Holland: 8 Cities in 3 ½ Days (Part I)

Europe hails as one of the most popular destinations for travelers of all ages and with good reason.  Many European countries boast vast transportation networks, numerous historical sites, and timeless architecture.  When considering Europe as a travel destination, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France dominate most discussions.  The Netherlands, or Holland as it is informally called, is often overlooked despite having a rich history, stellar landscapes, and a reputation as one of the top 10 happiest countries in the world.  In the course of 3.5 days, I had the pleasure of visiting 8 Dutch cities.  This was desirable due to the unique and thriving identities of each city and was possible through the exceptionally refined public transportation system.

Each of the Dutch cities that were visited easily deserved at least a full day of exploration.  From tranquil canals to lush tulip fields to quaint towns, the depths that one can immerse him or herself in Holland rivals any European country.  Smaller towns such as Delft drip with quiet familiarity while larger cities such as Amsterdam flow with enduring culture; the full extent of both, known only to its residents.  For travelers visiting Holland, one can find the essence of Dutch design and identity in any of its cities.  With all that there is to see and experience, it is difficult to determine where to start.  Below is a compiled itinerary of the cities I visited and their major highlights.

Day 1 – 5.6.17

Utrecht

Utrecht is a city of roughly 312,000 people and is one of Holland’s most important cultural gems.  The city is considered to be the religious center of the country and is also a hub of higher education.  While here one can visit the Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in Holland at 368 feet.  The tower is part of the St. Martin Cathedral and is a stellar example of Gothic architecture.  While exploring Utrecht, one might hear with crystal clarity, the sounds of the 32,000 kg bells resonating from St. Martin Cathedral.  This is an experience that is paired well with a walk along the Oudegracht, Utrecht’s most prominent canal which runs through the center of town.  Along the Oudegracht are numerous shops and restaurants providing a unique shopping and dining experience.

Consider planning a trip to Utrecht on a Saturday as doing so gives you the opportunity to explore some of its historic open markets.  The Lapjesmarkt of Utrecht is the oldest fabric market in Holland having been around for more than 400 years and offers several blocks worth of vendors.  In the vicinity of St. Martin’s is the Bloememarkt of Utrecht, which is an open marketplace dedicated to flowers and plants.  Lastly, the Vredenburg is a general market and is the largest market in Utrecht and ranges anywhere between 75 and 125 stalls depending on the day.  Here one can find product, meats, fish, clothing, electronics and other miscellaneous items.  These markets are a core part of life in Utrecht and are one of the best ways to experience one of its many pulses.

  • Dom Tower of Utrecht – St. Martin Cathedral
  • Fabric Outdoor Market
  • Outdoor Market
  • Lange Nieuwstraat
  • Oudegracht
Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is its most recognized city.  As the most populous city in Holland and a prominent player during the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam is undeniably vibrant in its history and offerings.  It is a city that demands several days of exploration due to the vast numbers of museums, 17th-century buildings, distinct neighborhoods, and canals that comprise its character.  During my short time here, I was only able to experience a small portion of its vibrant culture.

In the city center, you can easily view significant buildings such as the Church of Saint Nicholas or De Oude Kerk.  These buildings tower over the neighboring homes and shops.  Their looming presence act as an everlasting reminder of the city’s enduring legacy.  For visitors looking for a place to trade for Euros, the Pott Exchange in the city center is considered by many to be one of the best cash exchange options.  In walking distance from the center is the Jordan district, an area that is held in esteem for its history as a settling location for political refugees, immigrants, and the impoverished.  The district is a hub in the city for artisans of various crafts evident by the numerous art studios, museums, and public courtyards.  The Anne Frank House can also be found here.  For those interested in the arts, Van Gogh is an icon in Holland and has a museum dedicated to his life and works.  Surrounding this museum is Vondelpark, an expansive and lush park with ample space and canals.

  • Red Light District
  • Jordaan Neighborhood
  • Anne Frank Huis
  • Pott Exchange
  • To Do for Next Time – Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark/Westerpark
Leiden

Leiden holds a significant place in Dutch history and tourism.  Take a trip to Leiden and one may see the tulip fields that lie outside the city limits.  A fitting sight as Holland is known for its stunning tulip displays and Leiden is where the tulip was introduced to Western Europe.  For the shopping enthusiast, Leiden has several streets that are dedicated to boutiques and chain stores.  The Haarlemmerstratt is a kilometer of major chains while the Breestraat is home to its unique boutiques and bookstores.  Both are located in the city center.  In addition, Leiden holds significance in academia for Leiden University which has a reputation as the oldest university in Holland and an internationally acclaimed research institute.

  • Tulip fields during train ride
  • City Hall – Find out Name
  • University – Find out Name
  • Haarlemmerstratt

About the Author

Kent Huynh

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

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