There are many wonderful sights to see outside Amsterdam yet within easy reach by train. Delft, just an hour by train from Amsterdam, is a city that positively exudes old Dutch charm. Synonymous with the "Delft Blue" porcelain that's beloved worldwide, Delft also boasts painter Jan Vermeer as its native son, as well as some of The Netherlands' most iconic places: from the spacious square in the shadow of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), to the five majestic spires of the Oude Kerk (Old Church).
Day Tours with Martin Ribbens
While we highly recommend taking a walking tour of Amsterdam with our local historian and guide Martin Ribbens, he also is available for day tours by car outside Amsterdam. Starting at 10:00 a.m., Martin will introduce you to the Sloten Windmill where he not only will take you on a tour of this well-known landmark but he’ll also explain the history and role of windmills in Holland. From Sloten, you’ll drive to the Old Sea Dyke (the Spaarndammer dijk) north of Amsterdam. Martin will tell you of how Maria de Medici, the former queen of France, drove along this dyke in 1638 on her visit to Amsterdam, and how this event is connected with Rembrandt van Rijn and his most famous painting, the Night Watch.
Your tour will continue with a visit to the village of Spaarndam with the statue of “Hans Brinker”, the character from the novel by American author Mary Mapes Dodge, first published in 1865. The novel is a colorful fictional portrait of early nineteenth-century Dutch life, as well as a tale of youthful honor. On Thursdays, you can visit the beautiful church of Spaarndam.
Your scenic drive continues to the ruins of Brederode, the castle built in 1355 on the foundation of an older one, The Castle of the Lords ‘Van Brederode’, in which Protestant Lancelot van Brederode was beheaded by the Spanish. His brother Hendrik became one of the champions in the revolt against the King of Spain in what the Dutch call the “Eighty Years’ War” during which the Netherlands drove out the Spaniards and, in 1648, became an independent republic.
After Brederode, you will continue to IJmuiden, Amsterdam’s harbour on the coast of the North Sea where you can have lunch at de Kop van de Haven or de Meerplaats, restaurants specializing in delicious seafood. After lunch, you’ll drive north over the sea locks, alongside the tulip fields close to the dunes, and where the first tulips start flowering from the 15th of March each year.
Near the city of Alkmaar, you can visit the Cheese Market from after April 3rd, and then go on to the Polders, low-lying tracts of land enclosed by dikes. This area of the northern part of Holland is now called West Freesia.
You’ll then drive over narrow roads to De Rijp, once a famous Haring gibbing village. Now clearly land-locked, this was once a seaside village.
Further on, you will visit Midden-Beemster where a pupil of Rembrandt, Carel Fabritius, famous for his painting of the little bird called “de Putter”, was born. Then on to Purmerend and Ilpendam, renown for the mighty castle that once stood there. The captain of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, Frans Banninck Cocq, was Lord of Purmerland and Ilpenstein. All that remains of the castle are a few stones.
After Purmerend and Ilpendam, you’ll continue to Marken which, until 1953, was an island in the Zuiderzee, a shallow inlet of the North Sea. Marken can now be reached along a dyke. From here, you travel along the Zuiderzee South Sea dyke, past the Randmeren (the Border Lakes) behind the dyke, and back to the border of Amsterdam to visit the picturesque village of Durgerdam.
Martin Ribben’s tour outside Amsterdam gives you a good sense of how this part of Holland once was, and yet much remains the same, with quaint houses still painted the same as the Polders were in the 17th Century.
A shorter version of this tour is also possible to visit just the Sloten windmill and the tulip fields.
Haarlem has a rich history dating back to pre-medieval times, as it lies on a thin strip of land above sea level known as the strandwal (beach ridge), which connects Leiden to Alkmaar.
Windmills1 The people on this narrow strip of land struggled against the waters of the North Sea from the west, and the waters of the IJ and the Haarlem Lake from the east. Haarlem was able to become wealthy with toll revenues that it collected from ships and travellers moving on this busy North-South route. However, as shipping became increasingly important economically, the city of Amsterdam became the main Dutch city of North Holland during the Dutch Golden Age. The town of Halfweg became a suburb, and Haarlem became a quiet bedroom community, and for this reason, Haarlem still has many of its central medieval buildings intact. Today many of them are on the Dutch Heritage register known as Rijksmonuments. Haarlem is just a short train journey from Amsterdam.
Delft, just an hour by train from Amsterdam, is a city that positively exudes old Dutch charm. Synonymous with the “Delft Blue” porcelain that’s beloved worldwide, Delft also boasts painter Jan Vermeer as its native son, as well as some of The Netherlands’ most iconic places: from the spacious square in the shadow of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), to the five majestic spires of the Oude Kerk (Old Church).
With its traditional green painted houses, warehouses and windmills the Zaanse Schans gives the feeling of having stepped back into the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. However this is not an open air museum but a colourful living and working neighbourhood. Most of the buildings were re-located from other areas in the Zaanstreek in the 1960’s and 70’s as owing to urban development they were under threat of obliteration.
The Zaanse Schans offers a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape as it was before and after the industrial revolution.
A visit to a working industrial windmill is a unique experience. Paint mill De Kat and oil mill De Zoeker are open daily from March to October. From November to February most of the windmills at the Zaanse Schans are only open at the weekends. The Jonge Schaap is open all year.
The Zaanse Schans has a number of fascinating museums to tempt the visitor. The Zaans Musuem has a large collection of interesting artefacts and presents a variety of changing exhibitions. The museum combines a complete picture of the history of the area with an impressive view over the local landscape.
The smaller, specialized museums such as the first Albert Heijn Grocery shop, the Bakery Museum 'In de Gecroonde Duyvekater', The Dutch Clock Museum, The Noorderhuis Costume Museum are all situated at the Zaanse Schans in listed buildings bringing the history of this oldest industrial area to life.
Traditional Dutch Crafts
There is no entrance fee for visiting the traditional Dutch workshops such as the Wooden Shoe Workshop, the Pewter Foundry and the Cheese Farm at the Zaanse Schans. Opening times may vary, but generally they are open daily throughout the year.
The most enjoyable way to see the surrounding area is from the water. From April to October river cruises are available along the river Zaan not only for a splendid view of the Zaanse Schans, but also for a more detailed examination of the traditional and picturesque Dutch houses, windmills and other interesting sights along the way.