The Absolute Best Day Trips From Amsterdam, According To Rick Steves

From strolling by blooming tulips to admiring some of the best art on the planet, there is no shortage of things to do in Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. On his website, European travel expert Rick Steves recommends checking out the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandts and Vermeers, the Dutch Resistance Museum to learn about how the Dutch fought back against Nazi occupation, and the Royal Palace, to experience some of the most beautiful 17th-century architecture on the continent. While you could easily spend an entire trip in Amsterdam, the secret to understanding the Netherlands is to leave the big city and explore the small towns and villages. You don't even have to go far. Some of the best little communities to visit are just a quick day trip from Amsterdam.


We've learned a lot of great travel tips from Rick Steves, but one of the best is to look for hidden gems instead of tourist hot spots. On his website, Steves and fellow travel writer Gene Openshaw recommend a few villages that aren't far from Amsterdam: Edam, Volendam, Marken, Alkmaar, Hoorn, and Enkhuizen. These delightful villages and towns may not have museums with hundreds of Van Gogh paintings or an enormous free library with a terrace offering views of the city, but they do offer delicious cheese, beautiful boat trips, and a glimpse into what it's really like to live in the Netherlands.

Visit the Waterland villages

It might feel almost unbelievable while you're standing amid the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, but after less than an hour on the train (and even quicker if you happen to have a car), you can be strolling across winsome wooden bridges spanning canals that crisscross the countryside. On his website, Rick Steves recommends visiting Waterland, a northern municipality that includes the towns and villages of Edam, Volendam, and Marken.


Rick Steves recommends planning your visit to Europe based on your interests, and this Waterland excursion is one for the foodies. If you love cheese, Edam might just become the highlight of your trip. This cozy charmer is one of the oldest towns in North Holland, and its architecture represents its seniority. Edam is famous for its cheese, which, if you happen to visit fancy cheese shops from time to time, you might recognize by its colorful wax coating. If you visit in late summer, plan your outing to Edam for Wednesday mornings to see local farmers deliver their huge balls of fresh cheeses, often on rafts and sleighs.

Head north from Amsterdam

If you're based in Amsterdam but are still longing to see more of the Netherlands, try heading north. In the proposed itinerary posted on his blog, Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw recommend Hoorn, Enkhuizen, and Alkmaar. Hoorn was established in 1357, and although it has changed significantly since it was the capital of medieval West Friesland, it is a fabulous destination for history lovers. Along with two medieval churches from the 1500s, you can get a look into more recent history and take a ride on a functioning steam train. Luckily, Hoorn is only about half an hour from Amsterdam by train. 


For a slightly longer trip (about an hour from Amsterdam), Enkhuizen (pictured above) is also packed with fascinating historical sights. It was once a major trading hub and port city, and a visit to the outdoor section of the town's beloved Zuiderzeemuseum is a must. The outdoor exhibit transports visitors to the past by letting them explore old cobblestone streets and well-preserved historic buildings. You can also enjoy some historic buildings in Alkmaar, a delightful city best known for its cheese market, which dates back to before 1622. If you happen to be in the Netherlands between the end of March and the end of September, be sure to make the half-hour journey to Alkmaar on a Friday and join the flocks of visitors who travel there every year to see massive amounts of cheese being weighed, traded, and sold.