Here's a quick summary of our Netherlands by train itinerary.
- Days 1 to 3 - Amsterdam
- Days 4 and 5 - Rotterdam
- Day 6 - The Hauge
- Day 7 - Utrecht
Days 1 to 3 – Sightseeing in the capital
Day 1 – The top points of interest in Amsterdam
It's easy to travel by train to Amsterdam. One popular choice is on the Eurostar from the British or French capitals. It takes under four hours from London to Amsterdam, and just over three from Paris to Amsterdam. If you’re flying into the city, the train from Amsterdam Schiphol airport to Amsterdam Centraal is direct and takes just 15m. Once you arrive, stretch your legs and take a walk along the central canals. Or, make like the locals and hop on a bike! A canal cruise is another excellent introduction to this marvellous city.
Anne Frank House is one of the most popular destinations in Amsterdam and an important stopping point on any visit. Dam Square is one of the main meeting points in town and allows a glimpse of the Royal Palace. The palace is also a museum and hosts a rotating range of exhibitions.
The Heineken Experience is a great idea for groups of friends visiting the Dutch capital. The interactive tour offers opportunities to see how the beer is made, and of course, sample the product. When you’re feeling like doing a bit of snacking, look for stroopwafels in the bakeries or street markets. These warm, sweet delights are a classic Dutch treat.
Amsterdam has long been renowned for its nightlife. The Red-Light District is openly integrated within the city centre. Contrary to what many may think, it’s a friendly place that’s great for a walk by day or a drink at night. The Internationaal Theater Amsterdam is an opulent Victorian building. Come for internationally acclaimed plays, musicals, and dance performances.
Day 2 – A roundup of Dutch art history
The Netherlands is famous for creating art movements like the modernist De Stijl and has a vibrant classical art history as well. Discover the works of arguably the most famous Dutch painter of all at the Van Gogh Museum. This is one of the very best places to see Vincent Van Gogh's most famous works, such as Sunflowers and The Bedroom. The striking ultramodern building is an impressive sight in itself!
For a wide selection of modern and contemporary art, check out the Moco Museum. It features the latest and greatest of the country’s creative scene, including a superb collection of street art samples. Huis Marseille is an excellent photography museum, featuring a diverse array of works that are rotated quarterly.
The Rijksmuseum is the country’s national gallery, with a collection featuring Vermeer masterpieces and paintings of King William of Orange. For something really unique, the Diamant Museum has displays of sparkling crowns, necklaces, and even diamond skulls to admire. Indeed, Amsterdam is often known as the ‘City of Diamonds’ for its historical associations with the trade.
If you’re travelling with kids on your Netherlands itinerary, the NEMO Science Museum is a top choice. It boasts hands-on chemistry exhibits and a fantastic outer space section. Plus, the Journey Through the Mind exhibit is a particularly interesting look into the human brain. What better place to inspire future scientists?
Day 3 – A bike tour of the countryside
Get out of the city on your third day in Amsterdam, rent a bike and discover the gorgeous surroundings around Amsterdam. Tulip season is relatively short, with the iconic eye-popping displays lasting from around mid-April to early May. Take them in as you travel along the Flower Strip between Haarlem and Leiden, either with guided bike rides or bus tours. The Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse are the world’s largest park dedicated to tulips.
Outside of tulip season, there’s still plenty to take in around the countryside here. Head to Purmerend, a little over an hour away by bike from Amsterdam. It features a selection of historic buildings, and the Purmurends Museum contains exhibitions on Dutch craft items. Alternatively, take the 40-minute train trip from Amsterdam to Purmurend.
Also, just an hour away by bike from Amsterdam is Naarden. The fortified walls date from the 17th-century, with moats encircling the city centre. Sights such as the historic Grote Kerk church and the Netherlands Fortress Museum bring the history of this ancient city to life. Travel from Amsterdam to Naarden by train in under 40m.
Days four to five: Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second city
Day 4 – Striking architecture from up high
It’s time to take the train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam in just 30m on the fastest direct services. Thoroughly modern with its glittering skyscrapers and attractive riverfront, Rotterdam is a major European commercial hub. It boasts some of the continent’s most unique architecture and is a wonderful place for a trip with friends or family.
