There’s an area that many visitors miss when they visit Amsterdam. It’s a whole experience only minutes away. One that will surprise you and probably frustrate you because you didn’t know about it the last time you visited. It’s called Laag Holland.
While the Netherlands is full of charming countryside villages and authentic experiences, none are quite as easy to get to as Laag Holland and can offer so much variety.
Reasons to visit Laag Holland
Here’s the thing, Amsterdam is AMAZING. I’d go as far as saying it’s my favorite city on the planet. But, to experience Amsterdam is not to experience the whole of the Netherlands, or even the province of North Holland. Visiting Laag Holland (which is just north of Amsterdam) is a part of understanding more about the country of the Netherlands. There’s still a lot more to see and do in other parts, but this part is such a gem. Let’s dive right in!
Get into nature
This is number one for me. Amsterdam is hustling and bustling with those of us that live here and those that are spending time to visit all the places the city has to offer. That means there are a lot of people, traffic, and noises all around you (in the touristy parts, at least). Getting yourself into Laag Holland means a slower pace, more space, and it even feels like there’s more time.
Get a scooter
Especially when in the countryside, a scooter is nice to have because of the distances. Imagine the wind flowing through your hair, you’re just sitting there not pedaling and not worrying about if you fit on a bike. Yes, I’m short, so I think about these things. We got ours from Rent & Event Volendam but there are different places in the area where you can pick up the scooter.
Visit charming villages
If you want to get a feel for an old Dutch village, then you need to visit Volendam and Monnickendam. They are very tourist-friendly while still holding onto the charm of the past. You’ll see the architecture that you love and expect in the Netherlands, you’ll have small cafes serving traditional food and Dutch beer, and lots and lots of water.
If you want to see how a modern small town looks in this area, check out Purmerend. With easy and quick access by bus to Amsterdam, it has everything you need without the big city vibes. It’s filled with locals going about their day shopping and enjoying a nice day on a terrace.
The Netherlands and Tulips go together like peanut butter and jelly for Americans. But keep in mind that tulips have a fairly short growing season. Typically, this is in April and you’ll want to visit some tulip fields while here. The Keukenhof is in South Holland (south of Amsterdam), but in North Holland, in the countryside, you can rent scooters and Twizy cars to find the tulip fields. Remember to not walk in the fields unless you ask or there is a sign that says you are welcome to do so. Just because there is not a “Do Not Enter” sign doesn’t mean you are allowed on their farm. You can accidently damage their crop by stepping on plants, or bringing in microbes that can hurt the flowers and I know you wouldn’t want to be responsible for a farmer losing their livelihood for a photo!
I’ve been on two separate cruises that were both super cool. There’s one at Theetuin de Vaarboerderij, and they call it the Koeman Express which is about 8km from the NDSM ferry in Amsterdam. Renting an e-bike could be a great idea to get around this part of Laag Holland. It’s a very easy ride, but for anyone who doesn’t regularly ride a bike, it might get a bit tiring with a regular bike. This is also right by Het Twiske, a massive lovely park.
This cruise was great because the captain owns or rents many of the islands, so the boat can pull right up to the land and you can walk on it and maybe pet a cow! Most cruises can’t do this because, well, it’s not their land.
The other cruise is with Bezoekerscentrum Landschap Noord-Holland in a different area. They’ll tell you everything you didn’t know that you wanted to know about the land in North Holland, including lots of history that I didn’t even know after living here for so long. In the springtime, they do a workshop where the guide shows you what you can eat along the water…and what not to eat. I’ll be doing that one once spring rolls back around!
Drive a Twizy
How cute are these little cars?! Do you need a license to drive one, but they are zippy little cars that can still hold two people. They are great if you’re not a fan of being on a bike or scooter but still want to drive around to explore the farms, villages, and shops. You can rent them online here.
