The Netherlands is a small and mighty country and you will be surprised at how different each region actually is. If you’re travelling through Amsterdam and want to get a quick taste of Dutch culture outside of the tourist capital then follow these suggestions for quick and easy train trips you can do in a day.
Utrecht is half an hour away from Amsterdam and the train ticket will cost about €16 for a return trip. Utrecht is university hip and essentially a mini version of Amsterdam without the swathes of tourists. Enjoy the canals in peace, hang around the old church and treat yourself to a range of great places to eat. Also, go to the Miffy Museum to relive the innocence of your childhood and look our for the themed traffic light and crossing in the city.
Den Hague is just under and hour from Amsterdam and will cost you about €26 for a return train ticket. The city is slightly more serious than Utrecht, you get that being the political capital but there’s still lots to enjoy with the Mauritshuis museum being particularly special. Make sure you see the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer and once you’ve strolled around the city, make your way out to the beach and grab some fish and chips for lunch along the pier.
For the love of cheese you have to go to Gouda. It’s slightly further away at about 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on your connection and costs about €27 return. The main street is like walking back in time as you wander along cobble stoned streets and little alleyways. The Gouda museum does a great high tea and the character of the place is enough to make you stay for lunch. If you time it right there are annual cheese parades and of course don’t leave without buying a big chunk of the namesake Gouda cheese with you.
My favourite day trip of all is Haarlem. It is essentially Amsterdam’s small town sibling with the two places separated by 1 train stop at IKEA. Visit around Christmas time to be floored by the market square stalls and huge tree. There are a few museums to check out and plenty of winding streets to take you on an adventure off the main drag. 15 minutes on the train and a €10 return ticket is all it takes to get to this Dutch gem.