We recommend a visit to the innovative Cube Houses, with their quirky appearance. As you look at their dramatic sloping shapes, you’ll wonder what it’s like to live inside them – why not get a taste with a tour of the interiors. Another main attraction in the city, the Euromast is a TV tower with an observation deck and slick restaurant, bar and café. It’s the ideal place for taking panoramic photos of Rotterdam’s skyline.
For a look at the city's artistic side, head to the brilliant Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. This varied gallery features works from the Middle Ages all the way to the present. See striking works from local and international painters, sculptors, and furniture makers. You’ll appreciate the progression from the Golden Age of Dutch painting through to today's innovative designs.
Day 5 – Windmills by the water
Rotterdam Zoo features an impressive Oceanium and a kids’ play area – the perfect place to spend a morning if you’re travelling with children. Dating from the Victorian era, it’s been delighting locals and visitors with its exotic animals for over 150 years. After Amsterdam’s tulips, take in another classic Dutch icon at Kinderdijk – this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring 19 monumental windmills that stand testament to the Dutch reputation for water management.
For cutting-edge urban architecture, check out Witte Huis, or ‘White House’. It’s a towering construction with art nouveau features. De Rotterdam is conceived as a modern ‘vertical city’ – a series of stacked towers that push the boundaries of architectural skill.
If you want to savour the taste of Rotterdam life, head to the Market Hall. This covered shopping centre features stalls with fresh local produce, plus a fine selection of restaurants. It’s perfect for picking up a snack or refuelling after a day of touring the city.
This may be a good time to try the delicacy of bitterballen. Made with beef or veal, these spiced balls are delicious dipped in mustard. Bami goreng is an Indonesian-inspired noodle dish that became popular during the height of the Dutch empire – also worth a try. It often comes in veggie-friendly versions, too!
Day 6 – A day in the Netherlands’ ‘other capital’, The Hague
While Amsterdam is the country’s official capital, The Hague, or Den Haag, is the seat of Parliament and an important centre for European politics. Travel from Rotterdam to the Hague by train in just 25m. The highlight of the city is Het Binnenhof, the Dutch parliament building located by its own lake. Take a tour and see the gorgeous Hall of Knights and learn about the history of Dutch national politics.
Madurodam offers a look at the Netherlands in miniature. See models of landmarks, dykes and windmills, which will inspire you to get out and see more of the country! It sits close to the beach at Scheveningen. In summer, lay out on the sands here and go swimming, or visit the traditional pier with its ferris wheel.
The Peace Palace is another of The Hague’s marvellous buildings, a Renaissance-style construction that serves as the law courts. Tours are available on weekends and last for around 45 minutes, during which you'll get a look at the workings of the country's progressive legal system. If visiting during the week, the gorgeous façade is still worth admiring from the outside.
Day 7 – Insights into historic Utrecht
Often considered one of the country’s finest examples of traditional Dutch life, Utrecht is a peaceful spot to round off your Netherlands itinerary. Travel from The Hague to Utrecht by train in 40m. Get the lay of the city with a walk up Dom Tower, a Gothic-style construction in the city centre. You’ll get a good workout scaling its 465 steps, but the view is well worth it!
If you prefer a less strenuous activity, take a quiet stroll through the grounds of Castle De Haar. This French-style château sits among exquisite flower gardens. Its luxurious interiors feature beautiful chambers and a chapel. This is a picturesque setting away from the urban bustle. Resembling a Disney castle, it’s no wonder this is a popular local spot for weddings.
Centraal Museum is an excellent local gallery. It displays the best of contemporary Dutch art and fashion, a wonderful place to understand the latest developments in the country’s creative output. The 16th-century St Martin’s Cathedral, or Domkerk, is a great way to finish your tour of Dutch landmarks. Interestingly, its nave was ruined in the 17th-century but left unfixed and remains a visual reminder of the cathedral’s history.
As your Netherlands itinerary draws to a close, you can travel back from Utrecht to Amsterdam in just 30m by train.
A small yet vibrant country, travelling by trains in the Netherlands is perfect for taking in the best sights and destinations. Check out single-country ticket pass options we offer through Interrail and Eurail. These choices also offer international tickets, if your Netherlands itinerary is part of a wider European tour. From Amsterdam's canals to Rotterdam's modern towers, and the splendid countryside in between, this is a land of exciting contrasts. What are you waiting for? It’s time to book your trip!