Perfect Nine Days in the Netherlands

Keukenhof Flower Garden

The Netherlands is about 16,000 sq miles or 126 miles square.  It’s a small country.  Their network of trains and buses makes it convenient to take public transportation instead of driving.  We ditched our car rental reservation and we were not sorry about it nor missed it.  We went in late April 2022 in time for the tulip bloom in the Keukenhof Flower Park.  The weather was a little chilly but did not require winter clothes (we are from Arizona and we survived wearing three lightweight layers).

We visited Haarlem, biked over to Zandvoort, Saanse Schans, Edam, Volendam, Marken, Rotterdam, Gouda, The Hauge, Alkmaar and of course, Amsterdam.   

Getting Around Amsterdam and the Surrounding Towns/Cities

We spent a month in Italy prior to the Netherlands where we drove a rental car and took public transportation.  The public transportation in Italy was not expensive so we just thought it would be the same in the Netherlands.  We were wrong.

Our hotel sent us an email instruction a couple days prior to our arrival on how to get to them using public transportation.  It said to take the train going to Den Haag (The Hague) and get off at Hoofddorp station, about four minutes away.  We found a train ticket dispensing machine when we exited the airport customs door.  We entered Den Haag as the destination on the machine.  The cost was 11.40 Euros.  OK, that was obviously a mistake.  What we should have entered was Hoofddorp as the destination which would have a cost of 3.50 Euros.  Not as bad as 11.40 Euros but still a lot more than what we were used to in Italy. 

However, the train company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen or NS, charges one Euro for every ticket dispensed.  So for the 3.5 Euro train ride, 2.5 Euro is for the ride and 1 Euro is for the ticket (see photo below).  If you will be staying in the Netherlands for a while and know your way around, then the better option is to get the OV-chipkaart which can be loaded with funds to get in and out of train stations.  If you are just visiting Amsterdam for a short while and not sure of your way around, then we think that the Amsterdam Regional Pass (more later) is probably better.

Train ticket from Hoofddorp Station to Schiphol Airport

The train is the cheapest option, in our opinion, to get from the airport to our hotel.  There are three other options that we could think of to get to one’s hotel from the Schiphol Airport.  First is a shuttle if your hotel has one.  Our hotel used to have a shuttle but it was discontinued even though the hotel shuttle stop sign (Hampton Inn) has not been taken down at the airport.  Second option is a taxi which according to a local is very expensive.  Third option is using the bus, depending on your hotel location.

Bus tickets can be purchased from the bus driver.  However, the buses only take credit cards.  The ticket is valid for 90 minutes.  However, we don’t know if you can get on a different bus within that 90 minute window as we only needed one bus ride to get to our destination.  The downside with the bus is that you pay a flat fee regardless of whether you get off at the next stop or at the end of the line.  That’s probably (emphasize probably) why it’s valid for 90 minutes so you can hop on and off. 

Another option is buying a return trip ticket to the airport.  We bought this ticket from a van that was parked in the airport promenade.  It had signs to indicate it was a legitimate seller (sorry, we did not take a photo of the van).  This ticket allowed us to get on a bus so we could get to our hotel and also allow us to return to the airport the following day so we could take the bus shuttle to Keukenhof the following day. 

Last option is an Amsterdam Regional Pass.  The network is quite extensive and covers buses, trains and the metro.   This pass allowed us to get to the places we wanted to see such as Haarlem, Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam, Markem and Amsterdam itself.  We bought a three day pass from the train ticket booths inside the airport.  The beauty about these passes is that the clock starts the first time you use it.  However, it is not a 24-hour clock.  The pass is valid up to 4AM the day after the pass’s duration.  So, if you bought a one day pass and you first used it on Monday evening, it will only be valid up to Tuesday at 4AM.  Another advantage of these passes is that if you took the wrong bus, train or metro, simply get off and ride the correct one.  If you have the OV-chipkaart, then you get charged every time you board a new bus, metro or train.

One thing to remember is always check in and check out of buses, trains and metros.  The tickets are chipped.  Buses have chip readers where you place the ticket against it.  The chip reader will indicate a green check mark to let you know all is good and a red X mark if the ticket is no longer valid.  The bus driver will know if you did not check in.  On our first bus ride from the airport to our hotel, we got on an articulating bus which had three entry doors, one by the driver, one in the middle and one in the back.  A gentleman got on the bus through the middle entry door and did not check in.  The bus driver called him up front for not checking in.  Unable to produce a bus ticket, the bus driver asked him to get off or he would call the police.

Train and metro stations have gates that open if a valid ticket is read by the chip readers.

Places to See

We just followed Mr. Rick Steve’s suggested places to visit in the Netherlands.  Certainly there are other towns and villages that are probably worthy of a visit but for us, each town starts to look the same as the previous such that it becomes harder to appreciate the destination.

Keukenhof Park

Keukenhof Park is dubbed as Europe’s garden.  This is where the famous tulip gardens are located.  We bought the combiticket to go to Keukenhof three days before flying into Amsterdam. We had to check the weather to make sure it was not rainy and figured three days would be the cut-off between a firm weather forecast and one that can change. The combiticket includes the admission to the park and the round trip bus ride from select pick-up and drop off points.  One of those select pick-up/drop off is the airport.

Keukenhof Tulip Garden

There were a lot of people in the park throughout the day even though it was a weekday.  However, the park is big enough not to feel crowded and occasionally be able to snap a photo without being photobombed by somebody.  We spent more than six hours strolling through the entire park.  We have been to Roozengaarde in Washington state and we can definitely say that Keukenhof has a lot more to offer.

