Tips For Vacationing & Family Fun At Duinrell Amusement Park – Wassenaar, Netherlands

NOTE: This ORIGINAL post was published in 2018 and has since been updated in September 2020 after a recent day visit. With corona and our current situation, I thought one afternoon of fun would be amazing for the kids! Duinrell is the most economical park in the Netherlands and there are MABY day pass deals to ge had at Social Deals and Tripper.nl. Unlike Effteling, you can go for as low was €14 per person!

Here in the Netherlands, the kids have off two full weeks of school during Meivakantie and King’s Day. Having only lived in the Netherlands for a couple months and Nila had to go away AGAIN and for the ENTIRE time – the thought the three of us sitting around the house in the middle of the woods again bored is so dreadful.  Therefore, I looked around to find a place for the kids and I to have a mini-escape. I booked myself and the kids for a 4-night break staying in a Duingalow at the amusement park Duinrell in Wassenaar/ Den Haag.   We have been having GREAT weather last week (27 degrees!!) but it is now back to being chilly – too bad as we would have loved to make a visit to the beach during this trip as it’s right there!!

Duinrell is a family friendly holiday park, with a theme park and water park located in South Holland. It is surrounded by woodland, and just 4km from a sandy beach, Wassenaarse Slag, Duinrell is also a great base from which to explore Holland if you are coming from Ireland or UK for a week. If you are local, you’ll probably only spend a day or a few nights there as a getaway!

OUR ACCOMMODATION

There are several types of level of accommodations available – from camping, to safari tents to lodges with jacuzzis.  Depending on budget and need/desire, there are tons of options.  When we arrived, our Duingalow #9 was ready for us so we could go straight there.

I was actually pleasantly surprised! (Well, one issue – had trouble parking our big car with that terrible tree – but all in all – we had a fine spot. You can’t usually check into your accommodation until 3pm but are free to visit the theme park and check out the facilities from as soon as you arrive.

ENTER AND EXIT AS OFTEN AS YOU WISH

From our lodge, we could go immediately into the park. One great thing about this holiday is that entry to the theme park is included in the cost of your stay, so you don’t need to pay anything additional to get in when you are there – a great bargain, right? Also the theme park is about a 5 minute walk from most of the holiday homes and you don’t need to show a pass to get in – you just come and go as you please (during op. Except ours – we were the farthest duingalow but it was quiet so we didn’t mind. Each time we took a different route 🙂

It is also great for families with small kids so you can go visit the park for a few hours, nip back to your holiday home for a nap or lunch (or whatever) and then go back in the afternoon and enjoy a few more rides or even to the two giant playgrounds.

TWO GIANT PLAYGROUNDS

There are two really large playgrounds (with sandy floors) at the start of the park which feature slides, climbing frames, swings and roundabouts. These playgrounds are open all the time – even when the rides are closed. So at the crack of dawn, you can bring little ones there for a play or alternatively right before bed to burn off any spare energy they may still have.

TIKI BAD

There is a HUGE water park located inside the Duinrell theme park. It has over 1km of indoor water slides including a wave pool (with a gentle sloping entrance), a lazy river and a toddler swimming pool and waterslide inside a large covered complex – it really caters to EVERYONE! There is a large outdoor swimming area which is open from May to September – so it was closed when we were there.    Entry is discounted if you’re staying on the site to €5 per person (adult or child) for 2 hours and children under 12 years of age will only be allowed entry, if accompanied by an adult.

Lockers at the pool are free… just get one and remember the number we got two and then realised I still had a bag on my shoulder. Instead of opening our existing one, we got another.  But when we returned, we totally forgotten the number of the third. We were also convinced it was at a different set of lockers. Two workers, Denis and Zahid helped us tremendously. They are able to enter your security code to determine your locker number (but only if you are looking in the right area). In our case we were certain, it was in that area. They opened EVERY SINGLE LOCKER only to see we were WRONG!! We were in the original area where they found our two existing and third with the same code !! Grrrr we felt like idiots!!! We had a 2 hour limit included in our stay but didn’t go every day. With two kids in arm bands who can’t go on the large slides and being only one adult, it was not easy.  Getting the kids in, find unoccupied changing rooms, enjoy the wave pool a few times and the lazy river and kids poll area, we were out of time and with the locker mess up we were over by 45 minutes!!

AMUSEMENT PARK

The park itself has about 40 attractions – a combination for smaller kids and older kids/adults.  .  Adrenaline lovers and children aged 10 to 18 would get the most out of all the roller coasters and other rides. Of course some were way too scary for our youngest but not for our oldest. Some of the larger rides, which she would have gone on, she was just too short.   Also as I was here with just the two kids and I the one adult, it was admittedly harder than it would have been with two adults. That I would change in the future!!

Our kids really liked bombing people in the row boats. Especially ones who were unsuspecting ….

Soren liked the Dragonfly roller coaster, Rollerbaan and Wild Wings – all three Maebh couldn’t go on for height restrictions.

FOOD OPTIONS IN THE PARK

To me the food at the park was not the best and expensive.  The first night we had pizzas at La Place – not the brick oven pizza I was hoping to have. One time we got three french fries and two slushes for €17. I think that is expensive. Kids ate ice cream, churros, cotton candy and a chocolate covered banana with sprinkles as treats during our time here.  

MY TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

  • You are going to need to take photos (passport-type photos) at one of the MANY booths all around the park – at €4, per person here is a money saving tip:  Take a photo copy of your passport, cut out the photo – DONE!  At check in, they’ll give you small paper cards and plastic clear stickers to put over the photo – you’ll need those to enter and exit the park and Tiki Bad.  No need to spend €4. per person on passport photos which you’ll never use again. Of course, if you have old ones laying around – bring them.  They are not fussy!!
  • Tips: bring towels (shower & some beach for pool) dish towels and a bath mat.
  • Travel size shampoo for Tiki bad – avoid having to re-shower at your duingalow.
  • Leave the park – go walk over to Wassensar (drive in pouring rain or if you are lazy).  Eat at the local restaurants and skip dessert – then enjoy the amazing ice cream parlor – Lucianos Ijssalon– you won’t regret it!   
  • Enjoy the Natural Market in Wassanaar each Saturday.
  • Pack a cooler with ice from home to pack loads if items you already have. Like for example – make a batch of bolognese and freeze it. Then when you arrive stick it in the fridge and have that the first night. The sauce is already made so all you have to do is boil some pasta! There is a grocery store onsite (not super expensive yet not Lidl prices) which has a lot but why do spend extra when unnecessary. You have to carry it!!! Of course, if you come from abroad and flying your hands are tied but if local and driving or even as many Brits do, pack up your car in the UK.
  • Bring zip lock bags or tin foil to make up sandwiches and bring to park. Food is expensive and not the best in my opinion! Portions are not the best either – skinny fries x 3 and two slushes = €16.95. Or you could easily take a break from the park – walk back your duingalow have lunch and return to park.
  • In our duingalow, we had a machine which used Senseo pads or coffee with filter (#4) if you need coffee. I brought a small container with a small sauce pan with frother only as I love a morning coffee with warm milk.
  • Bring extra trash bags if cooking, but they give you one to start. Also, dish soap a sponge, wipes and a few dish washing tablets – I don’t see the need to buy full boxes of these items. Salt and pepper from home or can take a few small packages from the restaurant in the park.
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Toilet paper & a roll of kitchen towels
  • Potato peeler if you use that cooking – didn’t see one in the drawer.
  • I read elsewhere their unit had UK plugs but ours didn’t – our plugs were local to The Netherlands only so I suggest a travel plug for your phone.
  • Change your pounds in advance – closest place to change is Leiden Station.
  • There was no blow dryer in the unit – and only two hand dryers in the pool area.  I can do without but for some might be a nice thing to have in their room.

