After over three years of living in the Netherlands, I’ve been asked a lot about how much time to spend in the Netherlands. A lot of people speed through the Netherlands only stopping for one day in Amsterdam, but I’d recommend enjoying at least 7 days in the Netherlands if you have the chance. I’ll be covering the highlights of the Netherlands and tips for getting around the Netherlands in this Dutch itinerary.
I’ve focused this itinerary more on Holland as most of the attractions that people want to see are in this region, however I’ve included a couple off the beaten path Dutch cities that you might want to add onto your itinerary if you have more time and/or you’ve already covered most of the major cities in Holland. This is based on my parents’ trip that I planned for them that they loved!
Many people don’t realize how small the Netherlands is. It’s very easy to take day trips from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, the Hague, and many cities in the Netherlands. To many people here, an hour is a long time to be on the train, so if you’re used to bigger countries, you don’t need to plan much because you can purchase a train ticket on the day of and they don’t sell out.
The tickets bought at the train station machines are not specific to any time, just the date, although I recommend avoiding rush hour. The maximum that you’ll pay is 25 euros each way on the train although in some cases, the regional buses might be cheaper! You can read tips for finding cheap train tickets in the Netherlands here.
Three days in Amsterdam
I generally recommend having three days in Amsterdam. During this time, be sure to get a taste of Dutch food, wander around Amsterdam’s picturesque canals, glimpse into the sinful side of Amsterdam (if you dare!), explore the cool De Pijp district, and take in some of the incredible art at Amsterdam’s many museums. As someone who lived in Amsterdam for a few years, I can promise that three days is the perfect taste of Amsterdam.
Many Dutchies will say that Amsterdam is not the same as the Netherlands and many joke that it’s the Disneyworld of the Netherlands. Luckily, you are in the right place as I’ve designed an itinerary to show you much more of the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam. My parents followed a very close itinerary and although they loved Amsterdam, they were blown away by the other cities. Click for my itinerary for three days in Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, I recommend staying at Max Brown, a boutique hotel in Amsterdam. This stunning hotel is made of various canal houses sewn together along one of Amsterdam’s most scenic canals. As soon as you walk by, you’ll understand why this is one of my top picks (as well as one that my friends have loved). For something more budget, the Student Hotel is a great choice for an affordable hotel and StayOkay Vondelpark is a cozy hostel that another friend of mine loved staying in.
It is a lot cheaper to stay outside of Amsterdam, so it might be better to spend three days and two nights in Amsterdam prior to moving with your suitcase to the other cities mentioned here. You’ll save a lot of money and have more time to enjoy these stunning cities without having to worry about heading back early! I include hotel picks for a few of the cities (with more recommendations within the dedicated city guides).
Day trip to Zaanse Schans and Hoorn
A lot of people have heard of Zaanse Schans. You don’t need to go with a tour as there’s a direct bus from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaanse Schans, which is included with an iAmsterdam card.
It’s free to see these iconic Dutch windmills although you will need to pay admission to visit the museum. You won’t need more than two hours here and get here to avoid the crowds! Afterward, head back to the train station near Zaanse Schans to catch the train to Hoorn.
Hoorn is often overlooked by people who simply don’t know about it. Hoorn is a stunning city along the Zuiderzee that served as a major seaside port for many years. The riches of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) resulted in ridiculously charming architecture.
When the Zuiderzee was cut off from the North Sea, the town lost its significance with trade. Luckily, dairy has become a major industry for the region. It’s perfect for a relaxing day away from the crowds in Amsterdam. If you can go on a market day, I highly recommend it!
Read a self-guided walking tour of Hoorn
Day trip to Haarlem and the tulip fields (April/May only*)
If you’re visiting the Netherlands in time for tulip season, you’re in luck! The best time to visit the Netherlands to see the tulips is mid-April to the end of April. (You might get lucky with seeing the tulip fields in May). Most people head to Keukenhof to see the tulips, however, you can also find the fields in Lisse that are free to admire.
You can follow this self-guided walking route that I’ve taken several years in a row to see the Dutch tulips for free! Haarlem is very close by and it’s such a lovely city.
