Amsterdam Travel: The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

I know from experience of others visiting here that Amsterdam can be one of those places that people return to again and again, for many different reasons. If you fall into that lucky boat, or if you're staying in Amsterdam for a while, then knowing about some great day trips from Amsterdam could be something you're interested in so you can escape the city the next time you visit. Because I sadly don't leave the city very much these days (thanks to two young children and working on our new house) I was lucky enough that another travel blogger Alison got in touch to say that she had some great suggestions for the best day trips from Amsterdam. Alison actually did these Amsterdam day trips as a single travel itinerary over two weeks travelling around the country, but they all stand up as fantastic day trips you can make from Amsterdam in just one day. Inspired by Alison I have also added some of my own suggestions for great day trips from Amsterdam as well as some general tips for planning the best Amsterdam day trip possible.

Before I go further, I should add that it's fair to say that you can easily visit most places in the Netherlands from Amsterdam in a couple of hours. I could be wrong but I believe Maastricht is the city furthest away from Amsterdam and even that can be reached in three and a half hours by train, so don't be put off by long travel times if you want to leave Amsterdam for a day - the chances are you can do so and be in another beautiful town or city in an hour or less!

Tips for Going on Day Trips from Amsterdam

As mentioned above most day trips from Amsterdam are doable by train or even by bus. Train travel is probably the best way to go no a day trip from Amsterdam, especially if you want to go further afield to another Dutch city or town in a different province (FYI Amsterdam is in the Noord Holland province of the Netherlands). There are regular direct (Intercity) train services from Amsterdam Centraal Station to all the bigger cities and towns in the Netherlands, as well as other regional services (often called Stoptreins) that stop at more places along the way and so these can take a bit longer.

Bus is arguably the best mode of transport to choose if you want to go on a short day trip to some of the picturesque towns and landmarks in the region immediately surrounding Amsterdam, like Zaanse Schans and Volendam or the beaches at Bloemendaal and Zandvoort. If this is what you plan on doing I would highly recommend getting an Amsterdam Region Pass for free transport to these places and that will also cover your transport to Haarlem, another town well worth visiting from Amsterdam that is so close you could go and come back in a morning, or you could indeed even cycle there if you were feeling strong! 

You may also choose to hire a car to go on a day trip or several day trips from Amsterdam, and this is very possible with lots of car hire office scattered around the city. We've hired cars from Sixt and Europcar before and had perfectly fine experiences, but it should go without saying that it's not a cheap way to travel, and in addition to the price for car hire, you will also need to pay for parking in your destinations, and you should be aware that driving in the Netherlands where you have cycle paths everywhere (and cyclists nearly always have right of way) can be quite different from driving in other countries. Also more and more Dutch cities are trying to make their centres vehicle-free so you may not actually be able to reach some of the attractions listed below that easily by car. 

The following tips will help you plan the best Amsterdam day trips and tours so you can make the most of your travel time and the hours you spend in the destination:

