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Holiday Season Day Trips from Amsterdam

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If you're in Amsterdam during the winter holidays season, any of these day trips are sure to put you in a festive mood.

Gouda by Candlelight

Every second Tuesday in December, this day-long event features free admission to Gouda museums, songs from choirs and carolers and most importantly, the lighting of the soaring Christmas tree in front of the stunning Gothic town hall. The atmosphere, which gives the event its name (Gouda bij Kaarslicht, or "Gouda by Candlelight") is magical, as most buildings' windows are illuminated by flickering flames rather than electricity. This is quite a popular event, so go earlier in the day to enjoy yourself before staking out a good spot to watch the tree lighting.

Train ride to Gouda: about 50 minutes (direct)

Christmas at Het Loo Palace

During the week before Christmas (and including both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), a visit to this former country retreat of the Dutch Royal Family (it's now a museum open to the public) affords visitors a look at Christmas traditions over the last 300 years. Marvel at a Victorian-era Christmas tree, tables set for royal holiday feasts, Queen Wilhelmina's silver ornaments and much more. You can even learn how the gardeners make all those gorgeous evergreen garlands in special demonstrations. See more photos of Het Loo Palace.

Train ride to Apeldoorn: about 1 hour, 10 minutes (then short bus ride to palace)

Town of Maastricht

The Netherlands' oldest city dresses up during the holiday season with lighted swags over its narrow alleys of high-end stores and quaint cafés, as well as a traditional Christmas market and "Winterland" carnival on the main square. There's also a floating Christmas market on the wide River Maas. Use the holiday season as an excuse to visit one of the country's most charming towns, which boasts excellent shopping, dining and medieval architecture.

Train ride to Maastricht: about 2.5 hours (direct)

German Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets of Germany are world-famous for their charming crafts, warm glühwein (mulled wine), delicious holiday foods and contagious Christmas spirit. Amsterdam visitors can make an easy day trip to the Düsseldorf and Cologne Christmas markets, two of the country's largest.

Train ride to Düsseldorf: about 2 hours, 10 minutes (direct)
Train ride to Cologne: 2 hours, 40 minutes (direct)
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