During our November trip to the Netherlands we based ourselves in Rotterdam for a few days. As well as being a brilliant city in it's own right (Rotterdam blog to come soon), Rotterdam is a usefully positioned jumping off point for some of the Netherlands' other top highlights. We visited all 5 places in this blog by public transport (we left Osprey in the UK and caught the Eurostar to Holland), so you don't need a car.
1. The Hague
The heart of Dutch politics and international justice (the ICJ and ICC are both based here), the Hague is often overlooked by nearby Rotterdam and Amsterdam which is such a shame. With a very walkable elegant city centre, the Hague is a lovely day out. Trains whizz from Rotterdam's Central Station to the Hague multiple times per hour, or you could take metro line E from Beurs - both options take around half an hour.
There is lots to do in the Hague - you could pop into the Mauritshuis gallery to see Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, learn all about the Internation Court of Justice at the Peace Palace's free visitor centre or take the tram to the beach.
For more ideas for your Hague day trip itinerary, check out our full blog about how to spend one day in the Hague!
What's better than seeing Dutch windmills? Seeing the biggest windmills IN THE WORLD! Schiedam is home to half a dozen of these monsters, measuring up to 33 metres high. 5 of them date from the 18th and 19th century, the 6th was rebuilt in 2011. One of the windmills, De Nieuwe Palmboom, is now a museum. You can follow an easy walking route around the canal ring to see the giants, before cutting inland to the historic centre of the city.
Schiedam is also famous for being the jenever capital of the world, and these windmills were built to grind the grain used to produce the 'Dutch gin'. To try a tipple or two, head to the Jenever museum - housed in an 18th century distillery, here you can learn all about the jenever making process as well as try the malt wine liquor at the tasting bar. If you like jenever, head to Jeneverie 't Spul, a little bar on Hoogstraat with over 400 varieties to try!
Schiedam is right next door to Rotterdam, only 6.5km away and easy to reach by public transport. You can get there by train from Rotterdam Centrum (1 stop, 4 minutes), or take tram 21 or 24 from Weena to Koemarkt (13 stops, 21 minutes).
Most famous for its blue and white pottery, Delft is a pretty little town with canals, an impressively pointy Medieval gatehouse, an enormous central square and views all the way to Rotterdam from its church tower.
Take a pleasant stroll around Delft's canals, head to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) with its magnificent tower views (the endless steps are worth it!) where almost every member of the Dutch Royal family is buried, and pay a visit to the Royal Delft museum, the factory that has been producing iconic Delft Blue pottery since 1653. Your Nieuwe Kerk combined ticket also includes entry to the Oude Kerk, known locally as Old John or Skewed John, due it's seriously wonky leaning bell tower, where local boy Vermeer is buried.
Delft's canals and Old Church, King Willem - Alexander immortalised in Royal Delft Blue and Vermeer's grave.
Delft is an easy train ride away from Rotterdam and only takes 14 minutes to get there. You could combine Delft with a trip to Schiedam, spending half a day in each, as the same train stops at both - from Rotterdam the stops are:
Fall into a Dutch daydream as you cycle through beautiful protected wetlands past 19 historic windmills. Kinderdijk is like stepping into a postcard, and if you don't want to visit the museums on site, totally free to visit!
Bring a picnic, rent a bicycle from the souvenir shop close to the dock and spend a few hours exploring the waterways and surrounding farmland.
The Kinderdijk windmills have been preventing flooding since around 1740. If you'd like a more in depth insight into the site, the €16 ticket from the visitor centre includes entry into the 2 museum windmills, the pumping station, a film about Kinderdijk and a boat ride along the waterway.
To visit Kinderdijk, you can actually cycle from Rotterdam (it's about 15km away), but the nicest way to travel there is on the waterbus which leaves from Rotterdam Erasmusbrug. Take line 20 towards Dordrecht and change at Ridderkerk to catch the little Driehoeksveer ferry across the water to Kinderdijk. The journey takes about 40 minutes -don't worry, the timings line up and one boat picks up from where the other one drops off.
You can buy a ticket (using card) from the steward on board - we said that we wanted to go to Kinderdijk and he sold us a combined ticket that included the Driehoeksveer ferry. On the way back we had to buy the two parts separately as the little ferry only sells tickets for that part of the journey - you can buy the stretch back to Rotterdam once you're back on the waterbus.
If you have a bike that you're using in Rotterdam, you can bring it on the waterbus and ferry for no extra cost, or we rented ours from the big souvenir shop just over the road from the ferry dock. The bikes cost €4 per hour.
While one day really isn't enough time to do Amsterdam justice, (check out our blog about spending 3 days in Amsterdam) if you're based in Rotterdam and want to tick off the Netherland's capital, the two cities are definitely close enough for a day trip!
With only one day in Amsterdam, we'd recommend starting at the Rijksmuseum, before ticking off some off Amsterdam's other top things to do, like an audio guided boat cruise around the UNESCO listed historic canal ring and the poignant Anne Frank House Museum.
(We have a more detailed blog about how to spend one day in Amsterdam with a full itinerary to make the most of your time.)
For dinner, make a reservation at the Pantry, a cosy restaurant serving authentic homecooked Dutch recipes, from pea soup to hachee (beef and onion stew) before finishing the evening with a walk around De Wallen, Amsterdam's world famous Red Light District and Medieval old town.
To get to Amsterdam from Rotterdam, intercity trains run twice an hour and can whip you between the two in around 40 minutes! Easily doable for a day trip if you're really short on time.
Where to stay in Rotterdam
We based ourselves at Cityhub Rotterdam for 4 nights. Comfortable and perfectly located (less than 20 minutes walk to the Central station, the Beurs metro station to the Hague and the waterbus to Kinderdijk), this quirky pod hotel combined plush sleeping accommodation with fab communal spaces. It even has its own bar!
We've written a full review of Cityhub Rotterdam here.
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