Amsterdam Cafe vs Coffee Shop vs Coffeeshop: What’s the Difference?

Amsterdam Cafe vs Coffee Shop vs Coffeeshop: What’s the Difference?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know already that the Netherlands tolerates the consumption of marijuana in small amounts. After all, it has been talked about pretty often in movies, TV shows, and popular culture in general.

If you are a first time visitor to Amsterdam, then you need to know the real meaning of a “Coffeeshop” in the Netherlands. Also, if you’d like to know about the city’s cannabis scene, this post is for you.

FYI: Just because I’m posting this, doesn’t mean I encourage the use of cannabis. But if you’d like to try it out, no judgments.

Marijuana is classified as a “soft drug” and has been legalized in many parts of the world in recent years, including some states in the United States.

What is a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam?

A Coffeeshop in Amsterdam
A Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

A “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam (and the Netherlands in general) is not your typical coffee house where one goes to buy coffee or tea but is something else. It is a place that’s licensed to sell cannabis products to its visitors. Yes, you might also get coffee here but that’s not the main point. 

Under the drug policy of the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis products in small quantities is allowed by licensed coffeeshops. Licensing the sale of cannabis was introduced by the Dutch government in the Netherlands in the early 1970s to keep the use of hard drugs and soft drugs separated.

It is a smart idea for the government to legalize things that the citizens will do anyway, this way the government can keep an eye on it and earn tax from the sales. Just so you know, prostitution is also legal in the Netherlands and the Dutch capital’s Red Light District is famous all over the world.

Amsterdam Cafe vs Coffee Shop vs Coffeeshop

So, the difference is just a ” ” space between the words coffee and shop. So, a “coffeeshop” is not a “coffee shop”. The first is a weed cafe and the latter is a normal cafe.

Yes, the only difference in the name is the lack of space ” “. Not many people in Holland call the coffee-selling establishments “coffee shops”, they are usually called cafes or coffee houses.

See my Amsterdam Coffeeshops post to get a list of some of the best ones to visit.

Fun Fact: The first coffee shop in Amsterdam was Mellow Yellow, which opened in 1972. It actually started as a “tea house” before Coffeeshops were even a thing. Sadly Mellow Yellow had to close down in 2017 because of a new restriction where Coffeeshops within a radius of 250 meters within schools had to shut down.

What Can One Find in a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

A pack of Reefers from one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam
A pack of Reefers from one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam
  • Weed, Hash – the coffeeshops in Amsterdam have many different strains and buds that one can smoke. Note: you can’t buy more than 5 grams per transaction.
  • The Netherlands has a restriction of what can be put in edibles. They can only be made with raw cannabis. Edibles made from THC or CBD extracts are prohibited. So, if you want to try edibles, look for Space cakes (cakes with marijuana), cookies, and cannabis gummies.
  • Pre-rolled joints, reefers (cannabis cigarettes) – perfect for those who don’t know how to roll their joints.
  • Usually simple non-alcoholic drinks like a cup of coffee, tea, smoothies, etc. I do remember drinking a glass of orange juice in one of the coffeeshops.
  • You will most likely find snacks, quick bites, and other munchies like poffertjes, bitterballen, etc.

What Won’t You Find in a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

  • Alcohol. You won’t find even light alcoholic beverages like beer and wine
  • Hard drugs – so no magic mushrooms, MDMA, or other substances.
  • Tobacco in many cases. Visitors who want to smoke their weed mixed with tobacco are limited to special enclosed smoking areas. Don’t worry, you will get a non-tobacco herbal filler to mix your weed or hash with to roll a joint.

What about Magic Mushrooms?

Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam
Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam

Magic Mushrooms are illegal in the Netherlands, but you can easily buy truffles in special “headshops” or “smart shops”. They are the same in terms of effect except they grow underground unlike the typical magic mushrooms.

Typical Amsterdam Coffeeshop Menu

Please note that the prices go up every few years but I hope the below picture will give you a basic idea of what you can find in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam and the cost.

Smokey Coffeeshop in Amsterdam Menu in 2019
Smokey Coffeeshop in Amsterdam Menu in 2019

Quick Tips for Visiting Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops

Here are some quick tips to help you stay safe and enjoy Amsterdam’s coffeeshop scene.

  • Don’t underestimate the potency, especially in the case of edibles. Even if you are a regular smoker, Amsterdam’s weed hits a bit more. The edibles take a bit longer but the high is usually stronger and lasts longer.
  • Respect the Dutch drug tolerance policy and stay within the rules. Understand that the coffeeshops aren’t a “party zone”. If your motive is to drink, get high, be loud and obnoxious, then you would be better off in a bar or a club. See my post about Amsterdam’s top party places.
  • Always buy from licensed coffeeshops and smart shops. Don’t buy drugs from the street dealers.
  • If you’re on a solo trip to Amsterdam and would like to experience a typical Dutch coffeeshop but are nervous to do this alone, you can opt for a tour. In that case, you will be with a small group of people and you might just make some fun friends.

Here are some of the tours of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops that you can check out. Be sure to read their reviews so that you pick the best one that’s for you.

Which Coffeeshops to Visit in Amsterdam in 2024?

Paradox Café - Amsterdam Coffeeshops
Paradox Café – Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Although the number has gone down in the last few years, Amsterdam still has more than 200 coffeeshops and a majority are city center.

I do have a dedicated post on my website listing some of the best and iconic Coffeeshops in Amsterdam that you can visit. Here a smaller list of the best coffeeshops that you can visit:

  • Kadinsky
  • Paradox Café
  • Grey Area
  • Barney’s
  • 1e Hulp
  • The Bulldog – locals don’t like this touristy chain but they were popularized by Snoop Dogg.

My personal experience is to avoid the Red Light District and the area around and pick one of the quieter coffeeshops in residential areas for a cozy atmosphere – that’s why I recommend Paradox in Haarlem.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam to Enjoy Coffeeshops?

As someone who visits Amsterdam many times a year, my best ever was in a hostel near Oostpark called Generator Hostel. It was a hostel but still felt luxurious because of the open spaces and amenities. The location was spot on – close to everything but far enough to be quiet.

Make sure to read this post for tips about visiting Amsterdam.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.   We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Is Rotterdam Worth Visiting? Second Largest City of the Netherlands

Is Rotterdam Worth Visiting? Second Largest City of the Netherlands

Traveling to Rotterdam is a unique experience for every traveler. Here, everyone will find something for themselves. Many tourists note that the impressions of their first trip turn out to be much more vivid and rich than they expected. And this is not surprising.

Rotterdam is a vibrant and modern city located in the Netherlands, known for its innovative architecture, diverse cultural scene, and bustling port. It is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.

Rijnhaven, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Rijnhaven, Rotterdam, the Netherlands via Unsplash

Rotterdam is home to the largest port in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The Port of Rotterdam is a major maritime hub situated in the city and plays a crucial role in global trade and logistics.

The city combines modern architecture, cultural heritage, and an inspiring atmosphere. Therefore, if you are still wondering whether it’s worth visiting Rotterdam at all, don’t doubt, it’s worth it. Today we will try to make you fall in love with this small town in the Netherlands.

10 Reasons to Visit Rotterdam

Walking through the streets of Rotterdam, everyone can feel like they are part of a modern work of art, in which every corner of the city seems thought out to the smallest detail. We offer 10 reasons why you should visit it.

1) Rotterdam rose from the ashes

Rotterdam’s history dates back to the late Middle Ages, and while the city has undergone significant changes over the centuries, its origins can be traced to the 13th century.

Rotterdam originated as a small fishing village around the Rotte River. The first recorded mention of Rotterdam dates back to 1283 when a dam was constructed in the Rotte River, giving the settlement its name. The dam served as a means to control water levels and prevent flooding.

One of the notable structures from the 13th century was the Delft Gate (Delftse Poort), which served as one of the entrance gates to the city. While the gate no longer stands today, it was a significant part of Rotterdam’s medieval fortifications.

Today Rotterdam is the pearl of the Netherlands. It is a city that rose from the ashes of the destruction of World War II to become an incomparable work of modern architecture, cultural richness, and innovative technology.

Despite its history and the many remaining reminders of war destruction, the city demonstrates incredible strength and desire to become a solid attraction in the eyes of tourists.

Moreover, the city hosts cultural events and exhibitions all year round, making your trip rich and exciting. Try to plan a trip around the dates of one of them, and you will understand that the residents of this city know a lot about quality recreation.

2) Technological, Engineering & Architectural Marvels

Kubuswoningen - the Cube Houses of Rotterdam
Kubuswoningen – the Cube Houses of Rotterdam via Unsplash

Rotterdam City is unique in its architectural palette, represented not only by innovative cubic houses by the Dutch architect Piet Blom but also by outstanding engineering masterpieces.

Apart from the iconic Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen), you can admire iconic structures like the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug), and the Markthal, a horseshoe-shaped market hall with stunning ceiling artwork.

Since after the war the city was almost completely rebuilt, it has many objects worthy of attention. For example, the Port of Rotterdam is an ultra-modern port, considered one of the largest in the world. There’s also a futuristic station building, the Meuse tunnel, which provides transport for the city, and much more.

Rotterdam also has the world’s longest drawbridge, the Erasmus, which connects the two sides of the Nieuwe River. It received a second name – swan, due to its unique and sophisticated shape. Part of it is opened to allow ships to pass through, and in the evening it is a real pearl that amazes with the beauty of its illumination and elegance.

