Amsterdam is one of our favourite European cities; the more we go back, the more we discover of this upscale, cultural destinations. What’s more, the Netherlands boasts a superb transport infrastructure, so it’s easy to experience more of the greater Amsterdam area without hiring a car, writes Andrew Forbes.
This autumn we headed to the Dutch capital of style and luxury to discover 5 unique day trip ideas…
1. Castles & Gardens River Cruise
Amsterdam is of course renowned for its picturesque and historical UNESCO canal district. Yet if you just head out of the city, within half an hour you’ll discover an entirely unique perspective of Amsterdam’s elegant history, from the Golden Age.
Together with the River Amstel, the charming River Vecht is one of the notable waterways of the Netherlands and from the privileged view point of a boat one can see many of the extraordinary estate homes, palaces and castles that have made this part of the country so well known amongst lovers of architecture, history and nature.
During the 17th century Golden Age, many wealthy Dutch merchant invested in the area, as not only is it a beautiful part of the country, but it was also becoming a burgeoning commercial district. The growing success of investors here meant many built their luxury summer homes along the banks of the river Vecht, away from busy Amsterdam.
At least 50 of these historic estates remain and the best way to enjoy them is by hiring an elegant vintage boat with captain. Whilst the captain navigates the charming waterways, guests are invited to sip a glass of rose wine, and enjoy traditional dishes whilst taking in some of the sights. The Luxury Editor believes this is the way to travel!
Nearby are famous castles too, such as the fairy-tale style Muiderslot Amsterdam Castle, which dates to the 13th century – with impressive furnished rooms and beautiful gardens.
To discover more about an exclusive river cruise, see read our article on a cruise along the River Vecht.
2. Naarden Historic Town
If you love the history and style of Amsterdam’s castles and gardens, then you may want to stay over for the night. It’s easy to extend your day trip from Amsterdam with an overnight in the spectacular mediaeval town of Naarden, said to be one of the best preserved fortified towns in Europe.
The town has a remarkable shape, built surrounded by two elaborate stars shaped, water-filled moats. The centre of the town is a delight; full of stone cobbled streets lined with historic homes, as well as stylish independent boutiques, relaxed cafes and smart restaurants.
To find out more, see our article on a stay in Naarden here.
3. Batavia Fashion Outlet Village
It’s no secret that upscale shopping is an essential element for our favourite city-break destinations here at The Luxury Editor, and Amsterdam is now exception. The city’s historic canal district has some fabulous independent boutiques, and in the city centre, you can also find designer stores and the famous Dutch department store ‘de Bijenkorf’.
Yet for designer cothes for less then take a trip out to the Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet Village. It’s a beautiful setting with stunning stores. It’s just 40 minutes from Amsterdam, and offers the chance to shop leisurely in an elegant and refined environment dedicated to high end brands. There are more than 100 stores, offering some 250 brands – and when you want to take a break from flexing your credit card, then there are smart, contemporary Dutch cafes and restaurants.
Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet Village is found in a fascinating part of the greater Amsterdam area, called New Land Flevoland. We were really surprised at how much we enjoyed this new part of the country, that has been created on land reclaimed from the sea.
If you’re fascinated by the Dutch skill at engineering and land reclamation, then pay a visit to the New Land Heritage Centre, where the story of the world’s greatest land reclamation project is told with fascinating exhibits.
4. Heritage Park Batavialand
Whilst you are in New Land, you should visit the Heritage Park Batavialand – it’s close to the outlet shopping mall, and is really entertaining, especially if you are travelling with children.
Here you can be immersed in the flavour of 17th century Golden Age.
At the historic Batavia shipyard one can step aboard the reconstruction of the authentic VOC ship Batavia.
It’s an amazing experience to discover the type of vessels that the Dutch used to dominate the world’s maritime trade.
5. An Eco Safari in Oostvaardersplassen
The Netherlands may undeniably be a small country, and Amsterdam a compact and vibrant city, yet on a short break you can still experience the sensation of a little wilderness, at Oostvaardersplassen.
This was one of the greatest surprises for us on our recent trip to Amsterdam. This remarkable nature reserve covers some 56 square kilometres and is an important area for migrating birds, as well as home to hundreds of deer and some fascinating Konik ponies.
Despite the natural park being so close to Amsterdam, it encompasses beautiful meadows, wetlands, reed plains, and rough grasslands that are home to abundant wildlife. The natural environment is clearly protected with pride, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it on a day trip. There are regular nature tours, hosted by one of the knowledgably, English speaking guides.
There are also visitor centres with restaurants and cafes too. To find out more on how to get to the nature reserve and book a tour read our article on Oostvaardersplassen natural park here.
For more details on some of the finest Dutch restaurants and luxury hotels, see our collection of luxury Amsterdam reviews & interviews here.