One hour from ÿ Amsterdam

Everything's coming up... tulips

After sampling Amsterdam's highlights, explore the watery delights of the surrounding countryside.

Haarlem

The quiet streets of quaint Haarlem have changed little since medieval times. This charming town has a stunning main square, almshouses and the Teylers Museum of National History.

By car: follow the N200 west; journey time approx 25 mins. By train: direct trains every 10 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station; journey time approx 15 mins.

Utrecht

Climb the 465 steps to the top of Dom Tower for fantastic views. Visit the centuries-old canals and wharfs which have footpaths leading to the cellars of the canalside buildings. Today, most of the cellars have been converted into trendy cafés.

By car: follow the A2 south; journey time approx 45 mins. By train: direct trains every 15 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station; journey time approx 30 mins.

Floriade

The Floriade, the world's leading showcase for horticulture, runs from 6 April to 20 October. An area of 160 acres has been transformed into a green paradise with more than 300 displays. The Floriade is held only once every 10 years, so don't miss this one.

By car: follow the N200 west and follow signs; journey time approx 30 mins. By train: direct trains every 10 minutes from Central Station to Schiphol airport, then change to bus link (Zuidtangent) to the Floriade; journey time approx 25 mins.

Alkmaar

With its pretty canals criss-crossing the centre, Alkmaar is a typical provincial small Dutch town. On Friday mornings from mid-April to mid-September it hosts a cheese market, where more than 30,000kg of cheese are sold in two hours.

By car: follow the N200 west, followed by the A9 north; journey time approx 45 mins. By train: every 15 minutes from Central Station; journey time approx 35 mins.

Enkhuizen

This once-powerful whaling and fishing port is a stunning reminder of the past. Enjoy a tour on one of the traditional Dutch flat-bottomed boats and visit the open-air folk museum.

By car: follow the N235 north, followed by the A7 north, then N302 east, journey time approx 1 hour. By train: direct trains every half hour from Central Station; journey time 1 hour.

Lelystad

Lelystad is the capital of the reclaimed province of Flevoland. Contemporary architecture dominates the centre while the outskirts are home to Holland's first factory outlet centre.

By car: follow the A6 east, journey time approx 50 mins. By train: direct trains every 30 mins from Central Station; journey time approx 40 mins.

Amsterdam's Grand Hotel has superior rooms from €295 (£177) through Sofitel UK (020-8283 4570; www.sofitel.com). KLM (0870 5074074; www.klmuk. com) flies to Amsterdam from Stansted from £76 return. Europcar (0870 607 5000; www. europcar.co.uk) offers weekend car hire from £119.29.

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