3) Lively Atmosphere & Nightlife

Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam, Netherlands via Unsplash

Rotterdam offers a lively nightlife with a variety of bars, pubs, clubs, and live music venues. Areas such as Witte de Withstraat are known for their vibrant nightlife, featuring a mix of traditional Dutch pubs and trendy establishments.

Witte de Withstraat is a well-known street in Rotterdam, Netherlands, located in the city center. It is often considered the cultural heart of Rotterdam. It is home to numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions, making it a popular destination for art enthusiasts and those interested in contemporary culture.

Rotterdam offers a lively and diverse live music scene with various venues catering to different musical tastes. Check out places like Rotown, Baroeg, Bird Rotterdam, Annabel, LantarenVenster, Maassilo, Dizzy Jazz Café, Grounds, and WORM.

4) Museums

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museumpark, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Museumpark, Rotterdam, Netherlands via Unsplash

This city is a perfect place for spending a vacation as there are a lot of exciting things to do in Rotterdam. It is rich in a variety of museums, including Boijmans van Beuningen, which offers a superb collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the most prominent art museums in the Netherlands and is located in the Museumpark area of Rotterdam.

A visit to the Art Nouveau Museum, the National Museum, the House of Cubism, and other cultural sites will allow you to enjoy art and history. Fans of unusual buildings and unique urban landscapes will also find many worthwhile places here.

5) Walking and cycling

Rotterdam Cycling
Cycling in Rotterdam via Unsplash

Rotterdam is a fairly green city. It has large parks and long canals which create a pleasant atmosphere for walking and relaxing in nature. Walk or cycle near Laurenskerk, also known as the Laurens Church, it is one of the oldest buildings in Rotterdam. Go to Markthall and then Witte de Withstraat.

Therefore, if you have several days to visit the city, try to just walk around it for one day. You can also rent a bicycle and ride it. Rotterdam is bike-friendly, so you can feel safe during your ride.

6) Canal Trips

There are many ways to explore Rotterdam – on foot, by bike, or by bus, but many tourists come here to explore the local canals.

Include a canal trip in your Rotterdam itinerary, this way you can see most of the architectural masterpieces, listen to many interesting stories from guides, and take a break from the bustle of the city, enjoying the silence of the water.

A canal cruise will be highly appreciated by couples because it is a real romance.

7) Culinary Scene

Market Hall and Foodhallen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Market Hall and Foodhallen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam offers a rich culinary experience reflecting the diversity of cultures and world cuisine. Tourists will be greeted here by pleasant markets, restaurants, and cafes. In addition, the city is actively promoting a variety of street food. Local food trucks can offer options from sandwiches to Thai cuisine. Therefore, while walking along the streets, you will not go hungry.

Just like Amsterdam, Rotterdam also has a Foodhallen which is a big industrial building converted into a modern food hall. You will find loads of eating and drinking options here. It is on Wilhelminakade 58.

Fenix Food Factory Katendrecht, Rotterdam
Fenix Food Factory Katendrecht, Rotterdam via Unsplash

Another interesting place for foodies is the Fenix Food Factory. It is a unique and popular food and cultural space located in the Katendrecht neighborhood of Rotterdam, Netherlands

There is also a thriving coffee culture and love for cheeses and sausages. Travelers should try the local Gouda and Edam cheeses, as well as visit several cozy coffee shops. The city is also home to fine dining establishments serving gourmet dishes using local and seasonal ingredients.

8) Waterfront and Cityscape Views

The skyline of Rotterdam. Photo taken on the Euromast next to Het park
The skyline of Rotterdam. Photo taken on the Euromast next to Het Park via Unsplash

Rotterdam offers a variety of stunning views, from modern architecture and bustling cityscapes to scenic waterfronts. Here are some notable viewpoints and areas in Rotterdam where you can enjoy impressive views:


The Euromast is an iconic observation tower in Rotterdam, providing panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. You can take an elevator to the top for a breathtaking 360-degree view, and on a clear day, you can see as far as The Hague and Antwerp.

Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug)

The Erasmus Bridge is one of Rotterdam’s most recognizable landmarks. Crossing the Nieuwe Maas River, the bridge offers excellent views of the city skyline, especially when viewed from the Kop van Zuid area.


Another picturesque bridge in Rotterdam is the Willemsbrug, connecting the northern and southern parts of the city. It provides a lovely view of the skyline, particularly at sunset.

Kop van Zuid

This waterfront area on the south bank of the river is known for its modern architecture, including the Erasmus Bridge and the De Rotterdam building. It’s a great place to stroll and take in the skyline views.


The Maastoren is the tallest building in the Netherlands, and it offers impressive views of the city and port. While it’s primarily an office building, some events and open days provide the public with the opportunity to enjoy the views.


The Katendrecht neighborhood, once a port area, has transformed and offers a mix of historic and modern elements. It’s a vibrant district with great views of the skyline, especially from places like the Fenix Food Factory.

Market hall Rotterdam with restaurants inside
Market hall Rotterdam with restaurants inside via Unsplash


The Markthal is an architectural marvel with its colorful interior and impressive arched ceiling. While exploring the market, you can enjoy views of the artwork on the ceiling and the bustling market below.

Laurenskerk Tower

The Laurenskerk, or St. Lawrence Church, has a tower that you can climb for panoramic views of the city. It provides a different perspective on Rotterdam’s architecture and layout.

Skyline from the Water

Consider taking a boat tour or water taxi to see Rotterdam’s skyline from the water. This perspective offers a unique and picturesque view of the city’s architecture.

Central Library (Bibliotheek Rotterdam)

The top floor of the Central Library in Rotterdam offers a quiet place to enjoy views of the city. It’s a hidden gem for those seeking a more relaxed setting to appreciate the panoramic views.

8) Relaxation with children

Another big advantage of Rotterdam is the possibility of traveling with children. Even kids will find it interesting here. For example, there are children’s museums “Maritime Museum” and “Delft Science Center”.

Both museums offer interactive activities and a variety of exhibits that little explorers will love. For example, in Delft, you can create your ceramic gift. In local parks, you can feed the ducks and organize a family picnic. Children may also enjoy the floating forest, which consists of 20 artificial trees.

9) Good Public Transportation

Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram
Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram via Unsplash

Rotterdam has a well-developed and efficient public transport system that includes trams, buses, metro, and water taxis. The system is operated by the Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET) and connects various parts of the city and its surrounding areas.

10) Good Base for Exploring the Nearby Destinations

Den Haag

Den Haag is a popular beach destination located just a 20-30-minute drive from Rotterdam. It is commonly called “the Hague” in English. You can even arrive in Den Haag on a bicycle from Rotterdam.

The Scheveningen Beach of Den Haag is a popular destination for relaxation, water sports, and dining with a view. It is a beautiful sandy beach and a lively promenade so offers a change of scenery from Rotterdam.


Schokland is a former island located in the Zuiderzee, a large inland sea that existed in the central part of the Netherlands. The island was once part of the historical region of Flevoland, and its history is closely tied to the challenges of living in a low-lying, marshy environment.

This is a cultural landscape in the former Zuiderzee region, featuring archaeological sites and remnants of settlements and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Leiden is a historic city with a medieval city center that features charming canals, historic buildings, almshouses, and cobblestone streets.

Leiden is home to one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, Leiden University, founded in 1575 which has produced numerous influential scholars and Nobel laureates. Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, dating back to 1590.

If you want to do it the Dutch way, then you can make a day trip to Leiden on a bicycle from Rotterdam. The cycling path will take you via Zoetermeer and is 33 km on each side.

How to Reach Rotterdam

Rotterdam Centraal Train station
Rotterdam Centraal Train station via Unsplash

Rotterdam, being a major city in the Netherlands, is well-connected and accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are common ways to reach Rotterdam:

  1. By Air:
    • Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM): Rotterdam has its own airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM), located about 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) northwest of the city center. It primarily serves regional and European flights.
    • Schiphol Airport (AMS): Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is the largest international airport in the Netherlands. From Schiphol, you can easily reach Rotterdam by train in about 30-40 minutes. Trains run frequently between Schiphol and Rotterdam Centraal station.
  2. By Train:
    • Rotterdam is well-connected to the Dutch and European rail networks. Rotterdam Centraal is the main railway station, and it serves as a major transportation hub.
    • High-speed trains, Intercity Direct, and Thalys connect Rotterdam to cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, and Paris.
    • An intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal takes around 1.5 hours or more. High-speed trains take as little as 38 minutes.
  3. By Car:
    • Rotterdam is accessible by car, and the city is well-connected to the Dutch highway network. Major highways leading to Rotterdam include the A16 from the south (coming from Belgium) and the A13 from the north (coming from Amsterdam and The Hague).
  4. By Bus:
    • Intercity buses connect Rotterdam to various cities within the Netherlands and neighboring countries. Bus services are operated by different companies, including FlixBus and Eurolines.
  5. By Boat:
    • Rotterdam is a major port city, and if you’re traveling by cruise or ferry, you may arrive at one of the city’s ports. Passenger terminals are located along the river, offering easy access to the city.

So Is Rotterdam worth visiting?

It depends on what you are looking for. If you’re seeking one of those European cities with a medieval town center, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and historic buildings, then Rotterdam isn’t for you.

Rotterdam is a city that provides new experiences at every turn. It surprises with its modern energy, while at the same time immersing you in history and culture. You should visit it.

