Last spring, we visited south Holland, staying in a holiday park by the sea. If, like us, you pick a base in the south of the country, there are plenty of attractions, all within easy reach. You can visit windmills, beaches, pretty towns with canals, amusement parks – so much, in fact, that there’s no need to head north to Amsterdam (though you can always do that too…..).
The direct Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight ferry service makes it easy to set off bright and early on a road trip around south Holland. The flat, well-maintained roads in Holland are excellent, – although it’s always worth checking your tyres before you set off.
Here are some of our favourite places to stop, all within 40-50 minutes of Hook of Holland.
The pretty town of Delft dates from the 11th century. Its narrow, canal-lined streets are easy to stroll around if you only have time for a short visit. Delft is the birthplace of artist Johannes Vermeer, who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring. The Vermeer Centrum Delft gives a glimpse of his studio, and of what it would have been like for the artist, living in 17th Century Holland.
Delft is also home of the distinctive blue-and-white Delft pottery, developed in the 17th Century from Chinese influences. If there’s room in your car, you can pick some up in one of the town’s many workshops and studios. In the spring and summer, an antiques market lines up along the side of the canals in the town centre, with everything from quirky paintings to brass ornaments on sale. There’s a real buzz to the town on market days (Thursdays and Saturdays), with busy canalside cafes and restaurants full of visitors and locals. You can see more pictures of Delft in our post here.
Road trippers who are inspired by the Vermeer Centrum Delft can drive along to The Hague, where the Mauritshuis houses a number of Vermeer’s works. In this post, I described the home of the city’s collection of Dutch Golden Age art as
“like walking into the lavish drawing room of your Great Aunt.”
The Mauritshuis is an ornate, hushed museum, where sleek, wooden surfaces offset the heavy, velveteen scent hanging in the air. As well as several Vermeers, visitors can see The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt and The Goldfinch by Fabritius. Young visitors can borrow one of the children’s backpacks, with colouring books, stickers and music boxes, to help them enjoy the art.
Also in The Hague are modern art and science museums. The beach resort Scheveningen has four kilometres of coastline, and a new 350m-long zipwire down from the pier.
Just outside The Hague lies Wassenaar, a leafy suburb which includes a royal residence and the most expensive street in the country. It’s also home to Duinrell, a quirky but tasteful amusement park. Duinrell is on the site of an old farm and first opened its doors in 1935. The one million square-metre estate includes an amusement park with 40 attractions, an indoor Tiki Pool, with over 1km of slides, and a holiday park area with chalet-style accommodation and camping pitches.
Here’s a video showing some rides at Duinrell:
The Netherlands’ second largest city was one of Lonely Planet’s top ten city destinations for 2016. Razed to the ground during WWII, Rotterdam is now a hip city with striking architecture and a vibrant nightlife. The city’s light, airy buildings are interspersed with revolutionary design features, like the Cube Houses in the Oude Haven area. As with most places in the Netherlands, water plays a large part in the city’s life. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe. Tourists can visit the Maritiem Museum, or even sleep on board a steam cruise ship, the SS Rotterdam, which is docked in retirement following a career in the 1960s of ferrying passengers back and forth between Manhattan and the Netherlands.
Gouda’s a town that’s full of tradition, but with a modern twist. Gouda cheese has been traded on the Goudse kaasmarkt for more than three centuries, with farmers travelling in to the town square, to trade and have their cheese weighed in front of the old town hall. 60% of all Dutch cheese comes from Gouda; as well as the stalls flanking the town square on market day, there are several permanent cheese shops in the town, where you can try before you buy. Cheese enthusiasts should check out the Goudse Waag, a building dating back to 1668 which now houses the Cheese and Artisanal Crafts Museum.
A walk around the historic cobbled streets reveals a few hip treasures, like Den Gouwen Aar, where you can sample craft ale in the beer-tasting room, or buy Gouda herb beer. Lego fans can also spend some time at Play today, a Lego specialist shop where one Euro buys you a build-your-own-figure session.
Here’s the cheese market in action, and you can read more about our day at Gouda here:
If it’s windmills you want, Kinderdijk is the place in the Netherlands to see them. The UNESCO world heritage site boasts 19 of the 18th-Century beauties. It’s the only place in the world with so many windmills, so close together, and it’s often a surprisingly quiet place to visit, especially if you go off-season. A regular Hopper boat service runs trips past the windmills. In one of the two museum mills, a miller in genuine Dutch clothing describes what it would have been like to work there. Winter visitors might even be lucky enough to ice skate down the frozen canal.
You can see the windmills in this video:
Have you travelled in south Holland? What were the highlights for you?
Check out some more of our Holland posts:
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This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.