BE SURE TO LEAVE THE PARK – VISIT WASSENAAR & SURROUNDS  

On Saturday, we left the park and visited Wassenaar. The town center was cute.  We of course made a mandatory visit to Kelly’s Expat shop was in order for some extra processed junk which we would not be able to find elsewhere – do no we really “need”.  

The village itself had all the typical shops, Intertoys, Zeeman, HEMA and Jumbo, etc and then lots of independent shops. We first had croissants in a local bakery and then walked around the Natural market. We ended up buying three pots of different sambal from an Indonesian man – Oma’s recipe, two others Madaam Jeanette and Indian. And then we had a stop at the French sausages where we bought blue cheese, congac pheasant and one more which I now forget.  One evening we wen back and ate sushi! 

I knew of a kids kringloop which truthfully was a bunch of junk – unless you wanted horse riding boots those were great. But Maebh’s recent horse riding lessons was a big flop, we didn’t need them.

LOUWMAN’S MUSEUM

As it was raining, we then decided to visit Louwman’s Museum. With our Museumkaart, it was free entry.  We did have a bite in their cafe before going through the collection.    I did a complete blog post on this – read it here:  Louwman’s Museum – home to Netherlands largest collection of private cars. 

ZWARTE PAD AT SCHEVENINGEN BEACH FOR OYSTERS 

We drove over to Scheveningen Beach and it started raining so we nipped into a restaurant where as I promised Soren at the seaside he can have oysters. The place we chose was the Patagonia Beach restaurant. The food was good, the decor was lovely being so close yo the pier but the service was awful!!!  Actually, I really think the worst I ever had in Europe. I think the only reason why the waiter got the job was that he was a gorgeous model-looking guy and could speak German to the bus load of old ladies who ordered decaf coffee and complained about their cakes being frozen inside.

RENT BIKES AND GO SEE NATURE

You can rent a bicycle, go-kart or a fun trailer during your holiday which allows you to go enjoy the surroundings on a beautiful day. The bicycles are rented through the Duinrell reception which is situated at the entrance of the holiday park.  All hired items are offered on a ‘seven for six’ basis: hire them for seven days and pay for just six!  There are also several sizes of gas cylinders available if you are interested in hiring for a BBQ.   For us we didn’t do this during this holiday, but will do it when we return and stay again.   There are suggested cycle routes listed on their site which bring you to Den Haag, up to Katwijk Aan Zee or to the Meijendel – kids will love the Monkey Bos. 

ARCADE FUN

Another fun thing for the kids was the arcade – the place where we spent a total of €50 over the course of 4 nights and got cheap, made in China plastic toys and a lollipop!!  But they had a great time!!!! I even got in on the action a few times and won a bunch of tickets for them. 

MINI BOWLING ALLEY & PUB

Below the Marketplace is a pub and mini bowling alley. While we didn’t spend too much time there we did have a drink once and played some air hockey in the game hall next door.  Next time we might consider bowling?!  

On the last night, Soren came in SECOND place in the FIFA 2018 tournament beating out 10 kids – only to loose to the oldest kid in the group!  Very proud!! 

IN SUMMARY

Overall it was a nice trip, but I’m glad to be home in my house, my kitchen, my food, my shower and my BED – but I’m like this at the end of all my trips. The bigger rides were a bit too restricting for our youngest who is a bit of a peanut for her age but it’s not the fault of Duinrell. The smaller rides were just that too small for our oldest. We did have a LOT of fun and I’d highly recommend Duinrell to families looking for a good value holiday with plenty to do. Staying here is a fantastic alternative to a traditional beach holiday. If you are coming from abroad, it is in an excellent location to explore other parts of Netherlands, so can easily be your base for a week.

We really want to check out the Efteling and then perhaps some parks in Germany in the future but will definitely be back to visit Duinrell for a day trip and a future stay – only I’m bringing another adult with me – doing this all as a single adult with two children can be very exhausting and not fun at times. A trip like this should be fun for Mom too!  

VISIT TO DUINRELL #2 – July 2020

My previous post was from 2018 – so hard to believe it’s been that long.   

We were looking at fun days out with the kids during the summer holidays and thought why not head over to Duinrell for a day of rides and fun.  With the kids being taller (well, Maebh not quiet tall enough for all the rides), it was still worth it.

First off it’s important to note that we are now visiting during COVID times.  If you are specifically interested in knowing what exactly they are doing at the park to ensure a safe holiday for guests read their measures on their website.  Only overnight guests were allowed to visit the Tiki Bad.  I get the reasoning but was a bit disappointing because it was HOT and the outdoor pool looked SOOOO inviting!   

We also made one mistake – we brought our lunch in a cooler bag and put it in the lockers near the entrance – which were €7.00 per day.  Not knowing there are two different sets of lockers inside the park – by the LePlace and by the candy store for .50 cents!!  So don’t be like us – choose the right lockers.  🙂

RIDES WHICH WERE A HUGE HIT

The kids continued to enjoy the rides…. both kids are a bit taller now and this time Maebh was brave enough to try out the Dragonfly roller coaster and more impressively she went on the Falcon.  Which I at 46 would NOT even go on… so for her it was her first time ever going on an upside down roller coaster.  A HUGE DEAL for her!

Soren and she waited in line for the Rollerban and Funs went on the other line so they could “race”.  Turned out Maebh was TOO short and had to come join me and unfortunately the boys didn’t quite line up perfectly, so one was a couple people behind and the race didn’t happen.   Would have been fun! 

Soren was thrilled to be able to go on Wild Wing again – and as he was the first person in the ride for his turn, he was told to go to the American flag – he was happy about that!  After he confirmed it was still hard to flip around – need to work on his strength! 

While both kids still enjoy bombing people (especially unsuspecting ones) in the Rowboats. 

They even went to together this time in a rowboat and allowed me to bomb them!

The kids together went on the Kikkerachtbaan, leaving me to not have to pedal Maebh the entire way like I did a couple years ago.  It was enjoyable to watch them go together… and not have to always go on the rides with them. 