25 Best Souvenirs from Amsterdam (Authentic and Very Dutch)

25 Best Souvenirs from Amsterdam (Authentic and Very Dutch)

Do you ever buy souvenirs when you travel? I sometimes do so that I can save a small memory of my travels. At times I also gift something meaningful to my family and friends.

I don’t like the “typical souvenirs” that you can buy in souvenir shops in most touristy destinations. I’m talking about fridge magnets, key chains, shot glasses, coffee mugs, coasters, or just some random items.

Instead, I look for unique souvenirs that perhaps tell a story. It could be something handmade from a flea market. I look for things that are unique to that specific destination. 

Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam
Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam

Yes, I did buy a key ring with the Amsterdam logo and a windmill fridge magnet for my parents when I first visited this city. But now I visit local markets to look for unique handmade things and authentic souvenirs.

I love going to Albert Cuyp Market which is pretty big. I also like the Waterlooplein Flea Market but I feel that it has become somewhat expensive. I make it a point to make a small trip to the local grocery stores and supermarkets like Albert Heijn (a.k.a. Appie) or HEMA for interesting things.

So with that, it took me multiple trips to Amsterdam to realize what the best souvenirs to buy from Amsterdam for everyone.

Canal Houses or Windmill made with Delft Pottery

Delft Pottery Canal Houses from Amsterdam
KLM Delft Pottery Canal Houses from Amsterdam by Sage and Lilly home

Let’s talk about the local handicrafts of the Netherlands. Delft Blue pottery is an age-old craft of the Netherlands. It is pretty and the delicate details will make you fall in love with the items.

Of course, you can buy a coffee mug, ceramic animals, or ashtrays but let’s go a step further and buy something that’s truly unique to Amsterdam. Get yourself a canal house!

The one depicted in the picture above is a limited edition from KLM that the airlines used for serving their Bols Genever gin. The Delft Blue Pottery Canal houses mania began because of this.

Canal houses are the narrow buildings of Amsterdam that look a bit lopsided and sometimes are called dancing gingerbread houses. I hardly ever buy decor since I’m more of a minimalist but these are truly adorable. They look very cute with Christmas decorations too.

Delft Blue Pottery windmill
Delft Blue Pottery windmill via Pixabay

Apart from canal houses, another thing you can buy is a ceramic windmill made with Delft Blue Pottery. Windmills are a common sight in the Netherlands, and traditional Dutch windmills are even better. You can truly bring the beauty of the country back home with something like this.

You don’t need to look in any special shop but you will find Delft Blue Pottery in most of the touristy souvenir shops in the city center.


Stroopwafels - Amsterdam souvenirs
Stroopwafels – Amsterdam souvenirs

Stroopwafels are a traditional Dutch cookie that looks like a small waffle. The taste is super caramel-ey because of the filling. The syrup-like filling is called Stroop, hence the name.

Just like a lot of other Amsterdam souvenirs, you can buy the Stroopwafels from literally anywhere – supermarkets, and grocery stores but the most famous ones are sold at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels. They aren’t the best at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels, but it is a matter of Instagram publicity.

In many high-end hotels in the Netherlands, a miniature version of Stroopwafels is included complimentary along with a tee and coffee.

I used to buy packs of Stroopwafels for my father before flying out to India each time because he loved them.

Fun fact: Stroopwafels were originally made in the city of Gouda. Yes, the same place from where Gouda cheese comes from.

Dutch Cheese like Gouda

Gouda Cheese and a bicycle - typical sight in the Netherlands
Gouda Cheese in the Netherlands

C’mon, you can’t leave the Netherlands without buying the Dutch Cheeses. I fell in love with all the Dutch cheese instantly.

Of course, there’s the world-famous Gouda cheese – young and aged. I prefer the aged one. I also love Maasdam cheese which has a bit of a nutty flavor and has usually holes in it like Emmental cheese.

My personal favourite is the Old Amsterdam Cheese which is an aged hard cheese and is full of amazing flavor. It pairs very well with red wine.

Old Amsterdam is a brand of Dutch Gouda cheese. You don’t really have to go to its main store to buy it but you can get it in any supermarket in Amsterdam (like Albert Heijn).

If you want to visit the Old Amsterdam cheese store, they are in 4 places – Damrak 62 (a touristy area near Amsterdam Centraal Train Station), Singel 490 (near Flower Market), Damstraat 17-19 (a super touristy area in De Wallen), and at Schiphol Airport.

Don’t miss the Farmstead cheese also called the farmhouse cheese. Yes, you need to buy them from farmhouses but they can also be found in supermarkets. Look for “Naturamel Cheese”, it is a brand that sells Dutch farmhouse cheese.

Cheese Slicer

Cheese Slicer for Gouda Cheese
Cheese Slicer for Gouda Cheese

If you do buy hard Dutch cheeses like Gouda, then keep a note to also buy a cheese slicer from a local grocery store.

Even if you already have a cheese slicer, take a look at the one that’s made just for Gouda cheese and you will want to buy it.

These aren’t expensive and can sometimes cost between just EUR 2 to 5, but they definitely make it easier to consume these Dutch cheeses. If you buy them from a souvenir shop, then they will be for EUR 10 and will have a fancy Delft Blue ceramic handle.

A cheese slicer is a great souvenir for cheese lovers, especially those who like hard cheese.

Tulip Bulbs from Bloemenmarkt

Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam - Bloemenmarkt
Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam – Bloemenmarkt

Do you know that the Netherlands is a major producer of Tulips? These blooms have been depicted pretty often in Dutch Golden Age paintings. The Tulip Mania began as early as the 17th century.

People visit from all over the world to see the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens in spring. You may not end up going there but you can buy yourself some tulip bulbs!

Tulip Bulbs are onion-like things that you can plant in your garden to grow tulips. Because they grow from bulbs, they are perennial – meaning they grow back every year and bloom. These are the best Souvenirs from Amsterdam to buy for that friend you have who’s into gardening.

Tulips inside Bloemenmarkt - Amsterdam's flower market
Tulips inside Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s flower market

While you are in Amsterdam, go visit the Bloemenmarkt -the famous floating flower market along the Singel Canal. Bloemenmarkt is an open-air market and I always mention it in my Amsterdam itineraries.

Not only it is a great place to visit during your time in Amsterdam, but while you’re there you can buy yourself tulip bulbs so that you can try to grow these beauties in your garden back home.

You will see wooden tulips in many souvenir shops in Amsterdam, but from here you can buy cut Tulips. It is always a good idea to buy them on your last day. Yes, it is allowed to take them on the airplane and you will most likely receive a certificate from the seller.

Dutch Cocoa Powder

Dutch Cocoa Powder - Amsterdam Souvenirs
Dutch Cocoa Powder – Amsterdam Souvenirs via Pixabay

Did you know that Cocoa powder is a Dutch invention? If you or someone you know enjoys baking, then a pack of Dutch cocoa powder makes a perfect souvenir. It is smoother, darker, and usually richer than the typical cocoa powder. It has less caffeine than the normal cocoa powder.

If you are buying it for yourself as a souvenir, then keep in mind that you have to use it a bit differently in baking than other cocoa powders because the Dutch one isn’t acidic. If you’re not baking with it then you can use it like a normal cocoa powder.

In order to buy Dutch cocoa powder, just go to any supermarket and buy the cocoa powder that’s sold there. Of course, it won’t say “Dutch cocoa powder” when you’re buying it there but just look for “cacao” on the carton.

Bicycle Bells or Gear

Tiny bicycle repair kit from Haarlem, the Netherlands
Tiny bicycle repair kit from Haarlem, the Netherlands

Do you have a friend who loves cycling? Get them something useful for their bike from Amsterdam, after all, it is the bicycle capital of the world.

When you arrive in Amsterdam, you will notice an abundance of cycles even before you see the narrow buildings or canals. There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people. (I talk more about this in my Amsterdam travel tips post.)

For that reason, the Netherlands is the perfect country from where you can buy something bike-related like a bicycle bell, a battery-powered headlight, a cell phone holder for the bike, or a tiny repair kit. Even better if you could find something with the Amsterdam logo or pictures of canal houses.

Go to small bike rental shops or local grocery stores and you are guaranteed to find some fun bicycle-related souvenirs.

The above-featured bicycle repair kit is a tiny box that was gifted to me by Carlton Square Hotel in Haarlem.

Sex Toys

Sailor with the nose vibrator in a Souvenir shop in Amsterdam
Sailor with the nose vibrator in a Souvenir shop in Amsterdam via Unsplash

I feel bad for mentioning sex toys right after wooden toys for children but the reality is that Amsterdam does have a massive sex tourism.

Amsterdam’s red light area is the perfect spot from where you can buy a kinky souvenir. Make it kinky and funny then you have got yourself a souvenir/gift that your friend will laugh about for ages.

Tony’s Chocolonely

Tony's Chocolonely from Amsterdam - top Dutch gift
Tony’s Chocolonely from Amsterdam – top Dutch gift via Unsplash

Tony’s Chocolonely is a Dutch chocolate company that isn’t old but their chocolates are super popular in the Netherlands and as a result, it is now one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the country.

If you have a friend who’d appreciate a sweet treat, then get them a chocolate from Tony’s Chocolonely. I highly recommend the Zartbitter chocolate and also the one with caramel and sea salt. These chocolates are so good that they’re addictive!

I did mention earlier that cocoa powder is a Dutch invention, and Dutch cocoa powder is a bit different than others. As a result, the chocolates taste smoother and richer in Holland.

