam
- 4 days, add: Delft
- 5 days, add: Haarlem
- 6 days, add: Waterland (Edam/Volendam/Marken — day-trip from Amsterdam)
- 7–9 days, add: Rotterdam and Leiden (day-trip from Haarlem or Delft), or more day-trip towns north of Amsterdam (Alkmaar and Hoorn/Enkhuizen)
- 10–11 days, add: Arnhem (for the two first-rate museums nearby) and either Utrecht or more time in Delft to day-trip to The Hague
- 12 days, add: Anything skipped above; if you have a car, it's worth exploring Flevoland.
Rick’s Best 12-Day Netherlands Trip
For an in-depth Netherlands experience, overnight in several places and use public transit. Start in small-town Haarlem (an ideal jet-lag pillow) and save big-city Amsterdam for your trip finale.
Day 2: Sightsee in Haarlem (sleep in Haarlem)
Day 3: Day-trip to Keukenhof (if it's spring), or Alkmaar (if it's Friday), or Aalsmeer, Leiden, or Zandvoort (sleep in Haarlem)
Day 4: Head to Delft, and sightsee (sleep in Delft)
Day 5: Day-trip to Rotterdam and/or The Hague — or add another day for more time in both (sleep in Delft)
Day 6: From Delft, head to Arnhem and visit the Netherlands Open-Air Museum, and end the day in Otterlo (sleep in Otterlo)
Day 7: Visit the Kröller-Müller Museum (near Arnhem), head to Utrecht to sightsee, and end the day in Amsterdam (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 8: Sightsee in Amsterdam (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 9: Sightsee in Amsterdam (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 10: Sightsee in Amsterdam (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 11: Day trip to Edam and/or Volendam and Marken (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 12: Day trip to Hoorn and Enkhuizen on the Historic Triangle train/boat route (sleep in Amsterdam)
Day 13: Fly home, or enjoy more of Europe
With less time, focus on Amsterdam, Delft, and Haarlem — and, for simplicity's sake, consider home-basing from either Amsterdam or Haarlem the whole time. If you have at least a week, add another destination that interests you most.
Home Bases and Day Trips
With relatively short distances between worthwhile destinations, the Netherlands lends itself to day trips from two or three home bases. (Or even just one — virtually every city we recommend is within two hours of centrally located Amsterdam.) Here are the most time-efficient day trips from our favorite Dutch home bases:
- From Amsterdam: Waterland (Edam/Volendam/Marken), Hoorn/Enkhuizen (easily connected on the Historic Triangle train/boat route), Zaanse Schans, Utrecht, and museums near Arnhem
- From Haarlem: Delft, Keukenhof, Leiden, and Zandvoort
- Similarly efficient from Amsterdam or Haarlem: Alkmaar, Aalsmeer, The Hague, and Rotterdam
- From Delft: Rotterdam and The Hague
Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands guidebook.