We actually came for the airport initially…
You may have noticed that a lot of connecting flights that go through Europe are routed through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The fact that the airport is a wonderful place to stop for a rest when you are flying around the world is actually what drew us to visit in the first place. You see, we fly from the U.S. to Asia on a fairly regular basis. So, of course, we are always looking for a way to make that journey less tiring. This last time, we decided to stop over in Amsterdam for a few days and really check the place out. We are very glad that we did, and we will definitely keep visiting to explore more of Holland again. We stayed at a Best Western right by the airport. That way, we were able to take trains and buses everywhere we needed to go. It was easy to travel there without having to rent a car.
We will come back for the people
The Netherlands offers so much to see and do, but that was not our favorite part of the visit. The most enjoyable aspect of all of our visit was just how delightful the Dutch people are. Of course, as Americans, we enjoyed the fact that everyone we needed to speak with spoke English, but it was more than just that. Literally everyone was friendly and helpful. (Okay, there was a possible exception to that with the very last security person we encountered as we left the country, but that’s another story, and it was just one person.)
Even when we got off a train, a gentleman who was sitting nearby had heard us discussing which platform we needed to get to for our next ride, and he offered help without us even asking. One family member needed to visit a doctor in the airport. You can imagine the stress of that, but everyone who helped us was so friendly and kind that it made things better. Every time we needed help in a store, there was someone who was glad to help us out. So far in my travels, I would have to rank the Dutch as among the friendliest people in the world. I would seriously go back just for that.
Great things to see and do in the Netherlands
Keukenhof – The Garden of Europe
But Holland has even more to offer than the friendliest people. If you happen to travel through the Netherlands in the spring, you are in for a treat. If you like tulips, you have to visit Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe. It’s only open for a short time each spring while the tulips are in bloom for a couple of months. But you should go if you have even a few hours have available during a long layover. You can travel there by train from the airport. Join the over 1 million visitors each year and see over 7 million flower bulbs in one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Check out our photos from a recent visit.
Amsterdam – Canal tours and more
There is a lot to see and do in Amsterdam, of course. A short train ride from the airport will take you downtown. There, you can take a boat ride through the canals to see an overview of the city. Of course, there are wonderful art museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum. You can enjoy the beautiful architecture from Holland’s heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries. You can tour the Anne Frank house, although if you are traveling with smaller children, be aware of not only the serious nature of the museum, but also the long lines of waiting. Some of the other features that Amsterdam is known for are less family-friendly, but it is worth seeing those parts that are safe for the kids. Be sure to try Dutch cheese, Dutch chocolates, and stroopwafels, some of the great Dutch specialities.
Haarlem – Small Town Charm
One of our favorite adventures in the Netherlands was when we visited the Corrie Ten Boom House museum in Haarlem. It was easy to hop on a train from the airport and enjoy a short ride to the small town of Haarlem. If you have read the book or seen the movie The Hiding Place, you will definitely enjoy the house. Even if are not familiar with The Hiding Place, I would recommend a visit. You will learn a lot about World War II from the story of this family who hid Jews from the Nazis so that they could escape the Holocaust. I was glad that we wanted to tour the Corrie Ten Boom house, because we had the added benefit of seeing the charm of a small town in Holland. Check back soon for our special post all about the Corrie Ten Boom House.
While in Haarlem, I recommend the short walk from the Ten Boom house to the Grote Markt, or town square. It is a large open area, closed to vehicle traffic so that you enjoy a quiet stroll. A key feature there is the Grote Kerk, a Gothic church home to the Muller organ, which has been played by both Handel and Mozart. There is also a wonderful little ice cream shop right by the Grote Kerk, which was a hit with the whole family.