Hagelslag – Chocolate sprinkles

Hagelslag - Dutch chocolate sprinkles
Hagelslag – Dutch chocolate sprinkles

When you go to Amsterdam, and if you befriend a local – you might get introduced to Hagelslag – an interesting Dutch snack that’s super simple.

Dutch Chocolate sprinkles are popular and sometimes the locals put them on toast for a sweet breakfast. Of course, the most famous Chocolate Sprinkles are by De Ruijter but you can look for more alternatives in other Dutch supermarkets too.

Klomp – Wooden Clogs

Try Dutch Clogs - Wooden Shoes - Itinerary for the Netherlands
Try Dutch Clogs – Wooden Shoes – Itinerary for the Netherlands

Now this isn’t for everyone but if you like croc clogs, then try the wooden clogs from the Netherlands. Of course, you can use them as decor but I’m all about functional items. So go to De Klompenboer, get a pair of wooden shoes that fit you, and use them as your gardening shoes.

Yes, some Dutch farmers and gardeners still wear them. The wooden clogs are safer than steel-capped shoes in some circumstances and are officially accredited as safety shoes with the CE Mark.

De Winkel van Nijntje for Miffy Themed Items

De Winkel van Nijntje - Miffy themed items in Amsterdam
De Winkel van Nijntje – Miffy-themed items in Amsterdam via Unsplash

If you visit Japan, you might just want to visit a Hello Kitty-themed store. Similarly, if you visit the Netherlands, you should visit this Miffy-themed store.

Go to De Winkel van Nijntje in Amsterdam, it is one of the most famous kids’ stores with Miffy bunny-themed items. Not just kids but there are Miffy-themed items for grown-ups too.

Miffy is a fictional rabbit that’s a famous Dutch creation and has its own book series too. So this isn’t just a random children’s store but the theme is very Dutch because Miffy is a Dutch character.

You can buy miffy-themed toothbrushes, night lamps, coffee mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, and of course books.

Cute Gifts from Mouse Mansion (Het Muizenhuis)

Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

I mentioned Het Muizenhuis in my post about exploring Amsterdam with children. It is a one-of-a-kind store with a permanent exhibit of toy mice family and their elaborate house and village. It is like Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland but for mice.

They sell D.I.Y. kits that children can use and make their own miniature rooms – like classrooms, kitchens, etc. They also sell the mouse characters in plush toys.

Inside Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Inside Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

Whether you have kids or not, I’m sure you know at least one. If you’d like to buy a small adorable gift for them, consider Mouse Mansion’s DIY kits.

These DIY kits from Het Muizenhuis aren’t exactly cheap but neither is traveling to Amsterdam. If you are here for a vacation, then I have to assume that you can afford a gift from Het Muizenhuis.

Wooden Toys and Wind Up Toys from Mechanisch Speelgoed

Mechanisch Speelgoed - Toy Store in Amsterdam
Mechanisch Speelgoed – Toy Store in Amsterdam

When I was a kid, I often played with wind-up toys. If you don’t know what I mean, I’m talking about mechanical toys with keys, where you turn the key a few times, and the toy moves. These kinds of toys aren’t easy to find anymore since toys with buttons have replaced them.

Guess what, I found the most amazing toy store in Amsterdam with such kinds of old-school toys. The shop is small and has two levels. I spent so long here with my friend and we fell in love with almost all the toys here.

Wind up toys with keys in Mechanisch Speelgoed
Wind up toys with keys in Mechanisch Speelgoed

Wooden toys are super famous in Amsterdam and you can buy them too at Mechanisch Speelgoed. My daughter is too old for simple wooden toys but I did get her other mechanical toys.

I bought a pink robot for my little girl with a key. When you turn the key a few times, the robot walks. I understand this isn’t an “Amsterdam-specific” souvenir but it was a perfect gift for my little girl.

Van Gogh Souvenirs

Van Gogh - Starry Starry Night tote bag
Van Gogh – Starry Starry Night tote bag via Unsplash

If there’s one touristy souvenir that you want to buy, then let it be this. Unless you are living under a rock, then you surely know who Vincent Van Gogh was. His extremely bright and colorful watercolor masterpieces are famous all over the world.

I highly recommend you visit Van Gogh Museum and get a nice souvenir from the museum shop. In case you don’t end up visiting the Van Gogh Museum Shop, you can still find a lot of souvenirs that depict his art pieces.

For example, you can buy Starry Starry Night tote bags, self-portrait socks, mugs, and many of his other artworks featured on backpacks, scarves, tee shirts, and whatnot.

You will also find Van Gogh souvenirs at Schiphol Airport. If you forget to buy them there too, you can also order them from the Van Gogh Museum shop that’s online.

From Hortus Botanicus Gift Shop

Dutch farmers and gardeners are world-famous, so you should try to visit Hortus Botanicus while you are in Amsterdam. It turns out that one of the best things that I bought from my daughter was from the gift shop here.

During my weekend in Amsterdam, I went to Hortus Botanicus and bought 3-D butterflies that we assembled together like a puzzle and hung them in her room with a transparent thread and they looked like they were actually floating.

Hortus Botanicus is somewhat off the radar for tourists but it is nonetheless historical and is truly Dutch. There is a butterfly room in Hortus Botanicus and the memory of that remains with me when I look at the 3-D butterflies that I bought from there.

Jenever (Gin) or Dutch Beer

Amstel Beer in Amsterdam

Do you enjoy alcoholic drinks? If yes then one of the best Amsterdam souvenirs for you is Jenever, a kind of Dutch gin. (Just like you’d pick Mezcal if you go to Oaxaca). Jenever is the juniper-flavoured traditional liquor in the Netherlands. If you think Jenever was inspired by British gin, you’re wrong – it was the other way around.

Amsterdam is known as one of the “jenever cities” or jeneversteden. It is made by is made by The Stillery, Van Wees, and Wynand Fockink. Traditionally it is served in a tulip-shaped glass.

If you enjoy beer then most likely you have already tried Dutch beer, after all, Heinekin is popular all over the world. But if you visit Amsterdam, look beyond Heinekin and try the craft beer. Of course, you can’t carry craft beer back home, instead buy Amstel and Grolsch.

The best place to buy Jenever and Dutch beer is at Schiphol Airport duty-free shops.

Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam
Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam

We all know Amsterdam has a cannabis culture and if you or any of your friends smoke then a truly authentic souvenir that you can buy from this city is something marijuana-related.

No, you can’t buy weed or joints and carry them outside Amsterdam – it’s not legal and not worth the risk. Instead, you can buy weed crushers, pipes, bongs, wooden crushing bowls, and many other things that depict Amsterdam’s liberal ganja culture.

Walk around Amsterdam’s city center and you will see many “head shops” or “smart shops” in the sinful neighborhood of De Wallen where you can buy cannabis-related souvenirs in Amsterdam. Read my Amsterdam Coffeeshops post to get more info about the city’s marijuana scene.


When you are in a smart shop or a head shop, a good thing to buy is CBD oil. These aren’t illegal in most countries and in Germany, one can buy and use CBD oil that has less than 0.2% THC.

The CBD Oil that is normally available in the Netherlands is 0.05% THC, which should work fine with most of the countries but please check the restrictions of your home country before you buy it and fly back with it.

I haven’t personally used CBD Oils but I have heard that they help people who have insomnia, chronic pain, etc.


Chocomel - Chocolate and caramel drink
Chocomel – Chocolate and caramel drink

Cocomel is a Dutch chocolate and caramel drink that is super delicious. It is a Dutch brand and is available everywhere in Amsterdam.

Chocomel is sometimes available in Germany, Belgium, France, and the UK too like other Dutch products, but it is an excellent souvenir to buy for someone who likes chocolate milk. You can buy the small tetra packs that are further packed together in a group of 6, and if you pack smart then it won’t explode.

Garden Art

I have mentioned over and over that the Dutch gardens and gardeners are world-famous. If you have a garden of your own or if you know of someone who does, then buy them garden art.

This can be something small and cute like LED-powered butterflies, pinwheels, and even small windmills that move when it is windy.

Amsterdam Rain Poncho
Amsterdam Rain Poncho

Do you know it can rain anytime in Amsterdam? So Amsterdam is a perfect place to get a rain poncho because they are sold everywhere.

If you want to buy a funny souvenir, buy one of those typical one-time-use rain ponchos that cost just between 3-5 Euros and they look like you’re wearing a trash bag. They come in a tiny pack so you can just put them in your backpack and forget about them. Thank me on a rainy day when you can finally wear it.

Honestly, you can definitely use them more than once and I have used them over and over again while cucling and I love how comfortable they are.

These rain ponchos are affordable and functional. So they are truly the best things you can buy for friends who like the outdoors.

Sinterklaas Items

Sinterklaas is Sint-Nicolaas – a Dutch depiction of Saint Nicholas that became the Christmas icon that we know today – Santa Claus. If you are traveling to Amsterdam during the holiday time in November and December, then you will surely find a lot of Sinterklaas souvenirs and some are really funny.

Sinterklaas has a white horse and a helper called Zwarte Piet. The day of the feast day of Sinterklaas is December 6th in the Netherlands (also in Germany). So right around this date, you will see a lot of cute Christmas decor that features Sinterklaas.

Buy your own Sinterklaas for home so that you can remind yourself of your travels when you open your Christmas decoration box back home.

Dutch Christmas Tree Ornaments

Another one for the holidays, if you are going to be in Amsterdam in November and December, then it is the perfect place to buy one-of-a-kind Christmas tree ornaments as souvenirs.