  • If you're planning on using public transport you will benefit from the NS (Dutch rail network) journey planner website and maybe even downloading the app version for your phone when you're on the go. You can also use Google Maps to plan your journey for a day trip as they usually have up to date train information and will compare train and bus routes so you know which is quickest.
  • Most train stations have free WiFi and most of the trains and buses will also have this though of course, it may be more reliable to have a local SIM card if you want strong network connection all the time. You can get these from any mobile p
  • You should also keep an eye on this weather website that will tell you where and when rain is forecast across the whole of the Netherlands. This will help you plan your day trip before you leave Amsterdam without getting wet (though I still highly recommend taking an umbrella or waterproof coat with you as you never know when it will rain during a day trip in the Netherlands)!
  • When using trains in the Netherlands, you may see ticket barriers open, especially out of office/working hours. You should still use your ticket to check in or check out in order to keep it valid and avoid a fine.
  • Speaking of which, tickets are checked regularly on trains by inspectors so always have them to hand.
  • Make sure when buying your ticket that you are buying a ticket for the right service. The faster and more direct trains (the Intercity services) may need a supplement ticket so be sure to ask at a ticket counter if you're uncertain.
  • The Netherlands is one of the world's leading countries in terms of its population speaking English, however, it's very possible that once you leave Amsterdam or the bigger cities, and you're in a smaller town or village, you may find fewer people speak the same amount of English so don't presume that everyone is as fluent as they are in Amsterdam.
  • Have a combination of cash and cards that you can use for payment in the Netherlands. It may sound strange but I'm always surprised how inconsistent shops in the Netherlands are with how you can pay for things with some supermarkets only accepting cards, others not accepting credit cards (but cash is fine!), and other places really only liking cash. Be prepared for it all, especially as you may not be able to easily find an ATM in more remote areas. 
  • As Alison mentions below, Monday is not generally a good day to go on a day trip from Amsterdam as it's very common for Dutch businesses, restaurants, shops and even museums and attractions to be closed on Mondays in smaller cities and in Dutch towns and villages; this is even true in Amsterdam and larger cities. If you want to go on a day trip from Amsterdam on Monday, my best advice is that you check in advance if things you want to visit will be open, the same may also be true of Sundays though I do find most things are open, just for slightly shorter hours.

The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

Now over to Alison to tell you more about her favourite day trips from Amsterdam - all of which are accessible by direct train routes - and what you can do in each of these places. Then below this section I've added a few of my favourite day trips from Amsterdam and I hope in the future to add even more.

Day Trip to Utrecht from Amsterdam

Frankie: Utrecht is one of the easiest and best day trips from Amsterdam as trains there are very regular, the journey takes around half an hour and there is lots to do with many of the things to see and experience all being close walking distance from one another. One tip I would like to share is that if you're staying in Amsterdam's suburbs - especially the east or south, you may find that you can get a direct train to Utrecht from one of Amsterdam's smaller stations - like Amstel Station or Amsterdam Zuid - rather than make the extra journey to Centraal Station. Be sure to check a journey planner to find out.

Below, Alison explains what she did while she was in Utrecht, and after that I give you some other options of what you can do on a day trip to Utrecht based on my own experience visiting there. 

Alison: After visiting so many museums and attractions during my month travelling around the Netherlands, by the time I reached Utrecht I was ready (or rather desperate) for something a bit different. That is exactly what I found at the Volksbuurt Museum on Waterstraat in District C (Wijk C). This museum about working districts was really interactive and engaging experience and a bargain at only €5! 

On arrival, I was warmly welcomed by Bert who was able to take me through what to expect from the museum in English which was particularly necessary as there is a lot of information solely in Dutch. Before starting my walk around, I was handed a map and leaflet in English as well as a purse with coins in. The leaflet explains what I will find in the alleyway and what decisions I will need to make about the money in my purse. The characters spoke in Dutch only, however this did not spoil my enjoyment of the engaging activity I was taking part in. So much better than simply moving along and reading information, I felt involved in the life of the family I represented and truly considered how I spent my money to be able to eat, have a roof over my head and to also help others. Once up the stairs, I was able to experience the working class life in District C by pressing a button which emitted the smell of the items on show. What a wonderful interactive experience which made me think of smells we no longer have in the UK but will remain in my mind and heart from my childhood. 

Around the museum, there are other engaging activities which allow you to listen, watch and also consider your own views of people belonging to different sections of society. Downstairs, I really enjoyed listening to different people's memories of their time in the District and the part which encouraged you not to judge was especially interesting. This part could be listened to in the dialects from Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or in English which was delivered in Cockney

Other things to do in Utrecht

Frankie: I'm still to write a comprehensive guide to Utrecht, but during my visits these have been my most enjoyable things to visit during a day trip to Utrecht:

The Dom - Dominating Utrecht's oldest and wonderfully car-free city centre, the Dom is Utrecht's most famous landmark and while it's not tall by any skyscraper standards you can go up it and see some good views of the city from above.

