During our week-long stay in Rotterdam, we took a few day trips to explore the surrounding cities. We loved Rotterdam so much that it was hard to find a reason to leave! The places we chose to go to were Bruges in Belgium, and The Hague, Delft, Amsterdam and Haarlem in The Netherlands. It’s funny how we ended up really liking the places we knew the least about. Looking back, I’m so glad we took the time to spontaneously take the train to these cities.
Day Trip To The Hague
If you’re visiting The Hague, keep in mind that there’s two separate areas – the city and the beach. We visited both by taking the train to the city, then taking the bus/tram to the beach (the last stop I believe). Super easy, and the bus/tram had great views since it’s slower than a high-speed train and goes through the middle of residential neighborhoods. When we arrived in the city, there was (unexpectedly) a huge parade going on that we soon figured out was Prince Day – a major holiday in The Netherlands! We clearly did not do our research on this one so it was quite crowded and busy. Fortunately, we were still able to explore and get a flavor of the local culture and later escape to the beach for more a peace and quiet atmosphere.
This cheerful sandwich shop specializes in, you guessed it, toast! They had a fun variety of sweet and savory paninis and “tosti” sandwiches. If you’re looking for a quick meal, this probably isn’t the place because it’s on a main road close to the train station and apparently always busy. We got a surprise when our paninis arrived because the bread was bright orange, which turned out to be the national color of The Netherlands and was all over the place due to the holiday.
Hidden away in the center of the old city of The Hague, we found this distillery that was founded in 1842 that to this day is both a museum and an operating distillery with a display of local liqueurs, tours and tastings. You can taste as many as you’d like for ,50 euro each, but there were no chasers or food available when we went, so don’t order too much! We tasted the young jenever, old jenever, gin, vodka and a rose liqueur. The liqueurs and gin were my favorite, especially the rose and mandarin liqueur. Maybe that’s because they were easier to drink straight! Fun fact: Van Kleef is the only jenever and liqueur house that still exists in the region. In the back, they had a hidden courtyard that was a nice calm break from the parade crowds to sip our spirits.
The very first rooftop bar (and possibly still the only one) in The Hague situated on the 3rd floor overlooking Grote Markt and the rest of The Hague city center. It had a great view, a trendy atmosphere, plenty of seating options, and fast service. Weather-permitting, we’d definitely recommend it! They also have a restaurant if you’re interested in dining there.
As briefly mentioned above, Grote Markt is the city center of The Hague. It’s a former market square that today is surrounded by restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s very lively with a lot of tables all around – similar to the feel of Beestenmarkt in Delft but more upbeat.
In between food, drinks and shopping, we recommend a stroll through the bustling downtown area of The Hague. Enjoy views of the Parliament, Binnenhof, Noordeinde Palace, Peace Palace and more.
A large English pub with an extensive beer list that is great for groups, a quick beer, or a very casual meal. We laughed that we left London, went to The Netherlands, and still managed to find another English pub. We went to sooo many in London (see my intensive travel guide here).
Leaving the city for the beach, we took the tram to this pier – an icon on the Dutch coast. This attraction is well worth the trip. There’s a boardwalk lined with restaurants and bars as far as the eye can see. The pier offers a zip line, Ferris wheel, and other activities, in addition to enjoying the beach itself of course!
After walking down the boardwalk for a while, we randomly stopped here for a drink and a snack. I’m not sure how it’s different than any of the other restaurants. They all honestly looked the same and had similar menus and pricing. We did have delicious North Sea bitterballen here though!
Day Trip to Delft
Rotterdam to Delft is an easy day trip because it’s only 15-30 minutes away depending on if you drive or take the train. Delft is a small but extremely quaint city that we absolutely loved and would be happy to go back to someday.
This local café was one of the best cafés I’ve ever been to. The menu choices were incredible (so hard to choose), the atmosphere was super cozy with a variety of vintage furniture and couches, the staff was very thoughtful, and the food presentation was beautiful. They even had games on the table while you’re waiting for your food. Not to mention, it’s on the cutest street. I got an iced coconut matcha latte and a pink pitaya pannacotta that were out of this world. It’s my top recommendation in Delft!
