Road Trip: Amsterdam to Maastricht

The Netherlands is a very small country as far as distances go so you can easily drive from one end to the other within a few hours. Driving direct from Amsterdam to Maastricht on the Belgian border would take a little over 2 hours but there are many interesting stops along the way.

A recent road trip saw me drive from Amsterdam to Lisse for the Keukenhof Tulip Festival then to Utrecht followed by Arcen for the Floriade Expo and finally to Maastricht. The road trip took around a week but you could do it in less time or a lot more depending on how much exploring you want to do at each stop.

Amsterdam

I could easily spend a week in Amsterdam alone. It’s one of my favourite European cities and each time I go back I discover something new. On a trip to the Dutch capital you could:

  • Explore the canals and inner city neighbourhoods. Just wandering around Amsterdam is a lot of fun.
  • Buy tulips from the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s unique floating flower market.
  • Go on a canal cruise. It might sound touristy but it’s actually a relaxing way to see the city.
  • Check out the Red Light District. You can’t go to Amsterdam without at least having a look. 😉
  • Stop at a coffee shop, if smoking is your thing.
  • Get the iAmsterdam City Card. If you are short on time this card gives you free access to many museums, free public transport, a canal cruise and lots of discounts.

Driving from Amsterdam to Maastricht

Where to Stay

I usually stay at the Fashion Hotel which is a modern boutique hotel a few stops on the tram from the centre of Amsterdam.

Keukenhof Tulip Festival

You can visit Keukenhof as a day trip from Amsterdam but I think it’s nice to stay in Lisse, the nearest town, as you can walk to the festival and take photos of the tulip fields at different times of the day. Lisse itself isn’t particularly interesting though so you could also choose to stay in Leiden, just south of Keukenhof.

The Keukenhof Tulip Festival has the best show of tulips I have ever seen which isn’t surprising as this is what the Dutch are known for but there are hyacinths, daffodils and orchid displays too which are equally beautiful. Keukenhof is open from March to May (check the Keukenhof site for 2013 dates) but I’d recommend visiting in late April/early May to see the tulips at their best.

Tulips at Keukenhof

Favourite Tulip from Keukenhof 2012

Where to Stay

The Hotel de Duif is a short walk to Keukenhof in the centre of Lisse. The rooms are clean and tidy albeit quite small but there’s free parking at the door.

Utrecht

Utrecht is like a mini version of Amsterdam but without the Red Light District and pot smoking (well not as much anyway). It’s a very cute town where you can wander along the canals or hire a bike to explore. There aren’t many ‘sights’ per se but it’s a fun place to relax and get a feel for Dutch life. Be sure to try the local liqueur Advocaat while in the region and if you’re game eat from one of the fast food vending machines (not really recommended!).

Stopover in Utrecht

Where to Stay

In Utrecht I stayed at the basic and soulless Ibis Utrecht but hey, there’s free parking!

Floriade

Floriade is a horticulture expo held once every 10 years so if it’s something you’re interested in seeing you only have until the 7th October 2012 otherwise it’s a 10 year wait! Floriade is an unusual setup with different ‘worlds’ with different kinds of exhibits. My favourites were the country exhibits where you could try food from around the world and shop in their ‘bazaars’ (which don’t really have much to do with horticulture).

The Afgahnistan Bazaar at Floriade

The fruit and vegetable foodie areas were fun too where you could try freshly prepared dishes made from local and sustainable ingredients or just to check out quality produce like heirloom tomatoes or unusual eggplants.

Visit Floriade Near Venlo

Of course the flower displays were beautiful too, the Dutch really know what they’re doing when it comes to flowers.

Orchids at Floriade

Where to Stay

The closest town to Floriade is Venlo but I suggest staying in Arcen which is only a little further away. It’s an adorable little town on the river with fantastic restaurants and bakeries which is exactly what you’ll need after an exhausting day walking around Floriade.

Maastricht

To finish off the drive from Amsterdam you could spend a few days in Maastricht. Maastricht is a very walkable city and is well known for its history and culture. The focal points of the city are its two main squares which have regular markets and plenty of cafes where you can relax after the long road trip. You can also visit the local fort and the underground city. Maastricht is also very well known for its coffee shops with many foreigners visiting the city for this reason alone.

Dutch Driving Tips

  • Watch out for cyclists. They have right of way at all times and be particularly careful when turning right as they might come up from behind on the inside.
  • Don’t worry about toll roads because there are none. Driving on the highways in the Netherlands is free although there are a couple of tunnels which have a toll.
  • Keep right. The massive multi-lane highways in the Netherlands are impressive but always keep right unless overtaking or you’ll get abused by a local (not that I have ever experienced that!).

