Suggestions for an 11 day itinerary in the Netherlands would be very helpful and very much appreciated. We plan to spend the first five days (including King's Day) in Amsterdam, but after that, would like to see the highlights of the rest of the country. We fly in and out of Amsterdam. Recommendations for an itinerary? Thank you.
Your visit will co-incide with the tulip season at the world-famous Keukenhof gardens. If it isn't already high on your list of priorities, put it there. Get there early. By mid-day, may of the indoor displays become extremely crowded.
investigate the aalsmer flower auction ( but get there early in the morning) a real eye opener, the kohler muller museum, are two of the many things we enjoyed while there.
hope this helps.
I you don't have Rick Steves Netherlands, get it. He describes all sorts of possibilities, from rural to urban, along with goof-proof directions from Amsterdam. Many of them are daytrips, but suitable for overnights too.
I enjoyed Leiden. I had to go there to get the bus to Keukenhof, but actually enjoyed Leiden more. Of the three "college towns" in the Netherlands I saw (Delft, Utrecht, and Leiden) it was the only one that had visible students and a college town atmosphere. The museums were interesting too. Did you know that EKG's and kidney dialysis were developed in the Netherlands? I didn't until I saw Leiden's science museum.
As for Keukenhof, the crowds are not to be believed. Do go as early as possible, and get into the greenhouses before the crowds do (the outdoor parts are crowded but workable; the indoor greenhouses were so crowded they were a bit scary). I was not as taken with Keukenhof as others are - you have to REALLY like lots and lots and lots of flowers. Great care is taken to make the displays as different from each other as possible, and I never knew there were so many kinds of tulips (particularly the pointed and/or multi-colored ones), but after a while it was numbing.
Utrecht was very worthwhile. It has unique bi-level canals, and three great museums. There's the rail museum, the Centraal Museum (with everything from ancient ships to modern art, all juxtaposed in a fashion that you don't get tired of any one style as you go from room to room), and the Museum Speelklok. This last is a unique collection of music makers, from little boxes to huge pipe organs meant to blast music through an entire fairground. You take a one hour tour with a docent who demonstrates some of the machines - wonderful.
I didn't care for Delft as much as most do, and the Hague was only of interest to me for its museums. Rotterdam was fascinating, precisely because it's so different from the other places I saw. Get the architecture walking tour brochure from the tourist office, which doubles as a free map (the regular city map is not free). Don't miss the Cube Houses, and do pay the small fee to go into the Cube House Museum.
Almost all of these places are close enough to AMS airport that you can probably stay in them and still get to the airport in time for your flight home. I spent my last night in Delft and had no trouble doing this, as trains run right into the airport from many cities, without even needing to change. Rotterdam is a bit farther (I saw it as a daytrip from Delft).
What you can do to my opinion is split your stay in daytrips with the train for visiting places within easy reach of Amsterdam and renting a car to tour around the Netherlands.
Train trips are discussed here on the forum extensively, so I give you a rough idea for a tour with the car. You can drive around “IJsselmeer”, start to visit the region north of Amsterdam and drive over the “Afsluitdijk” to Friesland, a really nice province to explore. Drive south with visits to Giethoorn and the Hanseatic cities, like Zwolle, Kampen, Deventer, Zutphen, along the river IJssel to Arnhem for the Kröller-Müller / Van Gogh Museum. If history is of interest, more particular Operation Market Garden you can visit the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek west of Arnhem or south-east of Nijmegen in Groesbeek the “Nationaal Bevrijdingsmuseum”.
Further you can drive with a stop in Heusden and Willemstad to the “Maeslantkering” west of Rotterdam, absolutely worth to visit to see what we do to keep our feet dry. On the way back to Amsterdam worth to visit is “Kasteel de Haar” and Haarzuilens west of Utrecht and a drive along the river Vecht north of it.
If having more time add the three southern provinces. Late April / early May many flowers are in full blossom, weather can still be a bit chilly but not a bad time of the year for touring around.
Unless you want to visit the countryside, a car isn't necessary. The Netherlands has an excellent public transport system, and almost every place you'll be likely to visit has a very regular train connection with at least two trains per hour. Use www.ns.nl/en/journeyplanner/#/ as your train planner. http://9292.nl/en# gives real-time information on all forms of public transport, including busses and ferries.
For a change of scenery, you'll can do worse than install yourself for a few days in the eastern part. The historical cities along the River IJssel (Kampen, Zwolle, Deventer and Zutphen) are all very much worth a visit.
Dordrecht - to the south of Rotterdam - is much overlooked. It's also an excellent base for visiting the famous windmill complex of Kinderdijk. The nicest way for visiting is to take the so-called Waterbus: a ferry service between Dordrecht and Rotterdam.
Personally I love the area north of Amsterdam with its centuries-old reclamations of the Beemster and Schermer polders. Hoorn is a beautiful historical harbour city, and a good base for places around, such as Enkhuizen, Edam and Monnickendam.
A combination of cities and countryside will make your trip more interesting if you ask me. The tour I suggest is just a rough idea, to prepare your tour well you can also make use of for instance Michelin or Lonely Planet guides as I think the RS guides are a bit limited. There is anyway enough to see and to explore to keep you busy for the 11 days here in the Netherlands.
We really enjoyed Rotterdam, especially Market Hall and the museum area.
I went to Rotterdam soley to visit Miniworld Rotterdam (formally called Trainz Miniworld). It's not nearly as impressive as Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, but perhaps worth a visit if you're in town otherwise and these sort of things appeal to you. Like the others, though, I found the city an unexpected pleasant contrast to the rest of the country. Not a city I would linger over, but if you have time, it merits at least a short visit.
Thank you everyone, for all of your information. It is all very much appreciated !