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Beyond the tulips: An alternative itinerary for spring in the Netherlands

Spring in the Netherlands is a special season. Flowers (especially the much-awaited tulips) are in bloom, bees are buzzing, canals are adorned with bright green canopies and travellers and locals alike finally get some respite from the winds and rains. While the energy of Dutch cities on sunny days is infectious, spring in this country is all about taking the time to slow down and really savour the newness and freshness in the air.

 

We’ve put together a list of places that take you around the Netherlands in a circle, so you get the chance to experience spring in myriad ways in this country. We recommend using a 7-day Benelux Pass to make the most of the long and scenic train rides to your destinations, but you can add these stops on a longer trip across the continent with a Global Pass, too.

 

Tulip picking in Julianadorp, Den Helder

1. Julianadorp, Den Helder

 

Den Helder, an hour-and-a-half train ride from Amsterdam, is a picturesque and off-the-beaten-path place to spot the famous Dutch tulips in the spring. From Amsterdam Centraal Station, take a train to Anna Pauwlona’s railway station and then board a public transport bus (Note: The bus is not included in the Pass). This bus takes you through several tulip patches on your way to De Floratuin.

 

Situated in the municipality of Julianadorp, De Floratuin offers you the opportunity to walk through a tulip garden and pick your own flowers! The flowers are extremely affordable (€0,25 per tulip), and the garden has its own café where you can sit and soak in the colours around you. An added bonus? De Floratuin is a 15-minute bike ride from the beach in Den Helder!

From Anna Pauwlona, board an NS Intercity train back to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Once here, you can board a Sprinter to Naarden-Bussum. Your next destination is a 20-minute walk from the station.

An Aerial View of Naarden in the Netherlands

2. Naarden, Naarden-Bussum

 

Naarden is one of the many “star fort” towns in the Netherlands. Star-shaped fortifications, with angled bastions and sloped walls, emerged about five hundred years ago to better defend townships against increasingly strong cannons. As a city, Naarden has a rich history dating back to the 1300s, reflected in its fort walls and monumental buildings. Together, they form an architecturally gripping walking tour. The city also has ample restaurants, curio shops, thrift stores and markets to visit.

 

Walk into the star fort over the moat, through the majestic gates and climb the walls to get a unique view of the city from high up above. If you’re feeling adventurous, the town of Muiden (with a glorious castle and a fort to explore) is only a bus ride away.

 

From Naarden-Bussum station, board a train to Almere Centrum. Here, you can change trains to Zwolle. The journey takes an hour. Almere is an interesting city, too–it’s known for modern architecture–so feel free to factor it into your itinerary on your way to Zwolle!

A View of Zwolle from the Canals

3. Zwolle, Zwolle

 

A Hanseatic city in the northeast of the Netherlands, Zwolle is a treat for those interested in history and culture. True to its association with trade and markets, the city centre is bursting with boutiques, local shops and hip restaurants. Do pay a visit to the Museum de Fundatie for its impressive and extensive collection of visual art.

 

While Amsterdam is famous for its canal tours, doing one in Zwolle is a unique experience: the grandeur of the city’s monuments is perhaps best witnessed from its canals. You can either join a boat tour or rent a boat yourself.

From Zwolle, board an Intercity to Utrecht Centraal. The journey takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Goats at a Kinderboerderij or Petting Zoo in the Netherlands

4. Geertje’s Hoeve, Utrecht

 

We’re heading to Utrecht, a popular Dutch city, with suburbs that are as (if not more) interesting as the lively and historic city centre! In the suburb of Haarzuilens, we recommend paying a visit to Geertje’s Hoeve, a small family-owned farm with adorable animals, a barn where you can buy fresh produce and a cherry orchard across the street. The farm has a great play area for children as well.

 

To reach Geertje’s Hoeve, take a train to Vleuten from Utrecht Centraal Station. The farm is a beautiful, 20-minute walk away. What’s more, you can hop on a bus to go check out the renowned Kasteel de Haar after you visit the farm.



From Utrecht Centraal, take a Sprinter to either Tiel or Rhenen. Both journeys take about 45 minutes.

A View of De Betuwe from a Dijk in Gelderland

5.  De Betuwe, Rhenen

 

The fruit orchards and flowering trees in De Betuwe region in the Gelderland province are a true reminder of spring's abundance. The Netherlands has several spots to enjoy the blossoms in the spring, and the apple blossoms at the Appeldijk on the Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt estate in this region are a must-visit.

 

As the season marches towards summer, you can visit several farms in De Betuwe to pick fresh Dutch apples and pears straight off the branches. While the areas closer to Rhenen have vast farmlands full of fruit, Tiel is known for its blossoms and smaller orchards. The two cities also make for a great bike adventure!

 

From Rhenen or Tiel, take a train back to Utrecht Centraal. Here, you can switch to a Sprinter that takes you to Leiden Lammenschans station.

Wild Garlic Blooms in De Stochemhoeve in Leiden

6. De Stochemhoeve, Leiden

 

Leiden is a university town in the west of the Netherlands. It houses the oldest university in the country and is the port from where the Pilgrims set sail to Massachusetts and New Amsterdam (present-day New York) in the early 17th century. You could easily spend a day here perusing this city's many sights.

 

But if you’re looking for a spring delight, we recommend heading to De Stochemhoeve, a campsite and park located in the wetlands on the outskirts of the city. De Stochemhoeve allows you to camp overnight on their grounds – perfect for travellers who wish to visit nearby farms, stroll through fields of blooming wild garlic, or even enjoy the local water park.

From Leiden Lammenschans, take a train to Leiden Centraal station. Here, board a public transport bus (not included in the Pass) to Wassenaar, Admiraal Helfrichlaan.

The Seringenberg Viewpoint in Wassenaar

7. Seringenberg, Wassenaar

 

Those who enjoy long walks in springtime, make sure to wrap up your journey with a visit to Seringenberg (in Dutch) in Wassenaar. Its name directly translates to “Lilac Hill,” and that is exactly what it is–a lovely observatory, dating back to the 1800s, atop a hill covered in lilacs. The hill is located on the royal estate De Horsten and has several hour-long walking routes to get you to the observatory.

 

Entry is open from April to October, and the flowers bloom from mid-May until the month's end. When you make it to the top, remember to take in the verdant greenery around you and, of course, to smell the flowers.

Feeling inspired? With Eurail, you can:

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