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Orchestra of Santa's at Chrismas Market Haarlem 2016
Image from Koen Smilde

Winter day trips from Amsterdam

Winter is the perfect time to take a day trip from Amsterdam and immerse yourself in the Netherlands’ rich cultural offerings, including its traditional villages and towns, beautiful nature parks and festive events. Unlike many countries, the Netherlands never seems more alive than it does in winter. Whether you want to get lost spotting wildlife while walking through misty woods, spend some time perched on a pier by the sea watching rare seabirds, explore snow-capped windmills or see one of the many magical Christmas markets – there’s almost too much to see and do.

Catch a concert in Haarlem's Grote Kerk

Plafond details van de Grote Kerk in Haarlem.
Image from John Maschak

The 16th-century Gothic Grote Kerk dominates the Grote Markt in the centre of Haarlem, a city that, despite its manageable size, is a treasure trove of historical and cultural gems. And there’s no better way to get into the festive spirit than by sitting underneath the church’s magnificent interior to take in a concert during the winter months. Some events even feature the church’s gigantic organ, constructed in 1738 and once played by a young Mozart.

Keep an eye on the cultural agenda for what's on in Haarlem.

Go winter windmill spotting at Zaanse Schans

A couple is walking on a sunny day in the winter at the Zaanse Schans.
Image from Pauline Arkesteijn

The perfect place to go windmill spotting in the winter, Zaanse Schans offers a perfectly preserved glimpse into the Netherlands' industrial past. Among the vast fields and traditional houses, windmills, warehouses and workshops, the historic village of Zaanse Schans looks prettier than ever on a winter’s day, proving exactly why it’s one of the Netherlands' best-loved attractions (it lures more than a million visitors each year).  Of course, you can warm up afterwards by popping over to the traditional towns of Volendam or Marken for a bowl of snert – or Dutch pea soup.

Find out more about things to do in Old Holland.

See the bleak and beautiful at Schokland

Museum Schokland
Image from Dona Hay

Schokland offers a unique combination of cultural history and nature. In winter, it’s especially beautiful and bleak, as icy mists rise over the land throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Venture around the area, and you’ll see a wealth of archaeological treasures and evidence of human habitation from over 10,000 years ago. While there, you can also see fascinating monuments, including a historic church and lighthouse keeper’s residence, and you might even spot some of the hares, rabbits, roe deer, pine martens, swallows and harriers that have made the area their home.

Read on for more art and culture in the New Land region.

Tour a fascinating industrial monument

Pumping station De Cruquius from 1849 is one of the three pumping stations with which the Haarlemmermeer was pumped dry between 1849 and 1852. It is the largest steam engine in the world. The pumping station was never modernized after that and was put out of operation in 1933. It belongs to the Top 100 of Dutch national monuments.
Image from Pema Prima Photography (@pema.prima)

Cruquius Museum is a fascinating industrial monument housing the 19th-century pumping station used to drain the municipality of Haarlemmermeer centuries ago. Learn about the Dutch struggle against water, marvel at an eye-opening model of how the Netherlands would look without dykes, and experience a live steam engine demonstration. There's a lot to absorb, making this eye-opening museum the perfect place to shelter from the cold of a Winter's day.

Discover more cultural attractions in the Flower Strip region.

Dine on a mysterious fortress island

Winterlicht Winter Lights dining experience on Pampus
Image from Tony Perez

For a fabulous adventure, take the ferry to the Forteiland Pampus - a man-made stronghold rich in history. This mysterious fortress island is only accessible by boats from IJburg or Muiden. It is open during the cooler months for its spectacular Winter Lights dining experience, from November to mid-December. Embark on a culinary expedition as you soak up the wintry vistas and cosy atmosphere of the historic surroundings.

Read more about unusual dining experiences in Castles & Gardens

Watch the waves in IJmuiden

Kite surfers at Amsterdam Beach IJmuiden
Image from Koen Smilde

The beach might not seem like the perfect place to spend a winter’s day, but IJmuiden, which has vast sand dunes and a three-kilometre-long pier stretching out into the North Sea, makes braving a bit of cold weather absolutely worth the effort. That’s because it’s one of the best places in the Netherlands to watch the waves and kitesurfers and spot seabirds. After that, take shelter in one of the area’s cosy cafes and grab some fresh stroopwafels and a warm chocolademelk (hot chocolate) to dunk them in.

Find out what else there is to do at Amsterdam Beach.

Warm up at a wellness resort

Image from Mirte Vreemann

One of the most luxurious wellness resorts in the country, the saunas and wellness facilities at Fort Resort Beemster are the perfect place to warm up or indulge in some winter opulence. Located deep in the countryside behind the historic walls of the beautiful Beemster Polder, the centre is part of UNESCO’s Defence Line of Amsterdam. Explore the stunning array of salt baths, indoor facilities, hot tubs and saunas in stunning surroundings. The only problem is, you might not want to get out.

Experience a festive wonderland at Haarlem’s Christmas Market

Christmas market in Haarlem. With a close-up of a pine branch covered in Christmas lights with a market and church tower in the background.
Image from Koen Smilde

For a real winter adventure, Haarlem’s historic canals and old-world charm bring something extra special to the festive season. Take the short journey from Amsterdam and explore its beguiling grandeur during the winter season, and if you can, visit the city’s vast Christmas Market. Offering a traditional take on festive fun, it boasts more than 300 stalls in and around Haarlem’s main square - Grote Markt – and its various shopping streets. Make sure you indulge in festive sweets, stock up on handmade goodies and shop to the soundtrack of a live choir. Also taking place during the Christmas Market is Kerstkorenlint, several choir performances at various locations around the city, including the Gravenzaal (Counts’ Hall) at the town hall in Grote Markt.

Read this guide for more things to do in Haarlem.