We only took one week time to explore a whole country. Is it a good idea to take the car in the Netherlands? Which cities are definitely worth the visit and where can you find the best vegan restaurants?
This blogpost is your answer! A friend of mine, Tracy, helped us planning the journey and picked out sights and attractions, restaurants and insider tips. Never before had I explored a country efficiently in such a short time. In this blog post, I’ll name you all the stops of our journey, including our favorite places.
It’s all about planning
This trip was a whole new experience for me because it was completely planned from the beginning on. Usually, I am very spontaneous and I like to let myself be surprised. Planning is not part of my favorite activities unless it’s about vegan restaurants – for these, I have a map in Google Maps full of green flags for every city.
You might remember our Iran trip which was organized by an agency or our Italy road trip with the camper van in 2018. The latter was only planned roughly and we often chose the parking spaces spontaneously the same day. This time, we planned everything beforehand because we booked via Airbnb and thus had to make sure we had parking spaces.
Unfortunately, the journey took place during the most popular holiday week for the Germans: Whitsun holidays. Therefore, it was hard to find any affordable accommodation via Airbnb in the bigger cities. In the end, we stayed with a friend in Amsterdam. He definitely saved our trip because we really did not want to pay €150 for a ramshackle hut!
My advice: book in time! Yes, you are a lot less flexible but if you want to go to the Netherlands, you need to book early. The Germans, as well as the Dutch, like to travel. On weekends, partly every single hotel in Amsterdam is booked out. So, you better be quick!
Day 1: Utrecht + Rotterdam
Monday. Actually, we wanted to first go to Utrecht. This was our first planned stop which we missed out directly. During our journey many recommended to definitely visit Utrecht, so we planned to do that on our last day (Sunday) but it did not come to that. Maybe you can manage to visit Utrecht! From Düsseldorf, it is easy to go there for a day trip and I think I am going to do that someday.
Utrecht tips for you:
- The shopping street Twijnstraat
- Canoe rental Utrecht
- Pandhof Domkerk
- St. Willibrord
- Kasteel de Haar
- You should definitely rent a bike!
- Use park-and-ride (Westraven p+r)
- The Streetfood Club
- Waku Waku
- Karibu Café
On our way to Rotterdam
We drove to Rotterdam straight on via motorway. We discovered how flat the Netherlands is, we didn’t see a single hill. The speed limit on the motorway is at 130 km/h but some Dutch seemed to not care and drove way faster. During the whole journey, there was not a single speed camera.
About Rotterdam: Either you like it or not. I do understand both sides. The city was nearly completely destroyed by German bombs (oopsie) during World War II. Only a few bigger buildings are preserved and restored. Each building seems to be designed by a different architect, you can find plenty of building in different shapes, colors and structures. Frankly, I did not know what I should think about it. There is no old town. Some modern buildings, however, caught my eye in a positive way. Some architects really are creative what makes Rotterdam a unique city.
beautifully peculiar buildings in Rotterdam
What did catch our eye positively: Rotterdam has a living art scene. It is a hip city full of students with many little cute coffee houses, amazing nightlife, impressing street art, and great shops. Our favorite places were:
- Witte de Withstraat (Streetart & Nightlife)
- Koopgoot (the typical shopping street that you know from other big cities)
- De Groene Passage (nearby you can find great shops and coffee houses)
- Dearhunter (Vintage Store)
- Luchtsingel (if you want to add some yellow color to your Instagram feed – otherwise it is just a yellow bridge :D)
- The New Cafe
- Jazzcafé Dizzy
- Happy Food & Health
- De Kade
- Jack Bean
- The Harvest
- Gare du Nord
- SUE Bakery
- Spirit (Buffet)
- Heavenly Cupcakes
At night time, we went straight on to Den Haag where we stayed the next day.
Day 2: Den Haag + Scheveningen
After seeing the architecture in Rotterdam, the one in Den Haag surprised us in a good way. Instead of postwar buildings and “Big City Vibes“ we found a cute old town with small streets and photographic fronts. Some buildings were built in the 13th century as for example the yard where the Dutch Parliament is. We liked Den Haag very much. You can have long walks and visit many interesting sights and attractions such as the photo museum.
In Holland, you see bikes everywhere.
- Plenty | Coffeehouse & Plant-based kitchen
- Veggies On Fire
In the evening we drove to Scheveningen and stayed at the beach for the sunset. Unfortunately, the promenade is full of buildings and therefore does not look very nice. I would not recommend this place if you want to go on a beach vacation.
Day 3: Den Haag, Zandvoort + Haarlem
After having an amazing brunch at FOAM (I would really recommend it – the whole street is enchanting), we drove to Zandvoort.
Brunch at FOAM
We chose this small place for staying a day at the beach. In the end, it did not come to this due to pouring rain and less than 15 degrees. When we arrived at our Airbnb, we first had to turn on the heating. When the rain wasn’t that heavy anymore, we decided to drive to Haarlem. It only took us 10 minutes by train and cost €5.80 each for a return trip.
Haarlem surprised us in a positive way, but it was very cold and after a while, it started to rain again. Instead of having a look into all the small boutiques, we went to an Indonesian restaurant for shelter which we had picked out beforehand on Google Maps.
For some reason, there are so many Indonesians in Haarlem – one of my favorite cuisines!
Huge recommendation: De Lachende Javaan Restaurant. 10/10. No, wait. 12/10. On request, we got a complete vegan and luxurious menu of different vegetables, rice, and Indonesian specialties.
Day 4: Alkmaar, E22 + Groningen
The next morning we went straight to Alkmaar. This small place has enchanting canals, a calm atmosphere, and cute yards. Even for shopping, this city is perfect – here you can find many souvenirs. Those who fancy some good cheese (we don’t) can visit the popular cheese market.