Walk through parks
I mentioned Het Twiske earlier and it’s a park with something for everyone. It’s great for walking, cycling, for kids, canoeing, eating pancakes, and going to a lake beach! It’s such a breath of fresh air. You can feel tension just melt away. It’s kind of fantastic.
Have you heard about Dutch pancakes? If not, then you are in for a TREAT! They are similar to a French crepe, but also quite different. They cook fruits and veggies right into the pancakes, so you can have a savory or sweet one. While in, or around Het Twiske, pop by Pannenkoek de Appel for delicious pancakes. If you don’t love pancakes as much as I do, they have a big menu with something for everyone.
See farm animals and their spring babies
The Dutch countryside in the spring is the best. On a good weather day, people are smiling, the baby animals are running around, and there are just good vibes in the air. Because it’s so easy to cycle around, you’ll be able to see all kinds of animals in the fields and along the roads. There are usually fences, so you shouldn’t have to worry about anything walking out in front of you, but they are still close enough to admire and photograph!
Buy farm fresh meats and cheeses
When at these farms, it’s a great time to buy meats, cheeses, honey, jams, and anything else that looks good! Just keep in mind if you won’t be eating it before you leave, that you only get things you can take back to your home country. In the EU, this isn’t an issue, but people get confused with cheese, so double check the rules! Check out the farm shops at Farm Sonnevanck and Natuurboerderij Hardebol.
Eat the best fruit of your life
Beemster Fruit has some of the best fruit I’ve ever eaten. They have their own orchard that they care for while being environmentally conscious about the land and the fruit. The property is stunning with so many different fruit trees and bushes. If you’re curious about the orchard, ask them if you can walk around a bit. If you love to take pictures, they have a very Instagrammable swing, too!
Find other fruit farms in Laag Holland here.
Rent a boat
Wanna take your adventure on the water? Rent a boat! Yes, you don’t have to be in Amsterdam to do that. You can rent one from Green Joy in Purmerend to boat around the city and in the nearby waters, or if you want more wildlife, head over to Bezoekerscentrum Landschap Noord-Holland where you can also rent your own. This is the same place that offers tours but they have smaller boats for visitors to use on their own, as well.
Learn about bees
I highly suggest that you make an appointment and visit Beemster Honingzoet. There you will learn about bees and how honey is made in one of the loveliest settings I’ve seen in North Holland. If you’re just looking for honey, there’s also a shelf with an honesty system outside the house, so bring cash! You’ll be among the fruit trees and beautiful flowers and see the bee hives in action.
Treat yourself to a getaway with spa
Granted, I live nearby, but even if you’re staying in Amsterdam for a while, going to Fort Resort Beemster would be a great weekend break from traditional sightseeing. Stay a night or two, enjoy the spa, eat in the restaurant (which I seriously enjoyed), and rent a bike, scooter, or Twizy to roam the countryside. They have a Bali room which I’m determined to stay in one summer.
How do you get to the Laag Holland Dutch countryside without a car?
It depends on where, specifically, you are going. You’ll likely start at Amsterdam Centraal Station and take a Connexxion bus directly to one of the villages like Purmerend, Volendam, Monnikendam, Edam, Marken, and Broek in Waterland.
Use 9292.nl, the 9292 app, or Google Maps to see which bus you’ll need and the see the timetable.
If you are trying to get to Fort Beemster, you’d take a bus to Purmerend, then switch at Tramplein.
Het Twiske isn’t the easiest place to get to, but you can get very close with a bus. I’d suggest renting a scooter or e-bike in Amsterdam to explore this area. It will give you so much freedom! Check out NDSM Bikes for regular and e-bikes.
A perfect day trip from Amsterdam
Whether you get into the Dutch countryside for only a day or for a couple, you’ll find an experience you’ll be glad you had. Take some time to enrich your travels — get outside of the touristy spots. You may just remember what you did outside of Amsterdam more than the time you spent in the city.
If these tips helped you plan your trip, please DM me on Instagram or tag me in your post so I can see it!
Wishing you joy and travels.