I often get asked, “So… where’s the best place you have traveled so far?” And my answer is simple: “Greece has been my favorite vacation… BUT The Netherlands is where I would move to in a heartbeat!”
It’s no secret — I LOVE The Netherlands! In fact, I’ve been 3 times in the last 7 months! I obviously haven’t seen the entire country — but I have seen enough to know that it’s worth a (high) spot on your Bucket List.
Both times I’ve stayed in The Netherlands, it’s been in a quaint town in South Holland called Noordwijk. Noordwijk is a cozy beach town nestled on the North Sea — with just a short 25 minute drive into Amsterdam.
I would recommend starting atleast 1 day with a quick breakfast from Noordwijk’s local bakery: Oerbakker de Witt. You certainly won’t be the only ones… the line is usually out the door!
If the weather is nice, definitely spend the rest of the day at Noordwijk’s beach! This beach is special — not crowded, laid back, family/pet friendly, walkable. I would argue it would be pleasant any time of the year.
If laying on the beach isn’t your thing, go explore Noordwijk. There are many local shops, restaurants, a lighthouse, kid friendly attractions… and even an outdoor market some months of the year.
For lunch hop on over to a fantastic restaurant on the beach: Branding Beachclub. Great food, drinks, music, atmosphere!
And for dinner: Strandclub Witsand. The atmosphere can’t be beat! An absolutely beautifully detailed restaurant on the sand … with a delicious menu!
These two restaurants are very similar in style (apparently the owners are friends) but they both hold their own. And both stand out as some of the my favorite restaurants in Europe so far!
If staying in Noordwijk, a day trip to Amsterdam is a must! I hate that Amsterdam is often associated with “weed and prostitutes” — because it’s SO much more than that. My idea of the city has changed so much since visiting.
There are many ways to get to Amsterdam (drive, bus, train, uber) but I can only speak for driving or taking the train. If you decide to drive, it would be best to park and try not to move your car again until you leave. Driving in Amsterdam is crazy… because… bikers — bikers — bikers! Trust me, the less you have to navigate the city by car — the more comfortable you’ll be.
I have also taken the train: parked (for free) at the Nieuv Vennep stop and hopped on the direct train to Amsterdam Central (€12 round trip). There are multiple trains a day.
If you do not have a car, you could also take the local bus to the train station very easily.
Once in Amsterdam, there is so much to see and do! We started by exploring De Pijp and then wandering through the Albert Cuyp Markt (don’t miss the stroopwafels!)
You’ll eventually want to make your way to the Rijksmuseum, where you will find the IAMsterdam sign! If anything, it’s a SUPER fun place to people watch 😉
Before lunch, I would suggest making your way over to the Jordaan District. From the IAMsterdam sign you can take a scenic walk along the river. If you’re hungry when you get there, you won’t regret going to La Perla — delicious pizzas and local beers.
At this point, it’s hard not the spend the rest of the day exploring the Jordaan District. The architecture is amazing! It’s really nice to just get lost in the streets, checking out the house boats, bridges… and trying not to walk in the bike lane!
If you stay around until dinner (which you should), my husband and I had a lovely dunner at Bleu. We did not need a reservation but that might not always be the case. Either way, Amsterdam is packed FULL of great restaurants.
If you have a third day, a car, and want to do something different — I would definitely recommend checking out the “Waterland” region in North Holland. It’s only a 20-30 minutes drive from Amsterdam and totally worth it!
The drive itself is stunning. The streets are lined with grass-fed livestock and you can smell the ocean breeze.
When you’re in Waterland, you feel like you are truly in The Netherlands. There’s no mistaking it. It’s beautiful — very dutch — and made for bicycling!
This would be the best place to rent bikes!
We then continued to make our way over the bridge to Marken Island. Once again, there’s no denying what country you’re in when in Marken. We enjoyed walking around the town, the harbor, and grabbing a delicious lunch at De Visscher.
You’ll also want to make a pit stop at one of the many cheese shops in the area. We got some delicious gouda and sharp cheddar from “The Cheese Shop”.
After a lovely half-day spent along the water, we made our way back to Amsterdam in hopes of visiting the famous Anne Frank Museum.
“The Anne Frank House is open every day — From 9 AM to 3:30 PM the museum is only open to visitors with an online ticket for a specific timeslot. From 3:30 PM until closing time you can buy a ticket at the museum entrance.”
We did not plan our trip early enough to reserve online tickets in time — so we got in line outside the museum around 2:30pm in hopes of getting in with the “after 3:30-first come first serve-crowd”. We ended up waiting 2.5 hours and it was 100% worth it (there’s very few things I would wait this long for).
If you can, buy your tickets online in advance. If not, definitely wait in the longgg line. It really is an amazing museum that brings an incredible story, we all know, to life.
After the museum, we went (by Uber) over to Amsterdam’s Brewery: Brouwerij’t IJ. This is such a neat place! Hidden in an old windmill — you’ll find a never ending selection of amazing beers. They have outdoor picnic tables you can sit around and enjoy a beer, a flight, or locally sourced snacks.
For dinner, you don’t want to miss Moeders in Amsterdam. They offer a traditional dutch menu in a fun and sunny atmosphere. (Recommend having a reservation.)
We actually drove 3 hours to eat dinner here on a random Saturday … and would do it again!
And finally, if you’re lucky enough to be in The Netherlands in the springtime you must, must, must spend a day taking in the beautiful, one-of-a-kind tulips!
Unfortunately, our trip in May was a little too late to enjoy the never ending tulip fields… BUT we did find a few. Go in April to be safe!
Luckily, we ended up getting our tulip fix at the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. The gardens are open from late March to mid May. For €16 you can spend hours enjoying an abundance of beautiful tulips.
There are so many countries in Europe I want to visit — but The Netherlands is one that keeps drawing me back. It offers so much — I hope to eventually cover it all.