Just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, you find yourself in an oasis of peace. In the green landscape, you will find picturesque villages and dikes dotted with colourful wooden houses. Views over the water that the Netherlands is so famous for, with sailing boats passing by on the horizon. For those who really want to get away from it all, this paradise is next to Holland’s capital, an experience not to be missed.
The five nicest villages, easy to reach by road or water from the Randstad, are listed below.
1. Durgerdam and Lighthouse Island
Once an independent municipality, Durgerdam has now become part of the north-eastern side of Amsterdam. An authentic dyke village, which gained historical fame through a sad event in the 19th century.
Famous history of Durgerdam
On a rare cold winter morning in 1849, Klaas Bording and his two sons went ice-fishing near Durgerdam. The piece of ice on which they stand becomes detached from the shore and they soon drift off.
Due to heavy fog and poor visibility, they remained afloat for a fortnight on the freezing -at that time- Zuiderzee. Eventually, they were brought ashore near Enkhuizen, after more than 14 days of bitter cold with nothing but raw fish and melted ice. Only the youngest son survived the disaster.
Today, only a statue in the village reminds of the sad event.
What to do in Durgerdam
In dreamy Durgerdam, the wooden houses are neatly lined up on the Zuiderzeedijk, the whole thing almost reminiscent of Scandinavia. Visit the beautiful wooden chapel, which served as a church for a very short time. Since it was build it has alternated between a school and the local town hall.
In Durgerdam, time seems to have stood still. Many of the residents sit comfortably in front of the door, there are no pavements and the vistas between the flapping laundry are breathtaking. A greater contrast between the city you have just left behind and the wide view in the middle of nature cannot be found anywhere else in the Randstad.
Here you can relax on a sunny terrace of one of the cosy cafes. For example, if you arrive by bike from Amsterdam. If you don’t feel like pedalling yourself, consider renting an electric scooter. You drive silently over the dyke and past a ribbon of villages along the water.
Exceptionally good food in a unique location on Lighthouse Island
Eating at Lighthouse Island is not just a night out but a mini holiday in a rugged landscape under Amsterdam’s only lighthouse. In this unique piece of nature, you will find roaming animals, rare flora and the ruins of a fortress that appeals to the imagination.
Located in the Markermeer near Durgerdam, Lighthouse Island can only be reached by boat. You will be picked up together with the other guests by boat from Lloyds Hotel in Amsterdam.
On board, you can already enjoy an aperitif and see Amsterdam from the water. After a short trip, you will be warmly welcomed to the island, where there will be plenty of time to look around before you eat.
Eating all year round on Lighthouse Island
In spring and summer, you eat in the summer restaurant, a glass greenhouse with a wide view, sheltered from wind and rain but with a view and a menu to get you drooling. In the colder months, eat in the winter restaurant, where a fireplace and cosy blankets create an intimate atmosphere.
The table d’hôte menu is prepared with pure regional products, vegetables cultivated on the island, in a traditional and artisanal way on an open fire! Food with character and a special story.
2. Zaandam & the Zaanse schans
Although Zaandam is technically a city, it fortunately still has a very village-like feel. And you notice it as soon as you arrive and see the green houses of the Zaan region.
In Zaandam, named after its location on both sides of the river Zaan, you will inevitably get a Dutch feeling! It has a cosy historical centre, the famous Dutch facades that you also see in cities likeMedemblik and Amsterdam and, of course, the Zaanse Schans where you can see for yourself how clogs are made.
Visit the Czaar Peter house in the centre of Zaandam
Probably the oldest wooden house in the Netherlands, built in 1632 and named after Czar Peter, who once stayed here for a short time. Czaar Peter stayed in this simple workers’ cottage when he came to learn the trade of ship carpenter in Zaandam at the end of the 17th century. In 2013, the Czar Peter house was restored, but it is still crooked. It is set up as a museum and is definitely worth a visit.
Contrary to what many people think, the Zaanse schans is not only for foreign tourists, but is certainly also nice to visit during a day as a tourist in your own country. Here you will learn all about old Dutch crafts, in a beautiful spot by the river Zaan.
You can visit the various windmills and see why the Netherlands is famous for them. Visit the cheese shop and taste the world’s most famous cheese yourself, and see how a piece of wood is turned into a clog in 5 minutes.
Of course, you can also buy the best flashy souvenirs for grandma [of jezelf] here and the children can do a fun treasure hunt, after which they will tire you out for hours with facts about mills, tulips and clogs, you bet.
3. Muiden & fortisland Pampus
Muiden is a fortified town with a lively centre, surrounded by canals and historic locks and part of two water lines. Historic ships are moored here all year round, completing the picture.
If you like sailing, you may know Muiden from the Muider hardzeil dagen, which takes place every year in the last weekend of October. From Muiden you can also make fully arranged day trips on your ‘own’ sailing ship.
