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Netherlands Itinerary - feedback

HI
My husband I will be visiting Europe mid August to first week of September- 3 weeks. Our time will be divided with 10 days in Norway with a family reunion, then 4 days in Brugge (with a day cycling) , then we head off to Haarlem for the last week

We have 6-1/2 days to plan. We have decided to stay in Haarlem and go by train into Amsterdam for day trips to avoid the crowds and have a quieter evenings. i am thinking 3 full sight-see days in Amsterdam might fit our plans - 1 day - a walking tour, canal boat cruise and general walk orientation;a 2nd day to visit the Van Gogh museum (morning) and then afternoon free to enjoy and walk around, a third day to visit the Rijkmuseum (morning) with the afternoon again to enjoy and walk. The free afternoons can be planned in more detail later on. One day we will go to Delf (a close friend is from this town)

Here is what I need help with:
We would like to break up these intense museum days with a couple of more relaxed days with day trip cycling - 30 - 40 km per day is our speed. we would like to see dikes, windmills, and farms land, slow it down and enjoy dutch countryside and smaller villages. we can cycle from Haarlem to the coast - one option. but we would be interested to hear suggestions of day trips to a smaller village with a lovely cycle path to see dutch countryside or sea side . we can cycle from Haarlem, OR can take a train to a town/village and pick up a rental bike there. We enjoy biking but are not super experienced cycler's so want to stay off big and busy roads and pathways. Some of our most delightful memories of days in Europe have been spent cycling in countryside, vineyards and to small villages.

I don't feel like i need to see all of Amsterdam on this trip as we fully expect to be back on other trips. We come to Europe most years for a few weeks

thanks for your cycling day trip suggestions

Posted by
9518 posts

We are not cyclists but we loved staying in Haarlem for our 6 nights in the area. I think your plan for Amsterdam itself is good. Rick Steves’ guidebook covers a lot about touring on day trips, including cycling. Have you got a copy?

Posted by
2487 posts

An easy but rewarding trip could be just east of Haarlem with Spaarndam - of Hans Brinkers fame - as highlight. Go via Penningsveer (a 19th-century fortress) and Spaarnwoude. From the small church in Spaarnwoude you have a dedicated cycle path (blue dots on this zoomable map) to Spaarndam. Return to Haarlem along the wide Spaarne river.
Zandvoort is the obvious place to go to for the seaside. There is an excellent dedicated cycle path (again with blue dots on the map) just south of the railway line. Combine it with the country estate of Elswout, one of many in this area.

Posted by
4525 posts

My only thought is that you may be over-relying on Haarlem as a way to "avoid the crowds." We've stayed there for several days and it's a fine place, with at least a day's worth of sightseeing right there, and maybe also a good base for the cycling you want to do. But maybe not such a good base for successive day trips into Amsterdam, simply because you arrive at Centraal Station and have to contend each day with the crowds there and around Dam Square and such -- the most crowded part of the city. Consider two or three nights in an Amsterdam neighborhood away from the center, like Jordaan or De Pijp (sp?), where you can see Amsterdam sights without having to go through Centraal and still sleep in a relatively quiet area. Then move out to Haarlem or someplace like that for your cycling adventures.

We liked the Lion d'Or in Haarlem, very close to the station. We took one day trip into the big city and then another day to get on a cruise ship. Other Haarlem accommodations may be more bike-friendly, but a bikeway ran right past the Lion d'Or.

Posted by
10344 posts

I agree with Dick re the fallacy of sleeping in Haarlem as a way to "avoid the crowds in Amsterdam." It's not that black and white, the choice between sleeping in Amsterdam and the so-called perceived advantage of sleeping in Haarlem. I considered this same issue in September, chose to sleep in Amsterdam, and it was the right decision for us, for the same reasons Dick gives.