Haarlem is a beautiful Dutch city that is quintessentially Dutch. There’s nothing like sipping on a fresh mint tea as you sit out on Grote Markt admiring the St. Bavokerk. It’s a really charming city to explore on foot. For science geeks, I recommend the Teylers Museum to understand the history of science. You can also take a relaxing ride along Haarlem’s canals prior to stopping off at Jopen, a brewery within a former church. Click for my guide to Haarlem.
One day in Utrecht
Utrecht is one of those cities that leaves an impression on you. This stunning university city has two-story canals that you can stroll upon as well as a stunning church tower (all that’s left of the grand cathedral that once stood there). Utrecht is famous in the Netherlands for its foodie culture and you will not be disappointed after you spend a day exploring this historic Dutch city. Click for my guide to Utrecht and things to do in Utrecht off the beaten path.
Optional day trip: Cheese market in Woerden (summer only*) and Gouda
If you’re looking for a Dutch cheese market, I highly recommend the one in Woerden. It’s considerably less touristy than the one in Gouda as well as Alkmaar. Woerden itself has some unique attractions that you can see beyond the cheese market.
What I love about this market is that real trades occur, so you can watch the handclap method go on as the buyers and sellers bargain for the price. They also provide free cheese samples. It’s absolutely free, so if you’re visiting in summer, head to the Woerden Cheese Market. On the way back, the train will pass through Gouda, which I recommend combining with Woerden.
Although the Gouda cheese market occurs on a different day than the Woerden cheese market, Gouda is a very charming and beautiful city. It is where stroopwafels are said to be invented, so you must try a fresh one while in Gouda.
For history geeks, the city hall is considered one of the most beautiful ones in the Netherlands. You’ll find lots of charming little streets and alleyways all throughout the city. Click for my tips for visiting Gouda!
One day in the Hague
The Hague is now my home. Although it has this reputation for being boring, a lot of people are blown away by the unique architecture (a blend of styles with a lot of Art Deco), the stunning canals, and the diversity of the city. Here, you’ll find the Mauritshuis, where you can view the Girl with the Pearl Earring and other Dutch masterpieces, as well as Escher in Het Paleis.
Be sure to explore Denneweg, one of the most stunning canals in the city, and consider heading to the beach in Scheveningen on a nice day. (Yes, there’s a beach nearby!)
You can read my guide for a day trip to the Hague here! I also have guides on where to eat in the Hague, where to drink in the Hague, and secret places in the Hague to visit.
Hotel prices in the Hague are incredibly reasonable and I’d recommend making it your base in Holland. At the Student Hotel, you can pay as little as 50 euros for a clean, modern room with quite a few amenities. La Paulowna Boutique Hotel is my recommendation for those looking for a boutique hotel with a special touch. You’ll also have views of the Peace Palace (shown above!).
Optional: One day in Delft
Delft is where the famous delftware is actually made, however, there’s much more to this charming university city than pottery. As Delft is quite compact, you can spend even a few hours walking along its scenic canals, stopping for a coffee at its many modern cafes, and touring its two churches. The city is far from stuck in time and you’ll most likely be as taken with Delft as I have been. Click for my self-guided walking tour to Delft.
One day in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is completely different than the rest of the Netherlands. The city was almost entirely destroyed in World War II, so the city was rebuilt. Rather than rebuilding in the previous style, Rotterdam modernized with innovative skyscrapers and experimental architecture. If you’re looking for something different than the historic cities, you’ll find Rotterdam to be the epitome of cool with many districts full of great food and shops (including one actually called the Cool District). Click to read my guide to Rotterdam.
Optional: One day in Dordrecht
If you’re looking for something quite different, Dordrecht is a really beautiful Dutch city that isn’t known to many foreign tourists. It has a stunning historic center and it’s called the Venice of Holland. I have to agree with this assessment as it’s easy to imagine the posts picking up people at the various docks throughout the city center. Click to read about Dordrecht.
Note: If you only have a week in the Netherlands, you might want to limit your time to Holland. However, if you’re continuing down to Belgium or Germany, I’d encourage you to see Brabant and Limburg. These two provinces are often overlooked by first-time visitors to the Netherlands and they really offer a great opportunity to learn about Dutch culture!
