Netherlands is not a big country, so you can reach many of its interesting locations on day-trips from Amsterdam, even if you do not have the luxury of actually touring the country. The notes on Amsterdam, Utrecht and Delft are located in separate articles, and the rest is here.
Open for only two months a year, from mid-March to mid-May, the gardens ♥♥♥ display a fantastic collection of tulips and other flower species. There are literally thousands of varieties of all colors of the spectrum. Breathtaking!
In addition to the uncounted flower-beds, there are several “conceptual” gardens, a handful of covered pavilions with beautiful themed expositions, a children’s playground, and enough strategically positioned benches to sit down and relax. A true flower-lover can easily spend an entire day in this park, but the rest of us would find things to do as well.
Buy tickets online and proceed straight to the entrance.
Places to Eat
Each pavilion has a cafeteria that serves a variety of food. Nothing fancy, but enough of a choice to satisfy every taste.
The mill network ♥♥ that attracts plenty of tourists – including entire river cruises – this place can be rather crowded. If you are driving, beware that parking is limited – you may need to find a spot elsewhere and walk to attraction on foot. Nonetheless, the views are great, and several activities are true pleasures, be it walking the paths or taking boat rides. There is a couple of mill museums, and the visitor center offers films about nearby pumping stations.
The administrative capital of the country, has several important sights, such as the home of the Dutch parliament Binnenhof, the excellent collection of old masters at Mauritshuis, or the seaside resort of Scheveningen. The city skyline from the highway approach inexplicably reminded me of Philadelphia, but we did not spend too much time in the city itself nor visited the aforementioned sites. We only went to Madurodam ♥♥♥ – a miniature depiction of the Netherlands. It consists of 1:25 replicas of significant Dutch buildings and is a very interesting place to visit; you can see practically every important sight of the entire country on a couple of acres. We also managed to catch a fascinating – if freezing – ice sculpture zoo by Chinese artists; it was closing after the day of our visit, so I doubt it will be found in Madurodam again anytime soon.
Wishing to get some experience of Waddenzee, I crossed the inner sea to the island of Ameland on the Holwerd Wagenborg ferry (big, comfortable, mostly prompt, departs every two hours in each direction; might be crowded in-season). Once on Ameland, I only had a few hours to explore a quaint little village of Nes ♥♥ which has almost no auto traffic but many cute houses, a couple of small churches and a tall tower, as well as plenty of restaurants and shops in a fairly small area.
Places to Eat/Lodging
I stayed one night at Zee van Tijd ♥ in Nes in 2015. Reasonable room, nice and sometimes eye-catching decor, large bathroom with shower. I encountered some heat-isolation problems, but nothing serious.
The place is both a hotel and a restaurant. The dining room was busy even on a relative off-season, non-weekend night. Extensive menu and a pleasant family-friendly atmosphere. If you are not dining alone, go for the sampler dish – the presentation, the variety, and the quality are all outstanding.
The village of Middenbeemster ♥, at the center of this UNESCO World Heritage site, offers plenty of cute houses and gardens. There are a couple of small museums which are open on limited schedule, and a reasonably interesting church – named after its principal architect as Keyserkerk – where the custodian graciously allowed an impromptu tour and then proposed I climb up to the tower to take pictures of surrounding area (this is not something regularly available to tourists, but feel free to ask).
Places to eat
Eterij ‘t Middenpunt ♥ was a random choice on the main intersection in the village for lunch. Turned out a pretty good meal, with an excellent selection of sandwiches and other plates, good-size portions and friendly atmosphere. Fairly inexpensive too.
Other UNESCO World Heritage sites
My last visit to Netherlands was built around exploring as many UNESCO sites as possible. Those include Amsterdam and a few entries above (Kinderdijk, Beemster Polder, Waddenzee, Rietveld-Schröder house), plus the following.
Wouda Pump Station ♥ in Lemmer is an interesting place which unfortunately is not well set up for non-Dutch speakers. There is one 5-minute-long intro movie with English subtitles that moves too quickly to process. You can then see a 12-minute-long dramatization feature with English subtitles that does little to explain how the station works. No access inside the station without a guide is allowed. If you join a guided tour, you may be the only non-Dutch speaker in the group, in which case you will get 30 seconds of English narration for every 5 minutes of that in Dutch (the guide, nonetheless, is likely to be a lovely person with immense pride for the station). If you choose to come and see, it is still probably worth it; budget a couple of hours.
Schokland is a mildly interesting preserve safeguarding some pre-historic artefacts mixed with more recent ones. There is a small main museum, a number of walking/cycling paths through the woods, a tranquil if not exactly impressive geological garden, plus a few other points of interest that I did not visit.
Van Nelle Fabriek in Rotterdam can only be visited on pre-arranged guided tours, which did not fit into my recent schedule. I only stopped by the grandiose building to take exterior pictures of it.