You will find cute wooden clogs, hanging canal houses, windmills, bicycles, and many other small things that depict aspects of this Dutch capital. Add these unique ornaments to your Christmas decoration box so that you get reminded of your travels to Amsterdam when you’re back home.

Amsterdam Puzzle

I’m all about buying functional and usable souvenirs and I hardly ever buy decor unless it is super special (like canal houses). So let me present to you one last souvenir idea – get a jigsaw puzzle with Amsterdam’s cityscape.

Unlike Dutch snacks or drinks, this is one souvenir that you will enjoy over and over with your family or friends. It also makes an amazing gift!

Closing Thoughts on Amsterdam Souvenirs

Bar Bukowski, Amsterdam Oost
Bar Bukowski, Amsterdam Oost

I have a tip for you – you don’t always need to spend money to buy a souvenir. You can save small mementos like your city transport card, or paper coaster in a bar where you had an amazing time.

I loved this simple coaster at Bar Bukowski and I carried it home as a reminder of my solo trip to Amsterdam. I stuck it onto my fridge with a magnet and voila – I have a perfect souvenir that tells a story.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.   We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Is Zandvoort Worth Visiting? The Beach near Amsterdam

Is Zandvoort Worth Visiting? The Beach near Amsterdam

If you live in Europe in a country near the Netherlands, then you have most definitely heard of Zandvoort. It is a beach destination that’s close to Amsterdam popular amongst the local Dutch and the nearby Germans.

Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are two beaches that are easy to reach on a day trip from Amsterdam and are along the North Sea.

Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches near Amsterdam
Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches near Amsterdam

So the question is – is Zandvoort worth visiting?

I visited Zandvoort twice in the summer of 2023, so I will help you decide with the below points.

Planning a last-minute trip to Zandvoort? Check my recommendations for accommodation:

  • Pension Zandvoort aan Zee: A cozy apartment that’s close to the beach with all the basic amenities.
  • Hotel / Pension Villa Tanahlot: Another cozy apartment close to the beach and is more affordable than most of the other places to stay in Zandvoort.
  • Poort Beach Boutique Apartments: A truly beachfront property on Bloemendaal Beach. If you have the money then spend on this place to have the beach experience that you deserve on a beach holiday.

Zandvoort Beach & Bloemendaal Beach

Zandvoort Beach near Haarlem
Zandvoort Beach near Haarlem

I have lived in Asia for most of my life so I’m spoilt when it comes to beaches since one can find the perfect palm-fringed sandy beaches in many coastal areas of Asia.

European beaches have often disappointed me. I didn’t expect a lot from Zandvoort too but I was pleasantly surprised to see how stunning this beach is.

Zandvoort Beach is massive, it stretches to 9 kilometers long, and Bloemendaal Beach adds another 4.5 km and is 100 meters wide on average. There are plenty of sand dunes too!

Enjoying the Bloemendaal Beach in August 2023
Enjoying the Bloemendaal Beach in August 2023

Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches are one after another so if you are visiting Zandvoort, you can definitely visit the nearby Bloemendaal on that same trip. Bloemendaal definitely has a better beach area because it is less crowded than Zandvoort.

View from the top of Camping De Lakens next to Kennemerland National Park
View from the top of Camping De Lakens next to Kennemerland National Park

Both these beaches have super soft white sand and clear water that’s usually cold. The sandy part of Zandvoort Beach and Bloemendaal stole my heart because

The windy climate of Zandvoort & Bloemendaal makes ideal conditions for kite surfers. The wind also creates an interesting landscape.

So in terms of the beauty of the beach, Zandvoort definitely wins.

Kennemerland National Park

Kennemerland National Park near Bloemendaal & Zandvoort
Kennemerland National Park near Bloemendaal & Zandvoort

On the North of Bloemendal beach is Kennemerland National Park, where you can go on bicycles. The atmosphere here is very calm and you can see the natural scenery with endless dunes.

View from the top of Camping De Lakens next to Kennemerland National Park
View from the top of Camping De Lakens next to Kennemerland National Park

If you like trees and grassy hills then you will enjoy Kennemerland National Park. Don’t expect anything else here or any spectacular scenes because that’s about it.

Bird-watching enthusiasts will enjoy Kennemerland National Park because it offers a lot of possibilities.

Inside View Kennemerland National Park, the Netherlands
Inside View Kennemerland National Park, the Netherlands

I have heard that one can also see World War 2 Bunkers but we didn’t find them at all. If you are interested, then I saw a tour for EUR 20 per person which includes a walking trail and the secret WW2 bunkers.

Some travelers also saw wild horses and bison inside the national park but we didn’t. Our camping spot in Bloemendaal was right next to Kennemerland National Park, so we did see a wild deer once but not when we were inside the national park.

Costs in Zandvoort & Bloemendaal

Our backpacker shack in Bloemendaal that costed around EUR 100 per night without an attached toilet
Our backpacker shack in Bloemendaal for EUR 100 per night without an attached toilet

Zandvoort isn’t the most affordable destination. The rooms are usually at least 150 euros per night for a family in season, and they sell out pretty fast.

The campgrounds are more affordable than the rooms of course, but they are still not cheap.

The restaurants and cafes in Zandvoort aren’t cheap. Food in a restaurant for a family can be as expensive as EUR 60 for three (a couple and a kid).

If you rent a bicycle in Zandvoort, it can be as expensive as EUR 30 per day and sometimes even more.

Bicycle rental in Zandvoort and Bloemendaal is expensive
Bicycle rental in Zandvoort and Bloemendaal is expensive

Of course, there are ways to minimize costs. When you look for a place to stay, don’t just limit your options to Zandvoort, but also look at Bloemendaal. Bloemendaal isn’t cheaper but has more family-friendly stuff.

We booked a shack on a campground in Bloemendaal, cooked our own meals, and ate out only once a day. Also, we found food trucks that sold fresh seafood and fish and were affordable.

So, in terms of costs, Zandvoort definitely doesn’t win. For the price of 2 days in Zandvoort, one can enjoy a week in Portugal.

Food in Zandvoort

A fish truck in Zandvoort - Kibbeling
A fish truck in Zandvoort for Kibbeling and other seafood

I have said it before and I will reiterate – the food scene in the Netherlands is amazing. Not only is the local food delicious but one can easily find international food or also vegan versions of most of the dishes.

If you like fish then you will especially love the food in Zandvoort. Even though Dutch food isn’t spicy, it doesn’t lack flavor and that’s why I love the local food.

Seafood with a view from a food truck in Zandvoort
Seafood with a view from a food truck in Zandvoort

I love Kibbeling (the local fried fish), Bitterballen (fried balls with meat and vegan versions), seafood sandwiches, and overall I like the use of a herb called “Zeekraal” that the Dutch use, which adds a herby yet seaweed kind of a flavor.

Bitterballen at Restaurant Gestrand Bloemendaal
Bitterballen at Restaurant Gestrand Bloemendaal

Apart from that, I have always enjoyed amazing international food and I’d like to mention a place called Little Jamaican Bistro in Haarlem, just 15 minutes drive away from Zandvoort.

A lot of Dutch snacks and foods are fried, so if you don’t like that then you’d enjoy salads too that are super filling.

So in terms of food, Zandvoort definitely wins.

Weather in Zandvoort

Windy Zandvoort beach
Windy Zandvoort beach

The weather in Zandvoort is unpredictable and it can rain anytime. I don’t mean the normal rain but it gets stormy and one can’t do anything.

I have heard incidents of people whose tents flew away because of a windstorm in Zandvoort.

Of course, the months of June, July, August, and sometimes even September are warm but don’t take sunny days on the beach as a guarantee if you visit Zandvoort.

Flying Kite on Zandvoort beach
Flying Kite on Zandvoort Beach

Instead, prepare for the wind. If you are going with a kid then carry a kite and make it fun for them. My little girl loved flying her kite on the beach here because the wind made it so easy!

So in terms of weather, Zandvoort doesn’t always win but if you like kite surfing or windsurfing then it will work out well for you.

Zandvoort for Formula One Enthusiasts

Did you know that the Dutch Grand Prix has been held annually in Zandvoort since 2021? It was added to the Formula One calendar in 2019. It is called Circuit Zandvoort and also Circuit Zandvoort. Before 2017, it was called the Circuit Park Zandvoort

Zandvoort and Bloemendaal have many cycling trails and when we cycled around the Dunes, we were stopped by our guide near the race track and we could hear the practice! It is more towards Bloemendaal beach than Zandvoort beach.

If you are a Formula One enthusiast, that’s one reason for you to visit Zandvoort, even if the race isn’t occurring at the time of your visit!

Nearby Destinations

Canals, narrow houses and bridges - Haarlem not Amsterdam
Canals, narrow houses, and bridges – Haarlem not Amsterdam

One of the best things about traveling in the Netherlands is that there is always an interesting destination around and it is so easy to visit the nearby destinations.

If you visit Zandvoort, then visit the nearby Haarlem because it is just a 15-minute drive away and is pretty. You can also cycle to Haarlem from Zandvoort. I did it and it was fun.

I'm always happy in Amsterdam
I’m always happy in Amsterdam

Apart from Haarlem, you can also take a train or a bus to make a day trip to Amsterdam. You can plan it in a way that you can visit Haarlem or Amsterdam on a day when there’s a storm possibility in Zandvoort because you will still have fun in the city when it is raining!

In springtime, you can also consider visiting Keukenhof and Lisse to see the tulips.

So is Zandvoort worth visiting?

Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches are lovely
Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches are lovely

It depends. As mentioned before, Zandvoort is expensive and in summer it is even more expensive than Amsterdam, which already is an expensive destination.

So, Zandvoort is worth visiting if you are ok spending a bit more than other beach destinations. Also, if you live nearby and are looking for a beach trip with a short travel time then in that case Zandvoort makes sense.

I live around 4 hours drive away from Zandvoort so I’d pick it as a destination only when I have 2-3 days of holiday time. For a longer holiday, I’d pick the beaches of Portugal since they are more affordable and warmer.

Where to stay in Zandvoort?

Our beach shack at Kennemer Duincamping De Lakens
Our beach shack at Kennemer Duincamping De Lakens

As mentioned before, don’t limit your search for places to stay in just Zandvoort but also include Bloemendaal aan Zee.

If you want a “beachfront” room, then you need to know that you won’t get that in Zandvoort even if the booking website says it is because there is a street in front. However, on Bloemendaal you can get beachfront rooms or camping areas.

On the other hand, if you want to be close to the restaurants, bars, nightlife, or the city center within walking distance of the beach, then book something at Zandvoort.

Having visited Zandvoort twice, I’d pick Bloemendaal Beach to stay head to Zandvoort for food, nightlife, and the city scenes.

Beach Shack at Kennemer Duincamping De Lakens
Beach Shack at Kennemer Duincamping De Lakens

We stayed in a place called “Kennemer Duincamping De Lakens” which we booked directly online. This place sells out a year in advance, so I wish you all the best for finding anything here.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Amsterdam with Kids – What to do with Children in Amsterdam

Amsterdam with Kids – What to do with Children in Amsterdam

Guide to visiting Amsterdam with kids and what to do with children in Amsterdam.

Out of all the destinations that I have ever visited, I have posted the most about Amsterdam on my website because that’s one destination that I have visited over and over again.

Not only is Amsterdam stunning but is a very easy destination to explore and offers many amazing things to do for every kind of traveler.

My toddler taking a nap on her pram in Amsterdam
My toddler taking a nap in her pram in Amsterdam

So the question is, is Amsterdam ok to visit with kids? I’m happy to tell you that it is. I did visit Amsterdam with my little girl and it was a lot of fun.

Based on my multiple visits, I have created a list of amazing things that you can do in Amsterdam with your little ones. This list has been made keeping in mind children starting from the toddler phase till teenager.

Exploring Amsterdam with children
Exploring Amsterdam with children vis Unsplash

My biggest tip for exploring Amsterdam with children is to take things super slow. The city is busy and can end up being stressful because of the fast-moving bicycle traffic. So, don’t schedule too many activities in a day. I will add more tips for visiting Amsterdam with children at the end of this post.

So, if you are looking for things to do with children in Amsterdam, it is likely that you will see websites with exhaustive lists to confuse to further. I have a short, crisp, and a list of fun things to do with kids in Amsterdam.

1) Rent a Bicycle with kinderzitje

Amsterdam bicycle with child buggy
Amsterdam bicycle with child buggy

Amsterdam city isn’t car-friendly but cyclist-friendly even more than it is pedestrian-friendly. If you decide to explore this city with your children on foot, it will be too much for them.

To create an amazing memory for them of this trip, rent a bicycle with a kinderzitje, or a child seat.

You can find bicycles with seats for babies or buggies that fit 2-3 children. They are called “cargo bikes”.

Amsterdam bicycle with children buggy
Amsterdam bicycle with children’s buggy

Get a cargo bike, let your children sit in front, and take them around some of Amsterdam’s quieter streets in Jordaan that are pretty and they will have an amazing time.

Of course, if you have slightly older children, they can ride their own bicycles, or walk with you all over the city.

Albert Cuyp Bike Rental Amsterdam
Albert Cuyp Bike Rental Amsterdam

I recommend booking most of the things online but in my experience, the bicycle rental is cheaper in person, but it can be a risk if the bikes with buggies are already all rented out.

I did see cargo bikes for EUR 27 a day at Black-Bikes. I did see cheaper bikes at Albert Cuyp bike rental with child seats from EUR 10 – 15, but not a buggy.

In order to book a normal bike, you can check out MacBikes too, they have shops all over Amsterdam.

I had a bike from MacBike in 2021, which was included for free with my “I Amsterdam” city card. With this card, one gets unlimited use of public transport and free entrance to many attractions that are mentioned below. But I will talk more about the Amsterdam city card at the end of the post.

2) Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

Did you know that there’s a mouse mansion in Amsterdam? It is called Het Muizenhuis in Dutch and is in Jordaan.

The Mouse Mansion is like a miniature wonderland for mice with intricate details that will blow your mind.

Inside Het Muizenhuis - Mouse Mansion
Inside Het Muizenhuis – Mouse Mansion

There’s a living area with the bedroom of the Mouse family, kitchen, library, everything. I also loved this rollercoaster and bumper car for mice.

You can also buy books, soft toys, and DIY kits. I visited without my kid and still enjoyed it, so imagine how much fun this place is for small children. Add this place to your Amsterdam list of must-visit spots with children.

Het Muizenhuis is free to visit but we ended up buying a toy for my little girl which was for EUR 12. Click here for the location.

3) Butterfly Garden at Hortus Botanicus

Butterfly Garden in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
Butterfly Garden in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Hortus Botanicus is a lovely botanical garden with outdoor and massive greenhouse sections.

Inside Hortus Botanicus is a tropical forest, a cactus hall, a palm house, and a section with massive water lilies, but the section that I think will be the most interesting for children is the Butterfly Garden.

The Butterfly Garden in Hortus Botanicus is a small greenhouse that has plants and an insane amount of pretty butterflies. They create the most magical atmosphere as they flutter around in slow motion. For me, the time stood still as I stepped into this room.

Me in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
Tropical Forest in Hortus Botanicus

Please ask ahead if the butterfly section is open BEFORE you tell your children about it and get them excited. Even though as per my knowledge it is open all year round.

Moreover, Hortus Botanicus has many other sections that the children would love. There are special children’s activities that are organized by Hortus Botanicus.

Nature is an important part of life and every child should be given enough opportunities to appreciate the beauty of nature. That’s something you can do at Hortus Botanicus.

The entry for Hortus Botanicus is EUR 12.50 for adults, EUR 6.50 for children over 5, and free for children under 5. If you get the I Amsterdam city card, the entry for Hortus Botanicus is free.

4) Nemo Science Museum

NEMO Science Museum Amsterdam
NEMO Science Museum Amsterdam

A visit to the NEMO Science Museum is something that is going to be fun for children of all ages. This museum is interesting from both inside and outside. It is waterfront and the building looks like a boat.

Inside the NEMO Science Museum, 5 floors are full of interesting exhibits. There are interactive science experiments & shows. Each floor has something different to offer such as mechanical sciences, energy, space, human sciences, etc.

Take your children to NEMO Science Museum
Take your children to NEMO Science Museum via Unsplash

Ask at the information desk about the live shows because there are many happening at different times and watching one will be an unforgettable experience for you and your children.

Entry to the NEMO Science Museum is free for children under 4 and is EUR 17.50 for ages 4 and above. I highly recommend you book the tickets and a time slot in advance so that your children don’t have to wait.

NEMO Science museum is free to visit with the I Amsterdam city card, so if you are visiting 2+ attractions, it makes more sense to just get the card and book all the time slots on the card app directly to manage your schedule in one place.

5) De Poezenboot – Boat with Rescued Cats

Cats inside Inside De Poezenboot, Amsterdam
Cats inside Inside De Poezenboot, Amsterdam

De Poeezenboot is a houseboat that is a shelter for rescued cats. It is on the Singel Canal and is very easy to find.

Children often love activities that involve small animals and they will love visiting De Poezenboot because they will meet a lot of cats there. Make sure to ask the helpers which cats are friendly enough to play with.

Inside De Poezenboot - the cat boat in Amsterdam
Inside De Poezenboot – the cacatboatn Amsterdam

De Poezenboot is open just three times a week from 1 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is open just on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. So don’t mention this place to your kids from before so that they aren’t disappointed if it is closed. Just let it be a surprise.

De Poezenboot is free to visit but we highly recommend you donate something for the upkeep of this amazing shelter for cats. Click here for location.

6) Mechanisch Speelgoed – Best Toy Store in Amsterdam

Mechanisch Speelgoed - Toy Store in Amsterdam
Mechanisch Speelgoed – Toy Store in Amsterdam

Mechanisch Speelgoed is a one-of-a-kind old-fashioned toy store that is small but has so much to see. Don’t expect a place like “Toy R Us” or Hanleys because Mechanisch Speelgoed has a vintage kind of feel.

The toys in Mechanisch Speelgoed aren’t battery-operated and aren’t the ones where the children just have to press buttons. Instead, these are mechanical toys where one has to turn a key!

Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam
Inside Mechanisch Speelgoed, Amsterdam

Since it is a shop, it is obviously free to enter but keep in mind that you will spend money here. Let your children know that they can buy just ONE toy here.

I bought so much stuff for my little girl from Mechanisch Speelgoed for just 35 Euros. I wasn’t even here with my daughter but I ended up spending a long time here enjoying the vintage toys. No wonder this place is rated 4.9 on Google Maps!

Mechanisch Speelgoed is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Sundays. On Sundays, it is open from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Click here for the location.