SHOOTING GAME

As it was over two years ago, the shooting game is a HUGE hit especially with Soren.  If he can soak someone – even better!   We gave them a few Euros to play a couple times – and as they cannot do much with few coupons they received, they passed them along to a small kid inside the arcade before we left. 

WASSENAARSE SLAG FOR DINNER

As we are not living near the sea, I always take advantage of hanging out by the ocean.  As the park is so close to Wassenaarse Slag, we decided to head over there for dinner before heading out for the 1.5 hour drive home.  It’s only a matter of time before these gorgeous warm evenings are gone so it was nice to eat outside on the terrace by the sea at Beachclub BAIT Wassenaar.

An evening meal by the sea was a lovely way to end a nice day and we were all exhausted!  

VISIT TO DUINRELL #3 – Oct 2020

Now the kids are a bit taller, braver, have Dutch swim diplomas and I return with another adult – yippie! 🙂

Have any tips for when we return? Perhaps restaurants in Wassenaar or surrounds?  Or even tips relating to the TIki Bad – pm me or leave a comment below.  Our kids visited last time without swim diplomas, so we mostly spent the duration in the wave pool – they are so looking forward to returning in October and doing a bit more. I’m not a dare devil, so the most I’ll do is the wave pool and the lazy river – I certainly won’t go down any waterslides, but will certainly watch huge smiles on their faces as the splash down like they did at our vacation to Center Parcs.

Top 8 Things For Families To Do In Rotterdam, Netherlands

When I used to think of Rotterdam, I always associated it with a very modern American city along with the favorite football club of my son and Nils. But it was not until now doing my tourism research for our visit to the see family in the Netherlands which I see the city has a lot more to offer than Feyenoord games or the fan shop ;).  For example,  I knew they had a tram system but no idea an underground Metro.

Part of my attraction to Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general, is the style of most of houses / buildings. This is probably why I ignored Rotterdam for so long. It is also surprisingly a very family-friendly city with loads to do for children. I have complied a “top 8 things for families to do in Rotterdam” list.  But we need more than one day to get through the list.   

Note: I originally made this blogpost a few years ago when we were visiting the Netherlands and living in Ireland, but I just went back in and updated it with photos and republished. I figured now we’re living here in the Netherlands for two years and recently visited Rotterdam with [and often without] the kids, why not!

Tip: As with many other local attractions, when booking online, you can combine visits and save a few Euros!

#1 VISIT THE MARITIME MUSEUM

We absolutely LOVED this museum. Even if you are not a “water person”, I really think you’ll still find it interesting. I did a separate post on it which can be found here.   I went back a second alone with Funs and had a nice time – and a bonus, I wasn’t seasick on the platform.  We even went back a third time with the kids —  the four of us spent time on the platform doing the activities like landing the helicopter, repairing a leak in an oil pipe, etc.  This section of the museum is brilliant and a must do while there. 

As the museum closes early at 5, I took Maebh upstairs to Profession Plons, so she could have about 20 minutes of play up there as she enjoyed it when we were there the first time.  But now at 10, she is really way too old.  It is great for kids 3-8. 

#2 – TAKE A HARBOUR CRUISE 

There are a few options available for you to visit and sightsee by water including hop on and off boats and of course water taxis and aqua shuttle. 

First is Spido tours. Among the busy traffic of sea-going and inland ships, this trip is a special journey through one of the largest harbours in the world. You can see Rotterdam’s impressive skyline with its imposing buildings glide by, and then get a unique view of the harbours shipyards, docks and the hypermodern trans shipping of thousands of containers. Last but not least the tour will end with a view of the steamship ‘Rotterdam’, the former cruise flagship of shipping company Holland America Line. An exciting 75 minutes with clear descriptions of everything you see.

Second is Splashtours which is similar to the Ducktours in Boston but instead of a WW2 style vehicle it’s an amphibious​ bus!  You have the option of first taking a tour where you drive through the city before ‘splashing’ into the river Maas.

But unlike the funny Boston drivers who give live commentary, here your tour was TV footage and audio.

#3 – PANNENKOEKENBOAT

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If the idea of eating UNLIMITED Dutch pancakes with a variety of toppings while seeing Rotterdam by boat seems like your type of fun, you won’t want to miss this place.  They offers variety of sailings from 75-minute to 2.5 hours!   They even have a ball pit area to keep the younger kids entertained. While I’d find this a bit boring personally, I’d go along for the kids as I know they’d love it.   Book online here

#4 – PLASJWIJCK PARK

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This place is so unique and a place the kids loved to visit and were never bored!  It’s called an amusement park but it’s more of an indoor and outdoor play space with a petting zoo and water playground. The parks website is only in Dutch but this review is in English and is very thorough and shows how fun this place can be for kids. While we visited, I never got around to do a post on it.  We’ll have to re-visit.

#5 – BLIJDOORP ZOO – AKA – ROTTERDAM ZOO

Also known as Diergaard Blijdorp, it is recognized as one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe, it is home to giraffes, tigers, seals, gorillas, polar bears all having their own unique habits.  Other highlights include the award-winning butterfly garden area, Amazonica and an aquarium area Oceanium.  We ended up visiting this zoo without the children but will take them next time.  Visit my post – A Day at the Blijdoorp Zoo. 

#6 – EUROMAST

The Euromast is Rotterdam’s iconic observation tower. It was built in 1960 to mark the occasion Floriade, an international flower and garden exhibition. Its height at 101 meters was the tallest building back in the days. Unfortunately, Euromast quickly lost its title due to the ever changing Rotterdam’s skyline. In 1970, Euromast retaliated with additional 85 meters by adding a rotating elevator – ‘Space Tower’.

I just did a blogpost about our recent visit to the Euromast – read it here:  The Euromast – Experience the most stunning views of Rotterdam

#7 – SS ROTTERDAM CRUISE SHIP 

This former Trans-Atlantic liner has been transformed into a restaurant/bar and 254 room hotel. The ss Rotterdam is the largest passenger ship ever built in The Netherlands: 228 meters long, 28 meters wide and 61 meters in height. It was inaugurated by Dutch Queen Juliana in 1958. Until 1971 it ran scheduled services to New York City, but turned more towards cruises when air traffic became more popular. You can read more about the history and things onboard on their site.   We went here for a drink and I posted about it in my blog post – A Day Out in Rotterdam.  We ended up going back this time taking the kids on – but of course, it was drizzly that day too so no chance for a dip in the pool or a drink on the Lido Deck.  Read about my blog post here:  ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere. 

#8 – VISIT A MUSEUM

There are several other museums to visit where the children will be entertained and at the same time learn something new. 

Natuurhistorisch Museum   Rotterdam features skeletons, stuffed animals, fossils, butterflies.

