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Week in the Netherlands, beyond Amsterdam

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Dec 26th, 2015, 09:26 PM
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Week in the Netherlands, beyond Amsterdam

We're spending about a week in the Netherlands with our two daughters (13 and 17) this summer (late June). Both girls read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in school, so they want to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. My husband and I have been to Amsterdam a couple of times and would like to get outside the city. Looked at the map and saw that a couple of the cities (The Hague, Haarlem) are near the coast. Do you think they'd be a nice base for our family? Or can you suggest a good base for us, somewhere with a beach, biking, etc. and easily accessible from Amsterdam. Should we stay in Amsterdam for a day or two or could we visit Amsterdam for the day from one of these other cities? Thanks!
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Dec 26th, 2015, 10:53 PM
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Week in the Netherlands, beyond Amsterdam
Posted by: BarbaraMH on Dec 27, 15 at 12:26am


I recommend Haarlem for your family. It is more of a "Dutch city" than the international metropolis of Amsterdam. I have lived in Haarlem and was back for 5 weeks again this summer. After you visit the Ann Frank House I suggest a visit to the Corrie ten Boom museum in Haarlem. It is free and there is rarely a line. Corrie helped smuggle hundreds of Jews out of Holland during the Nazi occupation. https://www.corrietenboom.com/old/information.htm.

During her teen years my daughter loved Madurodam in The Hague, Duinrell in Wassenaar, and the beach at Zandvoort. And I was surprised that she liked the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem. I challenged her and her friend to find their favorite painting, whereupon I took her picture with it.

Bikes are available for rent just about everywhere, especially near train stations. I suggest NOT riding a bike in Amsterdam, and even be careful walking inadvertently onto a bike path. My B&B loaned me a bike for my full time and I used it nearly every day cruising around Haarlem and the villages west. It was the best vacation I can remember.

You can easily train from Haarlem to Amsterdam. The Hague, and just about anywhere. I suggest that you not use the OV-chipkaart for the trains. Only use it for buses and trams, and you just about absolutely need it for those. Buy individual train tickets, even though they cost half a euro more.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 02:02 AM
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I'm totally with Spaarne: Haarlem is a perfect city to base yourself. There is no need whatsoever to stay in Amsterdam: trains from Haarlem leave at a metro-like frequency, taking 15 minutes. Schiphol airport is half an hour away, either by train or direct bus.
This http://9292.nl/en# is a useful tool for all your public transport planning: train, bus or ferry.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 04:11 AM
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Make sure you book the Anne Frankhuis tickets as soon as you know the date you want to visit there.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 04:12 AM
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Oh and if you feel brave enough to rent a car for a day or two head up over the Afsluitdijk and do a trip around the Ijsselmeer, or explore some of Friesland and Groningen.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 05:43 AM
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Another vote for Haarlem. From there you can cycle to Bloemendaal aan Zee and/or Zandvoort and lounge on the beach, weather permitting.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 06:43 AM
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Excellent advice! Thank you, all! I'm so glad to hear there is a good option outside of Amsterdam.

We always rent apartments if possible. If that's an option for Haarlem, is there a specific neighborhood to be recommended?

I will check the June-July weather on the Internet, but any generalizations about what to expect? We were in Italy last summer and it was so hot that it really limited our movement. I would suspect this is not the case with the more northern location of the Netherlands, but who knows these days! Any reality checks related to the weather?

One more question -- what is the OV-chip kart and how does it work? Purchase ahead of time in the US or is that not possible? Would we take trains or other to go from Haarlem to other destinations such as Zandvoort and The Hague?

Thanks again! Barbara
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Dec 27th, 2015, 07:27 AM
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I agree with Haarlem, but I'll also put in a plug for Delft. It's gorgeous, very historic, and equally convenient to other parts of the country, but of course it's a very small country.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 07:42 AM
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The weather? Anything is possible with this sea climate of ours, but 20 to 25 C is normal.

The OV-chipkaart is like the London Oyster Card: you buy a card and you load it at machines at the railway station, bus company office (if one is available), some supermarkets and tobacco shops. The trick is the card costs a non-refundable EUR 7,50 and the card needs a minimum amount to use (EUR 20 for the railways, EUR 5 or something like that for bus and tram). It's all - more or less - explained on https://www.ov-chipkaart.nl/home-1.htm
It's all too complicated for a short-time visitor. Just buy your tickets at the station or on the bus.

