The harbor town and navy base of Den Helder, at the tip of Noord-Holland province, is the gateway to the island of Texel.
67km (42 miles) N of Amsterdam; 31km (19 miles) NW of Medemblik
Den Helder has Holland's most important navy base and hosts the annual Navy Days national fleet festival, in July.
Getting There -- Trains depart every half hour from Amsterdam Centraal Station for Den Helder; the ride takes around 75 minutes. A round-trip ticket is 24€ in second class or 41€ in first class. By car from Amsterdam, take the A8, A9, and N9 north.
Visitor Information -- VVV Den Helder, Bernhardplein 14, 1781 HH Den Helder (tel. 0223/625-544; fax 0223/614-888; www.vvvkopvannoordholland.nl), is next to the rail station. The office is open Monday from 10:30am to 5:30pm, Tuesday to Friday from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturday from 9:30am to 5pm.
What to See & Do
For an insight into the Royal Netherlands Navy's illustrious past, by way of models, marine paintings, weapons and equipment, and some real warships, visit the Marinemuseum (Navy Museum), Hoofdgracht 3 (tel. 0223/657-534; www.marinemuseum.nl), just 200m (660 ft.) west of the Texel ferry dock. Several retired combatants on display include the steam-and-sail ram De Schorpioen, built in 1868. Now tied to a dock, the Scorpion was once a vessel with a sting in its bow, from which a below-the-water ram could deal fatal blows to enemy ships -- not that it ever did. The steam engine still works, and you can visit the captain's cabin and crew's quarters. Equally fascinating is the dry-landed submarine Tonijn (Tunny), which has a torpedo emerging from its front tube -- go aboard to experience a submariner's claustrophobic quarters. The museum is open May to October, Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from noon to 5pm; November to April, Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from noon to 5pm; it's closed January 1 and December 25. Admission is 6€ for adults, 3€ for children ages 5 to 15, free for children 4 and under, and 15€ for families.
While you're in naval mode, visit the Nationaal Reddingmuseum Dorus Rijkers (Dorus Rijkers National Lifeboat Museum), Oude Rijkswerf, Willemsoord 60G (tel. 0223/618-320; www.reddingmuseum.nl), which chronicles the Lifeboat Service's history. The museum is open April to October and Christmas school vacation, Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm; November to mid-December, Sunday from noon to 5pm; closed January 1 and December 25. Admission is 6€ for adults, 5€ for children ages 4 to 17, free for children 3 and under, and 18€ for families.
The Bulb District between Leiden and Haarlem may be better known, but around Den Helder is Holland's largest area of bulb fields; the serried ranks of spring tulips look every bit as colorful here as there.
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.