Barging in Holland
The Netherlands: between Schiedam (Rotterdam) and Alkmaar
Enjoy a river barge cruise through Holland aboard the luxury Dutch Hotel Barge Aurora as she takes you to lovely towns and flourishing cities. From the quaint town of Schiedam (outside Rotterdam) to scholastic Leiden; from delicate hand-painted porcelain in Delft to the Keukenhof Gardens with the largest display of flowers in the world; from an exciting cruise through Amsterdam to the windmills of Zaanse Schans – there is never a dull moment. Experience the best the Netherlands has to offer with a barge charter aboard Aurora. Great tours, awesome cruising, and delicious cuisine makes this a week to remember.
Sunday, Day 1 - Schiedam (Rotterdam)
You are met by your chauffeur at either your hotel or the airport and transferred to Aurora, moored in the quaint and fascinating town of Schiedam, on the outskirts of Rotterdam. This little town has some amazing sights, including six of the world's largest working traditional windmills, a glass museum, a chocolate art factory, and its historic boat harbor. Schiedam is also famous for its Jenever (Dutch gin) distilleries; the most famous being the Nolet distillery (we are moored right under their mill). Take time for a leisurely walk around the old town and visit the gin museum and tasting room. Or alternatively, visit the Euromast observation tower for panoramic views and the most iconic sights of Rotterdam.
Monday, Day 2 - Schiedam via Rotterdam to Delft
While enjoying your first gourmet breakfast, Aurora begins your cruise. While admiring the skyline of Rotterdam, we take a turn right under Euromast – the highest viewpoint of Holland. Aurora passes through the “Parksluis” lock and arrives on the quiet, small river Schie, leading us to the 16th-century town of Delft with its world famous Delft Blue.
We visit a Delft tableware factory, just a few minutes' walk from tonight's mooring, to learn firsthand from the artisans how this world-famous porcelain is made. You will also have free time during the afternoon to explore Delft further. You can individually visit the Nieuwe Kerk (with the tomb of William of Orange and other royals as they rest in peace), Oude Kerk, Vermeer Centre (for the admirers of the famous painter), the Town Hall and the eastern Gate. Or you may choose to visit The Hague and tour the Mauritshuis (with works by Rembrandt and Vermeer), Binnenhof (the Parliament and government buildings), or the Peace palace.
Tuesday, Day 3 - Cruise from Delft to Leiden
Aurora continues cruising towards the town of Leiden where we will moor tonight. Leiden is home to one of the oldest universities in the country and the birthplace of the famous Rembrandt Van Rijn. This ancient and impressive historical city (since 1266) is full of charm and character and is perfect for those who like to cycle, or simply stroll the banks of the pretty tree-lined canals. See St Peter's church where the pilgrims departed for America. In the evening, you can take a stroll through the historic center with its many churches, historic city gates and courts, almshouses and mills, and many museums (Stedelijk-municipal, Boerhaave-science and medicine, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde- ethnological, Naturalis-national natural).
After lunch, we will be visiting Keukenhof with a walk through the world famous Keukenhof Gardens. Known as the "Garden of Europe", they have the largest display of flowers in the world, with more than 100 acres filled with over 7 million flowering bulbs varieties of tulips and hyacinths. We stroll through 32 hectares of gloriously breathtaking waves of color and immerse ourselves in the heady scents during this unforgettable excursion.
Wednesday, Day 4 - Cruise from Leiden to Haarlem
Upon leaving the university town of Leiden, Aurora cruises past some beautiful lakes and colorful flower fields towards the historical cosmopolitan and truly picturesque city of Haarlem which dates back to the 13th century. Haarlem is home to the Frans Hals Museum, founded in 1862 with its vast collection of Old Masters. Other highlights include many great buildings, such as the Gothic St. Bavo's Cathedral on the main square. Both Handel and Mozart played the magnificent Muller organ there. Go back in time with the 13th century town hall, the magnificent Butchers' Hall (Vleeshal) built by Lieven de Key, and the Fish Auction Hall (Vishal). Experience the atmosphere of the many historic courts. You will have some free time to visit a fine selection of boutique shops.
Complete this day with an evening walk along the quiet canals to the market square with its café terraces or take a canal boat tour through picturesque arched bridges. One can visit Frans Hals portrait gallery, a fine collection of Dutch Old Masters works from 16th and 17th centuries, or Teylers Museum – the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands dedicated to art, natural history and science.
Thursday, Day 5 - Cruise from Haarlem to Zaanse Schans
Our morning cruise takes us north up the Spaarne river and North Sea Canal to the region of Zaandam with its traditional Dutch green "dollhouse" architecture. In the afternoon, we tour Zaanse Schans, an open air conservation area and museum, giving you a vivid impression of the Dutch way of life in the 17th and 18th centuries. This historical area consists of authentic houses and windmills, an historic shipyard, a pewter factory, a cheese and dairy farm, and an age-old grocery store dating back to the 1900's. In Zaanse Schans you can visit 6 working windmills, a clog maker, a cheese maker, and mustard mill – everything that the Dutch are famous for can be encountered here in this tiny village. It's a real treat and an absolute must for anyone traveling to Holland. We shall continue our authentic Dutch voyage with a short drive to Volendam and visit this old world-famous traditional fishing village, where one can admire the original atmosphere retaining its wooden houses and traditional folk costumes casually worn by the locals in the maze of narrow streets, wooden houses and little canals. A real blast from the past!
Friday, Day 6 - Cruise from Zaanse Schans to Alkmaar
This morning, we leave the windmills behind and cruise through a picturesque rural area on the Zaan river to our destination of Alkmaar, also called the City of Cheese. Its weigh house was the first in the country and it is here that the weighing and trading of cheese used to take place. Near the weigh house many outdoor cafés can be found. The architecture of the "hofjes", or almshouses, is very similar to that in Amsterdam, dating from the 17th century; these enclosed courtyards of little houses were usually inhabited by single women and supported by the church. Almost 400 heritage sites, canals, and the harbor dominate the townscape. The historic center, surrounded by moats and canals, still maintains its Old World character with many fine buildings from 15th through the 18th centuries and remain in use today. Alkmaar played a pivotal role in the Dutch struggle for independence when the town defeated the Spaniards in 1573 by opening the locks and flooding the surrounding area. This marked the beginning of the end of Spanish domination in the Low Countries.
Today's afternoon excursion will be completed with a short drive to the nearby historic port of Hoorn – a town and a former Dutch East India Company base in the Dutch province of North Holland. It lies on the IJsselmeer, a lake north of Amsterdam. Shops and cafés dot its 17th-century town center, which is anchored by the Roode Steen, the main square surrounded by a collection of monuments. Train ethusiasts can enjoy the historic steam train journey. The harbor features the Hoofdtoren, a 16th-century tower built for defensive purposes. Museums include the Westfries Museum, displaying the richness and paintings of the Westfrisian Golden Age.
Saturday, Day 7 - Alkmaar
Today, we will sadly say our farewell. After your final wonderful breakfast on board you will be driven to your designated drop off point (airport or the hotel of your choice).
NOTE: This is a sample itinerary. This route runs every other week in reverse order (starting from Alkmaar and ending in Schiedam)