If you’re visiting the European hub of futuristic art and cutting-edge design, take a romantic break from the thrill of the bright lights at one of these cosier destinations just a stone’s throw away. Rotterdam is home to Europe’s biggest port, making it the perfect base for a starry-eyed long weekend in South Holland. And with excellent connections to some of some of the most quixotic locations in the Netherlands, you’re just a ferry ride away from an unforgettably idyllic adventure. All of these suggestions are under and hour away from the city by train or car – making them ideal locations for a day trip, or even a long weekend if your schedule is more flexible. The only question is, where first?
Fairy-lit canals and live jazz in Amsterdam
It’s hard to beat gleaming waterways when it comes to adding an air of romance to a city, and Amsterdam’s whimsical canals bring charm and poetry to a town laden with ancient appeal. What could be more romantic than relaxing at one of the city’s sprawling cafés before loading up on blooms at the famous floating flower market?
After sunset, wander hand-in-hand along illuminated bridges to check out Amsterdam’s rich jazz scene – there are plenty of intimate venues that stay open to the small hours around Korte Leidsedwarsstraat, where you can enjoy delicious cocktails to a soundtrack of soulful live music.
Gothic squares and delicious food in Gouda
The namesake of the nutty-tasting cheese is the ideal romantic location if you want a nostalgic taste of Holland’s past. Farmers from the surrounding area have sold cheese in the old town’s market square for centuries, and the stunning Gothic town hall, one of the oldest in the country, has kept an eye over proceedings for much of that time.
Round off your visit to Gouda with a trip to Kaasboerderij Jongehoeve, a farm that has been family-run for a century, where you can tour of the grounds and see the whole cheese-making process from start to finish. Take some of the finished product for a dreamy cheese and wine picnic at Goudse Hout nature reserve – this beautifully leafy park is alive with wild flowers and criss-crossed with romantic walking trails.
Fine art and pottery in Delft
Delft was the hometown of famous Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, who you may know as the artist of Girl with a Pearl Earring (known among art aficionados as ‘The Mona Lisa of the North’). One of the best-loved paintings in the world, it is famous for its mysterious subject matter – very little is known about the painter and even less about his subject, but the subtle colour scheme and the intimacy of the girl’s gaze toward the viewer have captured imaginations for centuries. Discover more about the 17th-century ‘master of the light’ at the Vermeer Centrum Delft, or see the wonderfully romantic painting in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The artistic city is also famous for its iconic Delftware. Almost all Europeans are au fait with the prolific blue-and-white pottery, which was originally duplicated from Chinese porcelain by 17th-century artisans. De Porceleyne Fles is one of the original Delftware factories that remains in operation, where enjoy a tour and learn the story behind the popular design.
Serene scenery and history in Breda
Located just 12 kilometres from the country’s Belgian border, Breda is a peaceful place to take in local life from a pulsating historic core. The Beginhof Museum, a former convent with a serene courtyard and elegant chapel, is a gem of a place to learn about Breda’s fascinating past. The bright harbour, beautiful market square and fairy-tale Castle Bouvigne perched on a serene lake are all wonderfully picturesque places teeming with stories.
Of course, no trip to Breda would be complete without a visit to the impressive Grote Kerk. Sitting proudly in the centre of the old town, the church is so beautiful that it occasionally hosts lavish weddings – though you can browse the romantic gold-decorated interior most days for a small fee.
Ready to book a romantic trip to the Netherlands? Take a look at our Hull to Rotterdam crossings now.
Featured image by Frans Berkelaar.