Haarlem and Zandvoort

Haarlem is an old town with the typical attractions such as a Friday market at the Grote Markt, a non working windmill and old buildings.  However, we had a lot of fun renting bikes from Rent A Bike just a few steps from the town’s Central Station.  The bike rental was not expensive, 11 Euros for the entire day for a three speed bike.  Best 11 Euros we spent in my mind.

Windmill De Adriann, Haarlem

The Netherlands is mostly flat so biking is not difficult.  Seems like everybody bikes around.  There are dedicated bike lanes.  We even saw a road narrow down into one lane instead of taking up a bike lane.  There are even bike parking areas near train stations which is equivalent to a park and ride in the US.  We even saw some ladies wearing heels on bikes.  It’s truly remarkable to see.

Locals use arm signals to announce their intentions just like a car driver would.  On our ride, we missed our turn so we abruptly stopped in the bike lane.  That was a big no no.  The locals behind us almost ran into us and we had to profusely say “sorry”.   

Anyway, we had a great time biking for about five hours and about 20 kilometers (13 miles) round trip to the coastal town of Zandvoort.  As we approached the town of Zandvoort, there were several food trailers offering tasty treats from the ocean.

Fried fish purchased from one of the food trailers at Zandvoort

Zaanse Schans

This is one of the places where the windmills are. While we did not go to Kinderdijk, it is another place for windmills where river cruises stop. What can I say, you have to see windmills so you can truly say you have been to Holland.  Some are still working windmills.  We went on a weekend and there were lots of people, locals and tourists alike. We spent about four hours walking and taking photos.  Some windmills are museums and charge an admission fee.  We just went for the free stuff such as going inside souvenir and cheese stores. 

Windmill at Zaanse Schans


These are actually three separate communities.  It was in Mr. Steve’s recommended places to see so we went.  We spent the entire day visiting these three places. Edam has a few cheese stores and is full of old brick buildings.  Volendam has a promenade lined with shops and eateries.  Marken is a seaside village connected by a land bridge.  Its houses are mainly timber constructions and painted green and brown.  So it is something unique to see.  We had to take three separate bus rides to get to each of these places.


Looking back at it, we could have skipped Edam as we did not see anything unique while walking around the small town for about a couple of hours. We later found out that the cheese market in Edam happens every Wednesday from the last week of June to the third week of August. If you want cheese and in Netherlands during the spring, go to Gouda on a Saturday or to Alkmaar on a Friday and you’ll have a better experience. The shops and restaurants at Volendam was probably worth a visit, especially if you like to eat. Markam, though the smallest of the three, was the most interesting because of its uniquely colored homes.

Cheese market at Edam


I don’t think I need to say much about Amsterdam as there are several internet articles written about it.  All I know is that it was packed with people that made us feel unsafe not wearing a mask in public (Netherlands dropped the mask requirement when we were there).  Near the Red Light district, some people were publicly intoxicated, although not causing any trouble.  If you just want to stroll along the canals and see huge historical buildings from the outside, you can find those in other towns and cities besides Amsterdam.  


Rotterdam was our base to explore the southern part of the Netherlands.  We did not go around Rotterdam as we did not have much time the three nights we were there.  In hindsight, based on the articles we read about Rotterdam’s must-see places, we probably should have explored this city instead of going to The Hague.


The local pronunciation is “gau-da” not “good-a” as we have previously called it.  We went to Gouda on a Saturday where they reenacted the traditional cheese auction.  Locals were dressed in traditional Holland attire as if selling blocks of cheese on wooden pallets laid on the main square. The cheese auction reenactors were nice enough to pose with us for that all important souvenir picture.  There were local vendors also selling their wares, cheese and homemade food to visitors.  The  atmosphere was really festive.  I enjoyed this visit but not as much as the bike ride to Zandvoort.

Cheese auction re-enactment at Gouda

The Hague

We were deciding between Delft and The Hague on which one to visit. We decided to visit The Hague because it has an outdoor market.  However, its outdoor market consists of semi permanent stalls with majority selling apparel, fruits and vegetables.  There are a few stalls selling food.  We did not even finish strolling the entire market and decided to walk to the old part of town.  Having seen so many old buildings during our trip, we were not awed by anything  we saw.  We actually spent most of our time in The Hague in a Decathlon Sporting Goods store we found while walking back to the Central Station.   

The Hague Market


Our last place to visit was Alkmaar as it also had a cheese market that happens on Fridays between April and September.  Similar to Gouda, it had a cheese merchant reenactment complete with locals in traditional attire.  There were also vendors to complete the festive atmosphere.  We do think that Gouda would be the better destination between the two as it seems to have a bigger gathering besides the point that you can say “I have been to Gouda”, whereas most people would probably ask “what” if you say “I have been to Alkmaar”.

Cheese auction re-enactment at Alkmaar


Amsterdam is the main destination in the Netherlands.  But we spent the least amount of time in Amsterdam compared to the other places we visited as we were put off by the crowds and already saw so many old towns and buildings.  Certainly, there are other places to visit in the Netherlands besides the places we have written about and are less touristy. Markets are not held every day so plan your trips accordingly. If you want less touristy places, avoid the markets but what is the fun in that. What we have not written about are the people. We have encountered several Dutch people that greeted us with a smile, especially if you say “bedank” which means thank you.  All the people we talked to spoke good English, except for an elderly couple.  We hope that you find this article helpful as you plan your trip to the Netherlands.