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Help with Holland Itinerary

Hello fellow travelers,
My husband and I are traveling to the Netherlands in April of 2019 after some time in Normandy, France. We have 9 or 10 nights to spend there depending on our final plans in France. We will be there around Easter week so I know it will be crowded and want to make sure we are making the best choices as to where to spend our time.
We have never been to Holland, although have traveled rather extensively to other countries.
We go to a few museums but don't want to spend a lot of times indoors. We really enjoy walking or biking and taking in the culture of locations and love small villages, as well as seeing the important sights of a large city.
We will be doing all of our touring on trains, or buses if needed.
Day 1: Looks like it makes sense to take the train from Normandy region to Delft first?
I need feedback on where to make our home bases after that. I am thinking Delft for 2 or 3 nights, as the first day we will be arriving in late afternoon or early evening.
Then, should we base in Amsterdam or Haarlem or split the time between the two? We will have 8-9 nights to book. Would we save considerable $$ by basing in one location or the other?
Some of the towns that sound interesting to us include: Amsterdam, Delft, Haarlem, Edam/Volendam and Marken. Also want to visit Keukenhof to see the tulips and are interested in seeing the Enkhuizen Zuiderzee Museum. Where would the best base be to see these locations? Am I missing a "must- see"?
Any and all feedback is very appreciated. I have gotten wonderful advice from this forum in the past. Thank you!

Posted by
248 posts

Karen, below I pasted my comment on the Netherlands part of your trip, that I already posted on your Normandy/France thread (I'm going to delete my post on the France thread since it pertains to the Netherlands part of your trip):

"Pending finding your Netherlands thread, I'd offer these comments on the Netherlands part of your trip: I think that 10 days in The Netherlands (and 7 in Paris) is more in The Netherlands than many here would spend. But it might be right for you, it's nice that you have that much time! I recently spent 6 days in the Netherlands and felt like ideally I could have easily used a couple more days, that would 6+2=8 days. With 10 days, you could have 2 Netherlands home bases: Amsterdam and one other place of your choosing: possible places for the 2nd home base would be Delft or The Hague (I saw both of those in a relatively easy day trip from my Amsterdam home base)."

I'll add these additional comments:
We also had to choose between Amsterdam and Haarlem as a home base because what we wanted to see was in Amsterdam, and even though Amsterdam is easily reached from Haarlem, in the end we decided to home base in Amsterdam. No advantage to splitting your home basing between Amsterdam and Haarlem, probably you will want to home base in one or the other, again we chose Amsterdam.

Posted by
6613 posts

Consider Leiden for hour second base. We found it chamong and with tne trains, easy to explore Rotterdam, Delft, and The Hague.

Posted by
3895 posts

This was around the time we went in 2016...Easter weekend coincided with our trip as well - and apparently that was a good weekend to do work on the train tracks. We were in Dordrecht at that time and were heading to Gouda on Easter Sunday (not a good plan) and had to take train/bus combo to get there which added a few hours to our trip - between waiting 30 min or more for the bus, and the extra time it took to travel by bus instead of train and the same on the return trip - so def if you plan to daytrip, look into the train schedules.

As for Amsterdam vs Haarlem - I know RS recommends staying in Haarlem as it's not that far away - you do have to take into consideration that you have to get to the train stn, wait for a train (frequent, I know, but if you just missed one there's another 15 min wait) then 20 min to Ams - so that 20 min train could be 40-60 min. If you are someone who likes to wander early or late, I'd stay in Ams itself, since you don't have the extra travel time. Another reason we liked staying in Ams (we stayed in the De Pijp area, our airbnb was 3 tram stops from the Rijks) was because we could pop back to the room in the afternoon to warm up or rest. But with 8-9 nights, you could def split those up. We stayed 5 nights in Ams and 3 in Dordrecht.

DEF pack some layers - I was cursing that we didn't take some light gloves - our arrival day was beautiful and we were out in t-shirts - the next day it turned cool and windy and pretty much stayed that way - I was wearing a long sleeved t, a microfleece pullover and my spring jacket. Had I seen gloves for sale, I would have grabbed a pair.

My hint for Keukenhof - we overheard a fellow saying he went early to try and beat the crowds and it still was quite full. (We went Apr 13). Well, in this case, my husband being NOT a morning person helped. We did have a bit of a wait at the train stn for the bus to Keu. (about an hour). When we got there, we grabbed some fries in the parking lot, then rented a bike and biked around to the fields for a few hours (I highly recommend doing this - I'm not that great on bikes now but since NL is so flat, I didn't have much trouble, and seeing the fields was amazing). Price was good as well. After the biking, we went into the Gardens - by this time about 3pm...the pavilions were practically empty, and you could see that the parking lot had emptied out considerably.

Posted by
57 posts

Thank you so much for the suggestions. Good point on the time involved getting from Haarlem to Ams every time. I think we will base in AMS and Delft.
And, thanks to curious traveler for the feedback on both the France leg and Holland leg of our trip.
And love the great tips for the tulip fields! we enjoy biking so that sounds like a wonderful plan if weather supports.

Posted by
57 posts

Question: were bikes readily available in April when you were at the Tulip fields? Or did you reserve your bikes in advance? I would rather just show up and get them if possible so we can pick a good weather day to go.

Posted by
1540 posts

For saving time (and money?) you don’t have to base yourself in Delft too, it’s just an hour with the train from Amsterdam. But with so many days why not touring around with a car for a few days in the Netherlands?

A nice itinerary too my opnion is one around the “IJsselmeer”, that huge lake in the middle of the Netherlands east of Amsterdam. You can tour clockwise visiting the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen, drive further over the “Afsluitdijk” to Friesland, one of (if not) the most beautiful provinces of the Netherlands, with loads of lovely places like Sloten, Hindelopen, Workum etc. Further Drenthe with lovely countryside with tiny Orvelte and Giethoorn in nearby Overijssel. The latter a bit tourist busy, but nevertheless worth to consider.

The Hanseatic cities along the river IJssel of Kampen, Zwolle, Deventer and Zutphen are characteristic Dutch cities, with also lovely countryside to explore. Arnhem is not directly beautifull, but can be worth if Operation Market Garden and the Kröller-Müller Museum (extensive Van Gogh collection) is of interest.

Nice area for touring around with a bike is not only the tulip fields, but also the countryside just north of Amsterdam. Ransdorp, Holysloot and Broek in Waterland are easy to reach and I think having an e-bike Monnickendam is doable too. Be aware that you have to deal with agricultural vehicles there and further an e-bike can also be convenient if you have to deal with (strong) wind.

Posted by
3895 posts

Oh...they had many dozens (as my husband said) of bikes. No need to book in advance. I’d be very surprised if they ran out...maybe on a really busy, mild weekend or something.

Some of the fields you could venture into as well. It was fairly obvious which you could and couldn’t. I still stayed on the edges but some people were further into the rows. The fields we stopped at had gorgeous rows upon rows of apricot tulips and yellow tulips.

Posted by
14326 posts

I will just add that friends went last year and were very happy to base in Haarlem and day trip daily to A'dam, because it saved them quite a bit of money on lodging and they didn't mind being out and about all day. I like being able to pop back to my room during the day - sometimes because of weather, sometimes just for a rest, and sometimes to freshen up before going out in the evening.

I enoyed visiting Delft while I was staying in The Hague. It's a tram ride between them. The Hague has less atmosphere but more sights. It's also cheaper than A'dam, so consider staying there for some of your day-tripping.