Most people who visit the Netherlands don’t leave its largest city of Amsterdam. But there is so much more to see in this country lying on land reclaimed from the water, and so much of it is easily accessible with the Netherland’s excellent public transportation system. I was fortunate to visit Amsterdam last March for a long weekend. Read about my 4 Days in Amsterdam. I came for the tulips but also wanted to learn more about historical Dutch culture. Here are the three day trips from Amsterdam I enjoyed using public transportation. Because of my time constraints, I made each trip as a half-day excursion, but any of them would best be done using a full day.
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A Day Trip from Amsterdam to a Cheese Market
The towns of Edam, Gouda, and Alkmaar all run historical recreations of cheese markets. They all are at different times and start in the spring.
The Netherlands was a trading giant in the 14th-18th century, and Dutch cheese was a huge commodity. Each market has uniquely different ways of quickly trading cheeses.
How to Visit the Alkmaar Cheese Market
We chose to visit Alkmaar because its cheese market is open on Friday morning, so it was the only one that fit our long weekend schedule. I am so glad that it worked out, as we all loved the town and experience.
The cheese market started all the way back in 1365! The current market takes place on the Waagplein beneath the beautiful cheese weigh house. Although the official market opens at 10 am, I would recommend getting there at 9 am to see the preliminary activities and get a good seat. It is very crowded.
Will I Learn About Cheese at the Cheese Market?
In the market itself, you can learn all about the trading of cheese throughout history. But we learned the most about cheese itself by visiting the Cheese Museum in the weigh house. It is pretty inexpensive and definitely worth your time. The cheese museum is open March through September.
You can also learn about the types of cheese by stopping by the numerous booths selling cheese. There are ample opportunities to taste a lot of cheese! You will also learn that Gouda is not a type of cheese, it is a shape named after the city in which it was mainly traded. Same thing with Edam. It is more the kind of milk, additives, and length of aging that differentiates cheese in the Netherlands. And it is delicious!
How to Get to the Alkmaar Cheese Market From Amsterdam
You can easily catch a train from Amsterdam right into Alkmaar. Look at the train schedules here or visit the information booth in Amsterdam’s Central Station. At the station in Alkmaar, there will be a Dutch cheese girl to direct you to the market and signs along the beautiful walk. Give yourself at least half an hour to walk, as it is around 1.3 km from the station.
Is Alkmaar Worth Visiting Without the Cheese Market?
The short answer is definitely. Alkmaar has an open market square in which you can grab a meal, pretty canals and a lot of shopping with branded stores. Be sure to stop into the large church as well. It is empty on the inside, but an excellent place to learn some history. On market days, there are also shopping stalls.
How Long Do I Need to Spend in Alkmaar?
We spent half a day in Alkmaar. If we had more time, we would have taken time for a leisurely lunch in the market and taken a canal ride.
The cheese market and town are quite crowded on market days. If you would rather see it with a guide, you can book a tour of the Alkmaar Cheese Market here.
A Day Trip from Amsterdam to See Tulip Fields
Keukenhof is one of the largest and most famous flower gardens in the world and is a must-see for any flower enthusiast. The land was originally an estate for a castle and encompasses almost 80 acres!
Each year the gardens have a theme. There is also a windmill you can climb up to look over the gardens and adjacent tulip fields. There is a beautiful lake in the middle of the park and a tulip museum.
You can take a boat ride around the perimeter of the park leaving from near the windmill. On the day I was there, the wait for a boat ride was a couple of hours. The boat ride takes 60 minutes and costs a fee in addition to the garden’s entrance fee.
The gardens are very crowded, but less so right around opening time. The first hours I visited were my favorite times. I headed to the left from the entrance into the wooded area and got alone time among the winding paths surrounded by fields of flowers.
When is a Good Time to Visit Keukenhof?
Flowers are unpredictable, so it is hard to book your trip in advance and guarantee that you will be in Amsterdam for peak bloom. It happens sometime between late March to early May, usually in late April. Due to other commitments, the last week in March was when I needed to travel to Amsterdam. I ended up there only a few days before peak bloom, so I got lucky. Follow Tulips in Holland’s weekly flower update starting in March to see predictions and conditions for this year.
Is it worth visiting Keukenhof Even if the Tulips are Not in Bloom?
Tulips are not the only flower growing in the Keukenhof Gardens. I visited on the early side for tulips and think that is a great time to visit. Most of the tulips had just started to bloom, so I saw lots of them. The early spring blooms, such as hyacinths, have a much stronger fragrance, and the gardens smelled delightful.
How to Get to Keukenhof from Amsterdam
To get to Keukenhof from Amsterdam by public transportation, you need to travel from Amsterdam to Schiphol Airport, then catch a shuttle from the airport to the gardens. This trip will take about an hour. Find more details here.
If you want to be simpler, you can take a cab there, but it is much more expensive. Since I was traveling solo, I talked my way into a group’s cab for about the same price as the shuttle would have cost me on my way home to save time.
How Much Time Do I Need to Visit Keukenhof Gardens?
I visited in half a day, as that is all the time I had, but I could easily have spent a few more hours. I would have loved to have time to take the boat ride.
Buy Your Skip the Line Tickets to Keukenhof Gardens Now
A Day Trip from Amsterdam to Tour a Historical Dutch Village and See Working Windmills
Zaanse Schans is a historical amusement park in Zaandam, about an hour outside of Amsterdam by bus or train. Buses are quicker, and there is a stop just a short walk from the park. Be aware there is a lot of walking or bike riding required to get around once you are in the park.
The park admission is free, although there are entrance fees to many of the attractions. It is set up as a village on the Zaan River among small waterways and meadows. There are various mills, crafts, and stores.
There are a collection of historic windmills, many of them still working. While in the windmills, you can see the many things they were used for, such as grinding spices, sawing wood, and making oil and paint.
