Best cities to visit in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is the country of peaceful countryside, historic towns, windmills, traditional canals and tulips. Although the Netherlands is one of Europe´s smallest nations it has a lot to offer.
The first stop for most travelers is Amsterdam, just like everyone flocks to Paris in France, however there is much more than that and you can find many beautiful Dutch cities which are worth visiting.
In this post, I will introduce you the best cities to visit in the Netherlands which are easily reachable by train from the main city hub.
Some of the cities are perfect for a day trip from Amsterdam and some are located a bit further from the capital so it would be better to stay over the weekend. It’s such a gorgeous country, who knows you may even end up moving to the Netherlands.
Here is the list to get you started.
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Best cities to visit in the Netherlands
Utrecht | The Hague (Den Haag) | Alkmaar | Haarlem | Lisse (Keukenhof) | Rotterdam | Amsterdam | Leiden | Den Bosch | Gouda | Giethoorn | Delft | Maastricht
Located just 30min from Amsterdam, Utrecht is a perfect city for a day trip.
Utrecht is a city of canals, cafes and fairy-tale like architecture which is totally worth visiting. The charming old town makes exploring this city on foot a pleasurable experience.
Most residents are Dutch students so you will find here many lively clubs, cafes and a great vibe.
One must-visit is the Dom Tower, which is the tallest church in the Netherlands. The Dom Tower has a long history and the tower stands where the city Utrecht was originated 2000 years ago.
Another must-see attraction is the Centraal Museum where you can find the city´s collections of art and artefacts.
Getting there: There is a regular Intercity rail service (up to 4x hourly) from Schiphol Airport to Utrecht Central which first makes stops at Amsterdam Zuid and Amsterdam Bijlmer. The ticket will cost you 9.40 EUR/one way.
If you want to get to Utrecht from Amsterdam, you can take any Intercity service (direction Heerlen, Maastricht and Nijmegen)from Amsterdam Centraal which run every 10 minutes and you will arrive in Utrecht Central approx in 30min.
The Hague (Den Haag)
The Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, home of the Dutch Parliament and Dutch Royal family.
The Hague offers many fine-dining options and interesting museums to visit. One of them is the Prison Gate Museum which brings alive tales of crime and punishment.
Another popular attraction is Mauritshuis, which houses Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch.
And the M.C. Escher permanent exhibition at The Palace Museum. Perfect to check out if you like graphic design.
The Hague is also a popular place thanks to its closeness to the sea. If you are in The Hague, you should not miss Scheveningen boardwalk along the beach.
Getting there: The Hague is easily accessible by air, train or road. Rotterdam is less than 30 kilometres from The Hague and Amsterdam approximately 60 kilometres. The train ticket from Amsterdam to The Hague will cost you around 13 EUR/one way. Major cities close to The Hague include Brussels, London and Paris so you can easily take a flight to the international airport in Amsterdam or Rotterdam-The Hague.
You can also take a train to The Hague from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Belgium, France or Germany.
Alkmaar is a very popular day trip from Amsterdam due to its traditional cheese market. Every Friday morning between April and September you can see a unique ceremony where buyers can smell, taste and feel the texture of the cheese before discussing the price.
It is very entertaining so I would recommend getting there early for a good view.
If you want to explore in a more organized fashion you can do a combined 2-hour city and cheese market tour all in one.
Getting there: Alkmaar is located about 30km from Amsterdam so it takes an average of 44min to travel from Amsterdam-Centraal to Alkmaar by train.
There are over 90 trains travelling between Amsterdam and Alkmaar and the ticket cost around 9 EUR one way.
Sometimes called ´Little Amsterdam´, Haarlem is a perfect place when you want to escape the hustle of busy Amsterdam.
You should not miss the town centre with its dominating St. Bavokerk which became its official cathedral in 1557. Beyond the cathedral also make sure to see the 14th century Town Hall and amazing art collection inside the Frans Hals Museum.
