The Netherlands is a popular destination, and historically, most tours have been based in Amsterdam. This has changed downtown Amsterdam, and not for the better. Ironically, people familiar with the Netherlands know there are several smaller cities that are equally picturesque, but without the crush of tourists and inflated prices. This list includes Utrecht, Haarlem, Delft and Leiden. (Rotterdam & The Hague warrant visits, but most tourists prefer to stay in more typical Dutch cities.)
While my heart in in Delft (having lived there as a teenager), I have chosen Leiden as the home-base for TravelMaven groups for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a wonderful example of traditional Dutch architecture and culture, and as a university town, it’s also full of life and affordable cafes. Second, it’s a rail hub with easy connections to almost everything, including being 15 minutes from Schiphol Airport (it’s actually closer than downtown Amsterdam).
So, if you’ve ever wanted to see the tulips and windmills that made the Netherlands famous, here's your chance to give yourself a real Dutch treat! During my year as a Rotary Exchange Student, I got to visit almost every corner of this small country and I’d like to share what I found with you, starting with Holland’s most famous city.
Amsterdam has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. In fact, it has been featured in so many books and movies that many first-time visitors feel they've been there before. One reason for its popularity is the city remains largely intact from the 17th and 18th centuries. It was not seriously damaged during the 20th century, and heritage designations have preserved almost all of the heirloom architecture.
For art lovers, the city is also home to three world class museums: the Rijksmuseum; the Van Gogh Museum; and the Amsterdam City Museum. For history buffs, there's the Ann Frank House and Holocaust Museum. For architecture fans, the city is basically one huge outdoor exhibit. And for those curious about the “night life”, lets just say it isn’t hard to find...
Beyond Amsterdam, the tour highlight for many will be our visit to the Keukenhof - the most famous tulip park in the world. This beautiful facility is only open six weeks a year, and has become Holland’s most popular tourist attraction. In my opinion, a visit to the Keukenhof in April is truly an unforgettable experience.
Leiden, our home away from home for a week, is a vibrant university town laced with canals and a great farmers’ market on Wednesday and Saturday. In terms of convenience, our hotel is right across the street from Leiden Station, just a five minute walk from the city centre.
Beyond Amsterdam, Leiden and the Keukenhof, we'll also visit Delft, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Haarlem. For those who want to get some fresh air, we’ll walk through the dunes and along the beach of the North Sea. For early risers, we will also visit the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. One great thing about Holland is everything is close-by, and the train and bus networks make intercity travel a breeze.
This is a small group tour, limited to 12 guests and geared to active adults. Our goal at TravelMaven is to make your vacation amazing by combining the best of independent travel and group tours. In other words, we lay out a plan and make all the arrangements, but guests retain the flexibility to manage their own time and add in the things they like. For me, that’s a win/win for everyone.
For those who decide to join us, I promise that Holland is a magical place.
GROUP SIZE: max 12 guests
Leiden Farmers Market
Amsterdam Walking Tour
Amsterdam Canal Cruise*
Keukenhof Tulip Park
Aalsmeer Flower Auction
Katwijk ann Zee beach walk
Indonesian rijstafel dinner
Royal Delft Blue factory
Delft Market Square
Rotterdam Harbour Tour
* denotes optional activity
Tulip Inn, Leiden (7 nights) or similar, breakfast daily, 1 lunch, 3 dinners, full-time TravelMaven Tour Concierge, all admissions & fees, all ground transportation and all taxes.
This tour is guaranteed to depart. This Land Package is in Canadian dollars, based on double occupancy and guaranteed once a $250 deposit is received.
Pre Day (Saturday) Depart Toronto
The recommended Air Canada flight plan is a 20:35 departure from Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Day 1 (Sunday) Leiden (L,D)
Guests will arrive at Schiphol Airport at 10:00 and transfer to Leiden (20 minutes away). Upon arrival at our hotel, we will enjoy a light lunch before check-in. After unpacking and refreshing ourselves, we will make a walking tour of Leiden city centre, including a visit to a working windmill. In the early evening we'll walk to a nearby Dutch pancake house for our Welcome Dinner.
Leiden in the evening
Day 2 (Monday) Amsterdam (B)
After breakfast, we will catch a train to Amsterdam. Barry will lead a walking tour, pointing out famous sites along the way. In the afternoon, guests will be able to pick their own activities, such as a visit to a museum or canal sightseeing cruise. Barry will continue with his walking tour of neighbourhoods for those interested, and guests may return to Leiden with Barry in late afternoon or stay longer and return by train on their own later in the evening.
Day 3 (Tuesday) Keukenhof & Haarlem (B)
After breakfast, we will take a 30 minute bus ride to the nearby Keukenhof Tulip Park. Guests will be free to wander this amazing facility at their leisure. In the late afternoon, we will catch a bus into Haarlem. After a walk (and coffee) in this lovely city, we will return to Leiden by train for a free evening.
Keukenhof Tulip Park
Day 4 (Wednesday) Aalsmeer Flower Market, Katwijk ann Zee Walk (B, D)
Early birds and flower lovers can join Barry for a very early visit to Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer, returning to the hotel for breakfast. Mid-morning, we will catch a bus to nearby Katwijk aan Zee for a walk through the dunes and along the beach. Upon returning to Leiden, guests will have time to explore the Farmer’s Market or take a bike ride into the nearby countryside. Dinner will be at Barry's favourite Indonesian restaurant for a ‘rijstafel’ buffet.
Royal FloraHolland flower auction
Day 5 (Thursday) Delft & Rotterdam (B) On this day we will visit Delft, one of Holland's most famous and picturesque small cities. We will visit the Royal Delft Blue factory, followed by lunch and free time in the town square. Thursday is Market Day, so there will be lots of activity and things to see. Mid afternoon, we will catch a train to nearby Rotterdam for a short walking tour, followed by free time for dinner at the spectacular Markt Hall.
Day 6 (Friday) The Hague (B)
We will head to the nearby capital of The Hague for a variety of activities, including Madurodam, Scheveningen Beach, the Dutch Parliament and the precious Mauritshuis Museum, home to Vermeer's famous Girl with a Pearl painting.
Girl with Pearl at Maurithuis Museum
Day 7 (Saturiday) A LA CARTE Day (B,D)
On this day, guests get to make their own program (with help from Barry). Some will undoubtedly return to Amsterdam, while others may take a photography tour of Leiden. For those more adventourous, a day-trip to Kinderdijk to see the windmills is another option. Several hiking, cycling and walking tours are available in the region. We will finish our day with a Farewell Dinner in Leiden.
Day 8 (Sunday) Heading home (B)
After an early breakfast, we will head to the airport to catch our 11:55 Air Canada flight home, arriving in Toronto at 14:05.
Girl with Pearl at Maurithuis Museum