Experience the best of Holland along with some of its hidden gems on this 10-day trip! From big cities to charming small villages, you’ll experience a perfect cross-section of what the Netherlands has to offer. You’ll have the opportunity to admire all of the traditional Dutch characteristics: cheese markets, famous painters, typical canals, rich history, churches with stained-glass windows, windmills, lovely squares, and ancient cobbled alleys. In addition to exploring picturesque smaller cities such as Gouda, Leiden, and Delft, you will also visit Amsterdam, home to the country’s most famous museums, the vibrant, modern harbor city of Rotterdam, and even get some beach time!

Highlights

  • Gaze upon the works of famous painters from the Golden Age
  • Experience the picturesque Dutch countryside near Amsterdam
  • Indulge in locally-made Gouda cheese
  • Marvel at the modern architecture in the port city of Rotterdam

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Amsterdam arrival - Anne Frank House Amsterdam
Day 2 Amsterdam - Daytrip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans Amsterdam
Day 3 Amsterdam - Gouda Bike Tour Gouda
Day 4 Gouda - Rotterdam Rotterdam
Day 5 Rotterdam -Architectural Tour Rotterdam
Day 6 Rotterdam - Delft, Delftware Pottery Tour Delft
Day 7 Delft - Leiden, Bike Tour Leiden
Day 8 Leiden - Haarlem Haarlem
Day 9 Haarlem - Cycling To The Beach Haarlem
Day 10 Haarlem - Amsterdam, Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Amsterdam arrival - Anne Frank House

 Amsterdam Canals

Welcome to the lowlands! After arrival at Amsterdam airport you will have 2 options: to take a 15-minute train ride to your hotel in Amsterdam or alternatively, you can choose to be met by a taxi outside the airport which will take you to your hotel (30-60 minutes, depending on traffic). 

Your hotel will be located in the city center, which is an amazing labyrinth of canals and small streets, dotted with historic houses and other buildings. The center of Amsterdam is relatively small, so most places can be easily reached on foot or by bike. For longer distances, you can alternatively use the city’s tram network or taxis. We will arrange a public transport pass for today in case you would like to travel by tram.

Start exploring Amsterdam at the Anne Frank House. This is a city landmark where you can familiarize yourself with the world-famous life story of a young Jewish girl during the Second World War. The museum is built around the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid for over two years before their tragic discovery and arrest.

If time permits, you could also pay a visit to one of the museums of Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum is the most famous museum in the Netherlands, which houses the country’s most important painting, The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. Besides this gigantic painting, you can also see The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer and many other 17th-century works by Dutch Master painters. 

Right next to the Rijksmuseum you will find another Dutch highlight: the Van Gogh Museum. Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a dutch post-impressionist painter who created over 2,000 paintings in just over a decade. The Van Gogh Museum houses some of his most famous works, like The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Almond Blossom, and one of his very last works, Wheatfield with Crows. In case your time is limited today, you can also save a visit to this museum for tomorrow morning before your departure.

If you are interested in seeing more of the city, we recommend taking a stroll through the picturesque neighborhood of the Jordaan. Situated on the west side of the city center, the Jordaan is full of beautiful arched bridges, cobbled streets lined with trees, and numerous Dutch “bruin” cafes, where you can spend a cozy evening enjoying the typical Dutch pub snack “bitterballen” and an assortment of local beers.

Day 2: Amsterdam - Daytrip to Marken, Volendam, Edam & Zaanse Schans

Dutch Countryside

After exploring the rich culture of Amsterdam, 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 to the north of Amsterdam. Your private guide/driver will take you first to the picturesque village of Marken, located on an island in the Markermeer (once a bay of the North Sea, but now a lake). Here, you will explore the small village and visit a wooden shoe factory. From Marken, a ferry will take you to Volendam, Holland’s best-known fishing village. The quaint harbor is lined with cafes and fish stands and is a good place to enjoy local treats such as kibbeling (traditional battered and fried fish nuggets), eel, and herring.

Next, your guide will take you to visit the centuries-old cheese market in Edam. The actual cheese market is only held on Wednesdays in July and August, but the market square and ‘waag’ (weigh house) itself are very much worth a visit, even without an actual market taking place. 

The last stop of your tour is Zaanse Schans. During the 17th century, over 600 windmills were constructed in the area around the Zaanse Schans, creating the first industrial zone. The windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint, saw wood, and produce oil. A number of these windmills still exist and can be visited today, allowing you to see how these wind-powered machines work, inside and out. After a busy day of sightseeing, your driver will bring you back to your hotel in Amsterdam.

