My earliest impressions of Holland before moving here in the 1990’s were of a country below sea-level, protected by impressive dikes and an extensive network of waterways; massive fields of flowers and grazing cattle; windmills; picturesque villages; farmers wearing clogs; and endless canals. The ‘Kop van Noord Holland‘ or ‘the Head of North Holland’ is the perfect embodiment of these impressions. Located slightly more than an hour’s drive north of Amsterdam, this predominantly agricultural region is Holland at its finest.

Windmills and verdant fields can be found throughout the countryside in the Netherlands.

The countryside of North Holland

I spent a long weekend exploring this beautiful region and I was struck by the charming scenery, wonderfully friendly people and the multitude of things to do and see. I walked through fields of tulips, lazed on the beach, strolled through quaint towns, dined at lovely beach restaurants and went bird-watching at the Zwanenwater reserve. And after three wonderful days in the ‘Kop van Noord Holland’, I was back home in an hour! It’s the perfect weekend getaway or day trip from Amsterdam.

Windmills, sheep and fields of flowers.
Cute lambs!

Tulips galore!

The ‘Kop van Noord Holland’ can be visited all year round. However, in the spring, visitors are able to witness the impressive blooms. This area is one of the leading tulip regions in the Netherlands. The best way to see the tulip fields is to hire a bike and cycle past the fields or go on a walking tour.

Tulips, tulips, tulips…
Colourful tulips!
and more tulips!

Getting to the ‘Kop van Noord Holland’

The ‘Kop van Noord Holland’ region is located north of the town of Alkmaar, slightly more than an hour’s drive from Amsterdam. From Alkmaar, follow the N9 motorway towards Den Helder. You can also take the train from Amsterdam to Alkmaar, Heerhugowaard, Schagen or Anna Paulowna and continue by bus to any of the small villages along the coast. Read about things to see in Alkmaar.

It’s a great area to go for long strolls or bike rides past the farms, fields and windmills.

The scenery along the N9 (which runs parallel to the Noord Holland Kanaal or ‘North Holland Canal’) is absolutely gorgeous! You’ll pass many windmills, brilliant fields of flowers, beautiful thatched-roof farmhouses and countless cows, sheep and horses. Secondary roads link the N9 with quaint villages such as Bergen (lovely boutiques, cafΓ©s and restaurants), Bergen aan Zee (which is home to beautiful Dutch houses and a lively art scene), Schoorl (located between the dunes, forests and the fields, Schoorl is an excellent spot to start and/or end a walking or cycling trip) and Callantsoog (a popular beachside village).

You’ll pass fields of flowers and canals.
A typical Dutch house in Bergen.
The soft, white sands of Callantsoog beach.
Gorgeous farmhouses dot the countryside.

Things to see and do in North Holland

There are many things to see and do that can keep visitors occupied for days. You could opt for a walk along the beaches and dunes of Callantsoog, Petten or Bergen aan Zee (it’s actually a single stretch of beach that’s more than a hundred miles long) or choose a quiet spot and chill; discover the importance of the seawalls in Petten; spot spoonbills and many other birds at the Zwanenwater nature reserve; go kayaking along the canals; explore the countryside by bike (many villages have bike rentals); or simply sit back and watch the scenery unfold as you cruise down the North Holland Canal. Add to that the friendliness of the people and what you get is Holland at its best!

The seawall protects low-lying areas from the sea.
The dunes and lakes of the Zwanenwater nature reserve.
The Zwanenwater nature reserve is a popular bird-watching area.
You can rent a kayak and explore the extensive waterways.

Drop by at the tourist offices (or ‘VVV’) at any of the bigger villages like Bergen or Schoorl for information on walking tours, bike or car routes and maps.

And at the end of the day, choose one of the many beach restaurants, such as Woest in Callantsoog, to enjoy a wonderful meal and a stunning sunset!

Woest beach restaurant.
Tuck in and watch the sunset.
The sunset!

Check out my Amsterdam travel guide

This region in North Holland can easily be combined with a broader Holland road trip around the Markermeer and/or a Friesland road trip.


Places to stay

There’s a wide variety of accommodations, from luxury hotels to charming bed and breakfasts and camping grounds. I stayed at the Catherina Hoeve bed & breakfast in the tiny village of Burgerbrug. This B&B is an old farmhouse that’s been lovingly renovated by the owners, Cea and Guus. The three rooms are absolutely gorgeous – decorated in a rustic, country style, they have en-suite showers, luxurious beds and free wifi. And to get their guests started in the morning, they provide a wonderful breakfast consisting of freshly-squeezed orange juice, delicious breads and fruits, and eggs from the farm down the road.

Rustic rooms at Catherina Hoeve.

Towns which I recommend as a base from which to explore the region include Callantsoog, Bergen, Bergen aan Zee (at the beach) or Schoorl (

The ‘Kop van Noord Holland’ is an absolutely beautiful region that I highly recommend if you’re touring around the Netherlands or if you’re thinking of venturing outside of Amsterdam for a few days. I know for sure that I’ll be back soon! πŸ™‚

Read more about The Netherlands on Velvet Escape


41 Responses

  • […] This historic city – Alkmaar gained city rights in the 13th century! – is located about a 45-minute drive northwest of Amsterdam, or a 35+ minute train ride from Amsterdam. Famous for its traditional cheese market, held every Friday morning (April to September) at the Waagplein (Waag square), Alkmaar also has picturesque canals, beautiful houses and laid-back cafΓ©s to entice visitors to explore more of the city. Read more about things to see in Alkmaar. Alkmaar can also be used as a base to explore the countryside of North Holland. […]

  • Hello Keith, do you know of a scenic route that includes Giethoorn ?