One day in Den Bosch
Many people haven’t heard of Den Bosch. This stunning city with a well-preserved medieval center was the home to the famous Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Throughout the city, you’ll find stunning canals where traders used to transport their goods on. Taking a tour of the Binnendieze is one of the most unique tours that I’ve ever taken and going underneath the buildings was so cool.
Beyond the beautiful architecture, delicious desserts, and its stunning cathedral, Den Bosch is a very alive city with many adorable independent shops and great food. Hotels are quite affordable in Den Bosch, which makes it a great stop-off prior to heading down to Limburg. I was here for one day and it left me wanting a lot more. Click to read your perfect day trip guide to Den Bosch.
Optional: One day in Efteling from Den Bosch
Many people outside of the Netherlands have not heard of the Efteling. This Dutch amusement park has its own distinct universe as well as style of animation is older than Disney. I consider Efteling on par with Disney although the tickets are a fraction of the cost. (I’d recommend staying in Den Bosch as it’s quite closeby!)
Coming here will make you feel like a kid again, so if you’re looking for a fun day out after exploring numerous Dutch cities, consider taking a little break exploring Efteling. You can read tips for visiting Efteling here.
One day in Maastricht
Maastricht is one the gems of the Netherlands, however most people don’t know about it and end up skipping Maastricht. However, my parents considered Maastricht to be their favorite city in the Netherlands, even after several trips to the Netherlands. You can click to read my guide to Maastricht.
You might be wondering what is so special about Maastricht? The historic city center has a mix of architecture styles, several medieval churches that have been converted into bookstores and hotels, and a rich food culture. It’s also the perfect jumping-off point to head towards Germany as Aachen, Germany is only one hour by bus—and Liege, Belgium is another hour away by train.
What did you think of this Netherlands itinerary?
Click for tips for finding cheap train tickets in the Netherlands, secret things to do in Amsterdam, traveling in the Netherlands on a budget, and the best day trips from Amsterdam.
It would be interesting to see what you could come up with for Friesland and Groningen
Try Bergen op Zoom in West Brabant
Chandra bahadur Niroula
Hello can you provide me November 7 to 14 I want visit Netherlands trip so I need day by day itinerary top place visit send me my email thanks .
Hi, thanks very much for sharing your experience & summing up all in this wonderful itinerary. I am looking to travel to Netherlands and it will help me a lot.
I have a query regarding ‘I amsterdam card’. I wonder if you know this. If I buy that card, would I be able to use the card for public transport outside Amsterdam. Like could I use the card to travel to Rotterdam from Hague & further on.
Hi Dania, Unfortunately the iAmsterdam card is limited to the Amsterdam region (buses). For the Hague/Rotterdam area, there is a similar card (Tourist Day Ticket) for Zuid Holland sold by RET valid on public transit (not trains) that would go from Rotterdam to the Hague. That said, I’d recommend just paying out of pocket for the train tickets as it’s faster and usually cheaper than this card as the buses/trams are slower than the trains.
I really want to get in touch with you. Do you have a facebook page, I can use to connect to you please?
Hi, if you click contact, you’ll find my email. Thanks, Karen
My wife and I are going to the Netherlands in April 2020. This will be our 3rd time visiting but, we only stayed in Amsterdam. I really enjoyed this article and you have given me many new ideas. We are probably a lot like your parents, very interested in the history and architecture. We also are not big fans of crowds and tours, I prefer to go about on our own and kinda do our own thing. Getting lost is frustrating but fun. Could you possibly send me an itinerary that we could enjoy as your parents did.
Hi Jerry, You’re welcome to steal this itinerary, which is very close to their own. They never got to Den Bosch, but mostly because they didn’t realize that it was so charming. It’s high on their list for the next trip. Any of these cities mentioned here besides Amsterdam should give you that experience. Most Dutch cities don’t really require so much effort to see, so it’s quite easy to pop off the train with seeing much of the city within one day. The links within the article will bring you to city guides that I wrote for each city that include my recommendations on historical attractions, food, and architecture. I hope this helps you plan your third trip. Feel free to send me an email if anything is unclear. 🙂
I enjoyed your itinerary. I am planning to visit the Netherlands and your itinerary is very helpful. Thank you.
