Dutch cheeses, charming fishing villages, fields of flowers: these are just a few of the pleasures that await you on this quick but colorful 5-day adventure. After a day exploring the canals and museums of Amsterdam, you'll head to Zaanse Schans to see some of Holland's famous windmills. Then continue to the northern countryside, basing yourself in the small cities of Hoorn and Alkmaar. Sample delicious cheeses in centuries-old cheese markets, cruise around a historic harbor on a private boat tour, and ride to the North Sea on an e-bike for a relaxing walk on the beach. Since distances between destinations are short, you'll spend less time traveling and more time enjoying the highlights of this beautiful region.


  • Tour Amsterdam's best museums
  • Visit a centuries-old cheese market in Edam
  • Walk around a small fishing village and sample seafood
  • Ride to the North Sea, passing flower fields on an e-bike
  • Explore the charming hofjes (inner courtyards) of Alkmaar

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Visit the Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
Day 2 Tour Marken & See the Windmills at Zaanse Schans Hoorn
Day 3 Cruise Around Hoorn's Harbor & Visit Alkmaar's Cheese Market Alkmaar
Day 4 Cycle from Alkmaar to the Coast Alkmaar
Day 5 Depart Amsterdam - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Visit the Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum

Museum crowds in Amsterdam

Welcome to the Dutch Lowlands! After arriving in Amsterdam, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city center, a picturesque labyrinth of canals and small streets dotted with old houses and buildings. 

Begin your art tour on a private boat cruise through the city's canals. After about two hours on the water, the boat will drop you off in front of the Rijksmuseum, the most famous museum in the country. It's home to The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn, considered one of the most important paintings ever created in the Netherlands. Near this massive artwork, you'll also see The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer and many other 17th-century works by Dutch Masters. 

Next, you'll stop by the Van Gogh Museum. Take a break for lunch in the museum's café, then explore the collections at your own pace. Van Gogh famously created over 2,000 paintings in a little over a decade. The museum houses some of his most famous works, including The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, and one of his very last works, Wheatfield with Crows.

In the evening, have a leisurely dinner at one of the many restaurants near your hotel. 

Day 2: Tour Marken & See the Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Dutch windmills at sunrise

After exploring the rich culture of the capital city, it is time to check out some other Dutch icons: wooden shoes, fishing villages, cheese, and windmills! Today, you will experience the beauty of the countryside north of Amsterdam. 

Begin in the picturesque village of Marken, located on an island in the Markermeer lake. Explore the small town and visit a wooden shoe factory before catching the ferry to Volendam, Holland’s best-known fishing village. The quaint harbor is lined with cafés and fish vendors. It's a good place to sample local treats like kibbeling (traditional battered and fried fish nuggets). Next, your guide will take you to visit the centuries-old cheese market area in Edam. The market happens on Wednesdays in July and August, but the market square and waag (weigh house) itself are very much worth a visit even outside those times. 

The last stop on your tour today is Zaanse Schans. During the 17th century, over 600 windmills were constructed in the area as part of an early industrial zone. The windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint and oil, and cut wood. A number of these windmills still exist and can be visited today, inside and out. 

Tonight you'll have dinner and spend the night at a hotel in Hoorn.

Day 3: Cruise Around Hoorn's Harbor & Visit Alkmaar's Cheese Market

Dutch cheeses for sale

After breakfast in your hotel in Hoorn, walk down to the waterfront. A boat will pick you up for a 45-minute private cruise through the harbor, bordered by 16th-century merchant houses. On your return, a local guide will lead you on a city tour that ends at the Westfries Museum, where you'll learn about regional history and Golden Age art.

Have lunch in town, then catch a train to Alkmaar. Perhaps best known for its cheese market, Alkmaar is also home to a compact historic center and an interesting selection of museums. The cheese market, which has been in action since 1365, is held every Friday from April through September (plus Tuesday nights in July and August). Porters, loaders, tossers, and weighers all have their specific roles. Even when the cheese market isn't going on, you can visit The Waag, the historic building where cheeses used to be weighed. The building now houses a cheese museum on the second and third floors.

Have a leisurely dinner in one of the city's many excellent restaurants before getting some rest at your hotel. 

Day 4: Cycle from Alkmaar to the Coast

Tulips in bloom along the ride to the beach

Another great aspect of Alkmaar is its proximity to the Dutch coast. Today you'll take off on an e-bike for a self-guided cycling tour. Ride past fields of flowers (which are at their best in April and May), sand dunes, and beautiful scenery on your way to the North Sea. Go for a walk on the beach, have lunch in an open-air café, and relax. 

When you return to Alkmaar, walk around the city center on your own. You’ll see lovely canals, historic buildings, and hofjes (small inner courtyards, usually with a communal garden). Try and locate het Hofje van Splinter, het Hofje van Paling en Foreest, and het Wildemanshofje on the map. You can enter and have a look around, as long as you stay relatively quiet — they might look like open-air museums, but these hofjes are residential areas.

Enjoy one last Dutch-style dinner on the last night of the trip.

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Day 5: Depart Amsterdam - End of Trip

Postcards at a shop in Amsterdam

Today the trip comes to an end. You'll transfer to the airport in Amsterdam to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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