Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Netherlands is Europe’s most densely populated country and geographically it’s also pretty small – but it’s a place jam-packed with delights. Use your InterRail Benelux Pass to discover everything Dutch: clogs, cheese, tulips, windmills and not forgetting the coffee shops.
Amsterdam: Europe’s most liberal city
Amsterdam is one of the most welcoming and easy-going cities you’ll find in Europe. The most enjoyable thing to do is wander around the canal-laden centre and stop off for a coffee in one of the tiny cafés. The famous Anne Frank House is located in the Jordaan and is a must-see for anyone, who wants a deeper understanding of what it must have felt like to be in hiding during World War II. Another highlight is cruising along Amsterdam’s canals by boat and getting unparalleled views of the city. More things to do in Amsterdam
The Anne Frank House is a 15-minute walk from the main train station. You can find boat tours outside Amsterdam’s main train station.
Tulips and windmills
Visit a flourishing Dutch tulip bulb field during the spring or if you take a train from Haarlem to Leiden you will get free and satisfying views from the train window. If, however quantity (and quality) is important to you, go to Keukenhof – the world’s largest flower gardens, with around six million flowers on show! Flowers done, next windmills. There are windmills all across the Netherlands, but one in easy reach is Molen van Sloten (Windmill of Sloten) on the outskirts of Amsterdam, where you can make a tour of this 19th-century polder draining mill.
Keukenhof can be reached by bus and it’s possible to buy a combined entrance + transport ticket from Schiphol Airport, Leiden and the Hague. The best way to reach the Windmill of Sloten is a short taxi ride.
Amsterdam is a European leader when it comes to partying hard, with a wide selection of commercial and not so commercial events going on every week. Start the night off in the Leidseplein which is teeming with bars, then head to Paradiso – a popular haunt, with live bands and various dance music on weekend nights. Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port has a vibrant and underground night scene, which is now rivalling that of the capital.
The Leidseplein and Paradiso are a 15-minute walk from the main train station.
Do like the Dutch: go by bike
Believe it or not, off the north coast are a number of surprisingly beautiful islands – the Wadden Islands. Terschelling is one of the most visited of the bunch. Camping is popular on the island as is getting around by bike. Enjoy the fresh sea air and the calming sound of the waves. Back on mainland, head down to Hoge Veluwe National Park and take your time exploring this precious woodland on one of the free white bikes offered as you enter. There’s a wide variety of plants and animals that can be found there.
Take the train to Harlingen Haven train station and from there it is a short walk to the ferry terminal for boats to Terschelling. To get to Hoge Veluwe National Park take the train to Arnhem, where you can pick up a bus to the park.
Dutch city gems
Head south to Maastricht – one of the Netherland’s most beautiful cities, decorated with cobbled streets and peppered with pavement cafés. The culture has French and Belgian influences due to the city’s proximity to the these two countries, which makes for a city altogether different to the rest of the Netherlands. Another lovely Dutch city is Utrecht, just 30 minutes from Amsterdam – it makes for a good day trip.
Maastricht can be reached directly by train from many Dutch cities. Utrecht’s city centre is a 10-minute walk from the main train station.
- 30 April, 2013
The highlight of every Dutch person’s calendar is this yearly street festival in celebration of the Dutch Queen’s birthday. Orange-clad locals and visitors line the streets for a whole day of street partying. The party begins the night before, during Koninginnenacht (Queen’s Night) – though you are warned to take it easy on this night otherwise the following day (which is in fact the highlight) will be a struggle!
Festivities take place all over the city. The best way to experience Queen’s Day is by heading to the centre of the city.
- 16-18 August, 2013
The most popular festival of the year, held over 3 days with camping, a great selection on international acts appear, plus there’s a selection of theatre, film and art events.
Take a train to Lelystad or 't Harde. From there you can get a free bus to the festival location.
- 14-16 June, 2013
Shares popularity stakes with Lowlands as one of the top contemporary summer music festivals, held over 3 days.
Take the train to Landgraaf. From there get a free bus to the festival site.
North Sea jazz festival
- 12-14 July, 2013
The world’s largest jazz festival also includes world music, blues, funk, rock, R&B and more. For 3 days, the very best local, national and international acts perform on 12 indoor and outdoor stages in an enormous concert venue in Rotterdam.
North Sea jazz festival takes place at Ahoy which can be reached by tram and metro from Rotterdam central station.
- 9-11 February, 2013
Although it’s celebrated in other parts of Holland, Maastricht is the place to be for Carnaval. Some argue that the celebration in Maastricht rivals even the Carnaval days in Venice. Festivities last 4 or 5 days, and include the customary costumes, music, and plenty of booze.
Maastricht can be reached by train. Festivities take place all over the city and are within walking distance of the main train station.
- 29 June, 2013
This 12-hour outdoor dance event is only for those truly dedicated to the deep, dark baseline of techno music.