Museum Rotterdam ’40 – ’45  features all things pertaining to the War and the resistance. It’s a reminder of how people lived and what they did during the war. It is a treasure trove of information and stuff like cigar boxes, Jewish stars, etc 

Kunsthal  There is always something for families and children to do in the Kunsthal. Children between 6 and 12 years old can go on their own Look & Do tour of the main exhibition of that moment, while for teenagers between 12 and 18 years there are Viewer Guides. Get inspired by the exhibition ‘Masterly! Four centuries of drawing and painting’. Dive into the DrawingLAB and create your own work of art!

While I know there are so many MORE things to do in Rotterdam, these are some  of things to do with the kids.  When we do more things, I’ll add more details and photos.  Have any tips of fun things I can do with the kids?  

Check out my other blog posts relating to this fabulous city Rotterdam:

A Day Out In Rotterdam
Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier
A Day at the Blijdorp Zoo
Cafe Dukok – Best Apple Pie in Rotterdam
Day & Day Hot & Hot – Hot Pot Restaurant Review
ss Rotterdam: Legendary steamship with a nostalgic atmosphere. 

 

A Day At Blijdorp Zoo Rotterdam, Netherlands

On Sunday, I spent the entire afternoon at one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, Blijdorp Zoo aka Rotterdam Zoo. We arrived at 11:30 and left at 4:00. We walked and walked and saw as much as we could. With COVID, some things were sectioned off, like various indoor buildings, all scheduled feedings, the bird flight demonstration and presentations were cancelled to avoided groups from gathering (although that happened a bit naturally at times). We did see a guy with a bucket of veg walking near the prarie dogs [which are not actually dogs but burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America] – so lucky for us we did see a mini feed :). Look at this cute guy!

The zoo is really HUGE! I’d like to go back with the kids as I know they’d really enjoy it.

I took a lot of photos of the animals with my iPhone – so the quality of the phots are not superb but good enough. I will not post about every item we saw at the zoo, you can see all that is offered yourself by looking at the zoo’s website, rather I’ll post some of the highlights which I found great. The zoo map takes you on a journey of discovery through different countries in the world, where you can meet the animals which live there.

AMAZONICA

You walk into the rainforest-like environment and suddenly there are butterflies everywhere. This is Europe’s largest butterfly paradise with tropical temperatures and hundreds of beautiful South American butterflies flying around landing on the native plants and flowers. There are plenty of opportunities to get really close to them too. My favorite of all were the giant blue ones which were very hard to capture on my phone. Other residents of the South American section is an anaconda and piranhas. Oh and these giant leaves – I can imagine how beautiful the flower in the middle will be when in bloom.

BOKITO THE GORILLA

The most (in)famous inhabitant of the Blijdorp Zoo is Bokito, the giant silverback gorilla. In 2007, he managed to jump over the canal and broke out of his pen to grab a female admirer who visited him daily. We did see a giant silverback stand up and beat his chest (as you can see in my photo) but I’m not sure if it was Bokito, but I assume it is.

The word “bokitoproof“, meaning “durable enough to resist the actions of an enraged gorilla” and by extension “durable enough to resist the actions of a non-specific extreme situation” was voted the Word of the Year for 2007 in the Netherlands.[11][12]

POLAR BEAR

We saw one lazy, sleeping polar bear out in the heat. I so wished he got up and went for a swim – no such luck. This area is a great example of one that was completely closed off due to COVID. There was a seating area and stage for a discussion “meet our polar bear keeper”.

ELEPHANT ENCLOSURE

It is very hard to resist smiling when you see elephants playing in water, especially the young ones – pushing each other around and just asking like kids. We even saw the mom or dad (couldn’t tell) throwing sand up on its wet body. I made a few videos – hope they make you smile too.

GIRAFFES

Technically there is not really that much to see with the giraffes besides animals eating. We didn’t see any baby giraffes but that doesn’t mean they were not inside. They are such beautiful creatures and from the bridge, you get quite close to them.

OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND

OCEANIUM

 

I couldn’t help think of nearly 100 year old, Myrtle the Turtle from the New England Aquarium in Boston. Last time we visited the aquarium, it was 2014 when we went back to the states for the kids to be in our friend’s wedding and got to spend some time in Boston with one of my best friends and her kids. I just look back at my blog post for that day – they were so little!!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Details about opening times, booking, restrictions (you can only pay with pin in the entire zoo) and prices can all be found on their website.  You can even download the map in advance to plan out your route if you are that type of person. With COVID, things are a bit different so you have to book online a time slot and ticket, etc.      We rented OV-fiets from Rotterdam Central Station and it was an easy 9 minute bike ride, but from what I could see there was plenty of parking spots (for a fee) in the car park.  Information about parking and things like buggy rentals, etc.  can all be found online. 

While I didn’t do it, they also offer a free app that you can download for both iOS and Android devices. This app will show you the map of the zoo and possible trails. It also contains more detailed descriptions of the zoo’s residents. I think it’s a good invention to allow their guests a better experience in the zoological garden.  In fact, you could do this in advance of your trip. 

SUMMARY: THIS ZOO IS A MUST VISIT!

I highly recommend a day out at Blijdorp Zoo if you are on holiday in the Netherlands or like me living here and whether you have kids or not.  You’ll want to spend a full day here so arrive at opening time and then plan to spend a full day seeing all the animals and playing in the playgrounds (if you bring kids).  Of course, wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking A LOT!   You can buy lunch at the many food places, but we brought some salads from AH and ate them on a bench near the pond.   Either way, I’m certain it’s impossible to not have a great day at this zoo.     If we lived closer, I’d get a membership. When we lived in North Norfolk, we had a membership to the Amazona Zoo in Cromer – while small, we loved to visit.   I would take my good camera and take photos of the kids and the animals – especially during the daily feedings. 

Have you been to the Rotterdam Zoo?    Any tips for my return visit with the kids apart from brining my good camera?  Send me a private message or comment below.   

Visiting Rotterdam, check out my blog posts Maeslantkering: Visiting the Storm Surge Barrier   A Day Out In Rotterdam    The Euromast – Experience the most stunning views of Rotterdam  Top 8 Things For Families To Do In Rotterdam

 

Tour of the Peace Palace The Hague

Vredespaleis (Peace Palace) was built solely for the purpose of keeping the peace between nations and international parties by having the law triumph, and this is how it is still used today. When courts are not in session, guided tours occasionally take place.  [Look at the official site and book when you see one that suits you.]    I did just that – saw they were offering tours over the weekend, and we decided to jump at the opportunity and take a look inside the Peace Palace.

But if you find yourself in the area  of the Peace Palace during the week or didn’t book tickets for a tour in advance on a weekend, you can still go in and visit the visitor’s center and gift shop. Before Corona time it was free, but now they ask you to book a 15 minute prior to arriving online and charge €3 per person.  There you can do an independent, self-guided audio tour of the center where you learn a bit about what is behind the imposing facade of the Peace Palace.  The center is opened every day, except on Mondays. A visit to the Visitors Center will take you about 30-45 minutes. If you are doing a tour, it is recommended that you visit the center before your tour (if applicable).