For beer lovers, check out the Jopenkerk which is a bar and restaurant in a converted church.
Getting there: Trains from Amsterdam Central Station to Haarlem’s station run numerous times an hour and the journey takes around 20 minutes. The cost of the train ticket is approx.5.60EUR/one way.
If you are travelling to Haarlem from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, then you need to change trains at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station.
Or for a more direct route take Bus 300 called the Zuidtangent which runs every 10-15 minutes between Schiphol airport and Haarlem Central Station. The trip takes about 30-40 minutes.
Lisse is mainly famous for Keukenhof Gardens which is located about 1h from Amsterdam.
Keukenhof is known as the “Garden of Europe,” and it is considered as one of the world’s largest public gardens.
Make sure you come in spring as the garden is opened only from March to May.
Getting there: The most popular option is to take the Keukenhof Express Bus to the gardens. Ideally you purchase the special combi ticket so you can save a lot of money on your transport and access to the park. Entrance.
When you travel from Amsterdam the cost for entrance + return bus ticket is 32,50EUR. The combi ticket cost 27,50 EUR if you travel from Schiphol, Hoofddorp, Leiden or Haarlem.
You can also reach Keukenhof Gardens by car via the A4 (exit Nieuw-Vennep) and the A44 (exit 3 Lisse). At the entrance, you will find a large parking lot where you can park your car for only € 6.00 a day.
Rotterdam is a perfect place for architecture lovers. The city was completed destroyed in World War 2 and rebuilt from scratch.
The city was rebuilt with innovative and futuristic architecture with modern skyscrapers and interesting design.
When you visit Rotterdam, you should not miss the impressive Markthal for the ultimate foodie experience, the Cube Houses and the Nieuwe Luxor Theatre.
Getting there: The easiest way to travel to Rotterdam is by car or by train. The train takes you right to the city centre and if you come by car there are numerous car parks available.
If you are travelling from The Hague you can take the Randstad rail to the Central Station of Rotterdam and the ticket cost approx 6 EUR/one way. Also from Dordrecht or Kinderdijk, you can take the waterbus as an alternative way to travel to Rotterdam.
From abroad, you can easily fly to Rotterdam. The Hague airport is just a few kilometres from the centre of Rotterdam or you can land at Amsterdam Schiphol which is located about 50km from Rotterdam.
The largest city in the Netherlands and probably the most visited in the whole country.
When you visit Amsterdam for the first time, make sure you visit the most popular attractions like Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.
Check this 2 days travel itinerary in Amsterdam and explore all must-see sites in this amazing city.
Getting there: Amsterdam has a number of direct international rail services which can connect you to Belgium, France, Germany, UK and others. High-speed rail travel in Europe is a good alternative to flying and it is a popular transport among travellers.
Using a train could be a good option for example for London-Amsterdam Eurostar service where the total journey takes about 4 hours and the ticket starts at 40 EUR.
Dutch people sometimes refer to Leiden as ´Museum City´ because of its many museums.
Leiden is also home to lovely canals, traditional brick homes and the oldest university in Holland.
Every Wednesday you can visit an amazing street market which offers a variety of local produce, like Dutch cheese and meat, flowers or craft goods.
Getting there: Most travellers going to Leiden by air will arrive at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. If you are travelling to Leiden from Schiphol then the easiest way is to get the train. The journey usually takes about 20 minutes.
Getting to Leiden from Amsterdam will take about 30 to 40 minutes by train and the ticket cost starts at 10 EUR/one way.
Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch) is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands with many remarkable city sights. One of them is St. John’s Cathedral which was built between 1380 and 1530.
You can explore the city in a different way and take a boat tour through the city canals.
On Wednesday and Saturdays, visit the local street market where you can taste the Bossche bol, a big profiterole covered with dark chocolate and filled with whipped cream.
