Immerse yourself in the seafaring history of the Dutch Golden Age on this enlightening 5-day trip. The Dutch East India Company was extremely important in trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. Discover reminders of this rich past as you gaze upon naval scenes in Frans Hals’ paintings in Haarlem, stroll along city canals bordered by ancient warehouses in Middelburg, tour Hoorn's historic harbor, and ride an antique boat across IJsselmeer lake. You'll also travel on an old steam train, cycle to a coastal fort in Zeeland, and wander around a replica of an 18th-century cargo ship in Amsterdam.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a journey around the Golden Age of sea trade
  • Visit the oldest coastal fort in Western Europe
  • Travel on an old steam train and an antique boat
  • Explore a replica of an 18th-century ship in Amsterdam
  • Cycle through the Dutch countryside on an e-bike

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Tour Frans Hals Museum & Cycle to the Beach Haarlem
Day 2 Cruise Across the Lake & Ride an Antique Train Hoorn
Day 3 See Remnants of the Dutch Golden Age at Middelburg Middelburg
Day 4 Cycle to an Old Coastal Fort Middelburg
Day 5 Tour an 18th-Century Ship - Depart Amsterdam  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Tour Frans Hals Museum & Cycle to the Beach

A church in Haarlem

Welcome to Holland! Your adventure begins in the city of Haarlem. Here, you'll spend some time at the Frans Hals Museum. Hals, together with Rembrandt and Vermeer, is one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Known for his free and painterly brushstrokes, he lived and worked in Haarlem for more than sixty years until his death in 1666. The facade of the museum's main hall was designed by Dutch Renaissance architect Lieven de Key. His signature style is visible in the most iconic buildings of the city, including the town hall and De Waag, where produce used to be weighed before being sent off to the market.

If time allows, stop at the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands, home to an impressive art collection. Then hop on an e-bike and head out of town on a ride to the beach town of Bloemendaal. Go for a stroll on the beach, admiring views of the North Sea, and stop for refreshments at a beach café. If you're up for more cycling, detour to National Park Zuid-Kennemerduinen, home to the largest dune area in Holland. Keep your eyes open for deer! Once you arrive in the park, explore its network of hiking trails.

Return to Bloemendaal in time for dinner — you'll have reservations in a seafood restaurant with views of the water. After the meal, cycle back to Haarlem for the night.

Day 2: Cruise Across the Lake & Ride an Antique Train

Boats in the small town of Hoorn

After checking out of your hotel, travel by train to the city of Enkhuizen. Here you'll get off the train and head to the harbor to board an antique ship cruise you across IJsselmeer Lake. This lake used to be called Zuiderzee, with an open connection to the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. The body of water was then turned into a lake, now the largest lake in Holland.

You'll arrive in the harbor of Medemblik, another historic town bordering the lake. Board a steam engine and make your way through the charmingly restored railway stations of Wognum, Twisk, and Opperdoes. In spring, you’ll be treated to the sight of colorful fields of tulips in full bloom. Your final destination today is Hoorn.

Although Hoorn is a small town, it was of utmost value to the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, and it flourished due to trade. Stroll around the historic center and the harbor full of old warehouses. At the train station, you can find an interesting museum full of old locomotives and wagons, and the Westfries Museum is also worth a visit if you want to learn more about the Golden Age. Then you'll head down to the harbor for a 45-minute boat ride through the harbor, enjoying views of 16th-century merchant houses. Have dinner in a local restaurant before getting some rest at your hotel.

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Day 3: See Remnants of the Dutch Golden Age at Middelburg

The grand architecture of Kloveniersdoelen in Middelburg

Today's plan offers a mix of culture and history. You'll travel to Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland. With its lovely canal-side houses and historic architecture, Middelburg used to be an important trading center in the Dutch East India Company, mostly due to its practical location. Spices, textiles, and porcelain from Asia and Africa passed through here before becoming available on the European market. 

Today, reminders of the Golden Age are still evident throughout the town. One of the eight city gates is still visible, named the Koepoort, and so are many warehouses and shipyards where shipbuilders constructed around 300 ships over the course of two centuries. Another must-see is the Kloveniersdoelen, a residence built in 1607; it once housed the archers' guild. The 15th-century town hall, built in Gothic style, is one of the most impressive sights of all of Zeeland. This afternoon you will also visit the Zeeuws Museum, located inside the Middelburg Abbey, a former monastery. You'll see an interesting collection of antique shipping equipment, textiles, traditional clothing, and artifacts from the Golden Age.

Many cafés and restaurants encircle the square, so sit back and enjoy the view over a coffee or a glass of wine. This is the place to sample fresh mussels, oysters, and other seafood.

Day 4: Cycle to an Old Coastal Fort

The stone gate at Fort Rammekens

Today you'll explore the region in true Dutch style, by e-bike! The e-bikes will be delivered to your hotel. Cycling is easy here since there are separate cycling lanes everywhere that are both safe and flat. Before you leave town, make a stop at a local bakery to sample a pastry, or pack a few for a snack along the journey. 

Your destination lies to the south. Fort Rammekens is the oldest coastal fort in western Europe, dating back to 1547. It played an important role in Zeeland's naval history, safeguarding the shipping route to Middelburg and Antwerp. Enter through the impressive doors of the entrance gate and wander around in the open spaces and dungeons. From the top, the view over the water of the Westerschelde and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen on the other side is a delight.

If you'd like to continue cycling, head west along the coastline to the seaside resort of Vlissingen, which has a sandy beach, great restaurants, and a lovely harbor. Head back to Middelburg for dinner on the last night of the trip.

Day 5: Tour an 18th-Century Ship - Depart Amsterdam

A replica of The Amsterdam

Catch a train to Amsterdam. Then board a boat that will take you to the Scheepvaartmuseum, a maritime museum housing a replica of the 18th-century cargo ship The Amsterdam. Wander around on the deck and inside the ship itself to imagine the heyday of Dutch trade. 

Finally, head to the Amsterdam airport or train station to make your way to your next destination. Safe travels!

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