Monday, September 24, 2012

North Holland, Friesland & Groningen

 Earlier this September, we spent a long weekend exploring some more of the Netherlands. Our first port of call in North Holland was Zaanse Schans, which is the heart of the Zaan region. This area has typical Zaan houses, buildings and of course windmills. On a windy day, you'll be able to see the windmills working.

Zaanse Schans
All the houses are built from timber, as stone houses would sink into the soft peat earth. Also, at the time that they were built, wood was readily available from the local sawmills. If you're familiar with the Netherlands, you'll know that Albert Heijn is a major Dutch supermarket chain. A visit to Zaanse Schans will introduce you to the first shop from 1887, a baking museum, a cheese factory was well as a mustard mill.

Many people when they visit The Netherlands, tend to head for Amsterdam and thats it. Zaanse Schans and our next destination, Edam, are easily accessible from Amsterdam, so a great way of extending a traditional city break or long weekend. Having really enjoyed our first stop in North Holland, we had a short drive to Edam, the home of the famous Edam Cheese. During the months of July & August you can visit the cheesemarket and see how they are sold. Edam is a really pretty town, very relaxed, where you can visit the Edams Museum and enjoy the many historical buildings in the town.


Delicious Edam cheese
From Edam, we had a short drive to Enkhuizen, our home for the night. We stayed at a hotel called De Koepoort, fine for one night, although it felt that it hasn't had any money spent on it since the 1970s. Enkhuizen is still one of Holland's largest ports and its many fine buildings are evidence of the wealth of Holland's Golden age. That evening we had a great meal at the Markerwaard restaurant, whilst the service could do with a polish, the food was delicious and the set menu is great value for money.


Our main reason for staying in Enkhuizen was to visit the Zuiderzee Museum, which has both an Binnenmuseum (indoor) and Buitenmuseum (outdoor). Indoors we visited an exhibition of ING owned artwork along with an impressive collection of boats from the Zuiderzee. The outdoor museum is a a construction of an old Zuiderzee town, fascinating to walk around. Along with Zaanse Schans, we highly recommend visiting this museum. Below are some photos from our visit and you'll find more information on

Zuiderzee, Binnenmuseum (Indoor)

Zuidersee, Buitenmuseum (Outdoor)

From Enkhuizen, we drove across the impressive Afsluitdijk, into Friesland, where we stopped for lunch in the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden. One of the city's claims to fame is that Mata Hari grew up here. As it was Sunday there wasn't too much open, however by chance we parked right next to the museum, Het Princessehof, the former residence of Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel. These days the palace is home to a unique collection of ceramics of international importance.

Het Princessehof

Our final destination for the weekend was Groningen, the cultural and historical capital of the province bearing the same name. We stayed in the NH Hotel De Ville, a lovely hotel with great staff and a very nice restaurant. If your looking for a great bar for a drink in the evening or a coffee in the morning, look no further than De Drie Gezusters on Grote Markt, a huge place with the feel of an old London Pub. 
Groninger Academie
Groningen is another very nice Dutch city, fun to just walk around and enjoy the lovely old buildings. One thing to remember when visiting The Netherlands, is that generally on Sunday, with the exception of museums, most things are shut. Also on Monday, be warned that shops tend not to open till after 1pm.

Groningen Stadhuis

We had a great long weekend touring these Dutch provinces. If you haven't visited the Netherlands and were thinking about visiting Amsterdam, perhaps now you'll have some more ideas as to how you can extend your stay.