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Itinerary help for day trips from Amsterdam and Haarlem

I am finalizing our itinerary for our trip to Amsterdam and Bruges. My husband and I leave one month from today--Sept. 26 - October 7. All accommodations have been booked, as have train tickets to Bruges from Amsterdam and back, so that is set.
Here is what I have planned so far: 4 nights Amsterdam, 2 nights Bruges, and 4 nights in Haarlem.

We arrive at 11:00 a.m. on our first day in Amsterdam, and all I have planned is a canal boat tour and settling into our Airbnb, with a nap in there somewhere. We are staying in the Jordaan area. We will have an IAmsterdam card to take us into the museums we want to go to while there, and it covers the transit (trams, primarily) while we are there.

The plan so far is thus:
- Day 1: (arrival day Thursday, 9/27) Amsterdam, @ 11:00 am. Take train from aPick up Amsterdam pass at Amsterdam Centraal station. Explore Jordaan, (where we are staying), take a canal tour (from where? and Blue Boat or Gray Lines? I know both are touristy, but it is covered by IAmsterdam pass, so no cost, and would be relaxing) and a nap, a nice dinner and early bedtime
- Day 2: Amsterdam (Friday, 9/28). Possible day-trip to Zaanse Schams (15 minute train ride) mainly to see the windmills and have a country experience, have lunch. Come back, and from the train station do the RS recommended "Amsterdam self-guided walk" , seeing the Amsterdam Museum and Beginhof courtyard en route. Followed by Anne Frank Haus (tickets booked for 6:00 pm). Is this too much?? Seems kind of crazy to do a day trip to Zaanse Schams on our first full day in Amsterdam, but it seems relatively easy to do....and not much time involved. Both Zaanse Schams and the Amsterdam Museum are also covered by our Amsterdam pass, so that seems a good value.
- Day 3: (Saturday, 9/29). Amsterdam. Van Gogh timed entry is booked for 10:00 am. Lunch (where is recommeded?), then Rijksmuseum. I am an artist so I will be spending some time there. The Amsterdam pass covers this museum now, with the benefit of skipping the lines I am told (from reading this forum). I am still looking into booking a canal trip with "those Dam Boat Guys" to have a fun and relaxing end to a full museum day. I really would like a fun, non-touristy canal experience here....anyone done this?
- Day 4: (Sunday, 9/30). Day trip to Enkuizen and the Zuiderzee Museum. Full day-trip, covered by Amsterdam pass.
- Day 5: Train to Bruges ( Mon. 10/01 @ 11:15. Arrive there @ 2:30 p.m.. What are the highlights to focus on here?
- Day 6: Bruges (Tues. 10/2)--Same--what should we focus on here?
- Day 7: Train to Haarlem (Wed. 10/3 @ 11:31 a.m.. Arrive in Haarlem @ 3:05 p.m.) . Get to our apartment and explore Haarlem. What to zero in on here?
- Day 8: Day trip to Den Hague and Delft. Any recommendations here? Will definitely go to the Mauritshuis Gallery in Den Hauge. RS recommends Delft first, to get good experience at the Vermeer Center before we go to Den Hague. Also would like to take a canal tour in Delft on Rondvaart Delft for 45 minutes--any experience with this?
- Day 9: More Haarlem
- Day 10: Day trip to Leiden. What should we focus on here? Or just wander?
- Day 11: Bus (#300, 40 min.) to Amsterdam. Flight back to the USA leaves at 12:50 from Shiphol. I am hearing that it is a good idea to be at airport 3 hours ahead of time. Is this accurate?

Any and all responses would be much appreciated!

Posted by
939 posts

A closed window canal boat ride with canned narration on landing day would definitely send me into napland. Those Dam Boat Guys do a fun tour in a smaller, open boat, with access into smaller canals. There's a wine store next door to their start point, and we enjoyed having a cold bottle of Prosecco along for the ride.

I'm an artist too, and love art museums, but the Van Gogh and the Rijks in one day would be too much for me. Even with the skip the line, don't underestimate the herds inside. Can take some time to work your way up to the painting you want to see. Then two steps right, and repeat the process.... With a 10AM Van Gogh entry I don't think you'll be anywhere near ready to leave at lunchtime. The museum has a pleasant tea room/cafeteria that could buy you a little more time to see the art.

We really enjoyed our walking tour with That Dam Guide. A small group, a minimum of dry historical facts, and a wealth of insight into the culture of present day Amsterdam. If you could do this early in your visit you will also have Mark's helpful map of his favorite places.

