In the Netherlands, it’s time to leave the city behind and welcome the new season.
With spring on the way, it’s time to leave the cozy city cafés behind for a taste of the great outdoors. In Amsterdam, you don’t have to go far for a little seasonal nature. Read on for our favorite spring getaways near the city.
Early each spring, Lisse becomes the center of the horticultural universe. At its famous Keukenhof gardens, more than seven million hand-planted spring bulbs (including 800 varieties of tulip) burst into bloom, carpeting the 79-acre site with a rainbow of color.
It’s a unique spectacle and you have just a few weeks to take advantage of it: Keukenhof is open from March 24 to May 16, 2016, with April probably the prime time to visit. This year, the theme is the Golden Age—the Netherland’s glory years in the 17th century when the small nation produced Rembrandt and Vermeer, and controlled the world’s most important mercantile empire. The many different plots to visit include a Golden Age and a Delft Blue garden, and there are many other activities, some especially for kids. It’s huge, but you don’t have to walk the entire site—you can always opt to ride a bicycle or take the ‘whisper’ electric boat, too.
Getting there: Couldn’t be easier—a combi ticket includes transportation via bus from central Amsterdam (and other locations).
Where to stay: Until recently, the Dutch coast has lacked boutique hotels, but the Vesper Hotel, located in the nearby resort town of Noordwijk, has changed that. This super-stylish hostelry is tastefully furnished and has the comforts you’re likely to need. It also has sea views as it stands on a vast, sandy stretch of beach, perfect for bracing walks and morning runs.
Where to eat: In the picturesque old town of Noordwijk, Onder de Linde is an atmospheric restaurant serving elegant food: French-Mediterranean, with Dutch and Asian touches. The Bib Gourmand menu is good value at $41. If you want to splash out, Latour, on the Noordwjk seafront, has a well-deserved Michelin star.
Wadden Islands: Texel
In the north of the country, the Wadden Islands are a great place to visit at any time. Green and beautiful, with miles of beaches, unspoiled nature reserves, and panoramic sea views, they boast twice the hours of sunlight of the mainland.
In the spring, though, the islands are visited by millions of migrating birds—and you don’t have to be a dedicated birder to enjoy seeing oystercatchers, redshanks, greylag geese, goshawks, buzzards, and more at close quarters. Texel, the largest of the Wadden Islands, offers the most amenities, with quaint villages, good restaurants, and lively cafés to keep you occupied when you’re not enjoying strolling on the beach or cycling through the dunes. It even has its own craft brewery.
Getting there: Take the train to Den Helder, and then take the ferry.
Where to stay: You might be on a tiny island, but there’s no need to rough it. Boutique Hotel Texel is chic enough for any city dweller, despite the rustic setting, and offers an indoor pool and spa, plus a restaurant.
Where to eat: With a great beach location and a superb sea view featuring the neighboring island of Vlieland, it’s not all about the food at Strandpaviljoen Kaap Noord, although the menu is reliably good. Freya in Den Burg is small, cozy, and charming, with excellent food, including wonderful local Texel lamb dishes.
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.