Looking for a new way to see Holland? It doesn’t get much better than a boat and bike tour—the views are fabulous on land and on water. There’s nothing like exploring the Green Heart of Holland on a bike or capturing the perfect shot the medieval spires of Haarlem as you sail along the river.
Don’t believe us? Check out some of the sights and experiences that await you on a tour of southern Holland.
1. Marvel at the magnificent castles along the River Vecht.
The River Vecht traces a picturesque route between Amsterdam and Utrecht. Along the way, you’ll pedal past seven uniquely beautiful towns and villages lined with imposing castles and country estates.
You’ll be awed by Slot Zuylen and its graceful grounds and gardens. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this 14th century fortress turned country estate showcases the noble lifestyle of the Netherlands’ royal class.
2. Circle the Dom Tower in Utrecht before climbing 465 steps to the top.
The Dom Tower is rightly viewed as Utrecht’s pride a joy, the highest church steeple in all Holland. The church’s history dates back to Roman times—it survived the Viking invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries, the Iconoclastic Fury of the Protestant Reformation, and even a devastating 17th century tornado.
After you finish your bike journey, take some time to explore this incredible edifice—and take a climb to the top, if you dare, for the most awe-inspiring panoramic views of the city.
3. Pedal to Schiedam for your jenever fix.
When you tire of sampling the gin in Amsterdam (if that’s even possible), it’s time to sample jenever (pronounced yeNAYver), gin’s older, wiser sister. Although it’s also made from juniper berries, jenever is packed with delicious, fragrant herbs that give it a heady aroma and distinctive flavor. It comes in three varieties, oud (old), jong (young), and korenwijn, and you really need to taste all three to truly appreciate the spirit.
Schiedam is the jenever capitol—you can even visit the National Jenever Museum if you really want to know your stuff. And then take some time to check out Schiedam’s impressive art scene before retiring to your boat cabin for the night.
4. Canals, cafes, and pretty painted porcelain—what’s not to love about Delft?
Everyone knows about the blue and white porcelain the city is famous for, but there’s so much more to love about Delft—it’s Vermeer’s hometown, after all. And in fact, much of its 17th century charm is still evident in its canals houses, markets, and Renaissance architecture.
When you’ve explored to your heart’s content, you’ll have time to visit the Royal Delftware factory and take a tour. Since you’ve got your own floating cabin to return to, you can pick up a few favorite pieces to take home as mementos of your adventure.
5. Don’t miss the 19 windmills of Kinderdijk, possibly the most picturesque sight in Holland.
Let’s be honest—you know you want to see the windmills in Holland. It’s one of the things the country is famous for. To really get the full Dutch windmill experience, there’s nothing like Kinderdijk, where you can see an amazing collection of 17th century windmills.
Of the 20 original windmills built to stem the flooding of the Lek and Noord rivers, only 19 still remain, but they’re such an iconic and important part of Holland’s history, they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Take a tour if you can; the mills are still functional and there’s nothing like the shaking feeling when the massive sails are buffeted about by the wind.
6. Meander through the Alblasserwaard to Gouda and snack on this glorious orange cheese.
Although the Kinderdijk windmills are what the Alblasserwaard is most famous for, the route to Gouda is pastoral and green, with plenty of grassland and grazing cows—the perfect backdrop for a cheese stop in Gouda.
Did you know that the city’s namesake cheese is responsible for about 60% of all cheese production in Holland? Visit on a Thursday and you can witness the cheese auction, an event virtually unchanged over the centuries. Be sure to sample a bit of the world-famous cheese, but don’t miss the stroopwafel, a delightful waffle-texture cookie sandwiched around warm, sweet caramel.
7. Find your serenity pedaling past the lovely lakes in the “Green Heart of Holland.”
The Green Heart of Holland is a nature preserve and recreational area known for its, well, lush greenery and serene waters. You’ll see livestock grazing, birds and wildlife going about their day, and lakes filled with sailboats and wakeboards. It’s simultaneously calming and energizing.
8. Wander through the Witches WeighHouse in Oudewater.
Legend goes that you can tell if someone practices the dark arts of witchcraft simply by weighing them—because witches were light enough to float on water. Hence the Witches Weighhouse in Oudewater, a place where the scales were used to separate the witches from the rest of the townsfolk.
You can visit the Witches WeighHouse on your journey to Utrecht and step on the scales. You’ll get an official certificate attesting you’re not a witch—provided you weigh enough, that is!
9. The Kennemer Dunes are a wildlife lover’s dream come true.
If the thought of riding your bike past buffalo and wild horses sends your pulses racing, you’ll love Kennemer Dunes. Near the Zandvoort Beach, this wildlife area feels like a foreign country compared to the ordered greenness that characterizes much of Holland.
If there’s time and the weather’s right, enjoy a nature hike or a swim in the sea.
10. Dip your toes in the North Sea at the beach in Bloemendaal.
Unlike Zandvoort, which has a more beach resort feel, Bloemendaal is a true beach lover’s spot, with its impressive dunes and national park. The North Sea beckons—grab a beer or an ice cream cone and dip your toes in the sand as you stroll along the beach.
Feel like more time off the bike? Enjoy the miles of nature trails through the dunes and just enjoy the brisk breeze and expansive views.
11. Cruise along the River Spaarne in the medieval city of Haarlem.
Many people consider Haarlem the most photogenic city in the Netherlands—and it’s easy to see why. Gorgeous medieval architecture, stunning church spires, meandering waterways, and the iconic Molen de Adriaan looming over the river just beg to be photographed.
Haarlem is also a terrific spot to indulge in a little retail therapy—locals call their shopping district “de Gouden Straatjes,” or streets of gold. You’ll find charming boutiques, specialty shops, and plenty of antique and vintage markets.
12. End your adventure with a leisurely canal boat tour of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is the logical place to end your southern Holland tour; as the political and cultural capital, and a major international destination in its own right, you could spend days just exploring the city’s waterways.
But if you don’t have days to spare, treat yourself to a canal ring tour. These amazing canals were recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and they’re almost magical when viewed from a boat. You’ll see the city in an entirely new way—and you can choose from romantic candlelight tours, family-friendly excursions, and even hop-on, hop-off vessels to make the most of your time in Amsterdam.
Ready to pedal?
Is the south of Holland calling your name? Get in touch with us today to find out how easy it is to plan the boat and bike vacation of your dreams. Not ready to chat with us? Sign up for our free email course to show you the ins and outs of planning your own bicycle and boat trip.