  • Beautiful photos of the Tulips and a great overview of north Holland. It’s been many years since I’ve been there but I had the chance to see some of beautiful flowers during the Spring. I didn’t have a chance to venture beyond the flowers and a few windmills but what a scenic area of the country. I love getting into the countryside and away from the big cities. This inspires me to check out this area when I get back.

  • Very nice post, loving the countryside so much. Holland still on my list, just had chance to pass by at the airport. Hoping one day to take a more deep tour into the country.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I have read all the above and saw of the pictures. It is so lovely a country that I am planning to visit for some time and see the beauty of your land and meet the peaceful people loving and smiling. I am an old man but the beauty of your country side will let me feel younger. I wish my dream to visit all these scenic places become a reality. Thanks mohammad ayub

  • […] of Amsterdam. Another devastatingly beautiful region is north of Amsterdam, called the ‘Kop van Noord Holland‘ (head of North Holland) where these pictures were taken. Imagine endless meadows, canals, […]

  • […] Read the accompanying post: ‘Holland At Its Best‘. […]

  • Hello,
    Bedankt voor jullie commentaar.

    It’s absolutely true. Holland has much more to offer than just clogs, tulips and canals. πŸ™‚ Your B&B is located in one of the most beautiful forested areas in the country (Sallandse Heuvelrug). Stunning scenery, great wildlife and awesome food too! πŸ™‚ I would love to stay at your B&B one day.

    Met vriendelijke groet,

  • There is so much more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam, clogs & tulips!! How about National Parks with black grouse, various deer, fox and badgers. Wild countryside with heather, hills, streams and romantic Bed & Breakfasts. See historic towns like Maastricht, Zutphen en Zwolle, or the fantistics museums of old clocks, handbags, trains or historic flying aircraft. Take an evening balloon trip across the countryside to see meandering rivers, storkΒ΄s nests and flowering orchards. We can continue and continue, but this is true for many places around the world……………

  • What a fantastic resource guide and a beautifully written article about Holland. OMG..i want one of those Dutch houses!!! Gorgeous photos my friend. Great job!!

  • Being a Dutch woman and reading this nice story makes me proud of my country. Most foreigners only think we have tulips, wooden shoes and drugs… I’m glad to see someone has takrn the effort to explore our country at its best. If you ever want to see the “other side of dutch nature” you have to visit Arnhem (Gelderland) and the national park.

    Thanks for your beautiful report,


  • Wonderful pictures!! These really invite to visit Netherlands again. Catherina Hoeve’s place looks really great, thanks for the recommendation!

  • Great post. We’ll be in the Netherlands around September, so I am hoping that is a good time. I’ll be flagging this post as we would like to spend a good amount of time here. Cheers!

  • I totally agree on this, this area I recently visited, too. And true, it’s really close to Amsterdam, my hometown. It’s great to spend some days surrounded by the wind, water, dunes and amazing flowers. Lovely article again Keith! πŸ™‚

  • Windmills, sheep and flowers in the Dutch countryside | The Happy Explorer

    […] Read the accompanying post: ‘Holland At Its Best‘. […]

  • Wow! Congrats Teresa. You’ve made the right decision. πŸ™‚ Give me a call some time will ya!


  • Thanks for the wonderful memories! My husband and I lived in Den Haag in the early 90s for several years, and absolutely fell in love with the whole country of Holland. For such a small country I found it fascinating how distinct various regions were. Another one of my favorite northern regions is Friesland. Now – anyone want to go in on buying that farmhouse with me? πŸ™‚

  • I love The Netherlands! A lot of people don’t realize how diverse the landscape is; even if it is mostly low-lands. I think it is simply beautiful. Didn’t know about this area in North Holland but thanks for sharing!

    Made a decision that I’m moving there for good! Can’t get enough of the oranje life πŸ™‚

  • I just wrote a post about the Netherlands! I love it so much there – this post shows why!

  • Thank you Gray, Kenny, Serena, Yurina & Jeremy for your comments. So glad I found this little corner of Holland, a fab place for a short break. πŸ™‚


  • Very nice Keith. It’s the best when you find a place that’s not *too* far away from where you’re based that you love as an easy weekend getaway. Holland really is beautiful, I can see why you’d want to get out to the country.

  • I love this post. I’ve spent time visiting Holland but most of it was spent in Amsterdam. Did get out of the city a little but there is so much more to explore in the countryside. You have to love all the beautiful flowers and it would be interesting to explore more of these areas. I like the peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle, so definitely a side of the country I would love to spend more time in.

  • Gorgeous! I’ll keep exploring as well, Holland is amazing :). I just had a great weekend in Valkenburg (Limburg’s region). I shall try this one also. Thanks Keith!


  • For some reason I had the idea that since Holland is flat that it wouldn’t be that beautiful, but you’re pictures show otherwise.

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