If by some chance, you find yourself in Holland amidst the endless stream of bicyclists, multi-ethnic food, canals, and cobblestones, I hope you venture outside of Amsterdam to see what else there is to offer. With a landmass of 41,543 square kilometers and an insanely efficient public transportation system, Holland is easy to move around in. I spent five months living in a quaint college town, Leiden, which is just a 30-minute train ride (16 Euros) from the international hubbub of Amsterdam.
While I was there for a purpose, to study at the university as a foreign exchange student, you don’t have to be. It is a wonderful place to wander around, big enough to see a myriad of rich cultural sites and small enough to see them all in one day on foot, if need be. After living there for a while, I saw that Leiden has virtually every opportunity Amsterdam has except on a smaller scale: the typically Dutch windmills and canals, the quaint buildings with tall vertical windows, massive cathedrals and churches, long narrow streets, museums, ruins dating back to the 14th century, rowdy bars, quiet bars, coffee shops (and cafés… there is a difference), ethnic food, and of course, frites smothered in mayonnaise.
Things you must see if you are in Leiden: De Burcht, a defensive barrier originally used as a castle in the 11th century, rebuilt in 1204. If you are in Leiden on a Saturday or Wednesday, there will be a local market where you can buy authentic Dutch cuisine. I recommend the Kipling, or fried white fish, fries with peanut sauce, and for desert, a fresh stroopwafel and a black coffee. If you miss the open market, don’t worry. Try the sweet or savory pancakes from the Pannenkoekenhuis (Pancake House) just a five-minute walk from the train station or, for amazing Asian cuisine, try the restaurant called Buddha adjacent from the Pancake House.
Though I am partial to Leiden, there are other Dutch cities besides Amsterdam that are offer remarkable tourism experiences. Utrecht and Rotterdam are each larger than Leiden but smaller than Amsterdam, and embody their own unique feel. Bombed in World War II by the Germans, Rotterdam was rebuilt in a modern way, thus massive skyscrapers and great metal bridges replace the narrow canals and red brick buildings. Rotterdam has a phenomenal photography museum and endless shopping.
Holland is a small but incredible country. Beware of the winters if you are thin-skinned like me, and always have a rain jacket, but don’t let the moody weather deter you from adventuring here!
~ By guest blogger, Katie Rose Criscuolo. Katie is a student at Agnes Scott College and intern at Go Eat Give. She spent a semester in Netherlands.