There are so many layers to Amsterdam, it can be an attack on the senses and there is ample entertainment for every mood and taste even if you just wandered round aimlessly; one could easily fill two weeks just in the city alone with no time for boredom.
But sometimes it makes a nice change to venture out away from the hustle and bustle, see more of the country and breathe fresher air. After all, there is so much more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam!
Just 20-40 mins on the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station is the Zaan district, which is the region in which the small Zaan River runs through. Here you will find several towns throughout the area, namely world famous Zaanse Schans which is seeping with rich industrial history dating back to the 18th & 19th centuries. It’s a sweet little place, filled with various museums (most are free or discounted with the Iamsterdam City Card), crafts, workshops and little eateries to keep your taste buds happy. Here you’ll find many windmills dotted around, Catarina Hoeve Cheese Farm, the Clog Workshop and the Tweekoppige Phoenix Liquor Distillery to name a few. There are also plenty of sweet little eateries to keep your taste buds happy. If all you fancy is a slow bike ride or stroll then there is an abundance of pretty scenery to feast your eyes upon but whatever you do, you’re sure to get that cosy feeling of ‘Old Holland’.
There are plenty more little towns to explore in the Zaan region other than Zaanse Schans; fancy spending more than a day exploring? Have you heard of Zaandam? Well you have now! It’s probably one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to, visually. You know when you go to a theme park and there are little themed toy villages? That’s what it felt like. It was bizarre yet really endearing. I loved it regardless of the fact it’s not in keeping with my architectural taste at all. The majority of façades are brightly coloured in different shades of green and blue, typical of the Zaan region.
The most striking of all is world famous Inntel Hotel with the appearance of seventy individual little houses stacked on one another. This place is a stunning example of very affordable yet luxurious and comfortable accommodation and the service is second to none. At only €140 last minute, we got an in room spa bath, sauna, a very cosy queen size bed, coffee machine and an array of little details that made me want to stay forever. There is no way you could stay in the equivalent in Amsterdam city for that price and with trains running regularly through the day and night, it’s certainly an option to consider when visiting Amsterdam.
How to get there from Amsterdam city:
Your starting point will always be Amsterdam Centraal Station. It costs roughly €3 per person for a single ticket, although this can be made cheaper if you have an OP-Chipkaart. Be aware you cannot use your Iamsterdam card for travel out of the city unless you purchase a €10 transport add on, but this wouldn’t be worth it if you just make a return trip to these areas.
For Zaanse Schans (30-40mins): Take the train to Zaandijk. When you come out of the station into the passenger tunnel, turn left. From here Zaanse Schans is well signed. For museums and things to do, check out Iamsterdam’s individual descriptions and directions.
For Zaandam (20 mins): When you come up the escalator into the ticket hall, turn left following signs to Centraal, this will bring you into the town centre. If you are staying at Inntel Hotel, you will come out of the door and not miss it. (Little tip: to gain access to the hotel, go down in the lift ahead of you. It can be a little confusing and you’re likely to wander around the upper deck trying to work it out!)
For the purpose of transparency, I received an Iamsterdam City Card during my trip last week. All opinions are my own and are not swayed by this in any way.
Have you ever been here before? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your opinions or questions, if I can help in the planning of your trip to Amsterdam or the Netherlands, just shout 🙂