Posted by
1605 posts

hey wine-girl
i agree with dick and kent about staying in amsterdam. haarlem is pretty and a nice place, to me not worth training back and forth.
i've been twice, once in an apartment on prinsengracht near amstel canal and another time on a houseboat in jordaan, near anne frank house. don't know your budget in euros or exact dates, it's an expensive city and busy all year long like other european places.
check citymundo.com, houseboatrental.amsterdam, or houseboathotel.nl, booking.com, jordam.nl if you haven't booked anything yet or have free cancellation.
check your arrival and departure times, early check in or luggage storage, security deposit either credit card or cash euros, mobility issues since lots of stairs/steps to climb with bags, a room or studio without sharing bathroom/kitchen. we enjoyed both places, boats going by, everyone having a great relaxing time, some have bikes for guests. bikes bikes bikes everywhere and not a place to ride a bike, in my opinion. getyourguide.com, amsterdanbikerent.nl, discountbikerental.nl
no problem sleeping and away from crowds. once you get into dam square it's busy. we had a fabulous time, either taxi back or take the tram, transportation is great. lots of things to do, see and eat. any ?'s just ask have fun and enjoy
aloha

Posted by
8008 posts

No suggestions on cycling but for the Rijksmuseum I do suggest you both download their app before you leave home. It was the best app I used on my recent trip. There is free wifi in the museum and the app actually has a locator function in case you get turned around in the museum, lol!! Purchase those tickets ahead - I wound up just buying mine thru the app on the morning I decided to go from my hotel wifi, used the e-ticket on my phone and went straight in. The ticket lines were long which seemed ridiculous since all those people could have used the museum wifi to do an online purchase. I’d plan to be here right after it opens especially if you want some uncrowded time with the Rembrandts and Vermeers.

Do get the Van Gogh tickets ahead as well. They have an e-ticket function too. I’d suggest you start on the 3rd floor here where the good stuff is located then work your way down. It messes up the timeline but it gets you to the really interesting work early on. No official museum app here, no photos either. I hope it is air conditioned in August because it was hot as h*ll in there this last Sunday when it was chilly outside.

Posted by
9518 posts

Staying in Haarlem I did feel we avoided some crowds. Sure, Centraal Station as the hordes daily, but at night we felt Haarlem was peaceful with excellent restaurants and more locals than tourists out-and-about. We did not mind our daily “commute” via train at all.

Posted by
103 posts

I recommend Wetlands Safari Tour. Google this title and read my detailed description of this delightful and unusual tour. My husband and I rented an apartment in Haarlem for a week and enjoyed living like locals. We were 10 minute walk from train station. Be sure to visit Carrie ten Boom Museum in Haarlem.

Posted by
3873 posts

The nice thing about staying in Amsterdam proper is - at least if you are a morning person - you can get out and just wander before the crowds are up. Sure - the trains may not take too long between Haarlem and Ams, but you have to take into acct the time to get to the stn, and maybe you just missed a train so have another 15-20 min wait.

We stayed in the De Pijp area - I found the worst crowds in by the Centraal Stn and environs. We were there in April though, so can't speak for what Sept might be like. De Pijp was great...we were just off one of the main roads - could walk to the tram in 1 min and within 3-4 stops (less than 10 min) was at the Rijks - I went out one morning at 6:30am to get a photo of the IAmsterdam sign (which I guess is gone or moved now) and almost had the place to myself.

Posted by
3873 posts

Just want to add - we used Blue Boats canal tour and got a combo ticket with the Rijks. Saved a few euro.

Posted by
306 posts

Last year we stayed in Zandaam, a suburb of Amsterdam.
We never felt crowded. It is a pleasant area. There were never any crowds at the train station.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you for all your helpful suggestions, we have planned to get museum tickets and book a guided tour in advance. Good plan to see 3rd floor first and download app in advance.

Any thoughts on Ann frank house vs Dutch resistance museum?

Posted by
8008 posts

I’ve done both the Anne Frank Huis and the Dutch Resistance Museum.

The Anne Frank house is very crowded although they have timed entries things get backed up as people climb the narrow staircase to the upper floors. It is a little claustrophobic and can be pretty emotional. Most everyone read the Diary during school.

The Resistance museum I found to be the perfect size. Just when I got to the point where I knew I’d had enough, I was done. I found it well-presented and thought-provoking using the premise that when a country is invaded the occupants have 3 choices on howto deal with the oppressors- Adapt, Collaborate, Resist. I found the museum to be excellent and a good grounding to do ahead of the Anne Frank House. There was an interesting section on the Resistance movement in the Dutch East Indies. I had not ever heard anything about that and found it interesting.

You can’t go wrong with either although I’d probably lean to the Dutch Resistance Museum if you only have time for one and don’t have strong feelings about either location. It’s an excellent history lesson.

Posted by
201 posts

pam - which rijksmuseum app did you download? I see several. Thanks!