VISITOR’S CENTER

The Visitor’s Center exhibition is informative and covers the history of the Courts and of the building. On display are photographs and historical items.   Amongst them are:

  • A check for 1.5 million dollars from Scottish-born, US industrialist, Andrew Carnegie to fund construction of the building.
  • Items from the first Peace Conference – including a fan autographed by conference attendees.
  • Commemorative plates and medallions, like the bronze Nobel price.
  • Photos of Big Chief White Horse Eagle who paid a visit to the Peace Palace in 1930
  • A selection of books from the Peace Palace Library and Academy.
  • The 17th century De Iure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace) by Dutch legal scholar, Hugo de Groot.
  • There’s also a short video presentation and several audio/video stations for those who wish to learn more about the history, purpose, and interior decoration of the Peace Palace.
  • EritreaYemen Arbitration Agreement.
  • Two embroidered, wood-carved chairs of former countries which were once present in the Japanese Room.  One of which was Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.   Not all countries who are members have these chairs – those delegates sit on “normal” chairs.

If you a youtube video of the making of the wood carving part of the chair.    I couldn’t find anything about who does the embroidery but each one is very detailed and the coat of arms of the country they represent and very impressive.

INTERESTED IN TAKING A TOUR?

Tours in Dutch, English, and German are offered to groups of 20 people only a few times per year on the weekends – and of course, only when there are no hearings.  The tours must be booked in advance here  and cost €14,50.  The palace tour is not suitable for children under 8.  There was child around 12 on our tour.  I personally would not bring kids any younger than 12.  The tour will take approx. 1.5 hours.  Important for my US readers: you must be an EU resident to tour and you need to show an ID.  But truthfully when I went to show the guy my ID, he just waved me through.  Never looking at the photo – either I look trusting or they didn’t care as it was a weekend and there was no one else in the building which I could harm.    Should there be court in session, we’d never be allowed inside.   There are other tours  (garden only) and can be found on their site by clicking the link above.  Ours was the best and most comprehensive on they offered – I would never want to just see the garden – going inside was AMAZING! 

The guide will gather you just before the metal detectors, and walk you outside and bring you across to the palace.  You will walk from room to room, where a guide will tell you about the building, the institutions that are housed there and the works of art that decorate the building.  During your tour you will visit the Great Hall of Justice, the Small Courtroom and the Japanese Room, which will give you an impression of the most beautiful rooms in the building.  Afterwards before heading back to the Visitors Center, we walked through the historical gardens.  I really wished I could have had my phone inside to take photos – so impressive.   Before passing the metal detectors, all items except the visitor badge and one form of identification had to be left in the free lockers in the lower level near the bathroom.   If it is raining no worries, they have tons of umbrellas waiting for you before you head out into the garden.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

It all started with a dream of peace with a message in 1898 by the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II. The constant threat of war and social unrest caused Nicholas II to send an invite to his European colleague heads of state to contemplate keeping the peace, without getting into war first, in 1898. It being a huge success, a second peace convention was held in 1907. By that time, the international community was convinced of reaching peace through a court of arbitration and the first stone of the Peace Palace in The Hague was laid.

BUILDING ITSELF

The Peace Palace, built on the former site of a royal estate, was constructed in the early-20th century with funding of $1.5 million (in today’s value over $40 million) from steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  Carnegie stipulated that the building also have a law library, which is in a stand-alone building next to the Peace Palace.

French architect Louis M. Cordonnier won the design competition with his Neo-Renaissance style palace and the first stone was laid at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. The somewhat lopsided monument to big dreams and aspirations of world peace was inaugurated on 28 August 1913 after two of the original four towers had been scrapped by cost restraints. Sadly world peace did not materialize in the short term. Within a year World War I broke out and the weapons specifically prohibited in the 1899 convention including projectiles or explosives launched from balloons, “or by other new methods of a similar nature” and projectiles with “the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases” were deployed on the battlefields of Europe.

WHAT IS INSIDE?

The Peace Palace could not find a better home than The Hague; the City of Peace and Justice. Today the building is still used by the International Court of Justice (IJC), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), the Peace Palace Library, as well as, by The Hague Academy of International Law.  Those seeking the International Criminal Court need to look elsewhere (but also in The Hague) as war criminals do not undergo trial at the Peace Palace – this is a common misconception.  By taking a tour you will discover some facts detail of this iconic structure.  Of course, tours are limited and their website contacts a LOT of information.

PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION
The Peace Palace started out as a court of arbitration where two international parties would meet, at their own initiatives, to find a peaceful solution to their conflict. Both parties would appoint one judge and then these two judges would choose a final third judge. The permanent court of arbitration is still used today, both by countries and multinationals having a conflict with one or two countries on a certain matter.  These cases are more often than not private.   Currently there is a pending case – Italy v. India called the Enrica Lexie case. It is an ongoing international controversy about a shooting off the western coast of India.

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
But the most famous court inside the palace is the International Court of Justice, which was established after World War II, as the court of the United Nations and all members of the UN automatically become a member of the court. Countries are still their own highest authority, they have mutually decided to transfer a part of their sovereignty to the court, in order to keep international peace. There are 15 judges that preside the international court of justice and all parts of the world are equally represented. The court settles disputes in contentious cases and provides advisory opinions.   These cases are public and you could be lucky enough to come in and watch it if interested but they are often featured in the news.   You can view all the cases here.

INTERNATIONAL GIFTS GALORE

As soon as you enter the Peace Palace, you will notice the exquisite items decorating the place all donated by various countries.  The nations represented at the Second Hague Peace Conference (1907) were asked to contribute to the new to be built Peace Palace. Many countries responded positively to this call and donated a work of art or a national product to decorate the building. The last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, donated this 3 ton vase made of green jasper adorned with gilded ornaments.  While some might love it, I find it awful 🙂

Through the palace, you simply can’t stop looking around – up & down.  Everywhere you look including the tapestries, marble floors, stained-glass windows and painted ceilings are simply stunning and include symbols of peace, hope and justice everywhere.

A LOVE STORY

One of the most rememberable stories during our tour in the Peace Palace was the love story that took place within it.  The interior designer Herman Rosse was hired at only 24 year old to decorate the Peace Palace’s interior.    As you’ll see in this photo the ceilings are decorated with beautiful flowers and art motifs with a twist.  Although he assumed that these designs would be painted over in the future by a famous artist, his stunning designs have beautifully lasted the test of time. His painting of Peace, Law, Order, and Justice as goddesses are shown above.  During his time decorating the interior, he ended up falling in love with the apprentice of the gardener Sophia Helena Luyt.  He even pained her face as one of the faces in the ceiling.   The couple ended up marrying and moved to California where Herman Rosse went on to win an Academy Award for his work on the King of Jazz’s sets.

