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Any tips or observations about visiting the Netherlands in April?

We have an opportunity to spend 3 weeks near Haarlem this April. We are doing a house exchange and will have access to a car as well as our town having good public transportation options.

We've been to Amsterdam and Leiden during different seasons; fall, winter and summer. With the tulip fields in full bloom I'm thinking there could be as many tourists as summer and not think of this as the "off season" like our fall and winter visits.

What should we expect (outside of the tulip fields, parks and parades) as far as crowded museums, etc? Should we prebook major Amsterdam museums? We probably won't visit the Anne Frank house again as we've been there several times. We will want to go to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum.

Any other must prebook museums or sites?

After we've looked at some more up to date guidebooks, we last visited the Netherlands in 2005, I may ask for more itinerary or day trip suggestions. I'm really excited about taking this trip particularly during April!

Posted by Continental
678 posts

I was in the Netherlands in April of 2015. In Amsterdam arrived at the Rijksmuseum maybe 15 minutes after it opened on a Monday (I do remember the day of the week) and there were no crowds for the 2 hours I was there. I did not prebook. The next day I went to Keukenhof taking the bus to Lisse and walking to the entrance to be there when it opened. No need to take crowded tourist buses; take local transportation first thing in the day to miss the mobs.

The crowds started building about 90 minutes later. For that, I did prebook.

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
1052 posts

With 3 weeks and a car you have enough time to explore the country and places across the border. This is my response a month back to a similar question:

“Having a week I would do a tour with a car around the IJsselmeer. Going clockwise you can start with places like Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Further driving over the “Afsluitdijk” to much overlooked Friesland, one of the most beautiful provinces of the Netherlands with lovely countryside and little towns like Sloten and Hindeloopen to name a few.
You can indeed visit the already named Hanseatic towns (Kampen, Zwolle, Deventer) along the river IJssel and include a detour to Lelystad for going to the Batavia shipyard where you can see rebuilding a 17th century warship and another finished. Not too far from Kröller-Müller is former Royal Palace Het Loo near Apeldoorn.
If having enough time you can add the Deltaworks in the southwestern corner of the Netherlands, with not to miss the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier and the Maeslant Barrier”.

Near Otterloo (near Arnhem) you can visit the already named Kröller-Müller Museum for their extensive van Gogh collection and the open air museum. More south in the province of Noord-Brabant you can visit van Gogh’s birthplace in Zundert.

Likely you can use the hosts their bikes in Haarlem and they sure can offer tips for biking around. April is still a bit chilly, but everything is in full blossom so not a bad time of the year to visit the Netherlands.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
2856 posts

We were there Apr this year (9th - 16th, then on to Belgium). It was our first time there (stayed in Ams proper) so I really don't have any historical context on crowds.

We didn't have any issues with the Rijks - we bought a combo ticket with our Canal Cruise, so we were able to bypass the ticket line - which was not very long on a mid-afternoon in April. Not sure if it was considered crowded inside compared to summer months, but I will say that we were there until closing and the line up for people waiting to get their coats/checked bags was very VERY long. (We hadn't checked anything). We stayed 2 hrs and saw about 2/3rds I think.

With 3 weeks and a car, you can see lots. I'd love to go back for a week or two to explore more of the NL. From Ams, we visited Haarlem, Den Haag (for Madurodam - so fun) and Keukenhof. Then we moved on to Dordrecht for a few nights and stopped in Rotterdam on the way there, went to Kinderdijk and also enjoyed a visit to Gouda.

Now, you have a car so that will make getting to Keukenhof easier. I have a 'def not a morning person' husband, so getting there early to avoid crowds was not in the cards. BUT...I think we stumbled on an even better idea. We arrived around 1pm-ish (took the bus from Schipol). The parking lot was crazy busy, so we grabbed some fries from a truck in the parking lot, then rented a bike (Rent A Bike Van Dam) and spent a few hours tooling around the bulb fields - it was one of the most glorious things I've done. And I'm not the best on a bike, but it was pretty easy going. We got back to Keu around 3:30-4ish and the parking lot had really cleared out. We had the pavilions inside almost to ourselves (not really, but compared to how some people described them as being elbow to elbow, they weren't very full at all) and the gardens were not crowded. So if you can't get there early morning, go early afternoon, rent a bike then head into the gardens mid afternoon. Maybe we were just lucky that day, but it worked out perfectly, since I hate crowds.

Posted by Jane
Sapulpa, OK, USA
1845 posts

In Haarlem, the Franz Hals Museum and Teyler's Museum.

Posted by Mona OP
Formerly Santa Barbara, now NorCal
1456 posts

Thank you all so much for your valuable insights. We'll map them out and use your admission times and tips too. We are looking forward to using the host's bikes for some fun leasure rides too. We rented bikes in Leiden once and biked to the sea through the paths in the dunes. I like the idea of biking in the tulip fields too if it's not too crowded.

Now to get a good map or plot some points on an online map and organize some day trips. We should also try to figure out if a couple of overnight trips would be a good use of our sightseeing time away from the Haarlem area house.

Posted by Val
Dallas
81 posts

My husband and I stayed in Haarlem recently at an AirBnB which was a 10 minute walk from train station through a lovely park. We had cheese, green grocer, bakery, butcher, and wine shops at the corner of street where our apartment was located. What more could I ask! Do not miss the Corrie ten Boom Museum in Haarlem. It provided personal insight in the underground transport of Jews during Hitler’s rule. We booked a food tour of Haarlem which was delightful and provided international flavors found locally. We really enjoyed the Frans Hal Museum and found an excellent selection of artists works. Teyler Museum was just “mea”. The display cases have not been dusted since they were installed and it smelled old and antiquated. Haarlem was an easy departure station to most towns and villages. We also enjoyed the Zuiderzee Village in Enkhausen. No need to prebook Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum. You will need to spend €5 for audio tour at Van Gogh. We used RS guide for Rijksmuseum (lunch in museum cafe was just okay).

Posted by Val
Dallas
81 posts

Jane, it is called Haarlem Food Tours. Our guide was Kelly Greer and since there were no other participants that day we had a private International Food Tour. Kelly is very outgoing and has done a good job of lining up international cafes and shops to showcase what Haarlem has to offer. I highly recommend her tour.

Posted by Jane
Sapulpa, OK, USA
1845 posts

Thanks, Val. I'll look it up.

We were in Haarlem some years ago, and visited all the main sights, so we may want to try something new this time. But we have to go back to Frans Hals and Teyler's!