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Sightseeing highlights outside Amsterdam

Sightseeing highlights outside Amsterdam
Alkmaar Kaasmarkt (Cheese Market) - Yes, it's true. Hoorn, Gouda, Woerden and Edam have them, too, but if you'd like to see Holland's most renowned cheese market, you have to go to Alkmaar. Every Friday huge wheels of cheese are carried around and weighed on the old town market, which is quite the sight. The market is held every Friday 10:00 - 12:30 from April to the Beginning of September. Trains depart from Amsterdam for Alkmaar four times every hour.

Delft - Yes, there's also an Oude Kerk (Old Church), but the Nieuwe Kerk is where all the deceased members of the Dutch royal family are buried. Even legendary William of Orange rests here for all eternity. It's quite impressive and a must-see if you're in Delft as is the Royal Delft factory tour. See how Holland's most famous blue porcelain has been made for centuries (www.royaldelft.com).

Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem) - Sick of the same museums around Museumplein in Amsterdam? The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem displays an amazing collection of paintings by Dutch old masters and is the museum to visit if you appreciate Dutch Golden Age art. Haarlem is close to Amsterdam and trains run frequently between the two cities.

Keukenhof - You can't really escape it. Flowers are a part of Dutch culture. Tulips, which were actually originally imported (smuggled) from Turkey, are a national symbol of Holland and the Keukenhof is the place to see them 'in the wild' once the season starts in early spring. The huge gardens are only open to the public for two months each year so visit www.keukenhof.nl for more information. You can usually arrange a trip at your hotel reception.

Museum De Lakenhal (Leiden) - Come here for an incredible museum full of artefacts from the masters of the Golden Age. The old centre of Leiden is also beautiful and worth a look. The city is about a 40-minute train ride from Amsterdam.

Rotterdam - It's a hate-hate relationship between Amsterdam and 'the other Dam'. There are plenty of reasons why these two cities are so competitive. Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in the world, while Rotterdam is home to the world's busiest harbour. Football champions Ajax have been sparring with Feyenoord for decades and while Amsterdam lives on its charming medieval buildings, Rotterdam was completely rebuilt after it was nearly levelled by bombs in WWII. If you're tired of touristy Amsterdam and crave the sight of a large city with a modern skyline, then Rotterdam is the only option in the Netherlands. Take the high speed Fyra train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam in only 41 minutes.

Sint Janskerk (Maastricht) - If you really want to travel as far from the city as possible without leaving the country then take a train all the way to the hilly south of the country where you can witness the pretty sights of Maastricht among its beer-loving residents. The reddish Gothic Sint Janskerk is the city's main highlight, but there are loads of other things to see like Roman forts (Fort Sint Pieter) and busy squares full of cafés.

Utrecht - If you can't get enough of the cute bunny drawings of Dick Bruna, the Miffy (Nijntje) Museum in Utrecht is the place to go. If not, you'll almost certainly be annoyed by the small children and the flocks of Japanese tourists here. The city is also famous for its Roman beginnings, its incredibly tall church spire and its unique wharf cellars. Trains to Utrecht depart Amsterdam frequently.

Volendam - The place where all the great Dutch singers are born, Volendam is basically a town of fishermen and boatloads of tourists wanting a taste of 'real' Dutch culture. You can dress up in traditional clothes here or wander about its beautiful streets. Take bus No.116 from the Central Station to Volendam. The trip takes about 30 minutes.

Zaanse Schans (Zaandam) - But where are all the wind mills? If you've asked this question in Amsterdam, you're not the only one. In fact, Amsterdam doesn't have that many and you won't find any in the centre of town. We recommend a trip to Zaanse Schans, where you'll have plenty of opportunities to spot one of Holland's most endearing symbols. You'll have to deal with crowds though as the well-preserved windmills and traditional houses here attract almost a million visitors every year. Connexxion bus No.391 departs from the Amsterdam Central Station every hour during the day. The trip takes about 40 minutes. You can also take a train to Koog-Zaandijk station and then walk 15 minutes to Zaanse Schans.

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