Here’s the diary entry for the second week of our Family road trip in Europe! This week marked the farthest point we ventured from Portugal, and now, we’re gradually making our way back home.
Day 8 Rouen to Cologne
On the eighth day, we drove 550 kilometers from Rouen to Cologne, crossing two borders along the way. With no set plans, we stopped at a self-service laundry to freshen up our clothes. Eager to enjoy the upcoming wedding, we checked into the ibis budget Köln Marsdorf early for a good night’s sleep.
Day 9 Cologne, wedding day
We drove a whopping 2500km to make it to the wedding day bash! The weather was just perfect and the whole shindig was a blast from start to finish. Didn’t get a chance to check out the sights, but here’s my two cents for you, especially if you’re not crashing a wedding in Cologne.
Start off your day in the heart of Cologne. Don’t miss the massive Cologne Cathedral, it’s a real stunner. Oh, and you gotta take a walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge, killer views, I promise! And, listen, if you’re into chocolate (who isn’t?), swing by the Chocolate Museum. You’ll thank me later. One day should be plenty to soak up the Cologne vibe and hit the highlights.
Day 10 Cologne to Hague
This day we traveled from Cologne to The Hague, a distance of about 300 kilometers. We had planned this day with our children in mind, as we were visiting Madurodam. Before we headed to Madurodam, we checked into and set up our tent at Camping Duinhorst, a beautiful campground located in the dunes near The Hague.
It was difficult to find a parking space near Madurodam, but we eventually managed. Once inside, it was a dream come true for my kids. The park is a miniature model of the Netherlands, where you can explore Amsterdam, take a boat or plane ride, and more. It’s a great way to spend a full day, and we had a blast.
After a wonderful day at Madurodam, we headed to The Hague Pier for dinner and a stroll along the beach.
The pier was bustling with activity, even on a weeknight. We could smell the delicious aromas of seafood wafting from the many restaurants that lined the pier. We decided to have dinner at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating so that we could enjoy the views of the sunset over the North Sea.
After dinner, we took a walk along the beach. The sand was soft and warm between our toes, and the waves crashed gently against the shore. We watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a fiery glow over the sky.
It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Day 11 Zaanse Schans and Amsterdam
On day 11, our itinerary took us to the charming villages of Zaanse Schans and Amsterdam, promising an unforgettable day.
When visiting windmills in the Netherlands, you’ve got a couple of options. Firstly, there’s Zaanse Schans, the more popular choice, boasting a collection of recreated or relocated windmills. Alternatively, there’s Kinderdijk, slightly trickier to reach by car, but it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the original, fully operational windmills dating back to the 1700s.
We decided to go for Zaanse Schans, strolling among the windmills and checking out the wood sawmill (Het Jonge Schaap). Before that, we popped into the cheese shop and had a look at the wooden shoe-making process.
After visiting Zaanse Schans, we headed to Bijlmer ArenA, a suburb of Amsterdam, to take advantage of the Park and Ride (P+R) option. This allows us to park our car and take public transportation to the city center at a discounted rate.
We boarded a train to Nieuwmarkt station, which is located in the heart of Amsterdam. After a short ride, we arrived and began exploring the canals. We decided to take a canal cruise to get a different perspective of the city.
We also planned to visit the Anne Frank House, but the queues were too long. After exploring Amsterdam, we headed to our campsite in The Hague.
Day 12 Giethoorn the Venice of Netherlands
This was the day of canal exploration and boat trips! We woke up early to make the two-hour drive from The Hague to Giethoorn.
We rented a boat for three hours at De Landije van Giethoorn the previous day. Check-in was fast and efficient, and we received a thorough explanation of how to operate the boat and a map of the area with a recommended route for three hours.
During our three-hour boat rental in Giethoorn, we navigated through the bustling canals and visited Lake Bovenwijde and its island, where we had lunch. After lunch, we headed back to the port, passing through more of the town’s picturesque waterways. Driving a boat in Giethoorn is a must-do experience for any visitor doing a road trip in Netherlands.
After visiting Giethoorn, we drove to The Hague via the Afsluitdijk, one of the Netherlands’ largest dams. We wanted to stop at the Monument on the Afsluitdijk, but unfortunately, it was closed for renovations.
Day 13 Castle De Haar and Gouda
After a one-hour drive, we arrived at Castle De Haar, where our ticket included admission to the park.
De Haar Castle was our favorite castle of the entire trip. The park was impressive, and our kids loved the deer zone. Take your time and enjoy the garden, you won’t regret it. There are also bridges, rose gardens, and more.
The interior of De Haar Castle is truly unique and magnificent, with a combination of architectural styles and furnishings from all over the world. This creates an eclectic and fascinating atmosphere, with a more medieval look than one might expect, given the castle’s late 19th-century construction. This is likely due to the influence of Pierre Cuypers, the architect who restored the castle, who was a staunch believer in Gothic Revival architecture.
After visiting Castle de Haar, we made a stop in Gouda to tour the Gouda Museum, where we learned all about the cheesemaking process. The museum is great for adults and children alike. We also visited the town hall, where Gouda cheese is traded.
Day 14 Hague to Ghent stop at Rotterdam
On the 14th day of our return journey, with 12 days still remaining, we packed up our tent and visited Rotterdam on our way to Ghent.
We began the day in Rotterdam with a fun activity for my children at the Kids Marina, where they could learn how to navigate a small boat.
After we headed by foot to the city center, we were immediately struck by the sight of the iconic yellow Cube Houses. Tilted at a 45-degree angle, these unique buildings are a must-see for any visitor to Rotterdam ending our exploring at the Market Hall.
Following Roterdam we headed to Ghent in Belgium where we would set up camp at the campsite Urban Gardens.
We ended the week with a trip to Ghent, where we explored the city center and enjoyed a delicious dinner.