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Places to visit in the Netherlands: six stops on a family road trip through south Holland

windmills at Kinderdijk

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.

Delft

Delft

Delft is a pretty town with canals and a buzzing market.

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.

The Hague

Vermeer

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.

Duinrell Wassenaar

Duinrell

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:

Rotterdam

Rotterdam Netherlands

Rotterdam’s historic Waterfront is lined with cafes and bars.

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.

Cube Houses Rotterdam

Rotterdam’s iconic Cube Houses harness some cutting-edge design.

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

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.

Gouda cheese market

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:

Kinderdijk

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:

Things to do in Leiden

  • Gouda
    A morning at Gouda cheese market

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Places to visit in the Netherlands

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71 Comments

  • Plutonium Sox
    April 21, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Wow, this is really inspirational. I have visited Holland twice but each time was all too brief. Definitely somewhere to spend a bit more time when we travel properly. I’m still a bit hypnotised by all that cheese!
    Nat.x

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 24, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      I know. Whenever I look back at these pictures, I feel hungry all over again!

      Reply
  • Mellissa Williams
    May 2, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I am hoping to go to Rotterdam next year for the Traverse 18 blog conference. I’ve been to Amsterdam 6 times, it;s my favourite city but have yet to explore South Holland. Gouda looks interesting and I would love to see the girl with the pearl earring. I watched a movie about this not long ago. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      Yes, it was a good film. I’m hoping to go to Traverse in Rotterdam too. I think it would be a cool host city!

      Reply
  • Wandermust mummy
    May 2, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    This looks like an amazing itinerary #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      It’s a great place to visit. Very easy!

      Reply
  • Melissa @ The Family Voyage
    May 2, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    These are great ideas! We only had time for Amsterdam and Arnhem, but we hope to come back in the spring next year to see more of the country. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Yes, there’s so much to it. I’d love to go back and visit the north, as we haven’t seen Arnhem yet….

      Reply
  • Cathy (Mummytravels)
    May 2, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Given how close the Netherlands are, I have not taken advantage of that and have only really been to Amsterdam – The Hague would definitely be on my list (love the museum idea) and Delft always looks so pretty just for starters! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      I’d have liked to spend longer in the Hague. We only went for the afternoon, but there’s tons to do there.

      Reply
  • Wherejogoes
    May 2, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    What a wonderful trip – I’ve never been beyond Amsterdam and I’m missing out! I’ve heard great things about Duinrell and I’d love to visit Delt for the pottery and Gouda for the cheese! A great road trip to do with kids – the promise of the theme park would appeal to mine! #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Yes – there’s something for everyone on this route!

      Reply
  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    May 2, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Delft, I want to go to Delft! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      It’s so pretty there, Catherine.

      Reply
  • Jane @ Raincity Librarian
    May 3, 2017 at 1:03 am

    Oh, the colours of those spring flowers are just giving me life! The Hague has long been on my to-do list, so much to see and so much knowledge and culture to absorb.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Yes – The Hague’s an incredible place.

      Reply
  • Ruth | Tanama Tales
    May 3, 2017 at 2:26 am

    I have never explored Europe by car (I mean us driving) but that is going to change next week. We are going to be several days in Iceland and we are renting a car. I hope this is the beginning of many more road trips, Holland included. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      I hope your Iceland trips’s going well!

      Reply
  • Lolo
    May 3, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Your post reminds me how much more of the Netherlands I need to see! I haven’t been to any of these yet! (**Sob**) I want to go to all of them! #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      The world’s just too large a place, isn’t it?

      Reply
  • Nat - Awaybies
    May 3, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    How fun! Thanks for all the tips, would love to do a ferry and road trip like this with the kids. This also brings me back, as I went on a school trip to Holland when I was 12 and we visited a pottery factory in Delft where I bought some blue and white items! #familytraveltips

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Oh that’s brilliant! I wonder if you can still go back to the same factory.

      Reply
  • Vyki from Museum Mum
    May 4, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I’m hoping to have our summer holiday next year in the Netherlands, and this post has confirmed why that’s a good idea! I’ve only ever been to Amsterdam, and clearly there is a lot more to explore. We found it so cheap and easy to get to mainland Europe on the Eurotunnel this Easter that we want to do more holidays this way. Would you recommend a particular part of the Netherlands as a base? #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      From everything I’ve seen, I’d say Wassenaar was the best place. You’re close to Duinrell (you can even stay on-site), on the edge of beautiful beaches, and it’s easy to get to both Amsterdam and the southern towns like Gouda and Delft.

      Reply
  • Corey at fifi + hop
    May 5, 2017 at 2:07 am

    I was lucky enough to visit a bunch of these on a work trip years ago, but it left me wanting to see so much more. Some day! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Yes – there are just too many places to visit!

      Reply
  • Hilary
    May 5, 2017 at 5:38 am

    We visited Holland last summer, and I absolutely loved it! I wish we would of had more time, but I hope to go back someday and see some of these towns! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      You could spend weeks here. It’s a fabulous place.

      Reply
  • Lauren
    May 5, 2017 at 8:01 am

    We have always wanted to visit Holland as a family so your article was a great read. There looks so much to do there, the girls would love Duinrell!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Yes, it has something to suit everyone.

