North Holland is the most visited province of the Netherlands. From cosmopolitan Amsterdam to beautiful North Sea beaches, North Holland has a lot to offer.

The province is located in the north-west of the Netherlands, on the north of South Holland and Utrecht and west of Friesland and Flevoland.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best places and activities across the province. Whether you’d like to visit Amsterdam, enjoy traditional cheese markets, see historic windmills or just relax at the beach, you’ll find it here.

City Trips

North Holland is considered a critical component of the Dutch economy. This province is home to many international businesses. As such, North Holland has several major cities, most of which offer a blend of old and new. Below are the best cities for a city trip in the North Holland province.

Amsterdam

The most important city in North Holland is, of course, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the world-famous 17th-century capital of the Netherlands. It’s the epicenter of international business, full of history (major museums and sights) and a diverse culture. However, it’s far from being just an urban concrete jungle. Beautiful canals surrounded by lon-standing (some leaning!) houses with gables give the city its unique charm.

Whether you’d like do sightseeing, take a canal cruise or simply enjoy the scenery, there’s something for everyone.

Not sure what to do? Check out our articles on Amsterdam Sightseeing and Amsterdam Activities.

Haarlem

Haarlem is the provincial capital of North Holland. It has some similarities to Amsterdam (such as the canals), reason for which Haarlem is often called “the little brother of Amsterdam“. Even if you have already visited Amsterdam, a trip to Haarlem is absolutely worthwhile.

Haarlem has been the historical center of the tulip bulb-growing sector for centuries. As such, Haarlem is also fondly called “Bloemenstad” (flower city). Due to the city’s rich history, it has plenty of narrow streets and 15th century monumental buildings, designed by none other than Dutch renaissance architect Lieven de Key. Typical Dutch canals surround the historic city center.

Read our article Haarlem: Sightseeing, Shopping and the Sea for the best sights and travel tips for Haarlem.

Alkmaar

Alkmaar is a popular tourist destination thanks to its traditional cheese market, which is held from April to September at the Waagplein (the main square). Notable too is the Grote or Sint-Laurenskerk at the city center, which is a 15th century church that houses two world-famous organs.

Alkmaar is much smaller than Amsterdam and Haarlem. However, Alkmaar is a must if you’d like to see a Dutch cheese market.

Check out our full article on things to do in Alkmaar.

Den Helder

If you’re into anything maritime-related, then visit Den Helder. The city is located at the northernmost point of North Holland and is surrounded by water on three sides. It is thus no surprise that Den Helder is where the Dutch naval base is located.

Visit the Naval Museum and admire the three museum ships and the amazing submarine on display. There are also over 20,000 maritime-related artifacts on display here.

Another must-see is Fort Kijkduin. It’s a fort built under Napoleon’s instructions around the 19th century. There is also a North Sea aquarium on the property where you can walk through a 12-meter underwater tunnel.

Den Helder is a welcome stop when traveling to Texel.

Beaches and Nature Reserves

Zandvoort

Zandvoort is synonymous with the beach and racing. If you want to just spend a leisurely day on a long stretch of clean sandy beach, then head on over to Zandvoort aan Zee. However, if you want an adrenaline boost, go to Circuit Zandvoort.

Circuit Zandvoort is an internationally known race track that hosts various events throughout the year. In 2021, thanks to the popularity of Dutch F1 driver Max Verstappen, it was again included in the F1 calendar after 36 years.

For more information read our complete guide on Zandvoort.

Texel

Take a ferry from Den Helder and visit Texel, a popular island famous for its 30 km-long sandy beach. What’s great about Texel is that you can stay for a day or have a mini staycation as it has plenty to offer. Accommodations range from campsites to vacation rentals and homes.

Visit the Ecomare and learn about the Wadden Sea tidal flats, the North Sea, and Texel itself. It’s also home to a seal sanctuary, where around 100 seals are taken care of at any given time.

At the Dunes of Texel National Park, there are plenty of walking, hiking, and cycling routes you can take. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of flora and fauna you’ll encounter on your trip here.

In addition to Texel, there are further islands worth visiting, such as Terschelling (our personal favorite). However, Texel is closest to the mainland and by far the most popular.

Petten aan Zee

If you want a day at the beach but at a more peaceful pace, visit Petten aan Zee. There are beach pavilions but nowhere near as busy as other popular beach spots in Holland. You can bike around the North Holland Dune Reserve, which offers more than 5000 hectares of nature reserves. It’s also perfect for families with kids as they will surely enjoy climbing the towering sand dunes in the area.

If you visit early in the year, then hop on a bike and tour the colorful tulip bulb fields that abound in Petten.

Sights and Activities in North Holland

In addition to its famous cities, North Holland has a wealth of small cities and Dutch traditions to be explored. Below are three sights that you shouldn’t miss out on. By the way, you can perfectly combine a trip to Amsterdam with places like Zaanse Schans or Volendam.

Volendam Fishing Village

For an authentic fishing village, visit Volendam on lake Ijsselmeer. It features an old harbor where you can indulge in freshly-caught fish. There’s also a smokehouse that’s been smoking locally caught fish and eel for over 160 years! Walk around the quaint village, and you just may come across a local or two dressed in traditional Volendam costumes.

Our Tip: If you want to experience Volendam from the water, try a Volendam-Marken Express boat tour.

If you’re in the area, then consider visiting Zuiderzeemuseum too. It’s an indoor and outdoor museum dedicated to showcasing life in the Zuiderzee (South Sea) from the 1800s till today.

Museum Steam Tram Hoorn-Medemblik

Our favorite museum in the province (which is not Amsterdam) is Museum Steam Tram Hoorn-Medemblik.

You’ll travel from Hoorn to Medemblik through the West Frisian countryside on board an old-fashioned steam train. As soon as you exit the train station in Medemblik, board the Friesland, a museum ship that will transport you across the IJsselmeer lake to Enkhuizen. The trip is a truly unique experience.

Of course, if you don’t want to go anywhere, that’s possible too. Museum Steam Tram Hoorn-Medemblik itself is a wonderful museum where you can learn all about steam trains and their history in Holland.

Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans in Zaandam is another popular tourist destination. Situated on the Zaan River, it’s an open-air museum that features six traditional (and still working!) windmills. A visit here feels like you stepped back in time since the whole village echoes Dutch life as it were in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Getting Around North Holland

As an economic center, North Holland has a fully integrated public transportation network that can easily bring you even to the smallest of villages.

Walking, hiking, and cycling routes also abound through the province. For example, you can take the Oudezijds Kolk Loop walking route directly from Amsterdam Central Station in Amsterdam. It’s a lovely way to see the old-fashioned houses that line up the famous canals.

If you’re in North Holland for the beaches and at Texel wanting a fitness challenge, you can take the Blick zum Leuchtturm Texel bike touring route from De Cocksdorp. It will take you through the Texel sand dunes, scenic heathlands, and the famous Texel lighthouse.

Accommodations in North Holland

In North Holland, there’s a style and budget to suit everyone. In city centers, you can stay at an inexpensive hostel or splurge at a 5-star hotel room. For the adventurous, options such as staying at a former waterworks building or a converted tram are also available.

As this province boasts many beaches, take your pick from simple campsites to restored and renovated wooden ships to fully furnished beach rentals.

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