Visiting Holland by ferry

Stuart Forster suggests reasons to consider visiting Holland by ferry.

Disclosure: This post was paid for by Discover Ferries, which has not reviewed or approved the content of the article. Some of the links below and banners are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Visiting Holland by ferry

Ferry services, operated by DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line, are a way of travelling between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Here’s a look at 10 places to visit within easy reach of the ferry terminals in Holland:

Amsterdam for a cultured weekend break

The Dutch capital is all things to all people and by far the most popular destination in the country. Amsterdam’s nightlife is legendary, ensuring it’s a city that many enjoy visiting.

If you like spending time in expansive art museums, take your pick from the likes of the Hermitage Amsterdam and Rijksmuseum, home to The Night Watch, which will be restored in front of visitors from July. The Rembrandt House Museum also provides insights into the life and work of the artist who lived within the building for 20 years.

To avoid missing out, go online to book entry to the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, two of the city’s most popular attractions.

In the mood for a tasty, value for money meal? For Thai food visit the Bird Snackbar (Seedijk 77), where queuing is the norm at peak times.

De Waag, the weigh house, at Nieuwmarkt square in Amsterdam.
De Waag, the weigh house, at Nieuwmarkt square in Amsterdam.

Amersfoort for the Piet Mondrian House

Amersfoort’s brickwork Koppelpoort once formed a key element of the medieval defences of this attractive, compact city. The Gothic fortification, constructed over water, looks striking when illuminated at dusk.

The city is associated with Piet Mondrian, the artist whose abstract designs came to characterise the De Stijl movement that flourished in the early years of the 20th century. His birthplace was the Mondriaan House (Kortegracht 11), which tells the story of his life. (Mondrian dropped one of the a’s in the spelling of his name when he moved to Paris in 1911.)

Exhibit at the Mondriaan House, the birthplace of Piet Mondrian.
Exhibit at the Mondriaan House, the birthplace of Piet Mondrian.

Breda for the Beer Advertising Museum

Breda’s Church of Our Lady, otherwise known as the Grote Kerk, holds the remains of several ancestors of King Willem-Alexander. The marketplace next to the city’s most famous landmark is lined with cafes and is a lovely place to sit and people watch on summer days.

If you enjoy spending time at quirky attractions, plan to visit Breda on a Sunday, when the Beer Advertising Museum (Haagweg 375) opens its doors to the public. Its rooms are packed with artefacts such as signs, beer mats and branded glasses. You could even argue that it’s an interactive museum, as the bar serves a broad selection of beers and, from time to time, hosts live music.

Looking towards the Grote Kerk (Church or Our Lady) in Breda.
Looking towards the Grote Kerk (Church or Our Lady) in Breda.

Delft for a traditional Dutch souvenir

Delft’s name is widely known because the city is the manufacturing base of blue and white Delftware pottery. Visiting the Royal Delft Experience provides insights in the history of that production, which began in 1653, and includes an opportunity to peek inside the factory then exit through its sizable shop.

Elements of that story are also told at the Museum Prinsenhof Delft, which is an important location in terms of Dutch history — bullet holes in a ground floor wall were made during the assassination of William the Silent.

The life story of artist Johannes Vermeer is told in the centre bearing his name near the market square.

With narrow canals and cobbled streets, Delft is a rewarding place to photograph archetypal Dutch scenes.

A display of Delft Blue (Delfts Blauw) plates at the Royal Delft Experience in Delft.
A display of Delft Blue (Delfts Blauw) plates at the Royal Delft Experience in Delft.

Dordrecht for a boat tour of the waterways

This island city is a pleasant place to hang out. Boat tours along the waterways are a way of orientating and seeing where artists, including J.M.W. Turner, painted scenes capturing Dordrecht’s famous light. Find out more about the artistic heritage of the city during a visit to the Dordrechts Museum.

Stay in stylish rooms within a former water tower by booking a room at Villa Augustus. The 45-room boutique hotel is located by the north bank of the River Wantij, a 10-minute walk from the city centre. Villa Augustus has a sizable restaurant serving seasonal cuisine, including produce from its own vegetable garden.

