Amsterdam is a wonderful and vibrant city to explore the newest events, the hottest trends and the most delicious cuisine around the Netherlands. But what lies just outside of these beautiful canal streets and urban shops on the many possible day trips from Amsterdam?

The Netherlands is a relatively flat land made up of almost 17% rivers, canals and small lakes completely separate from the larger seas and oceans. The soil is rich in nutrients making the Netherlands a perfect place for food and agricultural production. You’ll find fields of lush blooming flowers, never-ending rivers and an abundance of produce farms as you explore the outskirts of the city limits.

So, after you’ve perused your way through the Anne Frank House, taken in all of Van Gogh’s art collections and walked along the canals of the old town, it’s time you took a look outside of the city to explore some of the most romantic and charming towns in the Netherlands.

The choice is yours, you can rent a car and head out on a beautiful 500-Kilometre long weekend journey (6-hours), or simply rent a car for a few day trips while you are visiting the city of Amsterdam. If you are looking for a tip on car rentals, check out Easy Terra, an independent car rental comparison website that compares all the car rental rates, so you don’t have to. 

In the perfect road trip order, here are 5 of the most charming towns in the Netherlands, all within a couple hours drive from the beautiful city center of Amsterdam.

The best day trips from Amsterdam

1. Amsterdam – Giethoorn, Netherlands

Driving Time: 1 hr 31 min (you can also join a tour to Giethoorn from Amsterdam)
Distance: 121 km (75 miles)

Geithoorn is known as the Venice of Holland. It is a beautiful little idyllic (almost) car-free village in the province of Overijssel and surrounded by rivers, canals, bike paths and hiking trails. It will take you about 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there by car, but its charm will make it all worth it. You can also join organised tours to Giethoorn from Amsterdam if you don’t want to go on your own.

Although Geithoorn isn’t very big, there is certainly a lot to offer. Take your time to wander around and explore the thatched-roof homes in Giethoorn that are centuries old and very beautiful. Once you’re done there, an absolute must do is to rent a boat and paddle along the canals. You can also choose to follow one of the walking paths along the water’s edge while learning about the rich history of Giethoorn.

Insiders Suggested Explorations:

  • Visit the Het Olde Maat Uus” Museum and go back in time to experience how the old inhabitants of Giethoorn used to live and how their typical farmhouses look from the inside.  
  • Visit the Histomobil, home to over 5,000 historical and old cars, carriages and motorcycles.
  • Along the ‘Binnenpad’, next to the canal, you can find several museums. Just cross one of the old bridges to get there.
  • De Oude Aarde‘ has a large collection of fossils, previous, and ornamental stones worth checking out as well. 

Make sure to take your time visiting this village and relax at one of the many (outdoor) cafes and restaurants. If you want a nice Italian meal Fratelli is the perfect place. Or you can enjoy the view over the ‘Beulakerwijde’ at Smits Paviljoens panoramic terrace.

Giethoorn is beautiful in all seasons, but it’s most lively during the spring and summer. Especially when you want to watch everybody trying to paddle the canals. It’s also the perfect place to spend a night and combine your trip with another city, like Harlingen.

2. Amsterdam – Harlingen, Netherlands

Driving Time: 1 hr 23 min
Distance: 117 km (73 miles)

Harlingen is a charming little town directly at the Wadden Sea located in the province of Friesland. It should take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes to arrive by car, but if you’re looking for some peace and relaxation by the sea, it’s the perfect day trip getaway.

Harlingen is known for their fishing industry, so a little walk along the port is definitely a highlight you must take part in. You can also enjoy a delicious meal at a local fish shop, or if you have some extra time in the town, you can take a day trip out to the Wadden Islands.

Insiders Suggested Explorations:

  • Take a trip to a restaurant along the pier, where you’ll get the freshest catch of the day right off the boat – this is a visitor favorite!
  •  Visit the Museum Hannemahuis Harlingen where you be able to dive in and learn all about the towns’ heritage and the stories of the fisherman in the actually home of the Harlingen Family.

You will definitely have the opportunity to embrace some local cuisine while you’re there, but there are a couple delicious restaurants you can add to your list: Eetcafé Nooitgedagt and Vis Restaurant Pier.

Harlingen is enjoyable season round, but if you visit during the months where the weather is cool enough for a light jacket, you’ll be able to enjoy your stroll around town and have the opportunity to visit other wonderful sights such as the Town Hall, the Harlingen Lighthouse, and their monumental building. If you want to make a round trip out of your visit, consider making your way to Leiden afterward for some more rich history.

3. Amsterdam – Leiden, Netherlands

Driving Time: 50 min
Distance: 43 km (28 miles)

Leiden is a historical town along the Old Rhine (Oude Rijn) and just a short drive away from the capital city of Holland, The Hague. It is perfectly situated in the middle of all the action which makes it a wonderful destination to visit for a day or even a week. Leiden is home to the oldest university (Leiden University) in the Netherlands and rich in culture and history. You’ll also be able to find a few organised tours to Leiden from Amsterdam.

There are a few must-sees while you are there if you really want to embrace the true history of the old town. Take a trip to the Molenmuseum de Valk (Mill Museum) and climb up their old Tower Mill dating back to 1743. You can also visit the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leider which is their National Museum of History and surrounded by beautiful Botanical Gardens (Hortus Botanicus).