Nijntje Museum - I would say this is my son's favourite thing to do in Utrecht, but I have to also be honest and say I really enjoy going here to. An absolute must-do if you have young children, especially those already familiar with Nijntje or Miffy as Dick Bruna's famous rabbit is known to the English-speaking world. The entire museum is designed to be played on so it will be noisy and a ittle chaotic but if you're going to take your littles somewhere to burn some energy, this is the place. Also, you should pop over the road to the museum shop for some cute Miffy souvenirs.

Utrecht Botanic Gardens - I first popped in here on my first proper visit to Utrecht when my eldest son was very small and just starting to walk. He loved the opportunity to wander around a green space, and I enjoyed finding little enclaves we could sit and play with him. Part of the University of Utrecht, the gardens are beautifully kept and were a nice little oasis from the busy(ish!) streets outside.

Wander the Oudegracht Canal - The one thing that really sets Utrecht apart from Amsterdam are the canals in the centre of town which look quite different to those in Amsterdam, mainly because of the waterfront platforms that you can sit out on in bar and restaurant terraces. The most famous of these is the Oudegracht which you can follow through the city centre and see lots of pretty scenes and sights. (This is also handily the main throughfare to also find the best shops, see below).

Shopping - One of the things I like so much about Utrecht is the shopping, especially the vintage and antique shops. I remember the first time I was there, I felt like I was just surrounded by antique shops, all of them real treasure chests of antiquities. The best ones were on the Oudegracht itself. I also liked the shops in the main shopping strips on Lijnmarkt and Choorstraat, as well as the newly refurbished Hoog Catherine shopping centre, and actually, there are more than a few good shops in Utrecht Centraal Station itself. I've never really enjoyed the high street shops and busy-ness of Kalverstraat in Amsterdam so if I were ever to spend a day shopping (which is unlikely as I don't hugely enjoy it!) then I would almost certainly go to Utrecht!

Museum Speelklok - My parents popped into this museum during their visit to Utrecht and they came back to Amsterdam and just didn't stop talking about it. They said it was fascinating and they learned so much about something they didn't think could really have a whole museum dedicated to it, but indeed it does and apparently rightly so! I've also heard from others in Amsterdam that it's worth going to with kids.

You may also want to consider doing a Monster of Utrecht Real-World Exploration Game which appears to be part-treasure hunt, part-city tour. It's definitely a different way to explore and get to know Utrecht (and at just €9.99 for a group of up to five people it's a bit of a bargain!)

Day Trip to Den Haag (The Hague) from Amsterdam

Frankie: A day trip from Amsterdam to Den Haag, or The Hague as it's known in English, is highly, highly recommended if you want to see the political heart of the country as this is where the government sits and many international embassies and consulates are to be found. The Hague has parts of the old town that are just as beautiful as Amsterdam, and it is also home to one of the world's most famous art museums, Mauritshuis. It also has a great shopping and foodie scene, as well as other museums that may be of interest. It's also close to Madurodam, an outdoor museum park with a vast miniature versions of the towns and cities of the Netherlands. If you're short on time the best thing you can do is a quick bike tour of the city to see as much as possible. I hope to do a big write-up of all the things you can do there but for more suggestions check out fellow blogger Karen's guide to one day in The Hague (and hers are the photos you see here.) 

Now read on to find out what Alison got up to on her day trip to Den Haag.

Alison: I went to Den Haag as I was most keen to go to Mauritshuis, home of the famous Girl with the Pearl Earring painting by Vermeer (that Tracy Chevalier wrote a book about). At €15.50, it's a great price for what you see around the museum. Not only do you get to see the 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' which of course is the pull on all the advertisements, but all the other paintings are worth the visit too. You can see more than 250 masterpieces by Dutch and Flemish painters as well as whatever temporary exhibitions are on. 

