We realized quite early into our Netherlands trip that public transport in the Netherlands is fairly expensive. With other countries, we find cheap ticket alternatives by either booking very early (the UK) or booking exactly 14 days before travel (Switzerland). The only ticket we found online that helped maximize travel options was the Holland Travel Ticket.
It costs €39 (on weekends and after 9 am on weekdays, €59 otherwise) and provides unlimited bus, train, tram & metro travel. Note that we didn’t say all public transport as we had to pay to get on the fast ferry. We think we easily made the money back and saw parts of this beautiful country we wouldn’t have normally. Here’s the map and the highlights of what we saw in an 18 hour day of travel!
Top tip: Unlike many Western European countries, major cathedrals here have an entry fee, normally €2.50 But some are covered under the Museumkaart (which we recommend buying for €59 in this post) so check up on the website.
Leg 1: Utrecht to Kinderdijk
Mode of travel: Bus 90 towards Rotterdam (runs hourly)
Timings: 7:33 AM – 9:07 AM
Journey tip: This is quite a long bus journey so load up on caffeine and take breakfast. The bus goes through some very charming Dutch villages that showed us rural Holland.
Kinderdijk is a Unesco world heritage site and has a set of 19 windmills built in the 1740. Unlike our second windmill destination (Zaanse Schans), these were built for a very real need to drain low-lying land and hence quite a few of the windmills are active. We didn’t go inside a mill but walked about and watched locals fish. There’s a museum & a canal boat catered to tourists.
Tip: The site opens at 9:30 AM and the first tour buses come in shortly after. The early hours are the best to explore with fewer people around.
Leg 2: Kinderdijk to Rotterdam
Mode of travel: Fast ferry 202 (a few a day)
Timings: 10:03 AM – 10:35 AM
Journey tip: You could catch the 90 again but that takes 30 minutes more to get to central Rotterdam. As we were racing against the clock, the ferry was better.
The most modern city we’ve seen probably since we moved to the UK. Our first stop was the Photography Museum which is quite small but had some incredible photos. We wish we could have accessed the archive. Recommended if you love photography.
Next we went to see the quirky & cool cube houses in the Overblaak district. They’re definitely worth checking out, not in the least because of the wee chess museum in one of the cubes. This has to be one of the most extensive collection (100+) of chess sets ever.
After hanging around the area for a bit, we went to one of the top museums in the city, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. There was some refurbishment ongoing which made the experience, um, chaotic. But it was a good visit. It’s a bit sad that they had a 3 EUR supplement for entrance.
Leg 3: Rotterdam to Delft
Mode of travel: Metro to Schiedam Centrum & then train to Delft
Timings: 1:26 PM – 1:50 PM
Hands down, the single most pretty town we saw in NL (we’ll probably have a spin off post to share our Delft pics). We first had a terrific sandwich lunch at Stads-koffyhuis, the breads and filling were excellent plus you don’t get to dine on a barge often with a view of the Oude Kerk‘s crooked tower. Then we walked to the town centre to see the spires of the New Church almost reach the sky (featured at the top). A couple of famous Delftware ceramic shops we wanted to visit were closed but walking through the town was fabulous. We loved the canal-side flea market the most with the many distinctively Delftware pieces on sale 🙂
Leg 4: Delft to Haarlem
Mode of travel: Train from Delft to Haarlem
Timings: 4 PM – 5 PM
This was a little bit of a rest stop. Haarlem is famous for flowers, its market (we got a fleeting glimpse of both) & a few museums (that closed at 5 PM as we reached there). Instead, it became a food & drink stop with us first enjoying some delicious beer at an old school pub called Proeflokaal In den Uiver. We followed that up by getting proper Dutchie fries from De Haerlemsche Vlaamse. We took a longish walk back via an old gate & a windmill which was nothing to write home about but the main canal was pretty.
Leg 5: Haarlem to Zaanse Schans via Amsterdam
Mode of travel: Train from Haarlem to Amsterdam and then bus 391 to Zaanse Schans
Timings: 6:40 PM – 8 PM
Journey tip: There is a 20 min layover at AMS so grab a coffee at the station. The bus stop is towards the shore on the upper level.
Our penultimate stop was the famous windmill village (built by moving old buildings to one location) near Amsterdam frequented by tourists. We were fortunate to have the place pretty much to ourselves and a few photographers just before sunset. The flip side was lack of access to toilets. It was peaceful, beautiful & romantic and the sky colours exploded just before sunset.
Leg 6: Zaanse Schans to Amsterdam
Mode of travel: Bus 391 to Amsterdam
Timings: 9:30 PM – 10 PM
Well Amsterdam doesn’t need a description, does it. We’ve enumerated our city favourites in our Amsterdam post, this night visit was to experience the “famous” De Wallen area (read Red Light District). There are so many people in the narrow lanes including stag groups howling which one can find irritating. However, watching the girls at work quite openly was quite fascinating. We ended the night at the New Market area to buy a space cake and head back to Utrecht by 1 am.
Verdict on the Holland Travel Pass
It’s a buy all the way on a weekend provided you take atleast 3 train journeys (we took way more). Our individual tickets would have come to €60 atleast if we add up all the train, bus & metro journeys we took. Plus you reduce walking by taking the bus for short distances too (from rail stations to historic town centres) meaning the energy was spent exploring the interesting bits. Best combined with a Museumkaart
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