Dozens upon dozens of escorted tours are offerred to the Netherlands yearly. To quickly see a number of options, we highly recommend two marketplace sites: Tour Radar (www.tourradar.com) and Stride Travel (www.stridetravel.com). Each displayes listings for well-established tour companies, allowing users to key in their dates of travel before seeing which tours are avilable. Along with company names, you'll see the price of each trip, what is included, and user reviews from past travelers. It's a quick way to compare apples to apples; these sites will also introduce travelers to small, local specialists that may have lower prices than the multi-national tour companies.
The question becomes: does one actually need an escorted tour to enjoy a trip to the Netherlands? With a good escorted tour you have to worry about transportation, luggage, hotel reservations, and other basics -- an experienced guide will take care of all that and lead you through all the sightseeing. The downside of a guided tour is that you trade much of the freedom and personal free time independent travel grants you and often see only the canned postcard-ready side of Amsterdam through the tinted windows of a giant bus. You get to see Amsterdam, but rarely do you get the chance to really know it. Escorted tours also won't save you money. Plus, most Dutch citizens speak English and the public transportation system here is excellent, making the Netherlands easy to visit independently. Still for some travelers, tours can be a smart choice.
Language & Cooking Classes
Maybe you've always dreamed of learning Dutch, of dazzling friends with your nonchalantly correct pronunciation of Van Gogh, Schiphol Airport, and the many other little delights of the tongue that goes by the name of Nederlands. Beware. You'll need to perfect a mode of delivery that will lead both friends and beloved to believe you're choking on a chicken bone. The good news is that it can be done in Amsterdam. All three of the city's universities offer Dutch courses:
- Universiteit van Amsterdam, Spui 21, 1012 WX Amsterdam (tel. 020/525-9111; www.uva.nl).
- Volksuniversiteit, Rapenburgerstraat 73, 1011 VK Amsterdam (tel. 020/626-1626; www.volksuniversiteitamsterdam.nl).
- Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam (tel. 020/598-9898; www.vu.nl).
You can even learn the lingo and whip up some Dutch dishes on the same vacation. "Dutch cooking is not a widely known cuisine," admits a reviewer of The Art of Dutch Cooking by Corry Countess Van Limburg Stirum. This is akin to pointing out that the Pope is a Catholic. Yet all is not lost, as you can discover by making contact with De Kookfabriek, De Flinesstraat 2-4, 1099 CB Amsterdam-Duivendrecht (tel. 020/463-5635; www.kookfabriek.nl), which (among other things) organizes Dutch cooking classes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.