Amsterdam Region: Outside Amsterdam

There are plenty of places to visit outside Amsterdam which are within only an hour’s journey by bus and/or train. Not only does this give visitors a chance to have a change of pace from the hectic life of the city but it is also a golden opportunity to explore other places in the Netherlands.

Exploring the Dutch flower-growing region

Although the Netherlands is world famous for its tulips, not many people realise that over two-thirds of the world’s commercial flowers are grown in the country including crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths. If you visit the country in the spring, a visit to the area around Lisse, the main flower-growing region, is a must-see destination.The 32-hectare Keukenhof Flower Gardens cultivate 7 million flower bulbs which present a myriad of beautiful colours for visitors and which are interspersed with statues. Apart from the blooms, the gardens also offer other activities such as a hedge maze, playground, petting zoo, boat cruises and bike hire.

Over March-May, the gardens play host to an annual flower festival which has a different theme every year. As part of this unique event, flower-bedecked floats take part in a parade while there is a full programme of other activities including shows, the performing arts and kids’ treasure hunts.

A trip to the Keukenhof Flower Gardens can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby Black Tulip Museum (De Zwarte Tulp). Located in a restored building in Lisse town centre, this museum gives visitors a glimpse into the past and the history of the flower-growing region through AV displays, photos, artifacts and a replica bulb shed interior.

A trip to Haarlem

Only 20 minutes from Amsterdam, Haarlem has managed to retain its old-world charm and the splendour of the Dutch Golden Age which made it such a popular subject matter for painters of the era. It boasts a wide variety of cafes, restaurants and shops, many of which are located along the quayside of the River Spaarne which meanders its way through the city. This makes it the ideal spot to relax over a drink and watch the river traffic while the more energetic could go on a boat cruise or hire a boat.

It is worth visiting the Windmill de Adriaan which is situated just outside the city centre. Seventy years after a fire in which it was totally destroyed, it was restored to its former glory in 2002 so it once again dominates the Haarlem skyline. Inside the windmill there is a small museum which explains the history of the city and mill through models and AV installations while guided tours are also available. The deck outside the mill gives stunning views across Haarlem.

For those in search of culture, Haarlem is also the location of the Frans Hals and De Hallen art museums which have merged and been renamed the Frans Hals Museum-Hof. Located only a short walk from each other, these museums will appeal to all art lovers since they contain historical works of art as well as modern art installations.

Beaches near Amsterdam

Amsterdam might not seem the obvious destination for people wishing to enjoy a day at the sea. However, the Netherlands boasts the most unspoilt coastline in the whole of Northern Europe with long expanses of golden sand. It is easily accessible from the capital by public transport which runs directly during the summer.

The other advantage of the Dutch coast is the wind often blows inland off the North Sea. This makes beach resorts like Zandvoort aan Zee and IJmuiden (located at the mouth of Amsterdam’s River IJ) the ideal spots for fans of water and wind sports like surfing, sailing, kite-surfing and land-yachting. All equipment can be hired while professionals are available to offer lessons for those with less experience including complete novices.

Apart from other water-based activities such as swimming and fishing, visitors to the former fishing village of Zandvoort aan Zee can also enjoy a drink at one of its many trendy beach bars or sample freshly-caught seafood from its many restaurants. The resort also has an art/history museum and the Jutters Mu-ZEE-um which is a treasure trove of artifacts discovered by beachcombers.

Anyone visiting the resort of IJmuiden also has alternatives to a day at the beach. The IJmuiden Zee-en Havenmuseum relates the development of the village and its environs whilst the Forteiland IJmuiden shows the role played by the area in the Second World War.

For nature lovers, the Dutch Dunes (located behind the beaches) are the ideal place to get in touch with nature. Exploration can be done by hiring a bike or hiking and visitors have the opportunity to see wildflowers and rare wildlife.

Open from sunrise to sunset, the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is located between Zandvoort and IJmuiden. Its forests, lakes and ponds are home to a variety of animal species including birds, Highland cattle, deer, rabbits and European bison. It is an idyllic spot to get away from it all and wind down.

A city break to Amsterdam can easily be combined with day-trips to the surrounding area so visitors have the chance to see another side to the Netherlands. Whether you’re interested in sporting activities, culture or nature, trips outside the Dutch capital have something to satisfy everyone.

> Check out “Around Amsterdam” in  YeahMagazine for much more ideas

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