Day 3: Amsterdam - Gouda Bike Tour

Canal Houses Gouda

Today you will make your way by train to another charming city in the west of Holland: Gouda!  Of course, all over the world, the name of this city rings a bell: the famous Gouda cheese originates here. From Amsterdam, a train ride of about 1 hour  will bring you to the center of Gouda. Private transportation can be arranged if you prefer. Just a small hint so you can blend in with the locals: the name of the city is actually not pronounced “Gooda” but rather “Howda”. 

Gouda’s city center is characterized by many small canals and is, therefore, best explored on foot. Start your stroll at the market square, which was founded in 1198. In summer, there’s a cheese market held here every Thursday. Even without an actual market going on, the square is still a wonderful place to visit. Large cheese wheels used to be weighed here at De Waag, or weighing house. Today, this building houses a museum where you can explore the history of Gouda’s cheese market. Then, head to the impressive St Jans church and be dazzled by its beautiful stained glass windows. Along the way, you will surely spot many cozy restaurants, so make a mental note to return here in the evening!

If you’re interested in seeing another Dutch icon, a windmill, then head a little to the south across one of the canals to see De Roode Leeuw (red lion). This windmill dates back to 1727 and is still a working mill that grinds the grains that supply local bakeries in the area with fresh flour. If you have a sweet tooth, the Kamphuisen siroopwafelfabriek (syrup waffle factory) is the place to go. They still make stroopwafels (traditional Dutch cookies) according to a recipe dating back to 1810, and the smell alone is enough to make a person drool! 

There’s enough to see and do for everyone in Gouda, and all within a short walking distance and without the crowds.

This afternoon, a local guide will pick you up with bicycles, to experience some of the typical green countryside surrounding Gouda. It’s all flat and thus easy cycling. This typical ‘polder’-landscape is marked by many green pastures with livestock and hundreds of small canals; very watery indeed. You might also spot a windmill here and there. Return to Gouda, where the day-trippers have left by now, to find the entire historic square just for you and the locals.

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Day 4: Gouda - Rotterdam

Rotterdam Architecture

Today you are off to  Rotterdam! The direct train from Gouda only takes about 20  minutes. Rotterdam is a multifaceted city. It not only is the largest port in Europe, but also is home to swanky food markets, underground clubs, and amazing contemporary art museums. Above all, Rotterdam is the architectural hotspot of Holland that stimulates innovation. Its skyline is always changing!

Must-see museums while in Rotterdam include Boijmans van Beuningen (housing Dutch and other European art collections ranging from the early Middle Ages to the 21st century) and the Kunsthal (modern art). After your visits,  take a stroll in Museum Park,  a creatively landscaped outdoor space filled with sculptures and art installations connecting Rotterdam’s major museums. 

If you have the time, we also recommend a visit to the historic marina of Delfshaven. It is one of the few areas of the old city that survived the bombing of Rotterdam during WWII. Delfshaven has a fascinating history: it was the birthplace of the Dutch maritime hero Piet Hein, and the point from which the Pilgrims departed for America. The canal houses of this historic part of the city are now home to antique shops, gin bars, cafes, and breweries. Exploring this area is a great way to experience Rotterdam’s authentic charm! 

Day 5: Rotterdam -Architectural Tour

Rotterdam Skyline

Spend a morning at leisure in Rotterdam. If you wish (not yet included in the travel fare) you can join a tour to take you to Rotterdams harbor area, either by speedboat or a more comfortable larger boat. Both ways you get a good impression of the size of the harbor and the massive cargo ships that anchor here.

In the afternoon you will be picked up to enjoy a 2,5-hour private walking tour of Rotterdam with a local architect. From the newly built Central Station, we will lead you through the city, following architectural iconic sites like the post-war modernist shopping area the Lijnbaan, The Theater Square, the Timmerhuis – designed by the world-famous architects of OMA, St.Laurens Church and the Markthal – the most unique and fancy indoor market of Europe. Your guide will share his knowledge about the history and the future plans of the city. You will walk along the river and view the “Manhattan on the Maas” a new high-end architectural development on the South Bank. The tour ends close to the biggest landmark of Rotterdam – the Erasmus bridge.

Day 6: Rotterdam - Delft, Delftware Pottery Tour

Delft Pottery

This morning, another train ride of fewer than 20 minutes will take you to your next destination: the small city of Delft! Delft is a charming city with many canals and characteristic buildings and courtyards and is famous for being the home of the painter Johannes Vermeer during the Dutch Golden Age. Slightly more affordable than a Vermeer painting, Delft is also famous for its typical blue earthenware. This blue-on-white pottery was introduced in the 17th century as a cheaper alternative to porcelain imported from China and is still being made today. 