While in Den Haag, I also took time to visit the Peace Palace (Vredes Paleis). Home to the International Court of Justice, there are also a number of other courts and institutions housed there including the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library. To visit you have to book a ticket online which costs €11 for an hour-long tour. It's also worth knowing that to enter the palace, you will need your passport or ID card which will be checked as you go through security. You must then leave all other belongings behind including cameras and mobile phones, so unfortunately I don't have any photos of the interior. I loved the stories of the history, architecture and the decor which all come together to promote the idea of peace. If you can't do the tour for whatever reason, you can still visit the visitors centre which offers a free audio tour which lasts about 30 minutes. Here you will learn about the history of the palace and also the present in terms of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Day Trip to Leeuwarden from Amsterdam

Frankie: Many countries in the world have regions that have stronger identities than others. In Spain it's Catalonia, in England it's Cornwall, and in the Netherlands it's Friesland. With its own language, a (very cool!) immediately identifiable flag, and other quirky traditions and characteristics, I've long wanted to explore Friesland but am yet to, so I was very interested to read about Alison's day trip to Leeuwarden, the capital of the province, and I hope to get there myself one day and get to know the city well on a private walking tour.

Alison: Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture for 2018 when I went so a lot of what I enjoyed seems to have changed. I've included here what wasn't temporary, and what better place to start that the Fries Museum! For €13 entry, you can enjoy three floors of exhibitions and I spent close to two hours there. On the first floor you learn the story of Friesland (ferhaal fan Fyslân) where you encounter 100 objects from their collection. The great part is that the object can be experienced visually or through the audio clips provided, there are parts to read or you can take in the photos of Frisian people. You can walk through a replica house and also get to see the 11 cities of Friesland.   

The 2nd floor holds the poignant stories from the Frisian resistance museum (Fries Verzetsmuseum) where you will get to witness the lives of those Jews taken in the holocaust. There are also temporary exhibitions on the 3rd floor which have changed since I was there.

Every Saturday, you can take a free city walk tour around Leeuwarden where you pay what you feel is reasonable to the guide at the end of the tour. You can take the tour in English, Dutch or German. I took the English one at 12pm with Zenon as my guide. The tour takes you around the city pointing out key parts of Leeuwarden with snippets of History and Culture. It took close to 2 hours and due to Zenon's enthusiasm and fun delivery of his knowledge, your attention stays with him. Lots of details are sprinkled with humour and an interesting and interested tone. The part which stuck with me was the Jewish memorial where you see the monument dedicated to the Jewish community lost in the Holocaust. The most poignant part is the plaque on the old Jewish school which tells you that 'the child is no longer here'. 

Photos provided by Manouk who has a guide of places to eat in Leeuwarden (in Dutch).

Day Trip to Groningen from Amsterdam

Visiting Groningen

Alison: While I spent three nights in Groningen, it's also possible to see and do a lot in this city in the north of the country in just a one day excursion from Amsterdam. In fact in the three days I spent there I managed to see everything I wanted to see and this included a day on Schiermonnikoog island (see below). Groningen feels compact and is easy to navigate with most things near to the centre. The tourist office staff were very helpful and provided lots of information for me to decide what I wanted to do in and around Groningen. They also told me that there are walking routes where you can lead yourself around the city or you can also sign up for a (free) walking tour.   

The tourist office staff informed me that on Monday (the next day) most of Groningen would be closed, so I planned my sightseeing around that advice in Groningen and in the other cities during my tour.  

I'd never been in a synagogue before and I'm glad I visited the one in Groningen as it has a big place in the city's history during and after the war. You can either pay €3 for entry or €5 which also includes a tour. taking the tour is worth it as you are provided with so much information about that particular synagogue, it's poignant history and also Judaism in general.  

Martini Tower situated just off Grote Markt provides a beautiful panoramic view over Groningen after a climb of 250 steps. You pay €3 at the tourist office (opposite the tower on Grote Markt) and receive a coin to gain entrance to the tower.

Getting to Groningen from Amsterdam: Intercity services operate direct trains to Groningen that take two hours. Alternatively, you can get a FlixBus to Groningen, and this takes one hour and twenty minutes (and the service you will need to book is the one that goes from Amsterdam to Hamburg).

