My name is Jean Paul Bardelot and I was born in North Holland in 1974. I’ve lived in this region of the Netherlands my whole life. My father is French and so our family used to travel a lot to France when I was young. I guess that’s what sparked my love of travel to this very day.
Apart from my family’s influence, I also travelled a lot with my job as an Export Manager for a furniture wholesale company. We dealt with more than 60 countries. Photography, on the other hand, started quite late in life. It was in 2012 – eight years ago – when I became interested.
In that year I visited a good friend called Els and she wanted to see more of my travels. She then proposed that I use Instagram as a medium to share my photos. After using it for about six months, I discovered that not only Els but many more people could see my pictures and they liked them a lot.
This was the moment when I caught the “photography virus”. First I started taking photos with my iPhone on my way to work and then yearned for better quality photos. After a year I got my first DSLR camera. Nowadays, I have a full set of Canon equipment and do many photo shoots.
Why North Holland should be on your Bucket List
North Holland has so much to offer. It never bores you with its diverse landscapes. Firstly, you have the nation’s capital Amsterdam. This city is a popular destination and it never sleeps. If you like street photography, architecture, landscapes and water – then this is the place for you!
Noord Holland lies between two bodies of water: the North Sea and IJsselmeer (also known as Lake IJssel). Both sides have beaches, harbours and water, and then further north we have the Wadden Sea. In between is a flat polder land with authentic villages. It’s a magical place to take photos.
Favourite Place in North Holland: Zaanse Schans
My favourite place in North Holland is difficult to choose. However, as I like to photograph windmills, I have to say that Zaanse Schans is number one. It’s a neighbourhood of Zaandam, only 15 minutes from Amsterdam.
Zaanse Schans is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over Zaanstreek were relocated here. Now it’s like going back in time when you visit. There is no entrance fee as it’s still considered to be a public area.
You can take amazing photos at Zaanse Schans. I first visited in 2012 with my camera and try to come back at least two or three times per year. This place blows me away every time and I always come home with new photos.
10 Best Things To Do in North Holland
North Holland is the perfect place to explore on a 7-10 day tour. Visitors can discover historic towns and unique attractions around every corner. In combination with Zaanse Schans, I recommend the following experiences:
1. Spend a Couple of Quality Days in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has it all – architecture, a beautiful old-city, lots of different cultures, great food and a unique atmosphere. You can easily kill a couple of days here if not longer! Walk around the canals and take photos of the amazing architecture. The nightlife of this city is simply awesome too.
2. See the Villages: Volendam, Edam & Monnickendam
These fishing villages are historically unique and offer fantastic seafood for all the foodie travellers out there! Edam is actually known for its cheese if you’ve ever heard of Edam Cheese. Voldendam is a bit more touristy and so you might find Monnickendam to be a more authentic experience.
3. Immerse Yourself in the Rugged Nature of Texel
Texel is known for its biking paths, a famous lighthouse, beautiful harbours, white-sand beaches, nature reserves full of wildlife and quaint little villages. Go there and you will feel like you’ve arrived in a totally different country. Texel is one of the fifty or so Wadden Islands of the Netherlands.
4. Relax at the Seaside Town of Zandvoort
Zandvoort is the place to be if you like beaches and relaxing on the waterfront. This seaside town is only a short train ride from Amsterdam and offers hotels, restaurants and shopping. It also has a casino for anyone who wants to try their luck! Go bike riding and enjoy the beach vibe.
5. Discover the Windmill Beside a Canal near Obdam
This location gives travellers an opportunity to capture a quintessential scene of the Netherlands with a charming windmill by a canal. It’s situated behind the village of Obdam in North Holland in the region of West-Frisia. Come at sunrise or sunset to capture magical photos.
6. Visit the Schermerhorn Museum Mill
The Schermerhorn Museum Mill is a must-see attraction on any tour of North Holland. This is one of 11 remaining mills in the former milling system of Schermerhorn. After visiting, you get the chance to see beautiful polder landscapes and shop at a souvenir store which sells authentic clogs (shoes).
7. Take Photos of the Poles at the Beach in Petten
Petten is another place on the North Sea with dunes and a nice beach. A unique feature of the beach here is that there are many wooden poles poking out of the ground. You can take some really awesome photos of the poles – especially at sunrise and sunset when the sun peaks through them.
8. Learn about the Dutch East India Company in Hoorn
Hoorn is an old centre for what used to be the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. It has lots of old buildings and a steam train going to Medemblik twice a day. A replica of the Dutch East India Company ship De Halve Maen is anchored there and you can view it and take photos.
9. Explore the UNESCO Beemster and De Schermer
Beemster and De Schermer are UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of the unique polder area, canals and well-ordered landscapes. It shows how the Dutch have controlled the waters and used them for many centuries. Go cycling here around the authentic and peaceful villages.
10. Experience North Holland in Spring/April
My last experience is to come to North Holland in the Spring season (ideally in April) when you can see beautiful crocus, narcissus and tulip fields. It’s a magical sight to see these colourful squares across the landscape. Every year I guide tourists to find the best spots as the fields change colour.
People, Culture & Food of North Holland
The people of North Holland are hard working. At first they might seem hard but once you get to know them you have a friend for life. They like to party and are always doing something – not the kind that sits in front of the TV. They maintain the environment, landscapes and houses very well.
If you are in North Holland and want to eat well but not too expensive then go to an area in Amsterdam called De Pijp. Here you can find many great restaurants with local and international dishes. First-timers to the Netherlands will have to stop at a Cafeteria to order a Frikandel or Kroket.
These are typical Dutch specialties unique in the world and favourites with meat-lovers. Another specialty is Haring – raw fish with onions and pickles. You take it by the tale and hoover it into your mouth to take a bite!
Best Places to Stay in North Holland
If you are looking for a place to stay in North Holland try to book a nice Airbnb. You will be more amongst the local people and will get to know the culture better. Besides this, the hotels are expensive in the Netherlands.
The Dutch like camping so if you arrive in a warm period go book a campsite. There are many all over North Holland (even in Amsterdam). As mentioned before, North Holland is at its best in April when the tulips are in bloom. The chance of having fog is 50/50 just to keep that in mind.
Favourite Memory from my Travels in North Holland
I remember one morning going to work and on my way I saw a red tulip field next to a windmill. There was a bit of fog, no wind and the sun was rising. The atmosphere was perfect. I walked into the field to find my position when a farmer came storming out shouting and moving his arms.
It was a bit worrying but I waved back with my camera and told him I was there for the press/newspaper to take a picture of the tulips and his windmill. He believed me and let me take photos. Luckily, I had enough light to capture what I wanted. I took a few photos of a golden sunrise.
Now this picture has been sold many times. It’s one of my favourites.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
When you visit North Holland don’t forget your umbrella because it can get rainy. Try to avoid the highways. There is nothing to see and you have more scenic views on the N or D roads. When you want to photograph tulip fields, don’t go in too far or you will encounter a farmer just like I did!
Happy travels to North Holland everyone 🙂