As you will probably agree, everything inside is really bold, grandiose, and extravagant!  Quite frankly over the top!   But I really appreciated the opportunity to see this historic building in person, the chance to be in the empty courtrooms where such important events around peace take place while listening to our tour guy, Michiel.  If only I have some kind of proof to show you I was actually inside the Peace Palace vs just outside the gates like the rest of the tourists.  The photos here, apart from the ones inside the visitor center and the outside one, were taken from the internet, and credit is due to Dan Flying Solo and Architectuurfotograaf.nl and the Peace Palace’s website directly.  

Also on their site, along with their impressive photographs, is a short video where you can see some of the interiors and a bit of the story of the inception of the Peace Palace.  

Have you ever been to Peace Palace? What are the tips you would give?  Feel free to private message me or even share in the comments!

Visiting Den Haag soon?  Be sure to check out my post Day Out In Den Haag for other things to do in the great city of Den Haag. 

 

 

 

 

Spoorweg Museum Utrecht Netherlands Tile

Spoorweg Museum – Utrecht

It is the final week before school starts again (can I just say we all are very happy for back to school in our house?) so Maebh and I made plans to visit Primark and Miniso in the Hoog Catharijne Utrecht to get a few things before school started. As Den Bosch doesn’t have a Primark, we’ll take the train up to Utrecht no problem, but I thought why not do something fun in the city while we were there with both kids. Less than a month ago, I visited Utrecht and climbed the Dom with Funs – which was amazing but nothing that I’d like to do with the kids alone. So I thought why not take advantage of our Museumkaarts and visit the Spoorweg Museum while we were in Utrecht.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, if you live in the Netherlands [with or without kids], I can’t recommend enough that you get yourself a Museumkaart. The Spoorweg Museum is one of more than 400 museums that you enter with it. You just have to attend a few times a year and it pays for itself.  

HOW WE GOT THERE

At first I was just planning on taking the 10:08 train from Den Bosch Central to Utrecht Central and walking to the museum (I read it was about a 20 minute walk).  But I read there was an old fashioned station at the museum and that you can arrive by train – leaves every hour at 31 past the hour – so we adjusted our schedule a bit.   We took a train about 20 minutes earlier than previously planned in order to arrive into the Malibaan Station – I thought it would be fun and it was. 

 The museum is located at:

Het Spoorwegmuseum
Maliebaanstation 16
3581 XW Utrecht

Tickets are €17.50 per person over age 3 but Museumkaart holders are FREE.

After we walked back from the museum first the Jewish monument outside. It was a wall of names of the Jewish victims of the Second World War from Utrecht. The memorial wall is made from the sandstone that was also used for the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In front of the wall was a plinth with a receiver on it. Ten Jewish men wear the shofar.

MALIEBAAN STATION

When you arrive by car or walk up to the museum, you enter through the impressive Maliebaan Station built in 1874.  The station is quite impressive and it is there were you buy your tickets at a lovely old-fashioned ticket booth.  You’ll feel like a passenger from that bygone era.  As we arrived via the Special NS train we went left into the museum and opt’d to visit the Maliebaan Station on the way out.    You could easily miss the station if you were to come in and out from the special NS train back to Utrecht Central which departs at 4 minutes to the hour throughout the day with the exception of the last train which departs at 17:11.  

WHAT IS MUSEUM ALL ABOUT?

Trains, trains and more trains.  It is one the city’s most renowned museums and makes for a great day out – especially for kids and of course any rail enthusiasts.

The museum is divided into the following sections:

1. The Great Discovery – Take a short but fascinating audio tour (Dutch, English or German) around the beginnings of the steam age in the Netherlands. The first railway line was Amsterdam-Haarlem which opened in 1839 using De Arend steam locomotive. It includes a mock-up of Amsterdam station from the time and a working replica of De Arend.

2. Dream Journeys – Discover how the well-to-do from the 19th century travelled in style by railway – such as taking a trip on the Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul) and on to Cairo. On show is a fine display of railway posters and leaflets from the time – including many advertising ferry/rail services between England and Holland.

3. Steel Monsters – A mechanical ride (max 4 persons per car) which takes you through the dark with the Gommers family, 3 generations who worked on the railways. You will experience close encounters with some giant steam trains. The narration is in Dutch only and the ride itself is a little tame.

4. Trains Through Time – Large exhibition hall which houses a comprehensive collection of old locomotives and carriages – from steam trains (19th century/early 20th century) to a variety of electric and diesel units from the 20th century. There is also various railway memorabilia on show and some models of Dutch trains.

SPECIAL EXHIBITION – TOASTIES TRUFFLES TRAINS   

There is a long history of food and drinks being served at the station and aboard trains. Luxurious restaurant cars in international trains served caviar and truffles to the elite.  So the Railway museum put together an exhibition showcasing just that.  They restored a historic restaurant car from 1951 and brought together a number of other fine restaurant cars, including several from Germany.  Together with never-before displayed items from the collection such as china, platform trucks, menus, photos and posters they created ‘Toasties Truffles Trains’ .  It was fun to walk through each train to see what it was like “back in the day” – some were more “retro than others”.   The kitchens were tiny – not sure how they made it work but they did. 

There is a dining tram in Rotterdam called the “RotterTram” which looks cool, which maybe one day we’ll do.  It’s quite pricy at €80 per person, so needs to be for a really special occasion to ride around a tram eating for that price.  I know loads of great places where we could eat for that (for two!).     

We had a lot of fun playing with the phone booth.

OUTSIDE PLAY AREA

Another highlight of the museum for kids is the outside play area.  There is a little floating boat which goes back and forth to a small island with a lighthouse…. our kids did it once but this along with the slides/caves are really great for kids who are 4-6.   That is the perfect age for this museum.  At 10 & 12 our kids were a bit old, but they always enjoy playing outside so did it.  There is also a little train that goes around which you have to queue for a while to get on.  With COVID, they have extra measures with less people so our kids skipped it due to the line, but they would clearly be the oldest on it. 

All in all they enjoyed the museum.  I’m glad we got to visit the museum and spend the day together as the three of us, but we don’t have to rush back any time soon as we saw all that we wanted. I would, however, recommend for any train lovers – especially kids who are fans aged 3-6 to certainly go and visit!!

Update: After doing a survey just now, I saw we mist a lot of hands-on stuff, so we’ll go back again in the near future!

WALKING AROUND UTRECHT

As we walked, I showed the kids a bit of Utrecht.  Not that I’m a pro, but Funs and I were just there a few weeks back  – see post “Day Out In Utrecht” so I had a good idea of things to show them – including the Letters of Utrecht which they thought was cool. They saw the Dom all wrapped in scaffolding and had a drink in the BadaBing before walking over to Hoog Catharijne to visit Primark. Unfortunately being late August, this store has not yet done the switch over so most of their stuff was still summer. Unlike other shops focusing on back to schools hopping, here was a mixture and nothing much of interest. So we ended up only getting her a Billy Eilish t-shirt and pair of jeans – which she is excited to wear the first day of school.

BONUS SURPRISE

After the tiny bit of “shopping” if you call it that – I took them to Dunkin Donuts. 

