As you plan your summer European travels, consider leaving behind city centers to shake up what you see, do and experience. Take Amsterdam. The city is well-known for its canals, coffee shops and red light district. But unique adventures await a short journey outside the city as it’s also an ideal city for both half and full day excursions. Whether you’re tired of the city or simply interested in exploring somewhere new and unexpected, the areas past Amsterdam’s borders provide a wide selection of day trips for tourists with varying interests.
A 20-minute train ride outside of Amsterdam lands you in Haarlem. Spend the day relaxing in Haarlem as you shop, eat, visit museums and see some unique sites. You’ll find the Corrie ten Boom home, a windmill with a platform for views and many architectural buildings like a modern theatre, concert hall and live music venue. In 2014, Huffington Post even rated Haarlem one of the top 10 secret European places to visit.
During the summer months, two small towns outside Amsterdam are popular for their beaches. Both Bloemendaal and Zandvoort are within an hour from Amsterdam’s city center. In Bloemendaal you can explore the sand dunes, sun bathe, swim in the North Sea and enjoy the party atmosphere. It’s well-known for beach bars, clubs, DJs and night life. Zandvoort is also along the North Sea and is a beach town destination. Tourists can expect to find clean, sandy beaches, beach bars and activities for individuals or families like sand sculpture building and shrimp fishing.
The Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest flower garden, sits an hour outside of Amsterdam by tram. Each year, the theme of the gardens changes. The flower presentations, exhibits and events throughout the garden are then centered around the year’s theme. For 2016, the theme was The Golden Age. While visiting, you can walk throughout the gardens to see, smell and experience the 7 million flowers. You can also choose to rent a bike or take a boat cruise to see the areas around the garden. Be sure to plan ahead for this excursion as the gardens are only open while the flowers are blossoming from March to May.
If you are interested in experiencing some traditional Dutch life, head outside of Amsterdam to Old Holland. Select from some Old Holland harbor towns like Volendam, Zaandam and Alkmaar to begin your experience. You’ll have the opportunity to see traditional presentations of cheese making, bike around historical merchants’ homes, take a ferry or boat along the waterways, visit traditional wooden homes and view a multitude of popular windmills. For this day excursion, expect to do a lot of walking or biking as you step into a slower paced environment.
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