Posted by
186 posts

I very much appreciate your responses. Especially the idea of breaking up the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum. I always underestimate the needed time in museums, especially as an artist! Is the audio worth it? (Either museum). The audio guide saved me at the Prado in Spain last fall.....I don't always like the audio thing but it really helped me keep my focus there, as there is too much to take in. I didn't regret it.

I am modifying our trip, based on your feedback, as follows:

On first day (Thursday, 9/27): Arrival around from Schipol, 12:30. go from train station (store our luggage there) to Amsterdam Museum. (only if time to do this--check-in time at our Airbnb is 3:00 p.m.) . Check into Airbn. Rest and go to boat ride with Those Dam Boat Guys--near our place in Jordaan. Boat ride is at 5:00p.m.. (not booked yet but considering..)

Day 2 (Friday) : Rijksmuseum /Vondel park for lunch/more Rijkmuseum. I believe that one can leave the museum (with the IAmsterdam card) and come back within the same day?? and also skip the lines? Is this true? I heard this--can please someone confirm this? I know this a new addition to the IAmsterdam Card. We then have Anne Frank scheduled at 6:00 p.m.

Day 3 (Saturday): Van Gogh @ 10:00 am. (tickets are booked). Lunch in the area. Day trip for the afternoon to Zanzee Schays. .

Day 4: Day trip to Zuiderzee and museum there. Return to Amsterdam with a stop in Hoorn on the way back (it is a Sunday, and the Westfries Museum doesn't open until 1:00, thus the reverse of what people usually do. ) I looked up the Westfries and it has captured me--I wrote Hoorn off as a stop, but it seems worth it.

That's as far as I've gotten...does this seem reasonable?

Posted by
20 posts

One thing to consider on Day 1 is to do a walking tour of the Jordaan area where you are staying. Rick has an excellent audio tour. I've used it and it's enteraining and informative. Jet lag hates fresh air and sunshine, so an afternoon walking will help chase away the "lag"!!

Posted by
1635 posts

Another vote for Those Dam Boat Guys. It's a very enjoyable way to do a canal boat tour.

I question the value of a canal boat tour in Delft. It's such a walkable city, and it's hard for me to imagine what you'd see from canal level that wouldn't be more enjoyable on foot.

I walked by the Vermeer Center but didn't go in. The museum in Delft I did visit and enjoyed a lot was the Prinsenhof. When I was there a couple of years ago, the Little Street was there, on loan from the Rijksmuseum, and there was a whole exhibit about the attempts to locate the specific house in Delft where Vemeer painted it. Even without that, though, i think it is worth a visit. But if it's a nice day, Delft is such a lovely place to spend outside wandering. And you will want to drop in to the two big churches (Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk).

For Bruges the guidebook is going to be your friend. Much to see there.

In Leiden I picked up a walking tour booklet at the TI. It had an excellent guided walk of the city.

For Schiphol, I don't know if 3 hours is necessary, but it's not as if you're going to do anything that morning except pack and go to the airport, so there's no harm being there early so you aren't feeling stressed. And, by the way, Bus #300 goes directly from Haarlem to Schiphol, so you won't be returning to Amsterdam that morning.

Posted by
186 posts

Thank you all for the further replies! I did go to the Holland resource link that Jazz suggested and found some good info there.

I have booked a canal tour with Those Dam Boat Guys at 5 p.m. our first night there. Will forgo the touristy version.....very excited! And interesting suggestion from Bob on doing the audio walking tour for the Jordan neighborhood...I had JUST gotten done reading a blog that really talked it up, so I think that would be a great thing to do after we get there, as that is where our apartment is as well.
Lane, I'll think about the walking vs. canal tour in Delft....and check out the Prinsenhof as well. And will pick up the walking tour booklet in Leiden. Still working on the details of the rest of our trip but these tips are all very helpful!

Posted by
307 posts

Last spring we were in the Netherlands for two weeks.
We went to Zaanse Shanse; need to allow about a half day by the time you walk from the train station, see the windmills, the farm and demonstrations, sample lots of cheese and return to Amsterdam.
Lots of people here on the forum like the Dam boat guys; we used the Blue Boat and it was fine.
We only visited the Rijks and took a tour which you may want to do.
We skipped Van Gogh because we visited the Kroller-Muller Museum which had a good representation of the artist
You will enjoy Enkuizen and the Zuider Zee Museum.

Went to Bruges and Ghent.
Bruges is full of great places to just sit and enjoy the view. The clock tower in the Korenmarkt is worth a stop if the line is not too long. We did go to the church of Our Lady; the Michaelangelo is worth the trip. Otherwise we just browsed through chocolate shops...
also stopped in Ghent and went to see the Adoration of the Lambs at Sint Baaf's Cathedral. If you are going to Bruges, you may be stopping in Ghent and it is well worth the visit.

