Holland, a country known for Tulips, Windmills, Cheese and Canals!
We decided to make use of a valid Schengen Visa to see the Tulips in bloom in Holland!
Took the Eurostar from London’s St. Pancras International to Brussels and then a connection by Thallys to Amsterdam as I got a cheap return tickets to Brussels.
The decision to avoid air travel was great as we got to the station in 30 Minutes and check in and security took 15 Minutes. Would really recommend this mode to get to Europe from London.
Got to Amsterdam on schedule and took a regional train to Alkmaar, where we were picked up by our host of the Airbnb we were staying in. Nice of Theo to take the trouble. He took us to his Boat where we would spend the next five days.
1. Get a local SIM card in Amsterdam if you don’t already have one that works in Holland. I found this extremely useful for getting around and also checking on connections.
2. Get a OV Chipkaart for your travel by bus, tram and train (if you don’t already have a rail pass)
I had a Beneleux Eurail pass which was very useful and economical as we used a lot of trains.
25th April – Amsterdam & Keukenhof
Had a leisurely morning and took the bus to Alkmaar station from where we took the regional train to Amsterdam.
Picked up our Holland Pass which I had previously booked. I found this useful as it gives some free entrances and many discounts. (Visit link – https://hollandpass.com )
Since it was a sunny day we decided to visit Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. Had to take the train to Schipol airport and then a connection by bus to Keukenhof. Used our Holland pass for free entry to the gardens.
Wonderful variety of Tulips of all colors, sizes and types. Well worth the trip and fulfilled my desire to see Tulips in bloom.
Spent over two hours there and then got back to Amsterdam for the evening. Used the Holland Pass to buy a free 24 hour Hop on Hop off ticket and decided to take one of the Canal Cruises.
I find Hop on Hop off busses and boats the most convenient way of getting introduced to a city. Here I was again not disappointed. The commentary was good and cruise interesting and informative.
26th April – Amsterdam
Took the same combination of transportation back to Amsterdam for a day of sightseeing. Having done a cruise yesterday, we took the Hop on Hop off bus first.
Good introduction to the city. Very interesting commentary.
Got off at the ‘Heineken Experience’ for the tour. Used my Holland Pass to get free entry. Wonderful tour of the old Heineken brewery. Now it is only a exhibition of processes used in beer making. There are good explanations along the way, views of the machines used and then a 4D presentation of Brewing, bottling and packaging. You get three glasses of free beer as well. It was a enlightening and educational experience – not to be missed if you like beer.
After having our Beers, we completed the bus tour. Got off at Amsterdam central and took the second Boat tour (Green line). This took us through different canals to complete an exhaustive tour of Amsterdam.
Due to our short visit, we did not visit any museums and some attractions. There are lots of Museums that you can visit. The Ice Bar, Anne Frank’s House, and a few others also looked interesting. Anyone interested in these should plan and extra day or two for Amsterdam.
Left these for our next visit.
27th April – Zaanse Schans, Volendam & Marken
We left a bit earlier as we had a long day planned. Took a combination of trains from Alkmaar via Zaandam to Zaanse Schans.
There are two options to reach Zaanse Schans, one by rail only where you will have a one and a half kilometers walk. The better option is to take a bus from Zaandam which takes you directly to the Zaanse Museum.
It was great to see traditional working windmills. We first visited the museum which gave a good introduction to life in the Zaanse area and the various products that originated from the region. Also a history of the utility of windmills in various industries.
Near the windmills there was a Cheese ‘factory’ – more of a Shop with free tasting and a small corner where you could see a video of cheese making; and a Clog display cum shop with a demonstration on how Clogs were made.
From Zaanse Schans we took two buses to the old fishing village of Marken located on an island. This became an island in the 13th century when a storm washed away the land connecting that areas the mainland. Now there is a Dyke blocking the sea with a road on it connecting the Island. Marken is a quaint village. Very nice to walk through the lanes and see the houses.
Today being Kings Day, it was all decorated and very lively with lots of parties going on. It is a national Holiday when everyone is encouraged to wear something Orange (the King’s color) and party all day!!!
We then took the Ferry from Marken to Volendam. This is a nice short 20 minute crossing. There is a bar on board where we had a beer. Great atmosphere.
Volendam itself is very touristy. The Harbour area was nice, extremely lively, with a lot of Pubs and restaurants.
28th April – Deft & Madurodam
Left our place early again as we anticipated a long day. Both places being near The Hague which is around two hours by rail. Got two trains to Delft first. Then took a bus to Royal Delft factory cum display. Entry tickets were €13.50 each and you get an audio guide. Quite interesting to see the methodology of Delftware production. They have a nice cafe and shop.
After the visit to Royal Delft factory, we took a combination of buses and train to get to Madurodam. Madhurodam was built in memory of George Madhuro by his parents after he was killed in the Second World War.
It has miniatures showcasing various Dutch towns, buildings and Dutch culture. It is very well laid out and presented. Quite interesting even for adults.
You could spend more time in Delft to visit the Old and New Churches and Delft town center.
With this, we ended our Dutch sojourn and took the Intercity to Brussels the next day.