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In Europe the freewheeling experience becomes more challenging with driving on the right hand side of the road. Don’t be put off, roads and autobahns are well surfaced and clearly signposted. Most major roads do have tolls so it is often cheaper and more scenic to stay on the secondary roads.
Float along the canals of Amsterdam and Brugge, past islands and under cute stone bridges. Drive through a string of cities, small towns and villages through the idyllic countryside of windmills and tulips, walk along the fine beaches of coastal towns and soak up the historical heritage of these watery lands.
Day 1: Amsterdam – Zaandam (16km)
Cruise along the canals and marvel at the narrow houses and architecture.
Day 2: Zaandam – Volendam – Hoorn – Zaandam (146km)
Stop in market towns with timeless traditions. See the famous cheese markets of Alkmaar and Edam and the 16th century Haarlam.
Day 3: Zaandam – Sneek – Zwolle – Apeldoorn (235km)
Drive over the 32 kilometres causeway, Afsluitdijk, then down to see Sneek’s very old monuments. In the city wall of Zwolle is the Sassenpoort gateway, a heritage site. The little town of Giethoorn has small canals in place of streets, and all transport is by boat.
Day 4: Apeldoorn – Arnhem – Utrecht – Gouda – Brielle (200km)
See Utrecht by canal boat. Drive by parks, woods and country estates. Gouda, dominated by the late-Gothic Town Hall, is famous for the cheese market. Nearby is Oudewater, noted for its 17th-century gabled houses.
Day 5: Brielle – Scheveningen – Delft – Brielle (142km)
Brielle, a picturesque fortified town, is a perfect base for excursions and the surrounding area is ideal to explore by bike. Madurodam will delight you with its miniature Dutch town. Visit Scheveningen’s beach and pier.
Day 6: Brielle – Antwerp (124km)
Travel past Kinderdijk to see the windmills, then down through Zeeland and cross into Belgium. Walk through Antwerp’s historic city centre.
Day 7: Antwerp – Ghent – Brugge (107km)
Take a canal boat trip around Ghent’s historic city centre, explore the Museum of Fine Arts and explore the imposing castle overlooking the city.
Day 8: Brugge – Ypres (74km)
Explore Brugge medieval canal system lined with half-timbered houses. Visit Ypres to witness the last post ceremony at Menin Gate.
Customise this itinerary to travel at your own pace.
Highlights worth seeing along the way
Stop and Smell the Flowers – The famous flower auction in Aalsmeer, Amsterdam is open weekday mornings. Just south of Haarlem are the Keukenhof Gardens, flower bed to eight million flowering bulbs (open Mar-May).
Visit a Working Windmill – Molen de Kat to see the gears moving and climb the ladders for pretty views from the top.
Take the Ferry from Volendam to Marken – Explore these two old picturesque fishing villages built largely from wood.
Hoge Veluwe National Park – Visit the game reserve, the Kroller-Muller Art Gallery and Museum, and cycle around the park on the free bikes.
Around Utrecht – Dom Tower is Netherlands’ tallest and oldest church with breath-taking views of the city. Discover the wonderful monastery garden of the Pandhof and stroll around the old canal of Oudegracht. Kasteel de Haar is a fairy tale castle with medieval towers and bridges.
Explore Zeeland – Most of the land is reclaimed and lies below sea level, there are medieval harbour towns, islands and peninsulas and there is a massive engineering project of flood barriers to protect the mainland. Stop in the small town of Veere which retains many 16th century buildings.
Visit a Delft Factory – See historic, blue and white ceramics being created.
Ypres – Witness the last post ceremony held every night at Menin Gate.
Our favourite places to stay:
• Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Zaandam
• Hotel Apeldoorn de Cantharel, Apeldoorn
• Poorter Boutique Hotel, Brielle
• Dukes' Academie, Brugge
Choosing your Rental Car
Take into consideration the size of the vehicle you require. We strongly recommend a compact size car for two adults. If the vehicle is to be used for day touring from a central base and not for transporting your luggage, a smaller vehicle may be adequate. We suggest you book your car before leaving home as this will save money and ensure you get the car of your choice.
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Image credit: NBTC
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