Finally, yes you need to allow 3 hours to get through the airport.

Have fun and enjoy!

Posted by
186 posts

Thank you Campbell for reiterating the need for 3 hours before flight. Also the tips on Bruges--I'm just starting to familiarize myself with that part of the trip.

You may be one (or anyone with an opinion!) to ask the question: On Day 3, after our morning (10:00 timed entry) at the Van Gogh museum and a couple-three hours spent there, I pondered taking the day trip to Zaanze Schans for the afternoon. Is this redundant, if we are doing the day trip to Zuiderzee the next day? The main reason we're going to Zaanze is really for the windmills, as Zuiderzee will satisfy the open-air museum experience.

I can see spending the afternoon after Van Gogh just exploring more of Amsterdam proper instead of the day trip to Zaanze--maybe taking in the Amsterdam Museum, or doing the Nine Streets in Jordan, hanging at a cafe --and just absorbing more of the city. Opinions?

Posted by
307 posts

Suzanne -
Zaanse Shanse is different from Enkhuizen and the Zuider Zee Museum and both are well worthwhile.
At Zaanse Shanse you will see a variety of demonstrations, including the making of wooden shoes.
And Enkhuizen is a very neat little town.
I don't know if you would consider the Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Koninklijk in Friesland,
But it was a fascinating visit:
Regarding the art museums, since you are an artist, you may wish to spend more time there.

Just suggestions.
I found reading the RS guides were really great especially for the practical information it offered. I also looked at other guides, like Trip Advisor. The self-guided walks are great but so is just wandering around and getting lost!
It really won't matter where you wander, there are interesting sights to see everywhere!
BTW there is a nice restaurant in the Rijks. It may be pricier than street food, but it is a nice place to grab a bite and have a beverage mid-day.
May be too much information, but wanted to share.

Posted by
3091 posts

This spring I was in Amsterdam for a full week with the goal of seeing the entire Rijksmuseum...and then anything else I could fit in...I'd already been to Amsterdam before. In March the only card that allowed me to revisit a museum, as I understood it, was the museumkaart. However, with the big change on the card I no longer know if that exists. (I am so glad I went when I did!) I visited 11 museums with 13 visits. For the Rijks, you can only take in so much (and art major here) so pick your highlights beforehand. Go early or late. Regarding the Van Gogh museum, it doesn't take too long and has a nice set up, according to my non-art student husband, who joined me on my vacation so he endured all the museums as well...he's a sweetheart. Anyway, there are so many museums in Amsterdam, that it is hard to pick and choose. I would like to suggest you go to Rembrandt's House. It is a unique house museum, so don't let that description turn you off. It was my husband's favorite museum ever due to their demonstrations. I learned more about the use, cost and mix of paints in that demonstration than I ever learned in college. Also, Rembrandt was quite a businessman, which has never been made clear to me in any of my studies from those years. So, really try to squeeze that one in. I'd drop the Amsterdam City museum if you had to...but everyone is different. I would drop the windmills, too, for this visit. Rick's walk through the Jordaan took us about 30 minutes of leisurely walking...I can't imagine who would take 90 minutes to do it.

Posted by
186 posts

Thank you, Campbell, for the additional tips. I did think we'd maximize our time at the Rijks by having lunch at the cafe--not the more expensive restaurant--hopefully the cafe would suffice. And yes--I always start with RS guidebooks for skeleton planning (often following most of his advice), and adjust according to tips I get in this forum, as well as from Tripadvisor and a few other online resources.

Because I am an artist an probably want to spend more time in museums than some would, I think I'll take Wray's advice and drop Zaanze Shans for this first-time trip. Still do Enkhuisen the next day. So am thinking that following Van Gogh museum (Day 3), we'll lunch/break at The Blue Tea House (supposed to be in magical setting) in nearby Vondelpark, and then head to Rembrandt House museum instead of Amsterdam Museum (which seems like a much bigger commitment.) There is also a recommended Cafe de Sluyswacht on the canal across from the Rembrandt house which might be a good way to cap off the afternoon.