We drove on and crossed the E22 – a street that goes straight through the sea! The street, however, is not just a bridge over but mainly an embankment dam for the inland sea. After the dyke was finished, the inland waters arose from the tidal estuary Zuiderzee (the South Seas). Without the dykes, a big part of the Netherlands would be flooded.
When we arrived in Groningen, we rented two bikes. This is the best way to get through the vibrant city. For only €19 we got two bikes in good condition, including locks for 24 hours. Sure, there are cheaper options but we liked this bike shop very much because the owner was so nice.
For dinner, we went to De Herbivoor, a completely vegan restaurant with extraordinary food. Here you can find chickpea tofu or eggplants in a crust. The portions are too small for this high price. The sauces were very good. Result: 8/10.
De Herbivoor in Groningen
- Feel Good
- Bagels & Beans
- Tekinev (Turkish Food)
- De Herbivoor
- Bla Bla Restaurant
Day 5: Groningen, Giethorn + Amsterdam
We spent the next morning in Groningen. With our bikes, we drove to Feel Good. The Hummus-Veggie-Toast comes with a lot of vegetables, peas, and salad. That’s how we like it! The bread was somehow a little bit too soft though. In Den Haag at FOAM, too, the bread could have been more crusty. Don’t the Dutch know what a toaster is? 😀
Afterward, we drove with our bikes to the canals. Many sailing boats were standing next to each other alongside the colorful fronts. In Groningen, riding a bike is fun. The whole city is beautiful and has many cultural offers for young people. The red-light district was worth a short visit. Before we drove on, we treated ourselves with a cold chai latte in the Kattencafé in the company of fluffy quadruped.
Next stop: The most beautiful village in the Netherlands
In the afternoon, we drove on to Giethoorn. Giethoorn received a mention for the most beautiful village of the Netherlands. Of course, we could not resist going there. We rented a small motorboat and drove along an earmarked way.
Retrospectively, I would say that this experience was my favorite in Holland. I would definitely recommend this!
In the evening, we finally went to Amsterdam where we stayed on the last day of our road trip. For dinner, we went to the Vegan Junk Food Bar which was recommended to us by a friend. For those who like burgers, Caesar salad, fries and co will be more than happy here. Moreover, you can find a vegan version of a local specialty: Kapsalon – hairdresser’s shop in English. This is a traditional fast food dish made of fries, meat, and cheese. Our opinion: Interesting experience, tasted very good but it was too greasy for health-conscious people like us – 6/10.
Day 6: Amsterdam
We spent our last day in the Dutch capital with a lot of bike riding, vintage shopping and visiting the most beautiful photo spots. The flower market was completely crowded and not really interesting for us but for those who want to buy seeds, will find exactly what they are looking for here.
For brunch, we finally went to Beter & Leuk, after finding many disappointing cafés (where can you find big portions for appropriate prices? :D). The atmosphere is very cordial. If I lived in Amsterdam, this would be my favorite coffee house. You can have a great breakfast and lunch as well as dinner. Moreover, they sell vintage clothing and several things from a local designer.
For dinner, we had a Weed Burger at The Dutch Weed Burger Joint. It is not made of weed as cannabis but of patties enriched with seaweed. Actually, I am not a fan of burgers but the Weed Burger was fantastic! I ordered the “Asian“ version with Pak Choi and Kimchi. The fries and the tiramisu were a dream – 10/10.
Renting a bike in Amsterdam is more expensive than in other Dutch cities but there are also cheaper options. Don’t go into the first shop, do some research beforehand what local opportunities you have.
About the photo spots – I would recommend Damrak. It is a bridge from where you have a beautiful view over gingerbread houses. We climbed over the barrier and went some steps downwards onto a platform with a wide view over the houses. Actually, it is forbidden to climb down there, so you better be quick.
Damrak & the gingerbread houses
In Amsterdam are so many beautiful spots and sights and attractions. This city attracts millions of tourists every year. It was my third time in Amsterdam, so I had already seen the typical spots. This time I experienced the city in a completely different way. The reason for that might be my personal development and my different philosophy of life. I am sure about one thing: You never get enough of Amsterdam. I am looking forward to my next visit.
Amsterdam Food – your recommendations:
- Men Impossible – best Ramen in the world
- Pluk (healthy vegan food)
- Lavinia Good Food
- Vegan Junk Food Bar
- Bagels & Beans
- Deer Mama Vegan Mylk & Burger Bar
- Sir Hummus
- Coffee & Coconuts
- & Mrs. Watson
- SLA (Bowls)
- Dignita Hoftuin
Last but not least – let’s talk about the parking situation. This is not an easy one. I would recommend using the filter for free parking on Airbnb whilst booking your accommodations. That’s how we saved a lot of parking fees. Even if the owners did not have their own parking space, they could always recommend us a free space nearby.
Looking at the city center – this is way different. There is not a single free parking space. Depending on which city we were visiting, we chose one of the following options:
- Rent a bike. Leave your car at your accommodation and rent a bike at a bike shop nearby.
- Look for a car park. Usually, you can find the prices in the ratings in Google Maps. You can park on the street but usually, it is even more expensive than a car park.
- Park your car further away. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a free parking space and then you can walk into the city.
- Park & Ride. We used this option in Amsterdam – if you validate your ticket correctly, you only pay €1 per day for your parking space. You also have to pay the tickets for the train but without using Park & Ride, the parking fees can rise up to an amount of €20 per day.
I hope you liked this blog post and you found some useful tips. If you like, you can tag me on Instagram when visiting one of the described spots. As always, I look forward to your feedback.
I wish you a lot of fun for your trip to the Netherlands!