Visiting Schiermonnikoog Island

Frankie: While a visit to Schiermonnikoog Island is quite an adventure on a day trip from Amsterdam, it is still very possible if you got up early enough! However, it maybe a more relaxing addition to your Groningen day trip if you go there after a night there.

Alison: On arrival, I took one of the buses into the centre for €3.50 return ticket. There were other buses which took passengers to other areas of the island. Taxis were another option or bikes can also be hired at the terminal. I was interested in how much could be walked in a few hours and as I enjoy walking in nature, this option appealed more than cycling which others seemed to be doing. 

In the centre, you find lots of cafés, accommodation options, supermarket, tourist office and another chance to hire bikes. The centre was mostly empty and the whole time I was there, I barely saw anyone else until I waited for the bus  for the ferry. From the centre,  you are soon in the National Park and it is clear why people go to the island for isolation as it is so peaceful. Walkers and cyclists have many options to enjoy the island as well as simply being there. Passing the horses, I was in my element feeling completely out of the city crowds. The beach stretches along the island and before you get there you can also take in the bunkers, antennae and bunker museum. When you climb up to the bunkers, you are met  by the most amazing landscapes of the dune valley below. On a clear day, I imagine you would be able to see across the whole island.

If I had known about this ahead of coming to Groningen, then I would have booked a night on the island after a couple of days in Groningen and then from the island I would have got the bus to Leeuwarden which was my next destination. Buses to Groningen and Leeuwarden meet the ferry at the Lauwersoog harbour. At night there is little light pollution, so apparently it is the best place for stargazers so it certainly sounds worthy of a night's stay at least. 

Whilst I was waiting for the bus from the centre back to the ferry, I saw families, young and older couples and people like me who had just come for a day's outing. The last ferry off the island is at 19.30 or you can get earlier ones at 13.30 or 16.30 and be back in Groningen 1 hour and 45 minutes later.

Getting to Schiermonnikoog from Amsterdam: From Amsterdam you will have to make your way to Groningen first and then from there you will need to take a bus from either Groningen Central Station or Grote Markt to Lauwersoog which cost me €10 for return tickets. The bus drops off and collects right in front of the harbour office. Although, I could have bought my ferry tickets at the tourist office in Groningen, I didn't so I bought them at the harbour ticket office instead and they were only €13.05 for a return. The crossing only took 45 minutes and it was as calm a crossing as I could have hoped for. In the passenger lounge there are toilets, comfortable seating and a café to keep you fed and watered. As I had taken the first bus from Groningen at 8.02am, I was able to catch the 9.30am ferry although there is also a later one at 11.30 if tourists wish to go later. 

Day Trip to Arnhem from Amsterdam

Frankie: I know very little about Arnhem, so much so that when I asked Dutch blogger Manouk for a photo of Arnhem, and she sent this one of the "famous aardvark" in Arnhem I was clueless and flabbergasted, and of course also very intrigued! Alison went to Arnhem with a specific place in mind which she talks about below but you can get to know the rest of the city well on a walking tour if you'd like. And if you speak Dutch, you can check out Manouk's list of things to do in Arnhem.

Alison: I made just a few stops on my day trip to Arnhem from Amsterdam, to the De Hoge Veluwe National Park, and the Kröller-Müller museum you can find there. To get to this museum, from Arnhem Central Station, you should hop on bus number 105 which will drop you off at the entrance to Otterlo, and from there you will need to get another bus, number 106, to take you into the park. The bus journey costs €10 for a day pass. At the entrance of the park, you need to buy your tickets, which are €9.50 for the park only and €19 for the park and the Kröller- Müller museum combined. Once you have your tickets, the bus will then drop you off near the museum or you can carry on to the visitor's centre where there is also lots of activities to try. A ticket to the park will gain you access to the activities and exhibitions at the visitors centre as well as the whole park which you can either walk around or borrow a free cycle. 

