We (2 couples) will be in Amsterdam for four nights in May, arriving by rental car from Bruges. I'm considering that instead of dropping off the rental car as soon as we arrive in Amsterdam, we should keep the car for one more day to do a day-trip west to Haarlem, and/or Zandvoort, or north to the Zaandijk open-air museum, or east to Volendam, Marken and Monnickendam. Any comments, recommendations?
I don't think you need a car at all. It's very easy to travel by train from Bruges to Amsterdam, and if you book well in advance you can fares for about 30 Euro on the Thalys portion of the journey. It's also possible you may have to pay a hefty drop-off fee for leaving the car in another country. But if you must drive to Amsterdam, you won't need it to get to places like Haarlem. It's only 20 minutes away by train from Amsterdam, and there are departures every 15 minutes or so. If you keep the car you'll have to pay for parking in wherever you drive to. Parking in the city-center of Amsterdam is brutally expensive.
Michael, thanks for your comments. We will pick up the rental car in Paris, and visit parts of Normandy and Belgium before arriving in Amsterdam, so we are committed to having a rental car and paying the one-way fee. We've done this type of thing before and feel the one-way drop-off fee is worthwhile for some itineraries. But maybe it's a good idea to drop off the car as soon as we arrive in Amsterdam to save some costs.
I second Michael's recommendation. I have spent time in Amsterdam several times, and going back in May, and have taken numerous day trips and have never rented a car. Done it all on their great public transportation systems.
We were just in Bruges and then Amsterdam this fall, and did the whole thing by train. I would HATE to have a car in Amsterdam- really a nightmare for driving IMO. Take day trips easily by train to Delft and The Hague (easily connected by a convenient tarn, just take the train to one or the other and tram between, then train back to Amsterdam). A second wonderful day trip, also by train, is to Haarlem. We spent a full day doing the Haarlem day trip and a second doing Delft and The Hague (and could have spent more time at The Hague, especially now that the Mauritshuis museum is reopened).
I car is helpful is you want to visit the Delta Works in Zeeland (something that fits nicely on a driving route between Brugge and Amsterdam).
It is also helpful to have a car if you want to visit Friesland, the Kroller-Muller Museum and the adjacent National Park, and if you want to avoid crappy bus service to Marken.
Most things can be done without a car in the Netherlands. The one thing I would suggest that's worth having a car for is driving across the Afsluitdijk, the huge dike that closed off the Zuider Zee and formed the Ijsselmeer. There are some places to stop as you drive over it, and at the other end you could stop in Hindeloopen in Friesland (a little town Rick has recommended in some of his books).
That would fit in well with going to Volendam, etc. as those towns are on the way to the west end of the Afsluitdijk. You could either go across and back, or go around the Ijsselmeer, although that's a long drive. But if you went around you could also stop at Schokland, which I really loved (World Heritage Site - used to be an island, but then the land all around it was drained). Urk is similar, a former island, although I haven't been there. And all of these stops are fairly small and could be quick, but interesting.
Maybe a bit outlandish, with how few days you have in Amsterdam. And after the long drive up from Bruges. But these are things I have enjoyed doing.
Thanks, everyone, for the great suggestions!
We really enjoyed Haarlem, much more than Delft , but that is just our opinion. Only maybe half hour by train from Amsterdam. Am a great reader and WWII buff and the Ten Boom museum or house in Haarlem was fantastic.
Roger - A car makes only sense here when you want to explore the countryside and remote places. In cities it will be more a burden then something else, public transport is way more effective. As you still has the car to move from Bruges to Amsterdam I think a good idea is to travel through the south-western part of The Netherlands to see the Deltaworks as Andre already noticed. This area is one of those places in the Netherlands where a car is better to move around then train or bus. On the way you can visit lovely historic places like Middelburg, Veere and Zierikzee, are small towns and reasonable accessible for cars. For going to there you first have to drive through the “Westerscheldetunnel” just west of Terneuzen already in The Netherlands.
More closer to Amsterdam you can also considering a visit to the windmills of Kinderdijk and “Kasteel de Haar (Castle)” west of Utrecht.
Best is to plan your trip in order to avoid the traffic jams on the highways during rushhour in the late afternoon and drop off the car right on time in Amsterdam. Carolyn and Andre give you good tips in case you want to keep the car longer.
Amsterdam has cheap Park+Ride facilities (read more: http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/experience/plan-your-trip/getting-around/parking/park-and-ride). Parking in those facilities is very cheap (parking costs only € 1/24h if you enter the parking lots after 10AM), and from any of them you can easily take public transportation. They are all located close to highway or expressway exits, so no major urban traffic to deal with.
That is the best deal you can find should you want to keep your car while in Amsterdam without driving into the city and/or paying the very high charges for parking near the canals (up to € 60/day).
Taking the train is a dream, so easy. I loved both Haarlem and Delft, but on the trip upcoming this May I want to visit Leiden, and possibly Brussels, as well as the tulips area. If you do go to Haarlem, be sure to see the Teyler's Museum!