While these hot spots are no secret, they’re definitely worth checking out, but if you’re looking for a few insider suggestions, here are a few more.

Insiders Suggested Explorations:

  • Let the Leiden history come alive as you follow the Leidse Loper (Leiden Loop), a self-guided city walk around the historical center, or join an English tour if you’re interested in hearing it from a local themselves. You’ll visit historical places of relevance include the Academy building of the University, the stately mansions along the Rapenburg canal and the beautiful churches that stand throughout the city.  
  • On Wednesdays and Saturdays check out the street markets along the Vismarkt, Aalmarkt, Botermarkt and Nieuwe Rijn. The big Leiden Market on Saturday’s is known to be one of the best markets in Holland where people from near and far come to shop.
  • Rent a sailing boat for the day to explore the city by water. The Kagerplassen lakes (known locally as De Kaag) are stunning and relaxing lakes that aren’t more than 30 minutes out of the city by boat. Here you will be able to embrace Dutch culture as you pass by handfuls of old windmills and beautiful waterfront farms.

Once you’ve explored yourself silly and you’re ready to head back into the center of town for some fine dining a relaxation, try giving one of their top rated restaurants a try like Restaurant in den Doofpot which is right along the waters’ edge and serving up Dutch and seafood specialties.   

Will you head back to Amsterdam? Or would you rather continue your journey onward into Delft, one of the Netherlands more quaint towns running along the beautiful canals?

4. Amsterdam – Delft, Netherlands

Driving Time: 1 hr 7 min
Distance: 64 km (40 miles)

Located in the south of Holland, Delft is a small historical town known for their Delft Blue pottery and their beautiful canals. It’s one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam, particularly during the tulips season. There are a few organised tours from Amsterdam to Delft, that often include Keukenhof and the Tulips Fields (when it’s the right season).

You can take an interactive workshop at the Delft Pottery warehouse and learn how to really paint like a local, while going on a personal guided tour of the facilities, sipping on coffee and eating Dutch biscuits. You can also discover the rich history in Delft and bike around the city visiting all the monumental buildings, historical bridges, and learning more about their ancient legends.

A few must see places along your journey in Delft should include the Old Church (Oude Kerk), the Prices’ Court Museum (Prinsenhof) and Eastern Gate (Oostpoort) that was built in the 1400’s.

Insiders Suggested Explorations:

  • Visit Delft’s Saturday flea market at the church for some wonderful and local souvenirs to take home for your loved ones. 
  • Try to time your stay in Delft around the Thursday Market where you will find Dutch delicacies, beautiful flowers, and local cuisine, you’ll be glad you did. 
  • Visit the Apotheek De Salamander, an old fashioned pharmacy still active today, but quite the sight to see as the history of the old Delft shop unfolds through the stories and imagery. 

You can celebrate the evening at one of their local restaurants if you’re really looking to do something special to end the day. Indulge in their local cuisine and decadent seafood dishes at the Van Der Dussen or go for a small dinner and a tea at one of their favorite cafes, Stadscafe and Proeverij De Waag.

Are you ready to keep on exploring? Last, but certainly not least, you must make a trip to Utrecht, whether for the day or for the week, you’ll regret skipping Utrecht, let me tell you why. 

5. Amsterdam – Utrecht, Netherlands

Driving Time: 57 min
Distance: 54 km (34 miles)

While Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, it certainly hasn’t lost its charm. The city dates back to the 11th century and is one of the most religious centers in the country. There are tons of beautiful churches and dom’s to explore throughout the city that tells the ancient stories of the town and paint pictures of what life was like centuries ago.

It is also worth your time to walk along the quaint canals and enjoy a cup of coffee at a local cafe in the center of the city. Looking for a tip? One of the local favorites is Ontdekking, a perfectly central and quaint coffee shop serving up healthy breakfasts, delicious coffee, and mouthwatering croissants. If you’re ready to start the day and get on with your explorations, I get it, there are tons of places to see in Utrecht, you might not even get through them in a day. 

Insiders Suggested Explorations:

  • Climb up the 465 steps of the Dom for a beautiful aerial view of the city. 
  • Visit the Centraal Museum, two sides of the road featuring furniture and classical painted art as well the Dick Bruna Huis featuring all things Miffy. There are constantly changing exhibitions and beautiful art pieces that define the stories both young and old that play a part in forming Utrecht as a city.
  • Needing a little bit of green space? Take a trip to some of their beautiful parks. There are plenty of bike lanes to get you there, so don’t let inner city traffic stop you. Visit the flower fields at the Utrecht Botanical Garden or pick up some fresh tulips of your own at the flower market in Janskerkhof. 

At the end of the day, it’s okay to indulge in a delicious meal, but if the weather is warm and you’d rather take your food to sit by the canals and enjoy the beautiful scenery, make a stop at Frietwinkel, a delicious (and award-winning) fast food restaurant serving up some of the best fries in the city. Get a local to help you organise your trip to Utrecht, including the best transport options.

So, while Amsterdam is quite the experience in itself, you may understand now why it’s even more amazing to try and get out and explore other charming towns in the Netherlands as well. Across the wide open meadows, the romantic hidden canals and the beautiful bike trails, there’s so much more to explore in the Netherlands.

Are you ready for a day trip from Amsterdam?


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.

    View all posts I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.