Question about the Rijks (Day 2): There are two audio offerings at the Rijks--one a "highlights" tour for 45 minutes, and a more in-depth tour which isn't really described in RS guidebook or on the Rijks website, unless I'm missing something. Wray, (or anyone), did you use either type of audio guide, and do you recommend? RS talks about doing his self-guided tour from his book, then exploring the rest with an audioguide, but this seems like steps wasted. If someone has used either guide, do you recommend them? the 45 minute tour seems impossible brief for the size of the museum. How long is the more in depth tour? Also, FYI I am most interested in the Golden Age art--not the rest of the museum per se. Nevertheless, I feel I need some kind of audioguide to keep on track and moving lest I disappear forever into the vastness of the Rijks!

Posted by
307 posts

At the Rijks, we signed up for a highlights tour.
I learned more in one hour about five different works of art than I would have wondering around by myself.
but art is not my thing I certainly had a much better appreciation for what I was viewing.
the guide asked the group what they would like to see.
she was very informative and spent extra time with the group.
I hope you will enjoy your trip.
there is so very much to see...


Posted by
186 posts

Thank you for the info. I was not looking for an in-person tour guide. I have done more research and it looks like the audio guides you can get at the Rijks offer several options....including the highlights tour, which takes (according to one TripAdvisor response) about 2 hours. This is contrary to RS estimation of the highlights tour @ 45 minutes (?) Anyway, it seems that there are several ways to tailor your visit to Rijks via the audio guide options. I am sure there is an option to do the Golden Age paintings as a primary focus.

I have read mixed reviews, some praising the audio guide and others finding it confusing. I'll probably risk it and ditch it if it's too irritating, but again, I hope to find some focus that will help me navigate.

Posted by
128 posts

Wow, and I thought I was a super trip planner. You've got me beat!!!

I've been to AMS 5 times this year for business, with a couple of 2-week trips with free weekends in between. Smart move relocating to Haarlem as your day-trip base. Not only do you save money, I really like Haarlem. Check out the markets in the square on Sat and Sun. With a flight that late, staying at Haarlem will work. Jump the train to Sloterdijk and transfer to the Schipol train. They're timed, and it will take about 30 minutes. My usual flights are around 9, so I have to stay at the airport the night before unless I want to get up by 4:30.

While I didn't analyze every little detail of your plan, or the responses, the one piece that stands out is this: definitely split days between the Riks and Van Gogh. It's just too much. Do each justice on their own day, and relax in a great cafe such as Cafe Loetje, which is very close to the museums. Enjoy!

Posted by
698 posts

Just to add my two cents worth....

Visiting the Blue Tea House after a museum visit is a great way to regenerate and soak up all you've just seen. Relaxing in the warm sun surrounded by Amsterdammers was a perfect way for me to get geared up for the next site! Vondelpark is beautiful.

Delft is a very walkable town, and I agree with others that a canal tour might not be worth the time, especially if you're already taking a canal tour in Amsterdam. While in Delft, definitely visit the town square - it's magnificent. I really enjoyed the Vermeer Center, and the audio guide there really adds to the experience. Even though there are no actual Vermeer paintings, there are reproductions and learning about his life and the role the Guild played at that time was very interesting. You'll have a better appreciation of his works when you go to the Mauritshuis afterwards and see Vermeer's paintings. I loved the Mauritshuis - the building itself is gorgeous too.

In Haarlem, definitely visit the town square here too. Sitting at a cafe having a cocktail in these marvelous squares just really takes you back in time! A favorite museum in Haarlem is the Frans Hals. My least favorite museum - the Haarlem museum which is right across the street from the Frans Hals museum. I was in and out of there in literally 10 minutes. I found it very boring (and I love pretty much all museums). I'm glad you're staying in Haarlem for part of your trip. I love Amsterdam, but spending time in smaller Haarlem is a good idea.

In Leiden, if you like windmills and aren't afraid of heights and narrow stairways, the Molenmusuem de Valk is a worthwhile museum to visit. Leiden is also a very walkable town and has beautiful vistas along the canals.

You are going to have a wonderful trip! You've planned it well.

Posted by
186 posts

Thanks to Dawn and Jack for the additional input. Thank you for the compliment on my planning thus husband thinks I am a bit nuts about it all but he usually appreciates it when we get there :)

I did put the Van Gogh museum and the Rijks on separate days and I'm sure I won't regret splitting those two biggies up.

I have been scouring the web for info about the 3 D virtual reality tour at the Westfries museum in Hoorn, which we are doing on Day 4. I had to reserve the 3D tour on the Westfries website in a section of the site that is only in Dutch. I did get confirmation (in Dutch) for my reservation. My question now is: I have read past posts, (but none that are terribly recent), saying that the 3D virtual tour is only available in Dutch, not in English. The website--even the English description--does not specify. People do say that the tour is worth doing even if you don't understand Dutch (I do not, alas.) Does anyone know if this tour has been made into English yet? Also, we will get to the Westfries literally JUST in time for our reserved tour entry time @ 3:00 pm. The tour takes an hour. That leaves just an hour for the rest of the museum before it closes @ 5:00. Is this enough time to do the rest of the museum justice?

