I love me some close by short trips, and I love the Netherlands. There is so much to see in this little country other than Amsterdam alone. So if you book a trip to Amsterdam, book some days extra to explore the surrounding as well. Recently I explored a bit of de Zaanstreek (the area around the Zaan River) and would love to share two perfect day trips from Amsterdam: Zaandam and Volendam.
Daytrips from Amsterdam 1: Zaandam
Let’s start with Zaandam.
I have to admit I never heard of this place before until I saw this super special building on instagram. It looks like houses were built on top of each other. After looking up the place and seeing that several building in downtown Zaandam have that same special style (and that it was near Amsterdam) I had to plan a short trip.
The town itself is super cozy. We stayed there for 2 nights and had some delicous Mexican food in the restaurant Pancho’s Cantina and good Italian food in Porto Fino. You can do some shopping and restaurants by foot from the station (the building with the clock in my pictures below)
Where we stayed: Inntel Hotel
So the place that has drawn me to this area was the Inntel Hotel Zaandam. We booked our room in January so the prices was quite ok, I expected it to be more expensive. They do offer different kinds of rooms so you can upgrade if you like it more fancy. We just picked the standard one which was just fine and also decorated in the theme of the area (we had the label of a local Zaanse mustard).
The hotel offers a pool, sauna, Turkish steam bath and a small fitness area. It was just perfect to finish our day exploring.
In the first morning we took breakfast in their very varied buffet and the second morning we spoiled our selves a little and ordered roomservice breakfast in bed.
If you come with the car , they offer discount parking tickets for the parking garage in the mall nearby.
From Zaandam, you must visit the Zaanse Schans!
This area, 15 minutes from Zaandam, you can walk around and admire the Dutch windmills. They preserved and restaured windmills from the 18th century for touritisc displaying today, keeping their local traditions alive. Some of them still work and you can visit them inside.
In the area you can see the typical Zaanse houses (which was inspiration for the Inntel Hotel obviously), a cute bakery, and several workshops and handicrafts, distillery, cheese farm,…
Don’t forget to buy some local ingredients and specialties to take home as a souvenir. Clogs offcourse but also the stroopwafel cookies, speculoos cookies, mustard, local cheese, chocolate, etc.. Check out some gifts in the “Vrede” storehouse, which means Peace in Dutch.
Their general museum is the big building at the entrance/parking.
If you need more information about the mills and their local specialties you can visit their site here.
Daytrips from Amsterdam 2: Volendam and Marken
Volendam is quite popular for tourists but also for the Dutch people. It is a lovely harbour town, well known for its old fishing boats and the traditional clothing still worn by some residents.
As you walk down the streets you will see a perfect mix of the Zaanse houses architecture and the typical Dutch brick houses. The town center is full with souvenir shops and places to eat.
Dress up in Traditional wear
As I mention before some residents (mostly elderly) still wear the traditional wear with its high, pointed bonnet. It is one of the most recognizable of the Dutch traditional costumes, and is often featured on tourist postcards and posters.
If you feel like trying it out for yourself, Volendam has several places where you can dress up and take pictures. I havent done it myself as I didnt have alot of time (and it was cold) but would love to try it during spring or summer time.
Many people love cheese and I get it, I am a true believer in Cheesus myself. The main reason for this was moving to the Netherlands (and later Belgium) as a kid and trying out Dutch cheese for the first time… HAVE YOU TRIED DUTCH CHEESE BEFORE? if not yet.. have you even been living tho?
In Volendam they have a small cheese factory with a cheese shop where you can buy all type of Dutch cheeses and all of their home made cheeses with all different tastes and riping ages. I love myself young cheeses! You have to try them at the shop before buying it.
They also give live shows about the steps of cheese producing and some history about it. Very interesting and very funny, worthy of a visit for sure.
So you are in a harbor city, there will be fish! I love fish, especially when it is fried. the Dutch had this fired fish I already talked about in my Rotterdam post: Kibbeling.
Please, please, please try some before you leave. It is a Dutch snack consisting of battered chuncks of white fish. It is commonly served in, one of my favourite sauces out there, tartar sauce or a mayonnaise-based garlic sauce if you prefer.
You can always add some fries with that, because… why not?
Go ahead and try other types of fried seafood while you are at it.
From the harbor of Volendam you can take a ferry to the island of Marken. Well it is now a peninsula as they build a road so you can reach Marken by car too, it is about 20minutes from Volendam. In the center you have an other touristic area that will remind you of a mix of Volendam and Zaandam.
But the thing I wanted to go to Marken for is the “het Paard van Marken” or the Horse of Marken, the lighthouse. if you want to reach this lighthouse be prepared to take a 20 to 30 minutes walk through nature as it is not reachable by car. I was a bit doubtful at first going by foot , but I must say that the fresh air and walking felt good.
Each of both places can be done as a city trip from Amsterdam by train or bus, but preferably by car. Off course you can combine them like I did into a 2 day trip and staying in Zaandam overnight. I had the best time these 2 days, even if it was chilly, the places are just so interesting and adorable, just how I like it.
Do you still have spare days left from Amsterdam and are you looking for other fun day trips? Check out my blog about Rotterdam and Kinderdijk! The Dutch sure love special architecture and windmills! I must say so do I now.
Are you in the Netherlands around April? Don’t miss the tulip fields! Here is my little guide on how visiting the tulip fields and Keukenhof Gardens! Not far from Amsterdam either…