Located half an hour’s walk from the center of Delft, the Paauw factory is a small family-run business that still produces Delftware pottery according to ancient techniques. A guide will show you how the pottery is made, and take you to see the atelier where painters decorate these works by hand as they have for centuries. Delftware makes a great souvenir, and it is even possible to join a workshop to paint your own! 

A leisurely stroll back to the center along the canals and through cobbled squares will take you to the Vermeer Centre, where you can learn all about this painter who spent his life in Delft (1632-1675). He only made 37 paintings during his lifetime, and at the Vermeer Centre, you can see reproductions of all of them, including the Milkmaid and View of Delft. Have a look into his studio and allow yourself to be taken back in time to the 17th-century Delft.

Day 7: Delft - Leiden, Bike Tour

University Town Leiden

It’s time for yet another charming Dutch city: the university town of Leiden! A direct train from Delft will get you there in only 20 minutes. Along the way, it is also possible to make a stop in Den Haag (known in English as the Hague, the seat of the Dutch government, and home to one of the most magnificent paintings in the country: Johannes Vermeers ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’.

From Leiden railway station, it is a 5-minute walk to your hotel in the historic center of Leiden. Leiden is an atmospheric university city with countless beautiful museums, charming canals, and inner courtyards called ‘hofjes’. Leiden University, founded in 1575, is the oldest university in the Netherlands. 

In the afternoon, your private guide will pick you up from your hotel with, of course, bicycles. The bicycle is the most practical and favored means of transportation in the Netherlands, as you will surely notice. Cycling lanes are usually separated from car lanes to improve safety, and all of the cycle paths are conveniently flat. Your local guide will bike with you around the city and show you all the highlights of Leiden such as the canals, de Burcht (a centuries-old fort), historic buildings, the bridges, the hofjes (courtyards), and beautiful churches. He can also give you tips on where to spend your free time in Leiden.

Alternatively, you can take a similar tour of the city by foot.

The rest of the afternoon is free for you to visit any of the many museums that Leiden has to offer. The Lakenhal Museum hosts a collection of paintings from the past four centuries including several Rembrandts. You can also choose to visit the Museum of Archeology or the Museum of Ethnology, both located in the city center. In addition, Leiden has many other options such as Museum Boerhaave (science and medicine), Naturalis (flora and fauna), Corpus (human body), Hortus Botanicus Leiden (flora), Museummolen de Valk (windmills), and the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Whatever may appeal to you, Leiden has it! Alternatively, if you are interested in experiencing a taste of the natural beauty of the Netherlands, you can e-bike to nearby Noordwijk on the Dutch coast.

Day 8: Leiden - Haarlem

Harbour Haarlem

After breakfast, you will take a 20-minute train ride northwest to the medieval city of Haarlem. After checking into your hotel, enjoy a walk through the historic center of Haarlem. Take a stroll down the Gouden Straatjes (Golden Streets), and do some window shopping in the city's boutiques, or stop for a drink at the JopenKerk, a renovated church that is now home to a cafe serving  Dutch beers made by Jopen, a local brewery. Alternatively, you could choose to enjoy a delicious meal or drink on one of the many terraces along the Grote Markt, one of the prettiest squares in the country. 

While in the city, do not miss a stop at the Frans Hals Museum. Together with Rembrandt and Vermeer, Frans Hals is considered one of the three greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Hals worked in Haarlem from 1603 until his death in 1666. If you are interested in more museums, the Teylers Museum is also highly recommended. This is the oldest museum in the Netherlands, with a collection focused on science and art.

Day 9: Haarlem - Cycling To The Beach

Bloemendaal

Pack your sunglasses and towel: it is time to head to the beach! In the center of Haarlem, you will pick up your e-bike and head out along your route: a ride of about 6 miles (10 km) via excellent and safe cycling lanes that will bring you to the beach town of Bloemendaal. Park your bikes and stroll along the gentle waves. Along the beach are many pavilions to stop and enjoy a drink with a view!

 If you’re interested in nature, we recommend making a stop in National Park Zuid-Kennemerduinen on the way to or from Bloemendaal. This park is characterized by an impressive landscape of sand dunes and a habitat of countless animals and plants. We will provide you with a cycle route through the park, but if you prefer to hike, you can pick one of many different walking routes that start from the visitor’s center.

Day 10: Haarlem - Amsterdam, Departure

Departure

After a final breakfast in Haarlem, return to the railway station for your trip to the airport or onward to your next destination.

Map

Map of Highlights of Holland - 10 Days
Map of Highlights of Holland - 10 Days