The museum itself will take at least an hour and a half to look around at the various exhibitions. In the sculpture garden, there is a variety of pieces for you to enjoy as you wander around taking in all that you can see and experience. From the museum, you can walk or cycle to the visitors centre and enjoy their exhibitions on the surrounding park. Make sure you go through the Museonder which takes you on a journey through life underground. 

More Fun Day Trips from Amsterdam

Somewhat inspired by Alison's exploring in the Netherlands and aware that I knew of other fun day trips from Amsterdam that I could share with you, below are some more suggestions for day excursions from Amsterdam. I hope to update this post in due course after we go on more day trips around the Netherlands.

Day Trip to Rotterdam from Amsterdam

Arguably the Amsterdam day trip you'll hear me recommend the most, jumping on a train to spend the day in Rotterdam is a great idea, and you'll be amazed just how different the Netherlands' second city is. I've written up all the many things you can do in Rotterdam here, but I will warn you that if you do decide to go for just a day trip you will find yourself wanting to go back for longer, That said, good places to start on a day trip to Rotterdam would be a tour of the harbour, heading up the Euromast tower for great views over the city, a Dutch food walking tour taking in the famous Markthal and other culinary highlights in the city, or a tour of Rotterdam's famous architecture, which is so very different from Amsterdam's. 

Day Trip to Haarlem from Amsterdam

So close to Amsterdam you can even cycle to Haarlem (if you're feeling brave or fit enough) a day trip to Haarlem is a really easy way to feel you're seeing more of the Netherlands without travelling too far. The town centre and Grote Markt town square is lovely enough for a little stroll around but other things to do there include is Frans Hals Museum which is home to many Dutch works of art, and the gothic St Bavo church. When in Haarlem, you are also just a short bus journey to the beaches at Zaandvort or Bloemendaal which again you can cycle to from Amsterdam, if you are feeling fit enough. (We did a long time ago!)

Day Trip to Zaanse Schans from Amsterdam

If you came to Amsterdam for windmills, you can explore around the city and you will find some, but if you came for real Dutch scenery, working windmills and you don't want to hunt around for them, then you only need to go a short distance to go to Zaanse Schans, arguably the most famous and easiest place to see Dutch landscapes scattered with windmills. You can actually access the museum area of Zaanse Schans for free if you have an Iamsterdam City Card, and to make the travel cheaper or free, you may want to consider getting an Amsterdam Region Card too.

Day Trip to Keukenhof Spring Gardens from Amsterdam

This one is really only a possibility if you are visiting Amsterdam at a certain time, but if you love flowers and have long wanted to go see some striped tulip and flower fields in the Netherlands this is the day trip for you. Here is all the information you need about getting to Keukenhof from Amsterdam, but don't feel like you have to leave the city to see tulips. Here's a round-up of all the places you can find tulips in Amsterdam (even all year round!).

And that's it... for now! I'm looking forward to updating this post with more day trips from Amsterdam as and when I do them, or as and when I hear about others enjoying fun little day excursions from Amsterdam. So feel free to let me know of any others I should think about adding in the comments below. And thanks again to Alison for prompting me to put this post together!

About Alison

Alison Laycock is currently blogging about her adventures on Travel Alphabet. She enjoys travelling, meeting new people and learning about new cultures as well as speaking new languages. Check out her new blog where she will be sharing travel tips and is hoping to help others take their first step towards solo travelling.

And if you're looking for more tips to plan your trip to Amsterdam, here are some posts that could be useful for you:

When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?Where to Stay in Amsterdam - Neighbourhood Guide

The Best Hotels in Amsterdam for All Budgets

The Best Hotels in Central Amsterdam

The Iamsterdam City Card - Is it worth getting?

Choose Your Itinerary: Best Things to do During One Day in Amsterdam

Your Guide to Visiting Amsterdam in Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter

Tips for Staying in Self-Catering Accommodation in Amsterdam

100+ Free Things to do in Amsterdam

The Best Photo Spots in Amsterdam

and Tips for Cycling in Amsterdam

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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