Dordrecht is nicknamed the Venice of the North.
Dordrecht is nicknamed the Venice of the North.

Haarlem to visit a windmill

The capital of North Holland is a 15-minture train journey from Amsterdam, most populous city of both the province and country.

A tour of De Adriaan Windmill is a way of learning why the Netherlands once had more than 15,000 mills and how the positioning of their sails, when stopped, sent signals to neighbours.

The St Bavo Church, also known as the Grote Kerk, dominates the heart of the attractive market square. It’s the place of burial of Frans Hals, the Dutch Golden Age artist who subsequently influenced the likes of Vincent van Gogh and John Singer Sargent. The Frans Hals Museum conveys his life story and hosts themed exhibitions.

DeDakkas, a spacious rooftop bar and restaurant, is an option if you want to combine enjoying food and drink with views over Haarlem.

Bicycles on the market square in Haarlem.
Bicycles on the market square in Haarlem.

Rotterdam for contemporary architecture

If you get a kick from viewing architecture, plan a trip to Rotterdam and spend time strolling or cycling to see facades. Several Modernist buildings were constructed before World War Two, which saw the Luftwaffe level much of the city. The Sonneveld House, at the Museumpark, and Van Nelle Factory, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are two notable survivors.

The Witte Huis — an early high-rise structure, dating from 1898 — is another. The Art Nouveau-influenced building stands a couple of minutes’ walk from the yellow Cube Houses designed by Piet Blom. Stalls within the nearby Markthal, a arching symbol of Rotterdam’s recent regeneration, offer a variety of cuisines.

Find out about the evolution of the city in the Museum Rotterdam. For live music after a day of discovery, check out a gig at Bird.

Cube Houses, designed by Piet Blom, in Rotterdam.
Cube Houses, designed by Piet Blom, in Rotterdam.

‘s-Hertogenbosch for a memorable night out

Also known as Den Bosch, this city is famed for its Brabantine gezelligheid. That word’s precise definition is hard to pin down. It hints at cosiness and conviviality. The best way to really understand it is to head out to the bars on a Friday or Saturday night and keep going into the small hours, chatting to locals and getting insider recommendations for the next watering hole.

The Noordbrabants Museum is the only place in province of Vincent van Gogh’s birth that you can view original paintings by him. To come face-to-face with models of the curious and demonic creatures painted by medieval artist Hieronymous Bosch, and to see copies of all his works, step inside the former church that’s now home to the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center (Jeroen Boschplein 2). It’s tower offers views over the city.

Waxwork of Vincent at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. His works can also be seen in 's-Hertogenbosch.
Waxwork of Vincent at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. His works can also be seen in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

The Hague for high tea in a former palace

The Hague is home to the Dutch parliament, which is situated a matter of metres from the Mauritshuis, an art museum focusing on the works of the Dutch Golden Age. Its collection includes Rembrant’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp and Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The works of M.C. Escher are displayed at Het Palais, which was formerly owned by the Netherlands’ Queen Emma. The building faces onto the Lange Voorhout, the boulevard that locals swear inspired Unter den Linden in Berlin and the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The high doors of the Hotel des Indes (Lange Voorhout 54-56) were designed so that coaches could drive straight into the lobby of what was Baron van Brienen’s palace during the 19th century. That’s not something you should try today. But if you’re looking for an elegant treat, the hotel’s high tea is.

The Hotel des Indes in The Hague.
The Hotel des Indes in The Hague.

Utrecht for high beer and Miffy

Like visiting landmarks? Utrecht is the site of the highest church tower in the Netherlands. The Dom Tower stands 112.5-metres (368ft) tall. It’s worth booking tickets online to climb the city icon during the high season.

The Rietveld Schröder House (Prins Hendriklaan 50), is a rare example of De Stijl architecture and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Young children are likely to enjoy spending time at the Miffy Museum (Agnietenstraat 2), which celebrates the cartoon rabbit created by Dick Bruna.