7) Canal Cruise Boat Trip

Canal Cruise in Amsterdam on a private open boat by Pure Amsterdam
Canal Cruise in Amsterdam

One of the best ways to experience Amsterdam’s canals is on a boat and this is an activity that children will love.

The good thing is that small children can usually enter for free when you do a boat trip. Enjoy the stunning city as the boat moves under the bridges from one canal to the other.

The thing with doing a boat trip with children is that remember that they wouldn’t want to sit still for a very long time so don’t pick the longest boat trip. Pick something for a maximum of one hour and that should be enough.

I have shortlisted a few boat tours for you which are for one hour and in some of them there’s a bar so that you can sip a drink.

I did a boat trip with my girl in Hamburg when she was 4 years old, and she loved it. But the boat trip was for almost two hours and she did get restless at the end.

Also, pick an afternoon boat tour that starts after lunch because that’s when their energy (and yours) will be at its lowest so you can just sit back and enjoy.

As mentioned before, if you get an I Amsterdam city card, it already includes a free boat trip so perhaps that option may work better for you.

8) ADAM Lookout and Extreme Swing

Extreme Swing on A'Dam Tower - 2 Days in Amsterdam
Extreme Swing on A’Dam Tower – 2 Days in Amsterdam

This is something for the older kids because it can be too much for the smaller ones.

From Amsterdam Centraal, catch a free ferry that goes to the other side of the IJ river and get on top of the ADAM Tower. From here, you can enjoy a nice view over the Amsterdam city on all the sides.

What’s more, is that there is an extreme swing on top of ADAM Tower. I did ride it once with my husband in 2017 and I think children over 11 will love it.

The time I visited, the entry for the A’DAM tower and lookout was free with the I Amsterdam city card but I don’t think that’s the case now.

There is a family discount for the tower visit at the moment and there is more information about that on their website.

9) ARTIS – Nature Artis Magistra

ARTIS is short for “Nature Artis Magistra”, which means nature is the teacher of art. It is a zoo, aquarium, planetarium, micropia, a library, and a botanical garden with loads of activities and shows for children and grown-ups.

ARTIS has 27 historically significant bridges, buildings, and ponds that have been used as animal enclosures since 1838.

Some activities are organized daily in Artis that your children will enjoy. Such as the zookeepers present different animals such as Sea Lions, lemurs, lions, elephants, vultures, gorillas, penguins, and many more interesting creatures as mentioned in the daily schedule.

There are interactive lectures about topics such as evolution, and planetary health, and several walks organized every week.

To be honest, I never ended up visiting ARTIS and I don’t promote animal tourism but this is a responsible organisation per my research.

ARTIS is free to visit with the I Amsterdam city card but make sure you book a slot from before. Without the card, the tickets are for EUR 20 for children from 3 and above just for ARTIS Zoo.

10) Food Hallen

Food Hallen, De Hallen - Amsterdam with children
Food Hallen, De Hallen – Amsterdam with children

Are your children picky eaters? You aren’t alone.

Bring your children to Food Hallen, which is an amazing food court with many options for things to eat.

The thing I don’t like about a lot of food in Amsterdam is that there are too many sweet options that are easily available and visible – pancakes, waffles, cookies, things with caramel syrup and the list goes on.

De Ballenbar in De Hallen Amsterdam
De Ballenbar in De Hallen Amsterdam

I don’t give sweet things to my little girl for a meal, but only as an after-meal sweet treat, and definitely tiny in size.

So, keeping that in mind I want to recommend Food Hallen to you, which has many stalls with a variety of things to eat and even the pickiest of eaters will find something.

Crab bun from Mer Du Nord in Food Hallen Amsterdam
Crab bun from Mer Du Nord in Food Hallen Amsterdam

Some children-friendly things to eat at Food Hallen are Bitterballen, Fries, Fish sandwiches, Burgers, and dumplings. Of course, there is a stand for sweet things but if you play it smart and just take them quickly inside, they won’t notice it there so won’t know that sweets are even an option.

The atmosphere in Food Hallen is pretty relaxed so you won’t feel stressed about your kids creating a ruckus. You can order something special for yourself or even a cocktail from the Gin and Tonic bar as you take a chill pill.

Tips for Visiting Amsterdam with Children

I have a post about traveling with children but below are some Amsterdam-specific tips for you to make your time stress-free as you explore my favorite city with your kids.

1) Avoid Dam Square and De Wallen

Avoid De Wallen in Amsterdam with Children
Avoid De Wallen in Amsterdam with Children via Unsplash

If you have read any of my other posts about Amsterdam, then you know already that Dam Square and De Wallen should be avoided altogether when you are in Amsterdam with kids.

This area has the red light district, sex shops, smart shops with bongs and whatnot, and loud tourists who are in Amsterdam just to get high or party. So, don’t bring your children to this area.

2) Consider Getting the I Amsterdam City Card

Traveling with children is not cheap and Amsterdam is an expensive city. So save as much money as you can on activities. If you visit even 2 attractions per day then the I Amsterdam city card’s costs are worth it and it has many more free things.

Most of the things to do in Amsterdam with kids that I have mentioned here are free with the I Amsterdam city card, and also on top of that one boat trip per card, one bike rental, and unlimited use of public transport.

I have a detailed post on my website about the review of I Amsterdam City card after using it twice, go give it a read and decide for yourself.

3) Book the time slots in advance

If you are a parent then you know this already even the sweetest-natured children turn whiney when they have to wait. They will forget about it within minutes when the wait is over but it will be hell for you when they have to wait.

So, plan things in advance and book your time slots already.

4) Amsterdam’s Parks and Playgrounds

Children Play Area at Johnny Jordaanplein Amsterdam
Children’s Play Area at Johnny Jordaanplein Amsterdam

Amsterdam has many parks and playgrounds. Make the most of them so that your kids can play for a while and you can sit on the bench for a little break.

If you are anything like me, you would pack a few snacks not just for the kids but also for yourself.

No matter where you go in Amsterdam, it is likely that a playground is nearby so just put “playground” on Google Maps to find the nearest one.

5) Surprise Them

Don’t tell them about the plans before you visit because if a place is too busy or isn’t possible to visit, they will be disappointed. Instead, when you arrive at a place and can enter (which you will if you book a time slot in advance), that’s when you can surprise them.

Watch the happiness on their faces because children love surprises.

6) Look for Seasonal Activities

If you visit Amsterdam in winter, you can go ice skating with your children. During Christmas time, you can ride Christmas carousels together.

Summertime is when there are open-air concerts in Vondelpark and some are children-friendly. You can also consider making a side trip to Zandvoort and Bloemendaal beaches near Amsterdam which are family-friendly and can be reached by train/bus or an E-Bike.

In spring, you can take them to see the tulip gardens

Ice Skating in Winter in Amsterdam with children
Ice Skating in Winter in Amsterdam with children via Pixabay

If you visit Amsterdam in winter, you can go ice skating with your children and ride carousels in Christmas markets. In summer, you can take them to open-air music shows in Vondelpark and some are child-friendly.

In spring, you can take them to the tulip gardens of Keukenhof. If you look for seasonal activities, there is something new to do with children in Amsterdam in every season.

Read more Amsterdam Travel posts on my website

I have written a lot of articles about Amsterdam and I recommend you read at least some of them before you visit:

If you are new to my website and would like more information about traveling to Amsterdam, be sure to check out the below posts too:

Amsterdam Hotel Recommendations for Families

Below are the places that I suggest for staying in Amsterdam that I have personally stayed at:

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Is Haarlem Worth Visiting? 10 Reasons to Visit Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Is Haarlem Worth Visiting? 10 Reasons to Visit Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Traveling to the Netherlands and wondering if Haarlem is worth visiting? This post is for you.

I have posted often about Amsterdam, but it’s time to talk about Haarlem.

Haarlem is right next to Amsterdam and has pretty much everything that Amsterdam is famous for. Canals, narrow houses, romantic bridges, hofjes (Dutch courtyards), museums, and lovely nightlife. There’s also a historical windmill next to the water.

Planning a last-minute trip to Haarlem? I’ve got you covered. Below is a quick list of essential tours and my hotel recommendations:

Top Tours in Haarlem:

Haarlem Hotel Reccemondations:

  • Hello, I’m Local: This is a boutique hotel and hostel that’s in a pretty part of Haarlem near the canals. The atmosphere is amazing and will suit solo travelers, couples, and friends. I wouldn’t recommend this for families with small children.
  • Carlton Square Hotel: This is a perfect place to book if you’re with your family or if you are traveling for work. The rooms have a desk and there are also conference rooms. The breakfast here is amazing.

Canals, Narrow Houses, Bridges – Haarlem has it all

Canals, narrow houses and bridges - Haarlem not Amsterdam
Canals, narrow houses, bicycles, and bridges – Haarlem, not Amsterdam

Amsterdam isn’t the only city in the Netherlands with canals, narrow houses, and cute bridges. Haarlem has them too!

The reason why I visit Amsterdam over and over again is because of these things and they make the city so pretty.

I was amazed to see that Haarlem has everything that Amsterdam has and perhaps even more. Haarlem also has coffeeshops (with weed) and smart shops.

Haarlem looks like Amsterdam
Haarlem looks like Amsterdam

Now don’t get me wrong – both Amsterdam and Haarlem are good in their own way. Amsterdam’s canal ring is bigger and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so is unmissable. But Haarlem’s canals are like Amsterdam’s too in many ways.

So, is Haarlem worth visiting? Hopefully, this section answers that question to some extent.

