Holland’s Hidden Treasures

Prices from £1,775


18 Aug 2020 - 22 Aug 2020
Duration: 4 nights
Ref: 20HOLL
With: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk


Prices from £1,775
Single Supplement: £235
Deposit: £200

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It is often said that ‘God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands’. This is particularly true of Holland, the coastal area that now comprises the provinces of North and South Holland. Much of the flat man-made land was won from the sea through clever engineering with dikes, canals and mills: a landscape that inspired numerous painters with pastures and cows producing the famous Dutch cheeses. Approximately 26% of the country lies below sea level, with the lowest point being over 22 ft below the average sea level. In the mediaeval period Holland was already a wealthy county. In 1327 the young king Edward III of England married Philippa of Hainault, daughter of Count William III of Holland, who had married off another daughter to the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1432 Holland became part of the expanding Burgundian realm and in 1477 part of the Habsburg empire through the marriage of the last Burgundian heiress, duchess Mary, to the future Emperor Maximilian I. The Dutch Revolt or Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) resulted in the establishment of the Dutch Republic with Amsterdam as its capital and Holland as the most populated area. Holland was always a maritime region with fishing and trading ports, such as Hoorn and Enkhuizen. The foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 made the seafaring Republic a global power, rich through its overseas trade and conquests. This wealth is reflected in the town houses of the rich merchants and their country estates, e.g. along the river Vecht, but also in civic buildings such as town halls, guild halls and almshouses. It is this aspect of Dutch art and culture that we shall be exploring on this tour through visits to Holland’s hidden treasures.


"Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum are, of course, a must for anyone wanting to visit Holland, but there is so much more: picturesque towns with historic churches and fortifications, guild halls, country houses and museums off the beaten track full of art and artefacts from the Golden Age, the green landscape that inspired so many artists and yes, lots of water."

Sophie Oosterwijk is a Dutch mediaevalist and art historian. She has lectured at many institutions including Leicester, Manchester and St Andrews. She currently works freelance for the University of Cambridge, the RA, the Arts Society and other organisations. Sophie has published widely on art in the Low Countries.

DAY 1:

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam Schiphol. Our coach transfers us to the attractive town of Haarlem, capital of the province of North Holland and an important cultural centre. After the Sack of Antwerp in 1576, many artists and craftsmen fled to Holland. Haarlem was home to Frans Hals and (for a while) Jan Steen, and the birthplace of the famous landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael was born in the city. Close to our hotel is the Grote Markt with its mediaeval church of St Bavo and guard house, the renaissance town hall and meat hall. Visit the Frans Hals Museum, home to the finest of the painter’s virtuoso portraits, housed in the 17th century old men’s home. These and other historic buildings, such as the many hofjes (almshouses), show how the town’s wealthy burghers supported the community.

DAY 2:

In the morning we shall visit the picturesque town of Edam, which is famous for its cheese. In the summer months there is a colourful weekly cheese market opened and closed by a ringing bell. After free time to explore this attractive town we continue to the historic town of Alkmaar to see the mediaeval church with two historic organs, monuments and a ceiling painting of the Last Judgement by the Renaissance painter Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostzanen. The nearby Stedelijk Museum in Alkmaar is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands and displays a wide variety of artefacts and art, including works by the 17th century Alkmaar painter Caesar van Everdingen.

DAY 3:

All-day excursion to the picturesque historic harbour towns of Enkhuizen and Hoorn, which were once important sea ports on the Zuiderzee and still exude the Golden Age atmosphere. In Hoorn we shall be visiting the Westfries Museum with highlights from the town’s Golden Age past, including civic guard portraits by the local painter Jan Albertsz Rotius and a collection of artefacts relating to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Enkhuizen, close to what is now the largest man-made lake in the Netherlands, still retains its historic seaport and buildings from the Golden Age, such as the 16th century Drommedaris tower and the 17th century Koepoort gate.

DAY 4:

Drive to the village of Oud-Zuilen to visit the historic castle of Slot Zuylen on the River Vecht, dating mainly from the 16th to the 18th century. Once the home of the writer Belle van Zuylen (also known as Madame de Charrière) the castle houses a rich collection of art and period furniture. It is set in a picturesque park with an original crinkle crankle wall. The scenic riverside was a favoured location for the wealthy merchants of Amsterdam to build their retreats. We will take a boat trip along the Vecht to see some of these houses and enjoy the Dutch landscape.

DAY 5:

This morning we shall visit the Rijksmuseum for a last sample of Dutch art and culture. Our tour of the museum will focus on masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt’s Night Watch, around which the museum was originally built. After free time for lunch and independent exploration of the galleries we take a coach to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for a late afternoon return flight to London Heathrow.


Twin/double share: £1775 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £235
Tour without flights cost: £1575
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Return flights with KLM from London Heathrow to Amsterdam Schiphol
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Four nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Frans Hals Hotel, Haarlem
  • Two dinners and one lunch
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of a lecturer and tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals****

Our accommodation is at the four-star Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals situated in the centre of Haarlem and close to main sites. A stained glass roof over the central staircase is a feature in this comfortable, modern hotel, with a bar and room service. The bedrooms have a television, minibar, safe, complimentary internet access, air conditioning, bath robes, hair dryer, tea and coffee making facilities.