They were thrilled to be able to get a donut each – which they could pick from a large variety (different ones than what we have back home.   I am not a big fan of DD, but they are and I knew they’d love it.  They were thrilled and loved the little to go boxes for their €2.25 donut.  Check out those outrageous prices for Dunkins 🙂  

While I’m not quite sure they both found Utrecht as nice of a city as I think it is, but they are getting there.  Both still think Groningen is nicer – despite Utrecht being a larger student city.    Oh Soren went into the comic stores on the corner and came out 20 minutes later telling me he’d like to get into comics and then when he saw the pedal boats, he was very interested in those.  I reminded him of his boating skills and how he could be a skipper here as his part time job and showed him a photo of the trash boat which came down the canal while he was inside the comic shop. 

Maebh and I found it pretty cool – he had some great skills reversing the vessel. Soren, well he was not interested – said he’d rather be on a Whale Watch boat on Cape Code for the summer.  Good for me as I can visit one of my favorite places, Provincetown!

A Day Out in Giethoorn & Top 8 Things To Do In Giethoorn

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Today we visited Giethoorn – also referred to as “the Venice of the North” and “the Venice of the Netherlands”.  This was my first time ever visiting and it was as some say at times out of postcard and picture-perfect.   My photos do not do the beautiful thatched farms which line the water-ways justice.   The houses were built on islands, as it stands now, and you can only reach them via small bridges.

postHousepostwoodenshoebridgehouse2localsFirst do not go to Giethoorn expecting a Venice vibe.  The ambiance is totally different.  They only call it the Venice of the North because of the lack of streets around the main canal.  The waterways were dug to transport peat and cane to Zuiderzee trading towns like Blokzijl.   The name “Giethoorn” means Goats Horns.   The story goes that its original farmer-settlers discovered a collection of horns belonging to wild goats thought to have died in the Flood of 1170. “Goat horn,” or “Geytenhoren,” was shortened to Giethoorn, and the name stuck.

TRUE OR FALSE – ARE THERE REALLY NO CARS?

Well, actually it’s a mix.  The small islands with high bridges only exist on one side of the long canal in the village.  That is true – you can only get to those houses by boat.  Most of the houses along the footpath can be reached by car and have garages at the back.   But yes, off the islands, there are small paved roads not far from the houses, and commercial buildings have large parking lots for customers and guests.  There are also some roads/paths between the houses, so the emergency services can reach accidents quite rapidly.

houses

The old part of the village has no roads (except for bicycle lanes). All transportation is done by water over numerous canals, which make the village very special and spectacular.  Moving, grocery delivery, etc would be tricky.  I even saw one person using a wheelbarrow transporting groceries and items from their car in our parking lot a house.  Giethoorn has over 180 bridges that connect the streets and houses.  Many of them are private (clearly marked).  Some you can stand on to take photos and others to cross over so you get a good mix.  There are even police and fire truck boats.

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GETTING TO GIETHOORN

While the very center of Giethoorn isn’t accessible by car (that’s why it’s so cute), there are parking spots (free & paid) just outside and you can easily reach the best parts of the village on foot.  There is no train station in Giethoorn. If you are traveling from Amsterdam Central, you need to take a train to Zwolle, and then change to bus #70. Your final destination is Bushalte Dominee Hylkemaweg.   Alternatively, you can travel by train to Steenwijk station and then take bus #70 to Dominee Hylkemaweg.   It was approx a 2-hour drive for us from Den Bosch.

There is a large, parking lot in Giethoorn located at Beulakerweg 135, 8355 DD. The village center is only 7-10 minutes walk from the parking lot.  Note: there is a small free lot, and there are some free on-street spots, but chances are those are all taken.  There is a large parking lot at the end – it’s €4. to park all day. You’ll need coins to exit so be sure you plan ahead.

The best thing about going with your own car means you can easily detour to other places that are hard to reach by public transport.   If you had the time and staying in the area, you might want to visit Blokzijl –  a previously thriving trading city in the time of the golden age.  Monumental merchant houses with stair neck and clock gables are interesting.   And nearby Vollenhove – home of an amazing flower parade which is canceled this year.  For us, we went up to Zwolle (which was 20 minutes by car).

8 SUGGESTED THINGS TO DO WHILE IN GIETHOORN

#1 – OF COURSE, EXPLORE THE CANALS BY BOAT

First, you have to decide whether you want to skipper your own boat or relax and let someone else take the wheel.  From there you can either rent a small boat or you can take a guided boat tour which takes 1-2 hours depending on the one you choose.  The , flat-bottomed electric whisper boat is the most common and slots are bookable with a minimum of 2-hour slots – but if you really want to enjoy yourself and have more time out on the lake, book for 3-4 hours (or even the whole day).

swanlake

There are at least ten different boat-hire companies in the village – but book online and early to avoid disappointment.    I highly recommend doing this as early or late in the day as possible because the traffic/congestion on the canals between 12-4 can be really bad as you can see in the photos below.  

#2 – EXPLORE THE CANALS BY FOOT

EXPLORE BOTH ALONG THE CANALS & BEYOND THE OLD PART OF THE VILLAGE
You will see an even more cozy and peaceful face of Giethoorn.  There is a 15.3 km walking route you can follow on this pdf.

#3 – RENT A BICYCLE

There are cycling routes around the village, which then intersect with a network across the national park. If you want to make a day of it, you can do the 41.5-kilometre Giethoorn de Wieden bike route which shows you the best of Giethoorn – its thatched farmhouses and bridges before heading out into that unspoiled wetland environment via the Beulakerwijde and Belterwijde lakes.  The trail is marked with green and white signs “Knooppunten”.   Note: the old village and walking paths are just that – walking.   It is forbidden to ride your bike there and there are handhaving and traffic wardens wearing bright green to make sure no bikes and that people are doing their best at sticking to the 1.5 metre rules during COVID time.

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VISIT DE WEERRIBBEN-WIEDEN NATIONAL PARK
One of the most beautiful nature reserves in the Netherlands, it comprises the largest peat bog of north-western Europe.  With an extensive cycling network,  you can really explore the surroundings.

#4 – TAKE A LOT OF PHOTOS

Especially of the beautiful thatched-roof farmhouses, canals, and bridges and all the animals – we saw ducks, swans, cows, and storks!

post soren cowspoststorks

#5 – DINE OUT AND PEOPLE WATCH

The canals in Giethoorn are lined with restaurants which means if you want to sit down and people watch for a while, there are many brilliantly scenic spots to grab a drink. As whisper boats do not move very quickly and the canals of Giethoorn can be tricky to navigate.  Boat traffic often comes to a standstill as some tourists do not have a handle on their boats – great for watching.   We had the first-hand experience watching some guests crash their boats.  It’s really hard to not laugh at them (or even as a guest on board the boat – a few times I was dying laughing so hard).  Here is when Soren took the wheel we had some Tokyo drifts into grassy banks :). Turned out he was taking a video – but it does cut off before the incident but you still get the idea of what came next!

