Don’t pick up the car at Schiphol airport if arriving by plane as the first stop is Amsterdam, where parking will cost almost as much as your hotel. If you have to arrive by car then there are a couple of options. Hotels and B&B’s in Amsterdam North often have free parking and are just 10 minutes by public transport or bike to the heart of the city, or there are a number of park and rides a little bit further out of the city and they charge around Euro 6 for 24 hours.
Head north out of Amsterdam and after 20 minutes you’ll reach the historical and completely preserved village of Broek-in-Waterland with its fabulous wooden houses, which are now exclusively for the super wealthy, and amazing gardens. For brunch share a typical Dutch pancake at De Zwaan before heading to Volendam. If you’re into nature then rent a canoe or electric boat for a couple of hours. It’s the only way to access the extensive wilderness.
Volendam is a traditional harbour town on the IJselmeer. It’s a huge tourist attraction for overseas visitors, but it does provide a real glimpse of life as it used to be in these small fishing towns. Many of the older generation still wear the traditional Dutch dress.
Continue north to Alkmaar. Similar to Edam, but a little bit more visitor oriented, it’s a beautiful small town, a little bit like a mini Amsterdam which still holds a regular cheese auction. You’ve got the opportunity here to take a small side trip to the quaint seaside town of Bergen aan Zee if the sun’s shining.
Head north once again and cross the famous 30 kilometre long Afsluitdijk, which was amazingly built in the 1920s, using horse and cart, to protect Holland from being engulfed by the North Sea. Lookout points along the road provide spectacular views of the ranging sea on one side and what has now become a calm lake on the other. Continue to Groningen.
Groningen is a vibrant historical student town with nice architecture and the wonderful Groninger Art museum which is housed in a spectacular modern building. Leave the next day for Kampen.
Kampen has one of the best preserved old town centres of the Netherlands, including remains of the ancient city wall (whose gates are still standing) and numerous churches. Also notable are the two bridges over the IJssel which connects Kampen with IJsselmuiden and a windmill (d’ Olde Zwarver). At the end of the day leave for Giethoorn for a some peace and relaxation.
Park on the outside of the small village of Giethoorn as this small town is only accessible by boat or foot! Enjoy the morning walking around this quaint village built on the water before heading off to Appeldoorn, home of the Royal Palace. Stay the night in Appeldoorn.
Head to Arnhem to the Openluchtmuseum – open air museum. This outdoor museum is host to hundreds of historically important buildings from various centuries that have been transported here, sometimes brick-by-brick. Staff dressed in costume are available with interesting explanations and the village centre offers many traditional crafts. There is a also a simulator which takes you on a full sensory trip through the Netherlands. Spend the night in Arnhem.
Head back to Amsterdam. One day in Amsterdam is nowhere near enough!