Haarlem is Walkable

Walking in Haarlem is easy
Walking in Haarlem is easy

How amazing are the travel destinations where you can easily walk from one place to another and explore everything on foot? Haarlem is one of those places.

Haarlem is tiny, so you can easily reach from one point of interest to another by foot. This is because most of the famous things to do in Haarlem are close to each other.

Haarlem is Walkable - walking to the city square
Haarlem is Walkable – walking to the city square

For slightly longer distances, you can get on a rental bicycle but I didn’t need one because I didn’t mind a 2-kilometer walk along the canals.

This ease of travel made my solo time in Haarlem an amazing experience.

Scared of Riding a Bicycle in Amsterdam? Haarlem is easier

Cycling in Haarlemmermeer
Cycling in Haarlemmermeer

So what’s the best way of exploring Dutch cities and countryside? Of course on a bicycle. I get it, there are some parts of the world where cycling isn’t the most common way of commuting. If that’s the case then cycling in Amsterdam may be a scary thought for you.

I have news for you – cycling in Haarlem is easier than in Amsterdam because of the low crowds.

The first time I moved to Europe, I was cycling after 15 years! On my first visit to Amsterdam, I couldn’t even imagine I’d ride a bicycle there. I did eventually do that on my third visit because I now cycle everyday in Germany

If you are nervous about cycling, in Amsterdam then Haarlem is the perfect place to start. We cycled from Haarlem to Zandvoort, and then to a lovely cycling path that goes near the MH17 memorial and the Schiphol Airport. Here’s our cycling itinerary for exploring Haarlem and around.

Haarlem also has a Windmill – De Adriaan

Windmill De Adriaan in Haarlem
Windmill De Adriaan in Haarlem

One of the first images that comes to my mind when I think of the Netherlands is an old-school windmill. Haarlem has one and is along the River Spaarne.

Haarlem’s windmill is called “De Adriaan” and dates back to 1779. It is an iconic sight and looks lovely in Haarlem’s skyline. I loved walking along the River Spaarne and photographing the windmill.

Windmill De Adriaan was destroyed by a fire in 1932. The locals collected money and paid for the rebuilding of the windmill, but it didn’t work out. This windmill reopened 70 years after the fire in 2002.

Although Windmill De Adriaan is fully functional as a mill, it now functions as a tourist attraction with a museum inside.

Restaurant Zuidam along Windmill De Adriaan, Haarlem
Restaurant Zuidam along Windmill De Adriaan, Haarlem

I’m not the kinds to visit museums but a nice way to enjoy the beauty of Windmill de Adriaan is by sitting in the restaurant next to it – Restaurant Zuidam and enjoying a drink or two with the view. I did this too!

Haarlem has a Fun Nightlife

DeDAKKAS in Haarlem - cocktails with a view
DeDAKKAS in Haarlem – cocktails with a view

We all know already that Amsterdam has a fun nightlife, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience Haarlem’s pub scene.

Firstly, there’s the rooftop bar that’s almost hidden because it is on top of a parking garage. It is called DeDAKKAS, where you can enjoy a few cocktails as you watch the view of the entire Haarlem town and a spectacular sunset.

DeDakkas was actually recommended to me by a local resident and I absolutely enjoyed it for my post-dinner drinks.

Drinks at La Plume, Haarlem
Drinks at La Plume, Haarlem

After that, walk to the old town area Grote Markt to Oude Groenmarkt. It is dotted with bars and brown pubs, so you can just go from one place to another and enjoy a drink. We went to a place called La Plume, which is right next to the church.

Affordable Compared to Amsterdam

Let’s be honest. This region in Western Europe – Germany, France, and the Netherlands isn’t affordable at all. But the bigger cities like Amsterdam are so expensive and in comparison, the smaller towns like Haarlem are a tad cheaper.

It is especially true in peak summer when everyone who lives near and in Holland wants to go to Zandvoort beach and an insane amount of international visitors start their Euro trips in Amsterdam.

So, this is a reason why I suggested Haarlem as a base for exploring Amsterdam and Zandvoort – because you can usually find cheaper rooms here in comparison. Zandvoort and Amsterdam are more expensive than Haarlem.

Perfect Base for visiting Amsterdam and Zandvoort Beach

Now it is likely that you will read blog posts that suggest Haarlem as a perfect day trip from Amsterdam, but I suggest you pick Haarlem as your base so that you can explore Amsterdam and the Zandvoort beach.

Amsterdam Centraal is just a 20-minute train ride away from Haarlem. Haarlem has cheaper rooms than Amsterdam so it makes sense to pick Haarlem as your base.

Zandvoort Beach near Haarlem
Zandvoort Beach near Haarlem

If you visit in summer, then you can cycle to Zandvoort Beach from Haarlem, which is also sometimes called Amsterdam Beach. It is just 30 minutes by bicycle. You can also take the train from Haarlem and arrive in Zandvoort in just 10 minutes.

Haarlem is in the middle of Amsterdam and Zandvoort, so it makes sense to stay here when you want a fun summer holiday that has a good mix of city break, beach, and small-town feels.

Haarlem’s Food Scene is Amazing

In my opinion, when a city has a good mix of regional and international cuisine then it has a good food scene.

Delicious Meat Pastries at Little Jamaica Bistro Haarlem
Delicious Meat Pastries at Little Jamaica Bistro Haarlem

Exactly for this reason, I found Haarlem’s food scene to be amazing. Now this isn’t a case of Amsterdam vs Haarlem because Amsterdam definitely has an exceptional food scene.

Let me tell you about some notable meals that I had in Haarlem.

Little Jamaica Bistro – amazing authentic Jamaican food will hearty portions. Try the jerk chicken, beef patties, spicy curried goat, and rum punch. The overall atmosphere is like none other and is enough to make me come back to Haarlem.

First Course at Restaurant Dane in Haarlem
First Course at Restaurant Dane in Haarlem

Restaurant Dane – a high-end restaurant with exquisite food plating and inventive flavors. Each dish was a work of art with a blend of flavors that combined the traditional with the unusual.

Cold Coffee with Caramel at Crêpe Affaire Haarlem
Cold Coffee with Caramel at Crêpe Affaire Haarlem

Crêpe Affaire – an easy-to-visit casual cafe for Dutch-style pancakes, waffles, caramel-y coffee, and cheesy things.

Restaurant Parck – a slightly formal restaurant with fusion food. I had Thai soup and a spicy chicken sandwich here.

Haarlem isn’t Crowded

Haarlem isn't Crowded - the Netherlands
Haarlem isn’t Crowded – The Netherlands

Imagine Amsterdam without the crowds – yes that’s what Haarlem is like. I could finally click as many canal photos as I wanted without people, find empty benches to sit on with a view next to the water and get a table in lively restaurants or bars.

In this age of overtourism, it is definitely nice to find a place like Haarlem that’s pretty and doesn’t feel crowded.

Perfect for Families

Children playing in Haarlem's old town square
Children playing in Haarlem’s old town square

I have traveled to Amsterdam a gazillion times and once even with my daughter. The crowded city center isn’t easy for small children. Even though we avoid the center, at times one needs to cross it.

On the other hand, I felt that Haarlem had a super relaxed vibe that made it perfect for families with small children.

Haarlem is the perfect family destination
Haarlem is the perfect family destination

Exactly for those reasons, Haarlem is easy for also solo travelers and couples. But it is a bit more suited for families with small children as compared to Amsterdam because I’d want to keep my kid away from the Red Light District, sex shops, head shops, and joint smoking tourists. A few are ok but a concentration of them (like in the De Wallen area of Amsterdam) is a bit too much.

Even though I was traveling solo in Haarlem, I saw a lot of German families with small children here and that’s when I decided to revisit with my family too.

So, is Haarlem Worth Visiting?

is Haarlem Worth Visiting?
is Haarlem Worth Visiting?

The simple answer is if you are visiting the Netherlands with your children, then you can skip Amsterdam and visit Haarlem directly.

Another instance where you can skip Amsterdam and stay in Haarlem instead is if you are traveling in the summer. That’s when staying in Haarlem makes a lot of sense because the Zandvoort beach is so close to it.

Me in Haarlem, the Netherlands
Me in Haarlem, the Netherlands

Moreover, if you are looking for a base to start a road trip in the Netherlands, then I suggest Haarlem over Amsterdam, mainly because the parking costs in Amsterdam are beyond crazy. Moreover driving routes are limited in Amsterdam because it seems the government is slowly phasing out cars.

On the other hand, if you are traveling without small children and have never visited Amsterdam, then you can spend at least one day there (or two or three) and leave Haarlem for another day or a separate visit.

Having visited Amsterdam often, below are my highly rated Amsterdam city guides for you to bookmark.

Did you know the Schiphol Airport is closer to Haarlem than Amsterdam?

Cycling behind Schiphol Airport from Haarlem
Cycling behind Schiphol Airport from Haarlem

If you arrive in the Netherlands by air, then most likely you will land at the Schiphol Airport, which is also called “Schiphol Amsterdam Airport”. Guess what, it is closer to Haarlem than to Amsterdam by road – only slightly.

So, Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal Station is 23 Kilometers by car, but to Haarlem Station is 19 kilometers. Actually, this is because the roadway is longer but if you look at the direct bicycle way, then Amsterdam is closer – but no one goes on a bicycle to the Airport with a suitcase, am I right?

Disclosure: I collaborated with the I Amsterdam (Amsterdam city tourism board) for a part of my visit to Haarlem. However, all opinions expressed in this article are definitely our own.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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