      Reply
  • Deb Sharratt
    May 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Oh that looks really fun. We’ve often thought about taking the boys to Holland but haven’t been yet. #culturedkids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      You should definitely go. I have a feeling you’d love it.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    May 5, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    For some reason I’ve never thought about doing a road trip in Holland. Really interesting to hear about the different places. There’s clearly loads to see and Mrs T would love Duinrell. It has left me wondering why we haven’t done it before. Thanks for the inspiration! #culturedkids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      It’s a very easy road trip. Not too far to drive between great stop-off towns!

      Reply
  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    May 5, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Like Wander Mum I’d never thought of a Dutch road trip but that its on the list for our summer holiday shaped hole that we have in August! #CulturedKids

    Reply
  • tots2travel
    May 5, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    My husband would love to do this trip. The Gouda cheese market would be grate, a wheelie good time (apologies). I think I’d genuinely enjoy it. #culturedkids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      I bet you would. Goud for the soul!

      Reply
  • Charly Dove
    May 5, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Oh wow this sounds like such a great trip Nell. I love the sounds of all these places. Unbelievably of all the places we’ve been to in Europe, we’re yet to do Holland. And Norway for that matter. Must sort that out! Great post, thank you for hosting. I’m sharing a post about a pirate museum with pretty views 🙂

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Gorgeous post. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • Siobhan
    May 6, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I love the windmills. Looks like a great trip and so accessible too. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      It really is an easy place to visit.

      Reply
  • Annabel
    May 6, 2017 at 8:31 am

    What a great destination to visit: there’s so much to see so close by. I think my boys would be sold by the overnight ferry trip alone! Love the idea of skating past the windmills, great alternative winter holiday idea!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      I know. I’m dying to go back in winter.

      Reply
  • Ian - Imps And Ramblers
    May 6, 2017 at 9:04 am

    We have honestly always passed Netherlands over for other more exciting looking places. Your photos and tips though make it look like so much fun. Maybe it should have always been higher on our list. Thanks for sharing. #CulturedKids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      I love the place. Even more so because it’s understated!

      Reply
  • Emma Raphael
    May 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Loved this post Nell! My Grandmother is Dutch so holidays in Holland featured a lot on our calendar. This brought back lots of happy memories! 🙂

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      I’m really pleased to hear that, Emma! x

      Reply
  • Sarah Ebner
    May 7, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    What a gorgeous post. We haven’t been to the Netherlands for years, but I went a number of times growing up and always enjoyed it. Great to see it’s lovely for kids too. I know my son would particularly love Duinrell! #culturedkids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      I’d possibly rate it as my no. 1 place to take kids if you want an easy, fun, interesting trip….

      Reply
  • the Curious Pixie
    May 7, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Holland is on my list of places to go and you’ve just provided me a full on itinerary. Great post. Thank you! #CulturedKids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Kit Graham
    May 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Gouda looks gorgeous. And there is cheese? Sign me up!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 8, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Yes, the cheese is just the (cheesy) icing on the cake! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  • Plutonium Sox
    May 8, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Just visiting again to say thanks for linking up to #FamilyTravelTips! Still want that cheese!
    Nat.x

    Reply
  • Allison
    May 9, 2017 at 4:18 am

    These sound like great places to visit. I’m especially interested in Gouda. I would love to visit the cheese factory. #CulturedKids

    Reply
  • Cat hooper
    May 9, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Looks such an amazing trip! we need to do more of europe and hop on the ferry to amsterdam and explore Holland #CulturedKids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      It’s so easy to get there….

      Reply
  • Travelling With Our Kids
    May 9, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    We loved Holland when we visited. Kinderdijk Windmills was one of our favourites. Rotterdam Zoo was also a great place to visit if you are nearby. #FamilyTravelTips

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Ah yes, I’ve heard it’s good!

      Reply
  • Sol Solntze
    May 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Oh the windmills are my vote! Although I would try to have Gouda in Gouda.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      The Gouda was amazing….

      Reply
  • Jonny (daisythebus)
    May 20, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Nice list. I used to work often in The Hague and really loved it – a liveable, likeable city with a special mix of old and new… and, of course, the wonderful beach. The modern architecture of Rotterdam blows my mind too. #CulturedKids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      It was my first time at the Hague and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t quite know what I’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been a city that I’d consider visiting as a destination in its own right. Now I’d like to go and spend a few days there, getting to know the place.

      Reply
  • Helena
    May 20, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    My sister lives in Holland so this is great advice of what to see if we venture back that way. #CulturedKids

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks! How nice to be able to visit relatives there.

      Reply
  • Kirsty - The Mummysphere
    May 22, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I will have to bookmark this as rely hoping to go to Duinrell sometime in the near future – hopefully!!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 25, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Hope you make it there!

      Reply
  • Elizabeth
    May 23, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Oh, we never made it to Delft, but it sure does look lovely! We spent about 5 days in Rotterdam in the fall and it was really lovely. I thought there were fun things to do with kids and a lot of awesome cafes and restaurants for the adults!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 25, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      I need to spend more time in Rotterdam. Mind you, I feel like that about every place on this list!

      Reply

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