Muiden is also known for the ‘Muiderslot’ which can be visited daily. You can take special guided tours or imagine yourself in a fairy tale on your own. Not only is the castle itself a fairy-tale sight, but the gardens around it are a real feast for the eyes and a wonderful place to “lose” your kids for a while or take a romantic stroll.
Dining and drinking in Muiden
When visiting Muiden, you cannot miss Muiden’s oldest business: Café Ome Ko, where beers have been tapped since 1810 and where it is very cosy. Housed in a historic corner building, here you sit right in the front of the large sea-lock, with a view over the Vecht from behind a cold drink on the cozy terrace. What you also cannot miss is the interior of Ome Ko!
For a tasty lunch or a delicious dinner, you can also visit the Graaf Floris restaurant, which, just like Ome Ko, is a household name in Muiden. At the edge of the river Vecht, this eatery has been there for a long time.
Here you can taste not only delicious dishes that change with the seasons, but also the atmosphere of bygone centuries. Find a seat inside and marvel at the interior or enjoy the view of the vecht and the lock on the terrace.
The Dutch expression ‘lying in front of Pampus’ which means as much as ‘just laying around’ is derived from this place. This used to be the place for ships to moor and wait until they could enter Amsterdam. So you were literally lying in front of Pampus.
Today, you can visit the Fort and learn all about the history of this island and the Defence Line of Amsterdam. You can do treasure hunts with children, an escape room adventure with friends or colleagues, delicious lunch or dinner, but also stay the night in the unique B&B Mistklokhuisje or camp on this uninhabited island!
Ransdorp, what’s in the name! After the last floods in 1916, these villages had no money to rebuild and were forced to become part of the big Amsterdam. This does not mean that they are not proud of their history and environment.
In Ransdorp, you get the feeling of standing in the middle of nature instead of around the corner from Dam Square in Amsterdam. It is not without reason that this village was the setting for one of Rembrandt van Rijn’s paintings.
The Stubby Tower of Waterland
In the middle of the village you will find a very special church. One without a tower built in the 16th century and probably never finished, who knows? Beautifully decorated and definitely worth climbing; from the top you have a view over the whole of Waterland.
Town hall of Ransdorp
When you have caught your breath after climbing the stubby tower, you can cross over to the Town Hall. This centuries-old building will take you back to Dutch history.
Until the 18th century, the town hall was also the courthouse and the guilty were hanged on the gallows in front of the town hall. Only the plaque above the door is a reminder of this.
5. Monnickendam and Marken
When you think ofMonnickendam, you may think of traditional costume and eel, and that is true! But there are many more things to see and do with historic Monnickendam as the backdrop.
There are the Monnickendam fishing days, numerous museums, and you can taste local delicacies and have a drink on every street corner.
Relaxing on Strandvier beach near Monnickendam
Do you need some time to digest all that historical grandeur behind a cold drink or over a nice lunch? Then drop by Strandvier on the Markermeer. Here you sit with your toes in the sand and a view of the island of Marken. If that’s not a holiday feeling…
Besides having a drink, you can also play a game of beach volleyball, go for a swim or relax around the campfire after a beautiful sunset.
Rent electric scooters from See by drive
Don’t feel like walking all the way to Strandvier or do you want to discover Monnickendam and its surroundings in a playful and environmentally friendly way? Then hire an electric bicycle or scooter from See by drive and you will ride silently past all the highlights that Monnickendam has to offer and perhaps all the way to Marken.
The beautiful Marken, driving along the coast, you may have already seen it with the famous ‘Horse of Marken’. If looking out is not enough, you can always cross over and have a closer look at the famous lighthouse.
On Marken itself, the rich history of this place is evident in everything. This former island where people live on wharfs has a long history, which, like many places around the Marker and IJsselmeer, has to do with fishing.
Visit the Markermuseum and the show-house of Sijtje Boes
You can find out all about it in the Marker Museum. Don’t forget to visit Sijtje Boes’ show house. The cottage of this legendary souvenir seller from the last century is unmissable and is located right on the harbour.
Besides driving around on a bicycle or scooter, walking is highly recommended on this peninsula. This is how you really discover the different yards or neighbourhoods. Besides, Marken is only small and lends itself perfectly to being discovered on foot.
Sailing trip from Amsterdam
If you’ve had a taste for the natural surroundings of Amsterdam after a visit, you might also consider a sailing trip along the North Holland coast.
There is much more to experience along the nature-rich banks of the Markermeer. In addition to the villages in the smoke of Amsterdam, you can also visit VOC towns such as Hoorn, or one of the other lovely harbour towns around the IJsselmeer.
From the water you have a completely different perspective and a sailing trip can be for a day, but also for a weekend or longer. For more information about sailing trips, please contact us.