Holland is perfect for family holidays: easy to get around, stacks to see and everyone speaks English too!
Family Holiday Idea #1: Waterland and Zaan - A Land Lost in Time
Family highlightsSeek out the Dutch stereotypes: windmills, clog-wearing locals, tulips, wooden houses and old fishing villages with boats battered by the elements can all be seen in this flat landscape reached by scenic boat trip from Amsterdam. Don’t miss the Zaanse Schans open-air conservation centre and museum, with working windmills, crafts workshops (from cheese- or mustard- to clog-making) and traditional buildings.
Letting off steam: Go biking along the River Zaan, lined by dozens of functioning windmills, some of them dating back more than 300 years, and by other remnants of the region’s industrial heritage.
Foodie fun: Taste Edam cheese at one of the summer cheese markets in the pretty little town of Edam itself. Other good family bets are the traditional pancake house, De Kraai, at Zaanse Schans and its bakery-museum selling sweet local bread and home-made sweets.
Somewhere to stay: Family-friendly accommodation handy for the region includes the many houseboats and self-catering apartments in Amsterdam, or the Center Parcs’ affiliate Sunpark Zaanvoort aan zee.
Family Holiday Idea #2: South Holland - More Cheese, Please
Family highlights:Tour the 19 windmills of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kinderdijk by bike or boat, explore the royal and governmental seat of The Hague with its miniature city of Madurodam, visit the three national museums at Leiden, discover the gorgeous, canal-threaded little city of Delft with its famous ceramics factory and the Vermeercentre on its best-known son, and admire the tulip fields of Keukenhof.
Letting off steam: You can venture from continent to continent at Rotterdam’s world-renowned zoo, Diergaarde Blijdorp, and run amok in the port-city’s Plaswijckpark with its go-karting ‘traffic garden’, boat trips, mini-train, adventure playground and animal park. Alternatively, head for The Hague’s beach resorts of Scheveningen or Kijkduin.
Foodie fun: Buy Gouda cheese at the market in the city itself, picturesquely laid out as ‘Golden Wheels’, and sample local soused herring and mussels. If you fancy a change from Dutch fare, try one of the Indonesian restaurants harking back to the country’s colonial past.
Somewhere to stay: Larger cities have a good choice of hotels and B&B ‘inns’, including The Hague’s family-friendly luxury Hotel des Indes. (For campers, Canvas Holidays offers a site with a tropical waterpark within a nature reserve in The Hague’s suburb of Wassernaar.)
Family Holiday Idea #3: West Frisian Islands - Water, Water Everywhere
Family highlights: Island-hop by ferry, stopping to explore Texel, Vlieland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog by bike, on foot or on horseback. Watch seals being fed at the Ecomare seal sanctuary on Texel or take a boat trip to spot the grey seal colonies resting on Richel – or best of all, go seal-spotting by hitching a ride aboard a shrimp-fishing boat, eating shrimps cooked aboard and listening to the fishermen’s tales.
Letting off steam: Swim, frolic on the dunes, and hunt for items from shipwrecks that have washed ashore. On Texel, let the kids set out in search of the stone gnomes dotted along the path through the woods, then take them to Oudeschild harbour to play on the pirate ship with its lookout tower, ropes and nets.
Foodie fun: Try the delicacies made from the cranberries grown on Terschelling, sold in the island’s restaurants and bakeries. You’ll find a particularly good choice of welcoming, family-friendly restaurants and beach cafés on Texel, serving local dishes often based on the renowned lamb or fish, oysters and shrimps, and asparagus.
Somewhere to stay: The inhabited islands each have a handful of small hotels, a big choice of holiday homes and apartments, and a campsite or two; their tourist office websites have details.
Family Holiday Idea #4: Maastricht - The Middle Ages Meet Movie Magic
Family highlights: Wander around what is probably the Netherlands’ oldest historic old centre, with its cobbled streets, medieval fragments and stunning religious architecture. Standout museums include the Bonnefanten with its Old Master and contemporary artworks, and the Natuurhistorischmuseum with local fossils and remains including those of mosasaurs and giant turtles.
Letting off steam: Venture to Kasteelpark Born 30km north of Maastricht, with its charming children’s zoo and farm, bee colony, playground and café inhabiting the ruins of the old town castle. Or the film themepark Movie World 40 minutes from Maastricht across the German border includes a new Ice Age ride.
Foodie fun: Families enjoy the buzzing café, bar and restaurant scene in Maastricht, especially on the scenic tree-lined square of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Plein and around the restored inner harbour of Bassin, where both Dutch and international food is available at prices friendly to the local student population.
Somewhere to stay: Maastricht’s Hotel Derlon has its own underground museum tracing the city’s history from the 1st century BC, and as well as guestrooms offers apartments with up to two bedrooms. Or you could opt for one of three Center Parcs just over an hour to the north, De Kempervennen, Het Meerdaal and Sunparks Limburgse Peel, or for two others not far over the border in Belgium.
For some great money saving tips read our guide to Family Holidays in Holland on a Budget.
P&Os family holidays Expert
Rhonda has written and edited for most of the big-name travel publishers, including Time Out and Lonely Planet and is the author of three Frommer's family travel guides - London with Kids, Normandy with Your Family and Brittany with Your Family. She’s married to horror novelist Conrad Williams and along with her sons Ethan (7), Ripley (5) and Zac (2) she regularly travels to all manner of places as commissioning editor and main features writer for www.takethefamily.com.