Visiting Europe is a fun experience in any season, but if you’re traveling to enjoy the continent’s renowned tulips, spring is the time to do so. A Holland cruise down a local river with time in Belgium and Amsterdam is an unforgettable way of seeing each country’s floral beauty.
Passengers on Holland cruises enjoy floating past windmills beset by fields of blooming flowers, an experience interrupted only by excursions to spectacular attractions.
Keukenhof Gardens, in Lisse, the Netherlands, for example, features more than 7 million tulips and is one of the most popular attractions in all of Europe. Many Holland cruise itineraries also include time in Kinderijk, home to Holland’s largest concentration of windmills, and scenic canal cruises through the charming heart of Amsterdam.
Many Holland river cruise trips also feature sightseeing tours of Bruges, Belgium, along with visits to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, a favorite summer retreat of the Dutch royal family.
Here are a few highlights from some Holland river cruise itineraries that also venture into Belgium.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
A lot of cruises in this neck of the woods start in Amsterdam, the 800-year-old thriving capital of the Netherlands. Modern river cruising ships offer the newest technology, panoramic decks, delicious cuisine (including regional wines) and outstanding service. The ships are so nice, in fact, a lot of travelers spend their first nights aboard enjoy their new accommodations, meeting fellow passengers and sitting down for introductory gatherings.
That said, before setting sail, be sure to check out some of Amsterdam’s most important sites and its diverse architecture. The city is linked through numerous canals and one of the best ways to start an Amsterdam river cruise, or at least a river cruise departing Amsterdam, is with a canal tour through the city.
Voldendam, the Netherlands
Volendam is a relatively short sail from Amsterdam, and worth exploring a bit if your ship pulls into port. The little fishing village is still home to fishermen dressed in traditional caps and baggy trousers. Travelers may also use their time in Volendam to visit farms to learn how local cheese is made. Sometimes, lucky visitors get to sample some of the tasty results.
Arnhem, the Netherlands
Arnhem is a favorite summer retreat of the Dutch royal family. Your schedule will dictate how much time you have to explore, but some of the more popular local sites include Burgers’ Zoo and Safaripark, with animals and a playground, and, for those in search of local culture, the Netherlands Open-Air Museum and National Heritage Museum.
Middelburg, the Netherlands
Middelburg is the capital of the Dutch province Zeeland, and a former Dutch East India Company trading city. You’ll be hard-pressed not to see at least a few monuments: The city has more than 1,100 of them, enough for it to be commonly known as the monumental city. The Delta Works Project, located at Neeltje Jans, is an interesting excursion if it’s available. With a substantial amount of land beneath sea level, the Netherlands has a high flood risk. Delta Works is an amazing example of how the Dutch are safeguarding themselves from such a natural disaster. Veere is another interesting local spot, about 15 minutes away by car. It was a prosperous port in the Middle Ages because of a wool trade with Scotland.
Antwerp is Belgium’s second-largest city. It boasts beautiful Gothic and Baroque architecture and lively cafés. Explore local sites including the Liebfrauenkirche – Belgium’s largest Gothic church, the legendary Brabo Fountain and the home of prolific painter Peter Paul Rubens. If you’re interested in shopping, Antwerp has a lot to offer.
The center of Ghent is lined with typical patrician houses. St. Bavo Cathedral, with its world-famous painting of the altar of the citizens of Ghent, is a popular place for tourists, as is the Belfry, with its bell tower, which dates back to the early 14th century.
Bruges, one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities, is easy to explore on foot. The city, like Amsterdam, is linked by canals and a canal tour is an interesting way of sightseeing. Spend some time in the historic city center, tour Burg Square and enjoy the unforgettable atmosphere of the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
Stop in Kinderdijk (a UNESCO World Heritage site) to experience Holland’s largest concentration of windmills – many of which are still operating – and to get a revealing glimpse into Holland’s age-old battle with the sea. If possible, take an hour drive north explore the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens, in Lisse, spanning more than 70 acres within a beautiful park of tranquil ponds and shaded paths. With more than 7 million tulips and other flowers on exhibit, Keukenhof is a kaleidoscope of color in bloom.
Learn more about this exciting trip.
To learn more about AAA vacation packages and to search for or book a trip similar to the Holland cruise outlined above, go to AAA.com/Vacations.