If you’re looking for places to visit in the Netherlands, the south of the country is packed with family attractions. 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. It’s only an hour away from Hook of Holland).
The direct Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight ferry service made it easy for us to set off bright and early when we went on a recent day trip to Rotterdam with Stena Line. But if you wanted to explore some of the other cities in Holland, the ferry port is very conveniently located for a south Holland road trip.
Here are some of our favourite places to visit in Holland, 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.
Shopping in Delft
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. It sells everything from quirky paintings to brass ornaments. There’s a real buzz 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.
Other things to do in the Hague
The Hague is one of the best cities in Netherlands for museums, with the Museum for Contemporary Art and Museon Science Museum, as well as galleries that display Dutch fine art. 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.
If you want a balance between cultural stopping points, and fun places to visit in Holland that will make the kids smile, I’d recommend including a visit to Duinrell on your road trip itinerary. We had a great time when we visited. You can read about our day at Duinrell here. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we went back to stay at Duinrell for a week, which you can read about here. Here’s a video showing some of the highlights:
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. The vessel’s docked in retirement, following a career in the 1960s of ferrying passengers back and forth between Manhattan and the Netherlands.
You can read more about things to do, with or without kids, in this post about the day we spent in Rotterdam last winter.
Gouda’s a town that’s full of tradition, but with a modern twist. Farmers have been trading Gouda cheese on the Goudse kaasmarkt for more than three centuries. 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. Gouda’s one of those Netherlands tourist attractions that still feels like a living, breathing Dutch town. It’s a place not to be missed.
Here’s the cheese market in action, and you can read more about our day at Gouda here:
If visiting a windmill isn’t near the top of everyone’s list of things to do in Holland, then it should be. And Kinderdijk is the place to see them. The UNESCO world heritage site boasts 19 of these iconic Netherlands landmarks, built in the 18th Century. Kinderdijk’s’s the only place in the world that has so many windmills, so close together. 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:
Where are your favourite places to visit in the Netherlands? Are any of them in the south? And what tops your wish-list of things to do in Netherlands?
You can find out more about the best places to visit in Holland, and what to do in Holland if you’re visiting with kids, on the Visit Holland website.
Check out some more of our Holland posts:
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