Those carefree moments of summer, when the sun feels as though it will stay in the sky and never go down, the warmth of the breeze, the sweet taste of ice cream, bees buzzing, children laughing and life feeling seriously good. It’s what we’re all looking for from our family holidays in Holland, time together that’s fun and relaxed and that you wish would never end. Our summer trip to the Netherlands with kids was all of these things and so many more. It was everything I hoped it could be but never really thought possible and I truly fell in love with the Netherlands.
We travelled from the UK on Stena Line Ferries from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. This is one of our favourite ferry journeys as the boats are so beautifully looked after with great food, plenty of space to spread out and on our day crossing a lovely cabin for us all to hang out in as we gently crossed the sea.
We started our Dutch travels in Utrecht, a city we had barely touched upon before and which is now a firm favourite. With its cobbled streets, canals winding their way through the centre, cyclists weaving in and out and a historic centre that just oozed character it was a beautiful place to start our family holidays in Holland.
We stayed in one of the wharf cellars here, at Hotel 26, where nearly a thousand years ago traders would load up their wares before hauling them up in to the shops above. I could almost hear the echoes of the past, shouting up from the waterways to the streets overhead.
Our newly renovated apartment was the perfect location to sit back and watch the modern day boats chugging up and down the canal out front, lights starting to flicker on as dusk arrived and the hustle and bustle of the city hum around us. We felt part of the city, not tourists but residents and it was a wonderful start.
Utrecht is a city made for wandering and we loved getting lost in the back streets that just seemed unchanged from centuries ago. We walked out to the park with its deck chairs for all and ate frites and mayonnaise in the city centre. In a city where Miffy founder Dick Brunas called home we had to visit the Miffy Museum and eat rabbit shaped pancakes in the bright gardens.
After a few days we headed East, to the first of the Landal parks we stayed in, Landal Landgoed ‘t Loo. Landal parks are fantastic family holiday resorts which blend in to their environment so the first of our Landal stays was set around a huge lake in a traditional looking Dutch house.
We hung out on the beach, slept in until late, ate traditional Dutch sprinkles on toast for breakfast and swam in the pool every day. Most of all we really relaxed, like we haven’t done for the longest time, we spent time together as a family and just really enjoyed ourselves.
Our second Landal park was our favourite. Landal Coldenhove was set in the trees, a deep green forest surrounding us, with playgrounds dotted around.
Here we hired bikes, our children previously unable to cycle and we took our time to get them riding, our son having started cycling in Landal Landgoed ‘t Loo, and suddenly they were off. Our eight year old daughter in particular just adored it and as the sun was setting each day she begged us for one more bike ride and we would take it in turns to accompany her on long cycles through the forest, taking different routes, alongside Dutch families, enjoying the opportunity to take in the fresh air.
Our final Landal stay was up on the northern coast, way beyond our usual trips to the country. Here at Landal Esonstad the canal setting was used to create a mini Amsterdam with streets lined with traditional Dutch canalside houses.
From Landal Esonstad we found a cycle route out to nearby Anjum and we spent sunny, breezy days cycling out to the centre of the village with its beautiful windmill and little shops. We would stop for pear ice lollies, happily enjoying them on our break before pedalling on and back to the park.
These days, feeling the sun on my face, breeze in my hair, finding ourselves disappearing amongst the tall, green maize plants that the cycle path took us along made me so happy. My ten year old called out on one of these trips, “I love this” he said, “Cycling makes me really happy” and I couldn’t agree more.
We didn’t want to leave, our Landal experience couldn’t have been more positive and we felt rested and full of summer cheer. The city called though and we headed back through the countryside for a day trip to Amsterdam.
The buzz of the city was a shock after the calm of the Landal parks but Amsterdam is just so beautiful it soon cheered our souls to be there.
We visited the Rijiksmuseum, wandering between the masterpieces, ate pancakes in the centre and then spent an incredibly moving afternoon at the Resistance Museum where the tears caught in my throat as I tried to explain the history to my inquisitive children, as they watched wide-eyed at the film clips that had been specially put together for young people but were still difficult, important viewing.
Then we were off to Rotterdam. Poor, bombed out Rotterdam could easily have fallen by the wayside with its beautiful neighbour Utrecht remaining so picturesque and historic. However it’s a city that picked itself up, imaginatively reinvented itself, creative cool and quirky districts and captured our hearts.
We stayed at the Marriott Rotterdam opposite the Centraal Station and spent our time wandering out to cool Mexican restaurants, hopping on the tram to the wonderfully imaginative Plaswijck Park playground and exploring this alluring city.
By the end of our trip, when our Stena Line ferry beckoned at the end, we didn’t want to leave. Our wonderful summer trip to the Netherlands with kids provided everything we needed from a break with precious family time, exciting cities to explore, beautiful countryside but most of all that intangible feeling of happiness that comes when all the elements align perfectly and you can’t explain it but just feel perfectly content. I wish I could capture that feeling, to recreate it every summer.