If you’re looking for a souvenir or gift, this is the store for you. De Winkel has been around for more than 40 years so it’s filled with a large variety of items, so much so that we found slightly overwhelming – too much to look at! I think it would be better if you’re looking for something specific to take home with you.
There was a space we went into that is a rotating pop-up shop. While we were there, it was the LU-ST (short for Lunch & Style) – a beautiful bohemian-style store with carefully selected pieces focused on fair, recycled and eco-goodies. I particularly loved their unique jewelry selection from Dutch designers where I picked up a gold necklace I continue to wear. I remember the girl who worked there was the absolute sweetest, only adding to the already lovely atmosphere. Much less intimidating than De Winkel! It is no longer there, but there might be something else cool in that spot located at Voorstraat 8, 2611.
The only functioning windmill still standing in Delft. It’s a flour mill where grain is processed to flour. They offer a free self-guided tour inside the mill up to the top, which pretty much consists of climbing up multiple floors of tiny, steep stairs to the top where you can walk outside. Warning – it’s very shaky! We did not last long (haha) but it was cool. They also have a small shop inside where they sell their flour and other regional products like honey and Delftse elderberry syrup.
This bakery/cafe has multiple locations, but the one we went to had a really cute market on one side and a restaurant on the other with a counter in between where they were making fresh chocolate truffles for takeaway.
This antique gift shop in the square sells a variety of authentic Dutch items and antiques. Great for collectors! While we were walking around, we saw an older gentleman painting beautiful tiles by hand in the corner. Very neat to watch his sense of calm while he painted so meticulously.
Delft is most famous for their hand painted, ceramic delftware – the blue and white pottery I’m sure you’ve seen and not realized it. This tiny shop off of the square had a large variety of beautiful plates, bowls, dishes, vases, tiles, trays, and more. While we were browsing, we saw an older gentleman sitting at a tiny desk painting tiles. He made it look so easy! We honestly wanted to just watch him. Incredible craftsmanship and a complete sense of calm. I regret not buying anything here, but I was afraid of breaking it in all of our exploring that day.
We found this pub in Beestenmarkt with a large beer list and plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy it! Beestenmarkt is the main square in Delft full of history, but present day it’s more of a gathering area for locals and tourists alike. It’s lined with restaurants and bars with shaded seating by large trees in the center of the square. A beautiful spot to take a break from walking all over town like we were. Even if you don’t go to Locus Publicus, I do recommend at least walking through the square.
Day Trip to Amsterdam
We took the train to Amsterdam for the day, which unfortunately turned out to be quite a gloomy and rainy day. I had done the most research for Amsterdam out of anywhere else in The Netherlands, but I honestly ended up really disappointed. Every place at the top of my list was packed (on a weekday in mid-September) and had crazy waits, and even walking the streets felt super crowded. I lived in NYC for almost four years so I’m used to busy streets, but this was especially bad. I think we simply didn’t luck out, so I’m definitely open to going back and staying in Amsterdam to avoid the stress of trying to see so many places in one day. That said, in hindsight, most people who visit and rave about Amsterdam have never been anywhere else in The Netherlands. Since this day excursion was on one of our last days in the Netherlands, we already saw the beautiful canals and charm in Delft, and the Dutch city culture in Rotterdam and The Hague. It felt like all of that but 1000x more touristy and crowded, so based on our experience I’d choose Delft, The Hague and Rotterdam over going to Amsterdam.
After a 45-minute train ride, walking through crowds to a few different restaurants at the top of my list but being turned away with extreme wait times, we eventually gave up and went to this hotel restaurant a little off the beaten path. By this point we were just starving and relieved to have found somewhere we could get a table right away! We ordered flatbreads and specifically enjoyed the anchovy, artichoke and prosciutto one! It’s quite a trendy, upscale hotel, so the environment of the restaurant was nice – filled with a mix of tourists and business lunches – and the service was top notch.
The famous floating flower market founded in 1862 on the Singel canal in the city’s southern canal belt. I was really excited to walk through the market, but found it very crowded and overrated – mostly touristy gift shops and only a few actually selling fresh flowers.