And for a possible cycle outing: Spaarndam is Holland at its best. It has even a monument for Hans Brinkers. In my experience the maps on viamichelin.com are much better than those on Google Maps.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 08:27 AM
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Excellent train connections between Haarlem and Amsterdam (15 min.), Zandvoort (10 min.),The Hague (30-35 min.), etc.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 08:42 AM
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Another vote for Haarlem! Spent a week there in a hotel on the market square and took day trips from there. Easy into Amsterdam and Zandfoort. Very convenient connections to Delft, Leiden, etc.

Also second Hetismij's suggestion to rent a car for the day and drive out over the great dike and visit Friesland, etc.

One word of caution, be sure to keep change in your pocket for the ladies' rooms. Even in the train station, you have to pay if you are female. Men can find free places a bit more frequently. this may have changed since my last visit a few years ago, but better forearmed.
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Dec 27th, 2015, 09:07 AM
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Ooh, getting excited now. Lots of good info so I can start planning. Thanks so much!
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Jan 2nd, 2016, 02:22 PM
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Hello Friends and Happy New Year!

Trying to pick an apartment in Haarlem for our summer trip ... 3 options:

https://www.vrbo.com/1238975ha

https://www.vrbo.com/1842380ha#

https://www.vrbo.com/721405ha

All three have what we want/need in terms of amenities, etc., so for us it boils down to location. I like to just walk around and explore the neighborhood and prefer being close enough to shops to walk for groceries.

Any opinions based on location?

Thanks for so much great advice!
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Jan 2nd, 2016, 02:39 PM
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Locationwise the middle one (...380) is the best. In the historical centre, a 10-minute walk from the Market Square, and an Albert Heijn supermarket at 2 minutes (corner Grote Houtstraat).
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Jan 3rd, 2016, 02:53 PM
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yep, tonfromleiden is right. also consider you're very near the dunes and the beach. glorious area for walking just a short bus ride away: santpoort noord, overveen (by train from Haarlem station, easy). Zandvoort if you must...
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Jan 3rd, 2016, 02:59 PM
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Utrecht might interest you as well, though. 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam, a completely non-touristy city and a beautiful one, with great architecture. Lots of dining and cafe options and Utrecht Station is the train hub of the Netherlands. From there, Arnhem, Den Bosch, Amersfoort, but also Rotterdam and The Hague and/or Leiden can be reached in under an hour.
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Jan 3rd, 2016, 06:57 PM
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I really enjoyed Haarlem but also Delft, and I hope you stop in Delft even if you stay elsewhere. I stayed in both towns on my way up north to Groningen--but if I didn't have to get to Groningen for a conference I would have headed for Utrecht.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 01:34 PM
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BarbaraMH on Jan 2, 16 at 5:22pm
Hello Friends and Happy New Year!
Trying to pick an apartment in Haarlem for our summer trip ... 3 options:


For location definitely not the first one. I agree with tonfromleiden that the middle one is probably the best for your family, though the last one is not bad. It is hard to say because street addresses are not shown and the maps are too indeterminate.

One thing for sure is do not take the write-ups too seriously. They are well written sales sheets. E.g., "The apartment is located right in the center and in one of the nicest shopping streets of Haarlem." That would place it on the Grote Houtstraat near the Grote Markt and the Big Church. The map shows the location otherwise, about a mile from the train station as the crow flies. I would guess that would be a solid half hour walking the streets of Haarlem.

Also, there is no mention of stairs. Ask how many flights of steep Dutch stairs you must go up. Keep in mind that the "first floor" in Holland is the first floor above ground level. Elevator or lift? Don't even ask.

By the map provided you are within a stone's throw of the Frans Hals Museum, the one that my daughter loved. I am sure you will like Haarlem. Here is a short blurb http://preview.tinyurl.com/j8w53hh to give you some more ideas.

June weather is not often good beach weather. But if a heat spell blows in you could rent bikes and pedal over to Zandvoort, taking the southern route through Bentveld. It is a flat easy ride that should take about 40 minutes from your door, if you don't make a wrong turn getting out of Haarlem. It is a confusing city. If you rent a car and drive you will never find a parking place on a hot beach day.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 01:43 PM
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There is a chocolaterie on the Kleine Houtstraat, which has been voted best shopping street several times. I would guess that is where the middle apartment is, which is where it is shown on the map too.

http://www.chocolateriepierre.nl/

That alone would be reason for me to choose that apartment .
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Jan 6th, 2016, 03:01 PM
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Oh wow! Pierre! Yes definitely, that apartment!
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