We are planning 10 day trip to Holland in April 2020
Can you please just tell which city to make reservations for hotels
My understanding that to many cities we can just take one day trip from Amsterdam
Please check my day trips from Amsterdam post for more info (near the end!). You can save a lot by not staying in Amsterdam and spending just 2 days in Amsterdam if that’s all you intend to do. Haarlem, Leiden, the Hague, or Rotterdam can be a good base if you want to get away from Amsterdam to save on hotels.
Hi, I just came upon your blog post through Pinterest. Thank you for highlighting a few cities in The Netherlands that are usually overlooked and absolutely worth a visit. I believe you’ve given a lot of tourists an inspirational read and I hope those who plan to see Amsterdam within a day will rethink their itinerary.
As a Dutch reader (living in the USA), I do have some feedback though:
1) Dutch people never refer to the provinces of Noord-Holland en Zuid-Holland as ‘Holland’ the way you refer to it. You almost make it sound like it’s a separate country. Perhaps clarify you mean the provinces? As Dutch people we don’t talk about provinces the way Americans talk about States. States in the USA are a lot more independent from federal government and different from each other than the provinces in the Netherlands. We would just talk about the towns themselves and that would be all.
2) ‘Efteling’ would be ‘The Efteling’.
3) Dordrecht is called ‘Venice of the North’, not ‘Venice of Holland’.
4) ‘Zaans Schans’ is spelled Zaanse Schans, we pronounce the ‘e’ and it cannot be left out.
Have you been the the northern provinces yet? Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe are absolutely beautiful as well. I hope you enjoy your time in The Netherlands.
Glad to hear from you Marta! I wrote this with the hope of showing people more of the Netherlands in a realistic way as although there are so many beautiful places, most people have limited time.
I wrote about Holland in this way because of the other way that many visitors think of Holland. I live in Zuid Holland myself and agree a lot about the towns being more important than the province. I try to not to lump Holland together as an entity in my general writing and try to be more specific about the provinces, but this post is a bit of an exception.
Repoints: Ahh, fixing that spelling error. 😉 I realize that people call it “the Efteling”, which corresponds to the Dutch name, but the added the seems redundant in English.
I’ve been to every province of the Netherlands and fully intend on becoming a citizen in the near future. I must write more about the Northern Provinces as I went at a time that I was less active with my blog. A trip back is due soon to Friesland. I really loved it and I would plan to write about it once I have better photos to inspire people to visit. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
Hi, lovely cities and will certainly get a good feel of the Netherlands. As a vivid traveller myself, I love diversity and would long for some green between all the beautiful architecture. If time, and physical health, lets you, I would recommend a bike ride or hike /stroll through ‘De Hoge Veluwe’ and eat apple pie, along the coast and a beverage in a beach house, perhaps even ‘Wadlopen. Have a haring or kibbeling while you’re at the sea. De Bieschbosh may be more central if you are staying in de Randstad (the bigger cities in de west) and can be combined with a visit Rotterdam (then take the boat from Rotterdam as extra!) for instance. Oh, if you do go to Rotterdam, stop for a beer tasting at the Pheonix factory. And in Utrecht; you can combine this on same day and go canooing at Rhijnouwen in summer. Also, if you have a car; Volendam or Marken, Kasteel Muiderslot are great stops for couple of hours.
Some of my personal favorites. Believe these options all make your already great itinerary more divers and will give you a more complete overview of the Netherlands.
Hoge Veluwe should be combined with Kroller Muller; the second biggest van Gogh collection, but the building and environment add to the experience!
We are planning 7 days trip to Netherlands in June 2021
Can you please just tell which city to make reservations for hotels
June 9 to 15 I want visit Netherlands trip so I need day by day itinerary top place visit send me my email thanks .
It depends on you and how much you want to travel by train. I already have my recommendations in the article! 🙂
It looks like I will have 8 days available. I will spend 3 nights in Amsterdam. I’d love to visit all the other locations outlined here, but don’t want to constantly move around. Do you recommend one of the other smaller cities as a home base to travel to the others?