Also, I'm wondering if it is worth doing a canal tour in Leiden? We are doing the one in Amsterdam, and we'll probably do one in Bruges....opinions? Finally, RS gives very few recommendations for eating in Delft and Leiden...I have found a few posts with suggestions, but if anyone has a shout out about something great (but not too $$), I'd appreciate it. Thanks again for all your tips so far everyone!

Posted by
1282 posts

Just returned from the Netherlands this weekend so here are my comments
Dam Boat Guys - We booked the 5pm the first night we were in Amsterdam. Captain Morgan was our guide. She is from Louisiana and has lived in Amsterdam I think she said 5 years. Although she is quite entertaining I'm not sure I remember much of what she said...I didn't learn very much about Amsterdam really and would have liked an overview of "where the heck we were" on the canals we cruised. I wouldn't book the Dam Boat Guys again unless I just wanted to be with a bunch of people on a canal boat. Too much time was spent doing introductions.

If you have a chance get to Kinderdijk. Spend the $ for the introduction film at the visitors center. It was quite informative

We did Haarlem, The Hague and Delft in one day. I thought Haarlem was really just a big outdoor shopping mall but we had a great lunch at Fortuyn on the square. Dinner in Delft at 'T Postkantoor - could have spent more time there and food was great. The Hague ... well we visited the Escher museum and it was good

We did a canal tour in Bruges which was quite interesting. Bought chocolate the The Chocolate Line which I understand to be one of 3 shops that still actually make there own chocolate. If you want to try a local Bruges beer head over to Fort Lapin. The owner, Christophe, makes some good beer.

Posted by
186 posts

Thanks for your input Donna!

Your mentioning Kinderdijk as a good day trip is making me wonder if I should consider it! I looked at previous posts this topic, and it looks like one can take the train from Haarlem to Rotterdam (58 min/0 transfers), walk to the ferry at the Erasmus Bridge, and take ferry 202 to Kinderdijk (28 min.) So that seems very doable.

I would then probably like to do Dordrecht as well....taking the same ferry 202 there. Then train back to Rotterdam and onto Haarlem.

Perhaps I'll let the weather determine our plan on that day. Make a plan for Leiden if weather isn't great, and to Kinderdijk if it's glorious. This would be on Day 9 of our trip, on October 5, so weather might be lovely still.

Are there any must-dos in Dordrecht? How much time should I allot for Kinderdijk and how much time for Dordrecht? We would be buying train and ferry tickets as we go, so no time table to adhere to, but I'd like to know what departures to shoot for, at least. It looks like the ferry leaves twice per hour? Any further input from anyone would be welcome.

Posted by
1282 posts

I think we spent a couple hours in Kinderdijk between the tourist center watching the short film and then visiting 2 windmills. But I think you can visit 4 of the windmills if you buy that package. Two was plenty to get the gist of them but the walk up the canal is very pretty.

We had lunch at the café next to the gift shop which was surprisingly quite good.

I don't know if you need to need to be at the airport 3 hours early. I think we arrive about 90 minutes ahead and still had plenty of time to grab breakfast before our flight. It is a very well organized airport with all the modern upgrades.

If you like craft beer - there is a fun - non touristy beer tour with Rachel who runs Brews and Tales. Honestly if we had done her tour first I would not have needed a canal tour. We learned way more from Rachel than Captain Morgan.

Posted by
809 posts

We spent a day in Leiden last March. I really wanted to see the Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, and it was a beautiful day for it, but mid-March was just too early for most of the flowers. It was a nice walk down there and a nice green place to stroll. Then we did a canal boat tour with Bootjes and Brootjes, grabbing sandwiches just across the street; it was a fun way to spend an hour or so, but maybe not needed if you're also doing an Amsterdam canal boat tour. It does give you some of the history of Leiden, if that's of interest. We went to the Boerhaave Museum in the afternoon and that was a bit disappointing/overwhelming; you can get a tablet at the front with English information about the exhibits but I had trouble finding the descriptions for what I was seeing. I would have enjoyed the Pilgrim Museum, but it was closed the day we were there. We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant, Sisaket, very close to the Leiden Centraal train station. Tasty, and a nice break from all the Dutch food we had been eating!

This may be too late as I think you're wrapping up your visit soon. Hope you had a great time!