The famous Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch was from Den Bosch and his weird and wonderful work is on display in a permanent exhibition at the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center (there’s more than one way to spell his name).
If you’ve never seen his art before make sure you don’t miss it. His most famous piece is a triptych of Heaven, Hell and Earth. The detail of it is incredible, as are the creatures he thinks up. I was fangirling all over the shop on my visit.
Getting There: Den Bosch as is actually closer to Eindhoven airport than Amsterdam if you’re going to the Netherlands just to visit there. Flights to Eindhoven, from the UK at least, are also cheaper than to Amsterdam (I think my return flight cost me about £40).
To get to Den Bosch from Eindhoven airport it’s a quick 20-minute bus ride from the airport to the train station (I bought my train ticket at the airport and that included the bus fare).
From the train station, it’s another 20 minutes to Den Bosch on the high-speed trains, 40 minutes on the slower ones. Personally, I find the high-speed train rides fun in Europe as they have the double-decker trains and for me, that’s still something of a novelty. Trains leave frequently even on Sundays.
Gouda is mainly popular for its cheese but the city offers much more. The city is also famous for its pottery and stroopwafels, the traditional Dutch syrup waffles.
Gouda is located about 1h from Amsterdam and it is a perfect place for a day trip.
If you miss the cheese market in Alkmaar, you have a chance to visit the market in Gouda. Every Thursday morning from April to August, you can witness cheese making and cheese trading.
And don’t forget to buy some Gouda cheese, it is delicious!
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Gouda from Amsterdam is by train which usually takes around 40min. There are more than 100 trains per day from Amsterdam and the ticket starts from 13 EUR/one way.
Sometimes referred to as ´The Venice of the Netherlands´ Giethoorn is probably one of the prettiest cities in the country and it definitely should be included on your list of best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
The beautiful city of Giethoorn is home to many canals and small stone bridges. The interesting part about Giethhoorn is that is completely car-free!
Ideally, you will explore Giethoorn on a boat to enjoy its picturesque canals and beautiful scenery. To do this you can find a boat tour once in Giethoorn or go there on a bus and boat tour from Amsterdam.
Getting there: If you are travelling from Amsterdam, take a train to Steenwijk. It will take around 90 minutes for a one-way journey.
When you reach Steenwijk, take the bus no. 70 and get down at Giethoorn village bus stop. This journey from Steenwijk to Giethoorn will take about 30 minutes and a one-way bus ticket will cost you €4.
Delft is located close to The Haag and about 1 hour from Amsterdam. The city is well-known for its beautifully-crafted Delftware pottery which was produced since the 16th century.
In your day trip in Delft, you can include the tour of the pottery factories where you can learn more about its history. Or take a tour of a Delft blue factory, see the craftsmen at work and learn how to paint your own tile.
Make sure you also visit the city centre as it is a perfect place to wander and to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in water-side cafes.
Getting there: Delft is located between Rotterdam and The Hague, which means both can be reached by train in under 20 minutes. Trains depart roughly every 10 minutes to these two major cities.
From Amsterdam, you can get to Delft under 50 minutes on a direct train and the ticket will cost approx 15 EUR. Groningen and Maastricht are around a three-hour journey away.
Maastricht is recommended for a weekend trip as the journey is about 2.5h by train from Amsterdam.
The city has excellent cultural attractions, a vibrant university-town spirit and it is a perfect place for a slow and romantic weekend in the Netherlands.
Getting there: The cheapest way to travel from Amsterdam to Maastricht is by bus. Flixbus buses start at 12 euros for a one-way trip and the journey takes about 3 hours.
The fastest way to travel from Amsterdam is by train and you can easily get to Maastricht in two and a half hours.
If you can choose when to visit Europe in autumn is beautiful and not too touristy or you could go in March to May to catch the tulip season.
What is your favourite of these best cities to visit in the Netherlands? Or do you disagree they’re the best? Let me know in the comments below.
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