Seriously he was brilliant – even with the crashes into some trees. What do you expect for a 12-year-old behind the wheel of a boat?  NOTE:  I DID NOT DRIVE THE BOAT AT ALL –  I’m certain he did a better job than I could have.   We trusted him and he gained more and more confidence as the day went on.  In fact, going forward, he’s our captain.   I suggest he gets a job during Uni with his own boat – he’ll get lots of interested girls and lots of tips from American tourists 🙂 ha ha   He’s not interested in this now at 12… we’ll come back and see in 7 years what’s the story! 

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#6 – PICNIC WITH AMAZING VIEWS 

Of course, tourist destinations often means tourist prices, and here is no exception. If you want to have an affordable lunch (and soak in all the magical vibes of this little village), consider packing yourself a picnic and enjoying it on a bench (if you can find an open one) or put down a blanket and sit on a nice spot along the canal and watch the boats cruise by.

#7 – VISIT A MUSEUM 

Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus  The museum is located in an original historical farmhouse in the center at Binnenpad 52.

front of musuem

It is the only place in Giethoorn where you can see how people lived more than 100 years ago and how they earned a tiny living by cutting peat and building small boats (‘punters’). Entry is FREE for Museumkaart holders – which we are and you know that by now. Otherwise, adults are €6.50, and kids under 12 are €2.

We visited this museum for about 45 minutes before we went to pick up our boat.

Museum De Oude Aarde is a good place to visit if you are into shiny, pretty things.   This museum features a large collection of gemstones, minerals, and fossils.  Adults are €3.90 and kids are €2.90.  They have some extra things set up for the kids called Lucky Luck arrangements at an extra cost between €7.95 to €14,95 and includes a scavenger hunt and cracking a crystal ball, etc.  We didn’t visit but for those with an interest in this type of stuff, it could be fun.

Schelpengalerie Gloria Maris  This museum features shells, corals, and a changing exhibition that takes inspiration from the sea.  Located at Binnenpad 112 and entrance is free.

#8 – BOOK AN ARRANGEMENT LIKE BOATDROPPING.

You can book one of several arrangements at Giethoorn.nl.  I found Boatdropping particularly cool and think it would be fun to do if we ever return to Giethoorn with a group.   You wander through the canals and over the lakes looking for treasures that you can only locate with your GPS device. You depart in a blinded tour boat. where you are brought to the drop point where punts are waiting for you.   There you will receive a GPS device by boat with which you can find various “treasure chests” in Giethoorn. However, it is the case that the “first come, first served”.  It looks like a competitive activity.

OUR BOAT RENTAL EXPERIENCE

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Funs booked our whisper boat rental online at Giethorn.com and the booking was made with Frank Raggers.  Their location was not walking distance from the old part of the village, but it was no issues as we had a car.  If we had come by public transport, that might have been a problem as we first wanted to walk around the village – but I guess you could just take the bus, as there was a stop out front.

We were greeted by Frank and his wife and were given directions and a map of the recommended routes we could take specifically in our 2-hour rental duration – which included some time in the quiet canals, across the beautiful lake and then even joined up with the yellow path which was the very busy one main one which can be very congested.

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We did have one hiccup – our boat was not going fast as it could and had some issues so we called back to Frank.  He immediately came to our aid – shut off the motor, reached under the water and pulled off a plastic bag which was wrapped around the motor.  Then we were off to take in the sites.

90% of the driving was done by my 12-year-old son – who was a great captain.  Of course, we did have some issues involving a tree and the reeds but truthfully he did a better job than I could have done.    I have a photo of me “driving” but that is just for photo purposes – I didn’t do anything but sat back, took photos, and of course, barked orders for our first-time driver to be careful.

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Here is a video of one of the REALLY low bridges.

We also had a boy who lived in one of the houses offered to give us a bommetje – (cannonball) which we couldn’t say no.

By the end of our two-hours, he was a master and parked it like a boss when it was return time.   I wish I could have had the parking part on camera – it was really really great!

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I certainly would recommend renting a boat with Frank Raggers Verhuur but only if you are driving otherwise, I’d rent one in the village like Boatrental Giethoorn EU.

GIETHOORN AS A MONOPOLY DESTINATION

One fun fact that locals are very proud of, is that in 2015, Giethoorn beat out over 180 other contenders across the world to become a destination on the 80th-anniversary World Edition of Monopoly.   Brown: Giethoorn, Netherlands; Madrid, Spain

£50 Old Kent Road/Whitechapel Road brown slots were opened up to a “Wildcard Week” where participants could vote for any town or city, big or small, that hadn’t made it onto the most popular list – like Amsterdam did.   The inhabitants of Giethoorn took advantage of the limitless number of times they could vote: some 80% of internet users voted 10 to 50 times a day to put their village on the board :).   But

Even though Giethoorn remains a location known around the world, the village really only became famous after the Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra completed his famous comedy “Fanfare” here.

FESTIVALS OF GIETHOORN

Prior to the COVID times, Giethoorn is also known for its music festivals. In July and August, there are Rock Around Giethoorn and Blues festivals and in November a Jazz festival.  There used to be a Jazz-festival as well.   But again with COVID, all have been canceled until next year.

Apart from music festivals, Giethoorn has more special events. Such as the yearly Gondelvaart Dwarsgracht and Gondelvaart   This would be very cool to see these events but again, I’m 99.9% sure both are canceled until next year.   Here are some photos I found online at the tourist site #thisisholland

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WHY IS GIETHOORN SO POPULAR AMONGST CHINESE TOURISTS?

Giethoorn is insanely popular among Chinese tourists. The origins of this national obsession are said to because of a popular documentary called Ni Hao Holland (Hello Holland) where the presenter “Cherry” lives in Peking, but dreams of swapping the hectic city life for, yep you guessed it, Giethoorn. 🙂   Whenever I say to a Dutch friend that I want to visit the Keukenhof or Giethoorn, the most common response includes something along the lines of “Oh I’ve never been there before, but that is the place with all the Chinese people” because that is the reputation it has developed over the years.

Because Chinese tourists make up a large majority of the visitors to Giethoorn, the town has adapted accordingly, with tons of Chinese signs, menus accomodating the tour groups.  But with COVID, things were a bit different this year being that nearly all the tourists and boaters were those enjoying staycations and as it was still during school vacations.  it was busy.

Giethoorn is certainly a unique place to visit and is perfect for one day.   Now that I’ve been here in the summer, I don’t need to rush back again any time soon but it could be fun to ice skate on the frozen canals — very picturesque.

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photo credit Heavenly Holland

Have you been to Giethoorn?  Did I miss anything or have a tip for a future trip back, send me a private message or of course, comment below.

Also, if you’re looking for other day trips from Amsterdam, I recommend visiting one of the cities I recently visited – Rotterdam, Utrecht, Delft and Den Haag and of course, Den Bosch 🙂