How to Plan Your Day at Zaanse Schans
When I went there was an app to download that was supposed to help you make your way around the park. I could never get it to function correctly and wished I had a paper map.
Before you go or when you enter, decide what you really would like to do. I recommend stopping at:
- Tour at least one windmill.
- See a wooden clog being made at the wooden shoe factory.
- Eat a fruit-covered Dutch pancake at the patio of Restaurant De Kraai.
- Visit the chocolate factory in Verkade Pavillion.
- Climb the tower at the entrance to Zaanse Schans to take in the landscape, which is unique to The Netherlands.
If you have extra time, consider a boat ride or taking a bike ride around the grounds.
How Long Should I Spend in Zaanse Schans?
Much like Keukenhof Gardens, this attraction is very touristy but worth your time. Although you can do it in a half a day if pressed for time, there are lines for many things. A whole day will give you more time to see everything you want.
If you would rather let someone else do the planning, look into taking an organized tour from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans.
The Netherlands in springtime is really magical, as is its unique landscape and culture. These day trips from Amsterdam were the perfect way to get an understanding of these things in a short four-day visit to Amsterdam. If you missed it, read my post on A Perfect Spring Weekend Trip to Amsterdam, which includes things to do in Amsterdam.
Thank you to Keukenhof Gardens for providing me complimentary tickets to tour the gardens.
24 thoughts on “3 Easy Spring Day Trips from Amsterdam”
It’s nice to read what must be considered to be the essential Dutch visitor experience. Tulips, windmills, wooden clogs and cheese. Delightful.
What an interesting informative post! I’ve heard about the tulips and windmills, but the cheese information was new.
I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times now so it’s good to find other things to do apart. I LOVE cheese so I’d be well up for going to Alkmaar Cheese Market as well as popping in to the church nearby. The tulip fields at Keukenhof would be beautiful, a step up from seeing the market in Amsterdam. Who can resist a trip to see the windmills too… all very iconic of the Netherlands, great suggestions!
The ribbons of beautiful color when the tulips fields are in bloom is one of my favorite memories from living in the Netherlands. If you can only pick one of these day trips, that one gets my vote!
What a great place to get to live. It is on my bucket list to live in another country.
We only had one overnight in Amsterdam and I so want to go back and get out of the city to explore more. We’d totally love the cheese market – that photo of all the cheeses lined up is something else! I think I’d opt for the cheese tour too as I’m a nerd like that. That Dutch pancake looks delicious! There is a restaurant in a Ducth-themed town near me that makes them, and its good to know they look the same! Totally saving this!
You seem food-driven, just like me.
I like your plan of half-day excursions that can be made into a full day. The last time I was to go to Amsterdam, my cruise ship got into port late and I was only able to visit Haarlem. I would really like to see a cheese market (and taste, of course). I think a land-based visit for the Netherlands is needed to experience the best things there.
I almost took a night trip to Haarlem. Next time I will, for sure.
I’ve only been to Amsterdam once, but thoroughly enjoyed both Keukenhof Gardens and Zaanse Shans but did not get a chance to visit any of the cheese markets, so I’d love to do that. I had no idea that Gouda referred to the shape of the cheese – learned something new today!!
It was new to me too.
A cheese market?!? Why would anyone pass up visiting a cheese market?! I didn’t know the Netherlands had such a thing, but I’m ready to visit just to check out of those markets! My godparents just came back from a trip there and are still raving about Keukenhof (my godmother is a flower arranger). It looks so beautiful though, even to people like me who don’t know a ton about flowers.
I don’t know an arranger. I will have to look it up.
I sent a week in Amsterdam a few months ago and loved it. I unfortunately did not get to the day trips you did, but will definitely want to return and these would be on my list. I would love to visit the cheese market, and would love to see those tulip fields in bloom.
I’d love to explore Amsterdam and these areas one day. We keep trying to fit in a few days when we’re in Europe but now I know we’ll have to have more than that. These daytrips look amazing! Our city has a tulip festival every spring so I’d absolutely need to visit in the spring like you did and do a daytrip to the tulip fields. And of course the windmills are a must do! I had no idea that Gouda and Edam are the names of actual places! We just love trying different local cheeses when we travel and it’d be so cool to visit the Alkmaar Cheese Market
Where is your tulip festival?
Good to know that public transportation is reliable all around the Netherlands. Zaanse Schans is the place I wanted to visit and I was so excited to see that it was on your list. Looking forward to seeing those picture-perfect windmills in person!
Wouldn’t say no to those pancakes either. 😀
Love!! My fave – Keukenhof . I’ve been to Amsterdam 2x but new discovery & will go Keukenhof next time!
The Cheese Markets remind me of a time gone by. It would be fantastic to step back in time and learn so much about the history.. and get to taste delicious cheese. I think you’ve wrapped up a few days from Amsterdam nicely. I’ve never been, but I’d be putting the Clog Factory, Cheese Markets and a Windmill on my ‘must do’ list.
The tulips in Amsterdam are so beautiful! I’d love to see them in person one day, but as you said, timing can be a bit tricky. Much like the timing of the cherry blossoms in Japan. I always wondered how far it was from the city and it doesn’t seem so bad. interesting that it’s best to go to the airport and grab a shuttle from there.
I would love to get to Japan for the blossoms one day, as well.
I lived in Rotterdam for sometime and could only manage to go to Keukenhof once (thankfully it was spring). Next time I am in NL I would love to check out Zaanse Schans. Loved your guide.
Thank you. ?
I was not aware of the Alkmaar cheese market and to imagine the cheese market started in 14th century amazes me beyond words. Love places with history, so definitely it will feature in my list. Keukenhof of course is high on my list. I hope to photograph them in full bloom some day.