Hi, I’ll be booking Amsterdam soon for 6 nights. I plan on doing nothing too much the first day, because of a long flight. I plan to have 3 1/2 days touring Amsterdam and doing 2 days hoping on a train to explore. I had in mind Delft, Haarlem, Utrecht, Maastricht. But, I only have time for two places. I spent hours watching YouTube of these cities and reading reviews in travel forums. I’m having a hard time narrowing down 2. I’m not really into visiting anything like museums, I’m more into shops, coffee, lunch, scenery, taking walking, Maybe walk in a church. I really need help! Appreciate if you could help choose two.
I am a bit slow in responding, but all are lovely. Maastricht is too far. I would say that Utrecht and Haarlem are the easiest to do!
Hi Karen, my husband and I are visiting Holland for 9 days in June/July with our bikes. We land in Ijmuigen and are looking for advice on where to stay and visit. Can you help?
I would recommend Haarlem, but there are lots of cute cities nearby if you prefer a smaller town vibe. 🙂 Alkmaar is nice too!
Hi there. I’m coming to Amsterdam next week and I have one day alone before my group joins me. With the group we are doing the tulip gardens and parades and canal tour and Anne Frank house and some museums. I am trying to decide what would be a good way for me to spend the day alone. I’ll be staying by the airport but have thought of travelling into Utrecht, or over to Noord-Harlem or Harleem. I don’t know what I can pack into a day and I fear getting lost as well. Do you think I could do those three cities in a day? Or do you have a recommendation? Or should I just get a bike in Amsterdam and get lost? I appreciate any help. And thank you!
Hi Annette, I hope that I am not too late, but the train is really simple (download the NS app or just go to the train station to buy a round-trip ticket). It is very hard to get lost in a Dutch city as the signage is really good. I would recommend Haarlem or Leiden if you are by the airport and it should be enough for a relaxing afternoon. You’ll probably see a lot with the group, so better to pick one place that you won’t visit with them. 🙂
Hi Karen. So happy to find your info about the Netherlands. I am planning a 2 week trip for 4 in june and have reservations for all but the last 3 days. We’re in Breda for a couple of nights visiting my daughter’s partner’s family after going north from Amsterdam and around through Harlingen and Otterlo. We will be driving and visiting museums and parks along the way. We have to catch a flight early on the 4th day from schiphol so we can’t go too far. I am spending time in Utrecht before I meet with the others. So would staying in Breda and making day trips be the best use of our last 3 days? We are outdoor types and enjoy hiking, biking and sailing. Thanks so much. We are really excited about seeing the Dutch homelands.
Hi Dana! Breda is a nice hub for some cities, but maybe a little far for where you want to go (although possible). Sounds like a lovely trip and maybe worth getting a hotel / car along the way to maximize your time rather than driving more!
Karen, we get off riverboat cruise on Nov 17 in Amsterdam(have visited this city before).
Would you recommend Harlem or Ulreght as a hub to stay at, and then we day trip by rail to other towns? Time is flexible at this stage but we thought 5-7 days?
From new Zealand we are not used to hard winter weather, so your guidance would be welcomed
Hi Tom, November is definitely chilly and wet (although often not snowy). Yeah, traveling by train is a great idea! Utrecht is a better hub! Hope you have a great trip!
Your itinerary gives great insights. If we want to take unlicensed transport and minimise moving from hotel to hotel, which 2 cities are the best to stay so that we get to travel to all the places in this itinerary?
Sorry I meant public transport
Utrecht or The Hague!
Thanks for this great guide! I will be going to Amsterdam for the 2nd time in May for one week. In your itinerary, you mention day trips to Zaanse and Harlem for tulips, I was wondering if those day trips were included in staying 3 days in Amsterdam? So I would be spending 2/3 days in Zaanse and Harlem. I see a lot of tours to Zaanse and I was wondering if you think it’s worth it to pay for a tour of the windmills/cheese and fishing market?
I think three days in Amsterdam is ideal before doing a few day trips, but it is up to you as it is your trip. You can do a tour if you are tight on time, but it is easy enough to do a tour on your own of Zaanse Schaans and Haarlem using public transit. Zaanse Schans involves a bit more walking without a car, but it is very doable.