We found this nice cafe/restaurant serving modern Italian cuisine in an authentic canal house. This area of Amsterdam was really charming! The service was friendly and the outdoor seating on the terrace is a lovely spot if it’s a nice day. We didn’t eat much since we only had lunch a couple hours prior, but their dinner sounds romantic with homemade pasta, Italian wines and beers, and a local vibe.
After so much walking, we discovered this cool Berlin-style vintage bar with mismatched comfortable couches and armchairs, lots of board games and a retro atmosphere. It truly felt like we were back in time. They had seasonal specials like the Federweisser, which was delicious! It’s a white wine that “is not yet ready.” Weingut Braunewell tapped only 30 liters still yeasting wine from his tanks and poured it into bottles for Cafe Brecht to sell for only one week or while supplies last! A must try if you ever see it. They described it as a fresh wine with low alcohol and tons of flavor. A true classic from the German wine regions.
This specialty beer cafe had an extensive selection of almost 200 to choose from, all written on chalkboards by category around the entire bar. We also spotted a cute bar cat too!
Day Trip to Haarlem
For dinner and drinks, our friend met us in Haarlem after work in Rotterdam. After a somewhat disappointing day in Amsterdam and stormy weather, we finally got lucky and found three amazing spots in Haarlem. We had the best time and wish we had spent more time in Haarlem instead of Amsterdam! It’s a quick 20-minute or so train ride away from Amsterdam, so I would highly recommend it if you’re staying in Amsterdam and have time for a day trip.
For dinner we tried out this restaurant we found online and loved it! We ordered a Dutch cheese fondue to share that was fabulous. Highly recommend! We also enjoyed their frites and shrimp courgette pasta dish. They had an extensive dinner and cocktail menu, including many G&T’s – our favorite. The service was good and the ambiance was great, which always have a lot to do with my overall feelings of a restaurant. We easily could have stayed here for longer but we wanted to see what else Haarlem had to offer.
After dinner, we went to this tiny cocktail bar closeby to Dodici. I had one of the best drinks I’ve ever had, which says a lot. It was called The Ploegmaats but I’m sure they have a regularly rotating menu of creative cocktails by their in-house mixologists. What was funny about the drink I ordered in particular was that it came in a branded water bottle. So random. Very cute, cozy place!
This was a very popular, busy restaurant that was worth the hype! It had multiple rooms with beautiful plant walls and a large menu. I would happily go back to all three of these spots in Haarlem.
I absolutely loved having the opportunity to explore The Netherlands, even though there’s so many places we didn’t get to. I’d love to go back and check out more of Haarlem and Amsterdam, The Hague in the summer for a beach trip, as well as Gouda, Utrecht, Giethoorn, and the tulip festival (when it’s in season)!
In Case You Missed It
- London City Guide (September 2018) – The first stop on our almost month-long Europe trip!
- A Day Trip to Bruges, Belgium (September 2018) – Our only day trip out of the country during our stay in Rotterdam.
- Rotterdam Travel Guide (September 2018) – This is where we stayed for 8 days while taking day trips to the above, so we got to see a lot of the city and absolutely loved it!
- Prague Travel Guide (September 2018 & March 2019) – I’ve been to Prague twice and updated the guide after the second trip.
- Vienna City Guide & Itinerary (September 2018) – One of the few itineraries I have on my blog.
- Budapest Travel Guide (October 2018) – This last stop on our (almost) month-long Europe trip did not disappoint!
- Athens Photo Diary (April/May 2019) – I absolutely LOVED Greece! This diary also includes day trips to the islands of Hydra & Aegina.
- Milan Photo Diary (October 2019) – A work trip that fortunately allowed us some time to explore before and after our big event.
- A Day Trip to Florence (October 2019) – We took the train from Milan for the day to explore. So worth it!
- Lake Como Travel Guide (October 2019) – One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled to. I mean, just look at that first picture! Alllll the heart eyes <3
Here’s to hoping travel is in our near future, or at least in 2022 for international!