With its distinct architecture, rich history, many canals and bicycles, as well as its breathtaking tulip season, the Netherlands is a joy to visit year-round. It’s also not the largest country in the world, so you can take in a lot of the land in just one week.
Whether you choose to travel by train from place to place or get yourself a hire car, we’ve pulled together a seven-day itinerary that will help you see some of best bits the country has to offer.
Day 1: Amsterdam
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If you’re heading to the Netherlands from the U.S. then you’ll most likely arrive in Amsterdam, the country’s capital. After you land, get into the city from the airport, check in to your accommodation and start exploring.
To see prototypical Dutch architecture, head to the Jordaan area. It has narrow and tall, houses, and the iconic canals Amsterdam is known for. It’s also close to the Anne Frank House, which is worth seeing in person, even if you aren’t able to pre-book a ticket. If shopping is your thing, be sure to head to the Nine Streets where you’ll find plenty of boutiques, or go upmarket and venture down Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat which is lined with designer boutiques like Chanel, Dior, and Christian Louboutin.
Day 2: Amsterdam
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There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam, so it’s well worth taking a second day to explore the city. If the weather is nice, take some time to explore the canals on an open air boat. You can hire your own electric-powered boat (mokumboat.nl) or head out on one of the many smaller themed boats, such as the Damrak Gin Boat or G’s Brunch Boat, which sails on the weekends.
If you love art, then head straight to the Museumplein, which is home to several popular museums like the Rijksmuseum, with classic artworks by Rembrandt; the Van Gogh Museum; and the Stedelijk, a modern art gallery with works by Chagall and Picasso. If you buy an I amsterdam City Card (60 euros for 24 hours), you can visit all the museums for free.
Day 3: Take a Day Trip to Wadden Sea
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While Amsterdam’s 17th-century canal ring is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s also only a boat trip away from another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wadden Sea. Explore the area on a full-day safari tour with Dutch Seal Tours. If a full 12-hour day out sounds too tiring, you can opt for the shorter half-day trip. You’ll have the chance to spot different species of seals and do some bird watching. The itinerary is packed with a visit to a nearby, traditionally Dutch, village that has both a windmill and a castle. There is also a brewery you can visit if you enjoy beer, and a cafe where you can fuel up before returning back to the city.
Day 4: Spend the Night in Groningen
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From Amsterdam, you can hop on a train to Groningen which takes around 2.5 hours and passes through the pretty, Dutch countryside. Groningen is the largest city in the north of the country. You can explore the streets of this lively and bustling city, then head to Groninger Museum, where you can while away a few hours looking at classic and contemporary Dutch art inside a curious-looking building on the water. Come evening, if it’s a clear night, either drive or take the train out to Lauwersmeer National Park, on the coast. It has a Dark Sky Park with the least amount of light pollution in Holland, perfect for watching the stars.
Day 5: Travel From Groningen to Rotterdam
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Take a direct train from Groningen to Rotterdam, and in just over 2.5 hours you’ll be in Rotterdam. Since it is a city filled with unusual architecture, like the Cube Houses and the Euromast, just walking around is like being in an open-air exhibition. If you count yourself as a bit of a foodie, head to dinner at the Michelin-starred FG Food Labs, a restaurant inside a railway tunnel, where you can try some experimental and tasty dishes. Seafood lovers should head to Mood Rotterdam, a French and Asian fusion restaurant serving seasonal fish with a twist.
Day 6: Visit Dunes of Loon and Loevestein Castle
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Rotterdam is within easy reach of the medieval Loevestein Castle and the shifting sands nicknamed the Brabant Sahara in the Drunen National Park (also called Dunes of Loon). Both are easily visited in one day from the city and offer two incredibly unique Dutch experiences.
If castles and deserts aren’t your style, you can head to neighboring Delft to see the classic Dutch blue and white ceramics at the Royal Delft factory and museum; to Gouda to sample the namesake cheese; or to The Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands. If you visit Gouda, make sure to stop by Syrup Waffle Factory for some freshly-made stroopwafels.
Day 7: Return to Amsterdam
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On your final day in the Netherlands, spend the morning in Rotterdam then head back to Amsterdam. You can drop off your luggage at the luggage lockers near Central Station to free yourself up for some last-minute exploring. If you haven’t yet, bike through the city to experience Amsterdam like the locals. From that point it’s time to head back to the airport, or to Central Station to go to your next destination.