Why you should visit Holland (and not just Amsterdam)

Friday, 20 April 2018


When people think of Holland, they probably immediately think of Amsterdam. I can’t blame them, it’s actually one of my favourite places, and I’ve been making a yearly pilgrimage for the last 4 years. However, even though I claimed to be in love with the Dutch life, I had never ventured outside of the city before, so with the intention of making amends I travelled to the west coast and explored the surrounding areas.



Travelling there


So, when travelling there, your first thought is probably to jump on a plane, and to be honest I wouldn't blame you, Holland is that close to us.

However I travelled by Stena Ferries. Now your next thought might be, why ? Well theres a few. First, if you are scared of flying this is an excellent way of getting there. Speaking to my friends, and so many of their family are scared of flying, so it is a real concern of many people. 

Second, did you know you can take unlimited luggage on the ferry? And I truly mean unlimited. You could take 5 suitcases each if you really desired. Think of all the outfit options you’d have or the amount of shopping you could do! 

Finally, it’s just a much nicer way to travel. Theres a general trend for people embracing ‘slow’ travel and by that I mean relaxed and rush free travel. The Stena ferry travelled over night and I had a roomy cabin so got a complete nights sleep. Each cabin has an ensuite and tea and coffee facilities so don't have to worry about queuing up for anything. 


Then they have a restaurant, bar, cinema and even a small casino onboard, so instead of unappealing plane food, it was lobster soup and steak for me.


Sailing with Stena was actually a really enjoyable experience and don't worry if you think you might get sea sick. I suffer from it if I'm on say a sailing yacht but because the ship is so large, you don't feel it.


Haarlem


My base for my trip was Haarlem. Haarlem is the capital of north province of Holland and about a 15 minute train ride away from Amsterdam. It is actually known as the most genteel sister of Amsterdam, and I can see that. The town resembles Amsterdam is many ways with its's many canals and townhouses, but on the whole feels more quite and peaceful. 

During the 15th century Haarlem was at the epicentre of the tulip trade, and people traded hundreds if not thousands of pounds for tulip bulbs. People became extremely rich from it and it's what paid for most of the town. Ok so economists say that this was the first financial bubble and subsequent financial crash in history but we can gloss over that right?


If you are interested in beer and brewing then Haarlem is definitely somewhere you need to make a stop to. Beer brewing has been done in Haarlem was hundreds of years, but it started to fade away in the 1900s. However in the 1990s a new brand called Jopen was founded that was Haarlem brewed beer and it has really taken off. They now have a brewery in an old church which is definitely worth a visit. 


Kinderdijk

Windmills and the Dutch go hand in hand. Holland has a unique geographical issue where it is completey flat and so tends to flood heavily due to its location by the sea. In Amsterdam you can see where they have built canals out of this problem, but for 1000s of years the Dutch have been using Windmills to not only keep water where they want it, but also to use its power to enable them too.

Kinderdijk is a village in the south of Holland and is home to a collection of 19 windmills. It is the largest collection of windmills in Holland and you really wont find anything like this anywhere else in the world. Whilst most of the windmills were orinally used as mills they were also homes for families. Apprently back in the 1700s it was common for people to have 10-11 children and they'd all live in the mill. Now most are privately owned and are actually still lived in- just with a bit less people.


Kinderdjik is open to the public for a small entry fee and is a beautiful place to go. It really does have a magical vibe about it as I just had never seen anything quite like it. 

We hired some biked from the gift shop and I'd definitely recommend doing that to get around, as well, there really is no other way to travel in Holland is there? If you have time, maybe pack a picnic too, as I can imagine that being really something, sitting down looking up at these grand structures. 


Keukenhof

You may be familiar with Keukenhof, especially if you are an Instagram fan as it is all over the explore page. Situated in Lisse, South Holland, it’s a bus journey away from Haarlem, Keukenhof is “Europes Garden”, a huge Tulip park filled with over 7 million tulip bulbs. It is actually the worlds largest flower garden. It’s open Mid-March to Mid-May but a word of warning, apparently around 8 million people visit in this period, so yes it is busy. 

The garden was first opened in 1949 by the then-mayor of Lisse. The idea was that Tulip growers from all over Holland could come and exhibit their flowers to not only to their fellow Dutch, but also the rest of Europe, as Tulip’s are Hollands largest export and as I said before, made the Dutch a lot of money.


Today it is more of a tourist attraction although growers still come and exhibit there, but more for pride. There are general displays, and also themes that change every year. This year the theme is Romance.

And yes the park is surrounded by those famous tulip fields, although when I went because we'd had an incredibly cold spring, hello snow, there was actually only one field in bloom. I am told though that they have opened up now. I guess I'll just have to visit again eh?


Holland is a beautiful place and a truly magnificent country. It was incredible to see outside of the obvious Amsterdam but also to explore its history through landscape and traditions. 

So next time you are thinking of a Europe mini break, head on over to the west side of Holland, you won't regret it. 

3 comments

  1. Those photos of you by the windmills are so beautiful! Such a magical background. I've never been to anywhere in Holland but Amsterdam has been on my list for a long time, and now all of these cities are too! xx

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

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  2. I've only ever been to Amsterdam (and loved it!) but I would love to see more of Holland, especially after reading this!

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  3. Some beautiful photos, may have to consider more exploring when I next go to Holland.

    Janay Andre
    x

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