Holland’s hidden treasures

IJhallen, Amsterdam
IJhallen, Amsterdam

You got to love Utrecht. But the Netherlands treasures many beautiful cities. ESN Utrecht organized a lot of city trips but besides that, we want to reveal some undiscovered and unknown spots in three different Dutch cities.


I will start with one of my own favorite spots in Amsterdam: the IJhallen. This is the biggest flea market in Europe with 750 stands. This market will raise all vintage-lovers’ heart rates. The gorgeous dark green woolen jacket I bought there for a ridiculously low price is still one of my favorite fashion items. But besides clothes, there is so much more. You name it and they sell it. LP’s? Check. Second hand bikes? Check. Furniture? Check. Bags? Check. Shoes? Check. Well, I can go on like this for hours. Time for some practical information. This market is located on a beautiful side of Amsterdam next to the IJ Lake. To reach it you have to take the ferry which departs on the back side of Amsterdam Central Station. There are three different ferries but for the IJhallen you need to take ferry 906 with direction NDSM-werf. It’s a 5 minute walk from the ferry stop to the market. Good to know: the ferry is for free!

Address: T.T. Neveritaweg 15, Amsterdam-Noord.
Entrance price: €4,50
Website: www.ijhallen.nl/en/
Next flea markets: Dec. 13 & 14 (2014), Jan. 10 & 11 (2015), Febr. 7 & 8 (2015)

After a day of die hard shopping at the flea market it is time for some relaxation. Don’t rush back to the ferry but stay on that side of the IJ Lake for a while. Because there is an amazing café called ‘Noorderlicht’ over there with a comfortable laid back terrace. From there you have an excellent view over the lake. Just follow the signs with ‘Noorderlicht’. These signs will guide you all the way from the flea market to the café (Address: NDSM Plein 102, Amsterdam).


You probably know Rotterdam for its prestigious port and beautiful bridge. But since this year the city also contains a marvelous market hall. Even I -100% Dutchie- felt like a tourist there. What can you expect? Food, food and food. Any kind you can imagine. Vietnamese pho (noodle soup)? Check. Turkish baklava? Check. Spanish sausages? Check. A foodie’s heaven. For my own study abroad I went to Thailand a couple years ago. This market took me back instantly. But at the same time it reminded me of my holiday in Madrid last summer and of a traditional market I visited while in Egypt. I think you’ll get my point: 1000 countries captured under one roof. Oh and did I mention that this particular roof is decorated with a fantastic colorful painting on the inside? 1000 nationalities, one roof, one dream. Oh no, it is reality! This dream place is located right next the Station Rotterdam Blaak, you can not miss it.

Address: Ds. Jan Scharpstraat 298, Rotterdam
Entrance price: free
Website: markthalrotterdam.nl/en/

Finished with tasting and smelling all the amazing flavors in the market? Do not leave Rotterdam right away, because you might enjoy a nice concert there. At Theatre De Doelen you can attend almost all concerts for only €9 when you’re 26 or younger. No need for a student card or anything. Just show them your ID. (Address: Schouwburgplein 50, Rotterdam. Website: www.dedoelen.nl )


Market hall, Rotterdam (source)
Market hall, Rotterdam (source)


As it is getting darker and colder outside, you may start to feel the Christmas vibes all around you. And even though Utrecht has done a great job with the shimmering fairy lights around the Oudegracht; for an actual winter wonderland you will have to travel further south. Namely, the charming and historical city of Maastricht transforms into a truly magical place from November 29th until December 30th. The main square of the city, the ‘Vrijthof’, will be filled with stands selling ‘oliebollen’ and ‘gluhwein’. At this adorable market you will  be able to find Christmas presents for all your friends but also hats and scarves to keep you warm. And not to worry if you are not really the shopping type! ‘Magical Maastricht’ also has a Ferris wheel from which you have a dazzling view over the city and its excited visitors. The little ones might enjoy a ride on the carousel and the daredevils can rent skates and have a go on the wonderfully decorated ice rink. Magical Maastricht has all the ingredients to a fuzzy warm Christmas feeling inside.

Address: ‘t Vrijthof, Maastricht
Entrance Price: Free
Website: www.vvvmaastricht.nl/magical-maastricht

Magical Maastricht
Magical Maastricht

If after all this your Christmas needs are still not satisfied, you might want to hop on the train for ten minutes to Valkenburg aan de Geul. This place takes it to a whole new level and is actually referred to as Santa’s Village from November 14th until January 5th. And it is nothing less! Valkenburg is known for its caves of marl, namely: the Fluweelengrot, the Gemeentegrot and the Wilhelminagrot. These are open for tours all year long, and during wintertime they hold pretty Christmas markets. At these markets you will be safe from the outside cold and you will be able to admire ancient caves while you are on your Christmas shopping spree. In the Wilhelminagrot you will find a life size crib made of sand sculptures. Furthermore, on Wednesdays and Saturdays the streets of Valkenburg are occupied by the Christmas parade, a fascinating spectacle of dancers and beautifully decorated carts. Not to mention Santa Claus, who will be cruising around town with his loyal reindeers. Needless to say, Maastricht and Valkenburg will make you feel like you have truly entered a magical Christmas world where final exams and packing suitcases are far far away and all you have to worry about is whether you should have one more ‘gluhwein’ to keep your nose from freezing.

Address: Valkenburg aan de Geul, city center
Entrance Price: Christmas markets in the caves and the sand sculptures: 5 euros, Parade: Free
Website: www.kerststadvalkenburg.nl/en/

Sand sculptures, Valkenburg
Sand sculptures, Valkenburg

By Frederieke & Femke


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