Where would you recommend stopping on a road trip through the Netherlands?

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. Wow…what a journey. Having just returned from Amsterdam, I can totally relate to this article although my visit preceded tulip season much to my disappointment. Regardless, I still love the Netherlands from the cities to the countryside! By the way, the picture of the building with the red shutters in Utrecht is quite stunning my friend!

    • Thanks Jeff! This was my first time experiencing the Dutch countryside and it really is stunning. I loved reading about your trip and seeing your photos of the Dutch windmills. It’s a shame out paths didn’t cross in Amsterdam!

      • Andrea,
        We are planning a trip to Europe arriving May 30th. It is impossible to arrive earlier for the Tulip festival so am wondering if it is still worth making the trip you describe to Holland and what flowers will be blooming.

        • Hi Mary,

          The mass flower fields and the tulip season end mid-May so you aren’t likely to see much in that regard. But it will still be spring so you’ll see plenty of flowers in the city parks but not more that what you would see in other European towns. I think the Netherlands is worth visiting all year round and you’ll see many cute villages and pretty windmills if you take this road trip but if you’re looking for spring flowers I think you’ll just miss out. In June in Europe you’ll most likely see a lot of roses and poppies.

          Enjoy your trip!

  2. Looks like you had an awesome time!

  3. I have not been to Holland but would really like to visit! The countryside looks wonderful and I especially loved the color of those tulips. Wow!!

  4. Gorgeous photos, Andrea! I particularly love that close-up of the individual tulip. I’ve never seen one with petals like that before. Any idea what it’s called?

  5. Now that we have our own house and garden, we’re planning to go to the Netherlands to buy our tulips in November. I still have vivid memories of the Keukenhof Festival back in 1978! I didn’t know about Floriade but I don’t think we’re going to make it this year. I’ll have to put it on my calendar for 2022!!!

    • That’s a great excuse for a trip to the Netherlands. I’m not sure you should admit to going to Keukenhof in 1978! 😉 I will have to invite myself around when you’re tulips are finally out in bloom. 😉

  6. Are you intimating that I’m old! I actually did a road trip back then and have returned to the Netherlands several times. And I’ll invite you to Blois when they’re in bloom!

  7. I love a good road trip, and sometimes people struggle to understand this but I love driving through Belgium in particular but somehow I’ve never driven through Holland or made it to any of the places above – and they’re now very much on my list.

    I love that close up flower shot too – I seem to have slowly become a gardening/flower fan in the last few years (a sign of getting older?) and I actually jumped at the chance to go to the Hampton Court Palace flower show last week too. Next stop knitting – oh wait I already took that up. Yikes!

    • Ha! I’ve always loved flowers and gardening. Maybe we can share knitting patterns later, lol?

      Holland is a strange place to drive through. They have these massive 8 or 10 lane highways which I find odd for such a small country. I would have loved to have seen the mass flower displays they have in the fields in spring but I must have been there a little too early for that. 🙁

  8. Klaus Georg Erschens says:

    Hallo Andrea, again,
    Just read your report on your trip from Amsterdam to Maastricht.
    Have some comments:
    Those food vending machines really are special netherlands. The people there have several specialties you have to get used with to love them. Most of the ingrediants are so mashed to a size you are not able to identify them, so better do not ask (but if you don’t ask it could happen you will get something with horseflesh): Frikandel, Bitterballen, hoezaarensalad.
    The trip you mentioned could be expanded to two interesting netherland towns:
    1.) Nijmegen Nice old town where you should see Stephenskerk, Oude Waag, new build Waaade
    2.) Thorn, Limburg. Het witte stadje is a lovely small town not far from Maastricht you will not miss to visit if you saw its pictures (look after “witte stadje” on google-search).
    Kind regards, and looking forward to more of your reports.
    Georg

    • I’m not keen on eating mystery meat so I think I did well to avoid eating anything from a vending machine!

      Thanks again for the tips on places to visit. I really haven’t spent much time in the Netherlands so it’ll be good to go back next year and do a more thorough road trip. I’ve added your tips to my list of places to visit. 🙂

  9. Klaus Georg Erschens says:

    Re my recent post:
    Had some troubles with my keyboard : The last word under 1.) Nijmegen should read “Waalkade”

  10. I’d say don’t skip my home town Leiden 🙂 – lovely university city, great museums and nice botanical garden. About 30 minutes from Amsterdam (by train).
    And while you’re at it, The Hague is also a great city (15 minutes further south from Leiden). If you’re keen to see the tulip fields, take a train from Amsterdam or Haarlem (also very nice) to Leiden and the train will take you right through the fields.