Holland at its best


One of many windmills in the region.

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.

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 was the perfect weekend getaway from Amsterdam.

Windmills, sheep and fields of flowers

Tulips galore!

This region can be visited all year round. However, in the spring, visitors are able to witness the impressive blooms – the best way to do this is to hire a bike and cycle past the fields or go on a walking tour.

Tulips, tulips, tulips…

and more tulips!

Getting there

The ‘Kop van Noord Holland’ (map) 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.

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, cafés 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 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

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 in Callantsoog

Excellent service with a smile at Woest in Callantsoog

A glorious sunset at Callantsoog

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 (Yay!). And to get their guests started in the morning, Cea and Guus provide a wonderful breakfast consisting of freshly-squeezed orange juice, delicious breads and fruits, and eggs from the farm down the road.

Catherina Hoeve in Burgerbrug

Rustic rooms at Catherina Hoeve

The ‘Kop van Noord Holland’ is an absolutely beautiful region that I can 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! 🙂

Find accommodations in Callantsoog, Bergen, Bergen aan Zee or Schoorl (Booking.com).


Share or Save this post:



Follow Velvet Escape on:

35 Responses to “Holland at its best”

  1. Jerry 05/05/2015 2:38 pm

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

  2. Jeremy Branham 08/05/2012 6:30 am

    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.

  3. Javier I. Sampedro 19/04/2012 8:22 am

    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.

  4. Mohammad Ayub 11/04/2012 7:14 pm

    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

  5. velvet 09/06/2011 8:35 pm

    Bedankt voor jullie commentaar.

    It’s absolutely true. Holland has much more to offer than just clogs, tulips and canals. 🙂 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! 🙂 I would love to stay at your B&B one day.

    Met vriendelijke groet,

  6. Bed & Breakfast 09/06/2011 8:30 pm

    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, stork´s nests and flowering orchards. We can continue and continue, but this is true for many places around the world……………

  7. Jeff Titelius 31/05/2011 5:47 pm

    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!!

  8. Daphne 28/05/2011 9:02 pm

    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,


  9. avi adato 27/05/2011 7:08 pm

    Vety useful info

  10. Minna 22/05/2011 12:18 pm

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

  11. Pete | Hecktic Travels 21/05/2011 5:55 pm

    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!

  12. velvet 16/05/2011 10:38 pm

    Thanks Rob! 🙂

  13. Rob 16/05/2011 10:16 pm

    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! 🙂

  14. Debbie @ European Travelista 15/05/2011 6:38 pm

    Oh I must get to Holland! Beautiful pictures. Loved the sandy beach and flowers.

  15. velvet 12/05/2011 8:13 pm

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


  16. Margo 12/05/2011 6:45 pm

    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? 🙂

  17. Teresa G. 12/05/2011 4:01 pm

    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 🙂

  18. velvet 12/05/2011 12:25 pm

    Thanks Brenna! 🙂

  19. Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] 12/05/2011 12:09 pm

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

  20. velvet 12/05/2011 10:36 am

    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. 🙂


  21. Serena 12/05/2011 10:33 am

    that’s looks just like a fairy tale! a real dream!

  22. Gray 12/05/2011 1:29 am

    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.

  23. Jeremy Branham 11/05/2011 5:07 pm

    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.

  24. Yurina Martin 11/05/2011 3:32 pm

    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!


  25. Laurel 11/05/2011 3:18 pm

    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.

  26. Life for Beginners 11/05/2011 2:36 pm

    Fields of tulips… and at one point in history, literally fields of gold, considering their value back then! 🙂


  1. Photos of Amsterdam canals | Velvet Escape - 11/09/2019

    […] Holland at its best […]

  2. Things to see in Amersfoort | Velvet Escape - 06/09/2019

    […] Holland at its best […]

  3. See the famous tulip fields of Holland by car - the best way to enjoy the tulip fields! - 18/06/2018

    […] was the perfect end to an amazing day! My favourite tulip areas are in the region north of Amsterdam but this region around Hillegom/Lisse is just as good, but […]

  4. Tulips in Holland - oh what a sight! | Velvet Escape - 29/04/2014

    […] are around the town of Lisse (where the famous Keukenhof gardes are located) and the ‘Kop van Noord Holland‘, a gorgeous region north of Amsterdam. Last weekend, I hopped into my car and went for a […]

  5. A sea of tulips in Holland | Velvet Escape - 05/04/2013

    […] The endless fields of flowers will simply blow you away! Read the accompanying post: “Holland At Its Best“, and enjoy this sea of […]

  6. Photos of the countryside in Holland | Velvet Escape - 25/01/2012

    […] 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, […]

  7. I Heart My City: Keith’s Amsterdam – Intelligent Travel - 19/08/2011

    […] are many options but my favorites are the area around the little village of Schoorl (simply ‘Holland At Its Best‘) or the islands of Texel or Vlieland with their endless beaches and […]

  8. The beach at Callantsoog | The Happy Explorer - 14/07/2011

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

  9. Windmills, sheep and flowers in the Dutch countryside | The Happy Explorer - 13/05/2011

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

Leave a Reply