One of the big advantages of traveling within the Netherlands, outside massive amounts of cheese and overall awesomeness, is the proximity to, well, everything.
Because if you’ve looked at a European map, chances are you’ve either:
- Noticed how small the Netherlands are, or…
- That you just haven’t seen them at all (true story).
It’s always a weirdly fun feeling for me, a Canadian, to visit a country that’s precisely 240 times smaller than my own. The sheer idea of crossing an entire country in just a few hours is normally something I would snort at – but not in the Netherlands. If you plan on spending a fair amount of time in Rotterdam, it might be worth planning a few extra day trips. Not only because there are is a surprisingly large amount of things to see and do in such a tiny weeny country, but also because they are ALL easily accessible by rail, by car or even by bicycle if your calves can take it.
But as it turns out, mine can’t. I’m lazy like that.
So I opted to travel by rail. Again, thanks to the size of the country, traveling by train in the Netherlands is relatively cheap even with a Eurail pass when compared to other, larger countries like France or Germany, and also, incredibly easy and hassle-free. Most trains are of the fast Inter-City type, don’t require reservations and have FREE WIFI. I’m not sure what more a traveler can ask for!
Delft: 1 train ride – 15 minutes
I’ve talked quite extensively about Delft before, and I stand by what I said. If you only had one day trip to do, I strongly advise you pick Delft. The cobblestone alleys, the colorful facades, and the quaint, narrow canals are pretty much all the iconic sights of the Netherlands in a nutshell.
The Hague: 1 train ride – 20 minutes
The Netherlands’ very own seaside resort! But far from being labeled a party town, The Hague is actually dubbed the “judicial capital of the world” due to the many international courts located in the city. As opposed to Amsterdam where foreigners are most likely tourists, The Hague has a thriving expatriate community and a slight international feel, as it is the seat of many international organizations and institutions. It’s also the seat of the Dutch government, despite not being the capital of the Netherlands. Between the business-y downtown area and the resort party-goers, it definitely makes for an original atmosphere!
Kinderdijk: 2 waterbus rides – 1 hour
Can you say corny Holland? Corny, touristy, call it what you want, but few places in the world are as charming and picturesque as Kinderdijk. The journey itself isn’t fantastic but the reward is oh so worth it. The 19 historic windmills date back to 1740 and have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997 – and consequently, are one of the most visited landmarks in all of the Netherlands.
Amsterdam: 1 train ride – 1h15
Why the hell not? If you chose to spend more time in artsy and modern Rotterdam rather than in the capital, that doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. Amsterdam is very busy, and sometimes quite disturbing, but also undeniably beautiful in its own chaotic, maze-like way. Whether you opt to sin in the Red Light District or visit one of the world-class museums, there options are pretty much endless here.
Gouda: 1 train ride – 20 minutes
Despite living in France, my absolute favorite cheese in the world in gouda (and I’m pretty sure I can be convicted of treason for writing that on the Interwebs). It was unthinkable for me to be so close to the town and not visit – and I’m very happy I did. Vaguely similar to Delft in terms of size and charm, it offers a wide array of shops where you can buy locally-made cheeses, available in a variety of flavors. Also, make sure to attend the hourly chimes concert at the Stadhuis in the main square.
Utrecht: 1 train ride – 1 hour
One of the Netherland’s busiest student city, Utrecht has an incredibly cool nightlife with many inexpensive dining or drinking options. It also happens to be the country’s center of catholic religion, there are many exceptionally beautiful and ancient churches to visit. And lastly, with an exceptionally small yet fascinating city center, it’s one of the most walkable cities in the Netherlands and definitely make for a nice, laid-back day trip out of Rotterdam.