There’s only so far you can get on two wheels in The Netherlands' most well-known city. So instead of winding up on a canal boat with the usual crowd, why not take yourself out of town and explore what the real Holland has to offer. You just might be pleasantly surprised.
Clogs and windmills abound in this town, just a short drive from the tourism capital of Holland. Many are drawn to this area of living history, where Dutch wooden buildings, from windmills to sawmills, were relocated in the 1960s and brought this town to life.
Once an industrial powerhouse, this now predominantly tourist town was famed for its Verkade biscuits as much as for the wooden shoes, pottery and cheese, all of which you can buy in one of the many gift shops. Despite the visiting hoards, and the abundance of tourist shops that cater to them, Zaanse Schans has preserved an antiquated charm, making it well worth your time.
This pretty fishing port is now as popular with daytrippers as it once was with painters for its Old World charm. Wander through the labyrinth of fisherman’s cottages that line the narrow streets of the town’s oldest areas for a chance to see locals dressed in the national costume of clogs and Dutch bonnets.
Every half hour or so, a ferry departs to the pretty island village of Markem. Or you could take a trip to nearby Edam, a particular treat in the height of summer when the historic cheese market is resurrected every Wednesday morning throughout July and August.
April is the perfect time of year to visit Haarlem, tulip capital of the world and once the center of an economic bubble that formed around the price of bulbs. Surrounded by bright fields that stretch as far as you can see, the city plays frequent host to Bloemencorso, otherwise known as flower parades, as well as a fair that takes place at the city’s Grote Markt in its historic central square.
Famed also for its brewing heritage, it’s a great place to sample the local brews after a day wandering around Haarlem’s many museums and cobbled streets. Although these days, the bock beer popular throughout the region is now brewed elsewhere.
Holland’s government sits away from the bright lights and tourist haze of Amsterdam in the more refined environs of The Hague, known as Den Haag to locals. Chic and cosmopolitan, it makes for a cultural city break in the heart of international politics.
But you’ll soon find that it’s much more than just sharp suits and big agendas here, as the city lies on the coast near one of Holland’s most popular holiday destinations – the seaside resort of Sheveningen. An ideal destination for families, The Hague plays host to a variety of attractions that appeal to both younger and older visitors, including quaint and quirky features like the Madurodam miniature city.
Once a global ceramic center and home to the iconic blue and white porcelain to which it lends its name, Delft still produces china to this day, although only two factories are still in operation.
Birthplace of Johannes Vermeer, famous Dutch master and painter of "Girl with a Pearl Earring," Delft now honors its most famous son in the Vermeer Centrum. To experience Delft as the artist might have, head to the Fish Shop on the Hippolytusbuurt Canal at the end of Choorstraat, which first opened its doors for business in 1342. At more than 670 years old, it is one of the world’s oldest shops. But the fish, thankfully, are all fresh.