When you think of Amsterdam it is canals, bridges, architecture, bicycles, crowds and museums. But a few minutes outside the city it’s yet more canals, lakes, harbors, rolling fields, beautiful houses, cheese, clogs, windmills, quiet and peace. Just north of the city, in the area aptly called Waterland, are beautiful towns, hamlets and harbours – some more touristy than others – but all well-worth visiting in a memorable Dutch day trip.
Undoubtedly, the bustling city has it’s own charm in the beautiful canals and bridges, the lovely crammed crooked houses, fascinating architecture, and flower markets, it can be easily soaked up in a day (unless you are into museums and decide to visit the umpteen museums around the city), but I always find myself connecting more with the quaint, bucolic lands in a countryside which gives you a real taste and feel of any culture. On a 3 day visit to Amsterdam, we enjoyed our first day with a canal cruise, some tramming around town and visiting the parks. The rest of the stay was dedicated to exploring the charming countryside.
We took the bus service just like the locals and set out. The Amsterdam Waterland Day Ticket which costs around 10 euros, is an excellent value, valid for 24 hours after your first check in and connects you to all the major towns in the Waterland area. The EBS buses can be easily recognized with their R.net logo and with your chip card it’s a breeze to just hop in and hop off.
We chose the small town harbors route which is a great way to explore the history and traditions of Dutch fishing and seafaring.
Our first stop after about 30 minutes from Amsterdam was Edam. This adorable village is famous for it’s cheese of the same name and is full of beautiful houses with manicured gardens, historic buildings and classic drawbridges.
Best way to explore is a peripatetic approach. Saunter at your own pace and soak in the beauty of stately residences, their lovely backyards and gardens, catch a drawbridge in action if you can, visit the cheese market and a lot of other specialist stores like indoor plants, chocolate and souvenir shops, relax on the benches near the canals eating your cheese. Look out for the tourist information office and grab a free map. It was around noon when we visited and the place was delightfully quiet and peaceful.
Next stop was the ultra-touristy ancient fishing village of Volendam on the Lake Ijssel. The local villagers in traditional garb are eager to show their cheese-making, clog-making and music-making skills to hordes of tourists flocking to it. Lined around the harbor are restaurants and souvenir shops for all your fridge magnet, snow globes and ceramic display clog needs.
Grab your map at the tourist office a few steps from the bus station, peek into the Volendam museum and head to the harbor for a leisurely walk, soak in the place along with hordes of other tourists and maybe enjoy a good fish and chips and dutch waffles.
It was almost evening when we arrived into this former island plying through a long dike, a causeway built in 1957 and transporting visitors to this hamlet, to marvel at its prettiness, since then. It was almost 7pm but sunset still an hour or so away, we had enough daylight to explore, but the tourist info office, museum and everything in between was closed.
No complaints there as we didn’t need a leaflet to marvel at the unique architecture of the stilt houses, enjoy the greenery and blooming flowers, relax at the shore and respond to the ever-friendly locals waving hello to everybody they meet on their way.
Amsterdam is good but the countryside is always better. Get out of town for a taste of authentic everyday life in Netherlands in the postcard-perfect picturesque Dutch hamlets.