A well-deserved Spring Break is ahead of us. This holiday guide will hopefully inspire you about how to enjoy your free time in The Netherlands, the opening hours of your local shops, and some interesting recommendations for family entertainment during these coming weeks. During this break, perhaps you have friends or family members visiting you here in The Netherlands - one of the best times to see and discover this country (with the Keukenhof and the flower fields as the main attractions).
At ASH, we typically begin our Spring Break on Good Friday. All stores are open on Good Friday but will close earlier in the evenings, and stores will be open on the Saturday. Everything on Easter Sunday (except for the amusement parks, restaurants and tourist areas) will be closed. This also holds true for Easter Monday, as the Dutch love their extra days off. Be sure to check your local supermarket for the exact opening and closing times. In addition, we always have a day off to celebrate the birthday of our King, Willem Alexander, on April 27th. Every year, on his birthday, the Royal Family visits a different city/province to celebrate the King's birthday, which you a find more information about on the royal website.
If you are "new" to this country, make sure you purchase an orange (our Royal Family belongs to the House of Orange) outfit and get ready for the best party celebrated by everyone of the year. The country will change into one big flea market. Everyone is allowed to sell just about everything on the streets. The kids are playing instruments or do small acrobatic acts and everyone comes home a penny lighter or a dime heavier, depending on which side of the vendor's table you are. The night before wonderful concerts, DJ's, bands and singer's perform for no admission fee at all. Do check King's Day for more information. I hope you can celebrate with us. And please, please, avoid the car; take the train, bus or bike, especially when you plan on going to Amsterdam or The Hague.
Try at least one glass of "Oranjebitter" on King's Day or enjoy one of the famous pastries: "Oranje Tompouce", for sale in every supermarket but, personally, the best ones are from the Hema. Many of our staff and students will go to the Hague on Friday evening for the celebrations of Koningsnacht. King's Day and the night before are celebrated by everyone in The Netherlands, regardless of political color. A true event for all to enjoy. I hope you do, too.
But, back to the earlier part of our break, Easter. Easter Sunday is a day when you visit with your family and have Easter egg hunts. Many restaurants organize Easter brunches. Don't ask me why but the Dutch love to go furniture shopping on holidays such as "Second Christmas/Easter/Whit Monday". All of the large furniture shopping malls are open on these days, so if you are interested in seeing many Dutchmen together all at once, this is your opportunity. The Dutch traffic control is already sending out warnings for traffic jams near IKEA stores and furniture malls on the Easter Monday (such as near the Amsterdam Arena and the exit to Ikea at Delft). Be warned, it will be busy.
If you are planning on visiting the Keukenhof or other tourist areas, take into account the high amount of holidays in these months as it is peak season. Expect long lines for the Keukenhof, Madurodam (where, in miniature, I can actually see the home I was born and my mom lived until 12 years ago!) and the Anne Frank House. If possible schedule your visit to the real "touristy" places later in the week. And always order your tickets online.
Only twice a year we can visit the Japanese Garden. It will reopen its doors for 6 weeks only from the end of April to the end of May. The Japanese Garden was created in the beginning of the 20th century by the former owner of the country estate of Clingendael, Marguérite M. Baroness van Brienen (1871-1939), also called Lady Daisy. Lady Daisy sailed off a number of times by ship to Japan and brought back to the Netherlands a number of lanterns, a water cask, sculptures, the pavilion, the little bridges and several plants. The original design with the serene pond, meandering brook and the winding pathways has remained intact all these years. The garden was placed on the list of national historical monuments in 2001. You can find more information under Japanese Garden in Clingendael Park.https://www.nemosciencemuseum.nl/en/
Now, for some tips further afield:
- Not too far from here is the town of Muiden, with a great castle - The Muiderslot. During Easter there will be an Easter egg hunt and tickets can be purchased on the event via their website.
- Friesland and the Lake District are also worth a visit, as is the city of Giethoorn, "the Venice of the North". You can rent a flat boat and stay on the water the entire day. If you are lucky, you'll see wedding parties celebrating on the water, and even cattle, being transported by boat.
- The "Delta Works" in Zeeland (best reached by car) is a marvelous example of Dutch engineering and design, and makes for another interesting family outing. Please check out their website (available in multiple languages).
- The city of Maastricht in Limburg (best reached by train) is a beautiful historical city, and you'll feel like you've stepped into France. If you decide to drive to Limburg do not forget to stop in the town of Thorn, another beautiful city. When in Limburg, be sure to "do as the Limburgers do" and have a coffee with their famous "Limburgse Vlaai", a pastry filled with fresh fruit which is delicious.
- Any animal lovers in your family? Then be sure to take a trip to the monkey farm in Apenheul, or to the safari park near Apeldoorn on the Veluwe (both best reached by car). While you are there, you can also rent a bike to visit the National Park "Hoge Veluwe” that houses the Kroller Muller museum - another interesting family attraction.
- And, while we are talking about discovering The Netherlands by bike, maybe you'd like the wait until the weather gets a little warmer, do stop by the ANWB and check out their bike trips. Truly nice to do, biking from hotel to hotel while your luggage and breakfast/dinner is all taken care of.
- Another interesting city to visit is Utrecht, by car or train, especially to see their Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement. This fantastic museum has a wonderful, hands on musical exhibition, and will surely be a hit for any museum lovers in your family. Or, take a visit to the train museum (Spoorwegmuseum) for the "big and bigger boys" in your family, or for anyone who simply enjoys trains.
- Don't forget that close by we have the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden in Leiden, and The Nemo and the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, are also places for the entire family to visit. Check out the 'Weekend Tips' from just before the October, December and February Break for more tips on what to do in The Netherlands, which are available on the ASH website.
- We are close to Delft, not only known for the beautiful Delft Blue Pottery, but also for the famous painter Vermeer who, amongst other masterpieces, painted "The Little Street" in Delft. The locations that are associated with Vermeer and 'The Little Street' are all in the vicinity of Museum Prinsenhof. The city itself is the context for the story. After a visit to the exhibition, a visitor can literally follow in Vermeer's footsteps. With new walking routes through the city, a special virtual reality App, Vermeer packages, etc, bringing Vermeer's Delft to life for the visitors. Delft equals Vermeer and Vermeer equals Delft. The route starts at the Tourist Information Point, Hippolytusbuurt 4 and finishes at Vermeer Centre Delft. It will take you to places that played an important part in Vermeer’s life like Vermeer’s house, the Street and the Old Church. A number of information cubes along the route will tell you more about his life and work. The walk is available in Dutch, English, French and Japanese and is for sale at the Tourist Information Point and Vermeer Centrum Delft
- And if the weather is, at least, dry and a bit sunny this week (I know I am asking a lot) try to see if you can make it to the Flevopolder to visit the largest Tulip Route in the world. Please check the following website Tulip Route. If you can bring a bike with you, there is a beautiful 19 km long route to follow. You'll be seeing beautiful, long stretches of colorful tulip fields. Still in Amsterdam, the Tulip Festival. The aim was to plant eventually one tulip for each individual citizen of Amsterdam. This amounts to 850,000 tulips. This year, the fourth year, half a million tulips were planted in open soil and in pots. You can enjoy them until the end of April at 85 different locations, or as long as they are blooming.
As you can see there are many activities to take part in over the break, as the Netherlands (and beyond) offers something for everyone.
Have a wonderful break.