Don’t forget to look down. Some of the hippest bars and restaurants are hidden in the vaulted brickwork cellars that can be entered near the water level of the canals in the city centre. Beer and Barrels (Oudegracht aan der Werf 125) serves comfort food and an impressive array of ales. High beer, a boozy alternative to high tea, is served daily from 1.00pm to 3.00pm. If you’re on holiday, why not?

Side view of a P&O Ferry. (Courtesy of Discover Ferries)
Side view of a P&O Ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).

Why travel to Holland by ferry?

Ferries running between England and Holland offer opportunities to relax on board during sailings. They feature bars and restaurants plus cinemas, games rooms, shops and play areas for children. DFDS and P&O also have casinos. Premium lounges and cabins are available.

You can drive on and drive off in your own vehicle, meaning you don’t have to hire a car to get about in the Netherlands.

You can take your cat or dog with you, subject to the animal fulfilling the rules for pet travel to EU countries.

You have the option of taking your own bicycle to a country renowned for its easy-to-cycle, flat landscape.

Luggage restrictions are not the same as those for flights.

See the Holland website for more ideas about things to do and see in the Netherlands. You could always search Go Eat Do too, to read about off-the-beaten-track attractions and detailed insights into destinations such as Scheveningen.

Dinner about a ferry. (Courtesy of Discover Ferries)
Dinner aboard a ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).

Cool facts about the Netherlands

Here are some facts you may find interesting ahead of a ferry trip to Holland:

The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces. North Holland and South Holland are just two of those provinces. Technically, Holland is just part of the Netherlands, though the terms are often used interchangeably.

English is widely spoken in the Netherlands. Recent research shows that more than 90 per cent of people living in the country speak English as a second language.

Some ferries have wildlife officers on board (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).
Some ferries have wildlife officers on board (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).

Dutch football fans famously wear the colour orange to matches. Orange carrots were developed in Holland. The royal family is the House of Orange-Nassau. Yet if you want an orange juice while in the Netherlands, and are speaking Dutch, you should ask for a sinaasappelsap.

Most of the land in Flevoland, one of the country’s 12 provinces, was reclaimed from the sea.

Dutch is not the only official language of the Netherlands. West Frisian, which is widely spoken in the province of Friesland, is also recognised as an official language.

You don’t have to go all the way to Pisa, in Italy, to see a leaning tower. The Oldehove, in Leeuwarden, also has a notable tilt.

Further information

DFDS has a service between Newcastle and Amsterdam.

P & O Ferries sails between Hull and Rotterdam.

Stena Line operates a service between Harwich and the Hook of Holland.

The public ballot, during the springtime Big Ferry Fortnight, offers hundreds of free pairs of tickets for travel on ferries operated by Discover Ferries’ members. That includes 30 sets of tickets for two people for travel to and from Holland.

People at the cinema on a ferry (Couple at the Columbus Club on a DFDS ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).
People at the cinema on a ferry (Couple at the Columbus Club on a DFDS ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).

Visit the Discover Ferries website for further information about travelling by ferry from the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and around the British Isles. Discover Ferries represents 13 passenger ferry companies operating a total of more than 80 routes, including those to the Netherlands. It’s the industry body promoting ferry travel and ferry holidays, also campaigning on behalf of its members and in the interests of ferry travellers. In addition to the members operating services to and from the Netherlands, Discover Ferries represents Brittany Ferries, Calendonian MacBrayne, Condor Ferries, Hovertravel, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, MNBA Thames Clippers, Red Funnel and Wightlink.

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Couple at the Columbus Club on a DFDS ferry Dinner about a ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).
In the Columbus Club on a DFDS ferry (Photo courtesy of Discover Ferries).


Use Pinterest? Interested in visiting Holland by ferry? Post this for later. It shows the Molen de Roos windmill in Delft.
Use Pinterest? Interested in visiting Holland by ferry? Post this for later. It shows the Molen de Roos windmill in Delft.

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