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SOUTH HOLLAND TRIP

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Located in the western Netherlands, bordering the North Sea, the province of South Holland (Zuid-Holland) offers many things to see and do.

From the provincial capital, The Hague, it's only a short driving distance to Madurodam, Delft, Rotterdam, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Oudewater, Lisse and Noordwijk. Linking these tourist attractions together in a circular driving tour makes a wonderful South Holland trip that begins and ends in The Hague.

Scale model of Binnenhof and the golden coach in The Hague
Scale model of Binnenhof and the golden coach in The Hague
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Hague

The seat of the Dutch government, The Hague is a cosmopolitan city, filled with parks, elegant homes and antique shops.

Den Haag's most popular attraction is the Binnenhof or Inner Court. King Willem-Alexander officially opens Parliament in the medieval Hall of Knights, every year, on the third Tuesday of September. He arrives in a real golden coach drawn by high-stepping horses.

The Hague is also known for the Mauritshuis Museum, which houses a world-famous art collection and an overview of Dutch and Flemish paintings from 1400 to 1800.

Rotterdam Harbor scale model in Madurodam
Rotterdam Harbor scale model in Madurodam
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Madurodam

A 1:25 scale model of the golden coach at Binnenhof can be seen at Madurodam, a miniature replica of Holland. You feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, towering over tiny castles, homes, shops and polders, complete with cows and turning windmills.

Madurodam has a busy harbor full of ships, planes that taxi in Schiphol Airport and the largest miniature railway in the world. At night, 50,000 tiny lights illuminate the streets and buildings. No detail is missed: tulip fields, cheese markets, dikes and organ music in the cathedral.

Royal Delft

The town of Delft, Holland, has changed little since Vermeer painted it. Stepped-gable homes line cobbled alleys and graceful bridges arch over linden-shaded canals. It's a stroller's town and one to be savored.

You can visit Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (Royal Delft), one of the 32 original 17th-century potteries. Employees still make and paint delftware by hand.

Potter makes delftware in Koninklijke Porcleyne Fles (Royal Delft) workshop.
Potter makes delftware in Koninklijke Porcleyne Fles (Royal Delft) workshop.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Royal Delft offers tours, a museum and a shop with discounted earthenware (factory seconds). You will see other colors of delftware, besides the popular blue and white pottery.

Rotterdam Holland

If Delft is the porcelain factory with the town attached, then Rotterdam is the port with the city attached. Rotterdam's harbor is one of the largest and busiest ports in the world.

View the port from the 100-metre-high Euromast Tower, or better yet, on a Spido cruise. Your boat is dwarfed by hulking oil tankers and container ships that glide like giant whales into their berths. At night, the floating cranes, dry docks, grain silos and massive wharves glow with thousands of lights.

Rotterdam, the largest city in South Holland, has many other attractions besides its thriving port. The western Delftshaven quarter of Rotterdam preserves the 17th century.

The 21st century prospers in Rotterdam's modern shopping malls and sleek skyscrapers. It's hard to believe that this clean, modern city was virtually obliterated during World War II.

Polder mill and canal at Kinderdijk
Polder mill and canal at Kinderdijk
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Kinderdijk

For Holland's finest group of windmills, drive to Kinderdijk, located 97 kilometers (60 miles) south of Amsterdam. Dating back to 1740, the polder-draining windmills are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

On Saturday afternoons, in July and August, 19 windmills revolve their majestic 28-meter (92-foot) sails on the horizon. It's a sight you won't forget.

Gouda cheese

Nearby, Gouda is famous for its buttery stroopwafel (syrup waffle cookies) and cheese. On Thursday mornings, every summer, Gouda's cheese market takes place in the market square below the 15th-century Town Hall, a gray stone building with stepped gables and red shutters.

Afterward, join one of the VVV (Tourist Information Office) walking tours of Gouda. In the Cheese and Crafts Museum, artisans demonstrate candle-making, pottery and clay pipe-making. Antique shops and art galleries sell local handicrafts.

The most impressive art in Gouda is in St. John's Cathedral. Experts consider its 70 stained glass windows the finest outside Chartres Cathedral in France.

Weighmaster weighs visitor on 17th-century scales in Oudewater Weigh House.
Weighmaster weighs visitor on 17th-century scales in Oudewater Weigh House.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Oudewater

Any weight gained from indulging in the Gouda cheese and waffle cookies will help you earn a certificate from the Witches Museum in nearby Oudewater.

During the Middle Ages, many women were burned at the stake for being witches. Reputedly, witches had the supernatural ability to fly, but women weighing over 45 kilograms were not considered to be witches, because they were too heavy to ride broomsticks!

Greedy weighmasters would often add more weight to the accused, if paid enough. A Royal Commission, set up by Charles V to inquire into these briberies, discovered that only the Oudewater weighmaster was honest.

Today, you can be weighed on the original scales and be certified that you're not a witch (providing you have enough kilograms in your favor).

Noordwijk Holland

If your South Holland trip is in spring, you can complete your circular driving tour in Lisse, at Keukenhof gardens and the Noordwijk bulb fields.

It's less than a half-hour drive from Noordwijk back to The Hague.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions: www.holland.com

More things to see & do in Holland:

Dutch Foods, Drinks and Cuisine

Schiphol Airport Rijksmuseum

East Holland - Gelderland & Overijssel

Utrecht Holland Vacation

Dutch Phrasebook