Across the lake from Amsterdam lies a surprising splotch of reclaimed land. What previously was a handful of microscopic islands has been transformed into a thriving province with avant-guard architecture and bucolic expanses. Time to delve into the many things to do in Flevoland, Netherlands.
Flevoland is the youngest of 12 provinces in the Netherlands. Truth be told, despite its proximity to Amsterdam (a city I tend to visit regularly), it never really made it to my radar.
I am not alone it would seem, as many of my Dutch friends exclaim surprise when my plans to visit Flevoland for a weekend are unveiled. “What in the world are you going to do in Flevoland?” they cry out. Curiosity peaked, I set off to find out everything I can about this underdog province.
Where is Flevoland?
The province of Flevoland is located right across the lake from Amsterdam. A 20-minute train ride will get you from Amsterdam to Almere. In fact, the city of Almere was constructed to combat the housing crisis in the capital. Many of its inhabitants commute daily between Almere and Amsterdam for work, more on that later on.
Read More: 15 of the best weekend getaways from Amsterdam
Why visit Flevoland in the Netherlands?
When visiting the Netherlands, traditionally one hopes to find storybook historical centers, canal-laced towns and bucolic landscapes dotted with windmills. None of these quintessential Dutch elements are to be found in Flevoland and that is what makes the newest province of the Netherlands interesting to visit.
Cities that are a mere 50 years old, built with urban planning that tackles modern-day issues such as soundproof housing smack in the city center, ample green spaces and smart solutions for pesky delivery trucks. Not to mention the natural reserves that are unspoiled by the effects of climate change.
Come spring, Flevoland transforms into a multicolored patchwork of flower fields. Tulips in Flevoland cover over 5000 hectares of the province, making it the largest open tulip field of the country.
Read More: 17 perfect day trips from Amsterdam by train
Twenty-six percent of the Netherlands today lies below sea level. Yep, you read that right! One-fourth of the country should theoretically be submerged under the water. Through an ingenious system of pumps, dikes and dunes the Netherlands has been able to reclaim land from the North Sea.
Flevoland is the biggest land reclamation project, ever. What initially started as a few islets is now a full-blown province with over 400.000 inhabitants. The reclamation project started back in 1920 with the creation of the freshwater Ijsselmeer after a disastrous flood in the former Zuiderzee.
Fast forward 40 years and many cubic meters of water drained, the first inhabitants started moving to Lelystad in the 1960s. In response to rapid overpopulation in the urban area of Amsterdam, the city of Almere is created in the 1970s. Today over 200.000 people from 160 different countries call Almere home.
Want to know more: Check out Batavialand a museum that recounts the full history of Flevoland in detail.
6 Things things to do in Flevoland
Let me start off by clarifying that despite popular belief there are in fact plenty of activities to do in Flevoland. One could easily spend a packed weekend or a leisurely few days roaming around this part of the Netherlands and not be bored. The below six activities give you a good mix of city & nature.
Explore downtown Almere
Truth be told, historical city centers hold a special place in my heart. Cobblestone alleys, lined with medieval storybook cottages & aristocratic city dwellings make me go warm and fuzzy inside. Large concrete & glass edifices warped into odd shapes are just not my cup of tea.
I was therefore slightly hesitant to visit Almere. It was not until we took a guided tour that I truly understood how remarkable this city actually was. Built on three levels (underground parking, shops, and apartments), Almere has made noteworthy use of limited space.
As we learn about the various architects that created the city, the concrete slabs start taking on their own identity, with their story being told through the intricate latticework, Avant-guard glass bending techniques and colorful panels installed to ward off garish neon marketing signs.
TO DO: Book a walking tour at the tourism office, rent a boat and cruise around the waterfront landmarks
EATING: The Black Cockatoo is great for lunch (vegan-friendly)
Where to stay in Almere: We stayed in B&B Life Contains Beautiful Things which was a lovely locally run B&B that cultivates their own wine and has a sauna in the shape of a wine vat!
Explore the picturesque city of Lelystad
Lelystad is one of the ‘oldest’ cities in Flevoland, dating back to 1967. This little city is home to a mere 78.000 inhabitants and is the capital of Flevoland. We did not have the pleasure of visiting on our trip this time around sadly!
We were told that if time is of the essence, a visit to Batavialand is the number one thing to do in Lelystad. This museum contains the history of Flevoland as well as a perfect replica of the 17th-century Batavia ship that was once the pride of the VOC, that is until it met an untimely end off the coast of Australia.
TO DO: Outlet shopping in Batavia, Walibi Holland theme park (great for the kids), Batavialand
EATING: Het Vegetarisch Restaurant (vegetarian & vegan friendly).
Where to stay in Lelystad: Best location is without a doubt the Leonardo Hotel ($$$); the best value/money is the sustainably run Leylmare Logies ($$); the highest rated locally run B&B is B&B de Valkehorst ($).
Spot deer & birds in the Oostvaardersplassen
The Oostvaardersplassen is a natural reserve covering about 56 square kilometers (22 square miles). Although relatively small it is home to a surprising amount of wildlife (foxes, bats, deer, otters, heck cattle, Konik horses and a host of endemic birds). It can be explored on foot, by bike or through an EcoKar Safari (which we did).
We explored end of September during the breeding season for deer, the best time of the year to spot these majestic animals. As we head into the protected area of the natural reserve (not accessible without a guide) our paths cross with a very large male deer. He is too busy covering his antlers with moss and mud to impress the ladies and bellowing out deer grunts to take any notice of us.
Throughout the 2-hour drive, we spot many herds of deer, Konik horses and heck cattle, a cute red fox, and a lot of birds. All in all a super fun activity to do in Flevoland!
Practical: The Buitencentrum is the central info point of the natural reserve. Here you will find all the info about various walking and cycling routes. The EcoKar safari needs to be booked in advance and is only available for groups.
Venture out onto the Marker Wadden
The Marker Wadden are a group of islets on the coast of Lelystad. This archipelago was artificially made to create a new natural habitat for local birds and fish. The main islet has been constructed and is open for visitors, while secondary islets are still under construction as you read this.
A visit to the Marker Wadden is a must-do in Flevoland for birdwatchers. Little bird-watching cabins are dotted across the islet, reachable via well-indicated routes. Plan your route online (website only available in NL).
Noteworthy: If you happen to take the boat from Lelystad to the Marker Wadden you will come across one of the most stunning pieces of Land Art in Flevoland the so-called Exposure by Antony Gormley. A giant man squatting on the dyke overlooking the water.
Go fruit picking in Flevoland
Going fruit picking is a wonderful activity to do with the kids when visiting Flevoland. When we went end of September it was apple & pear season. We spent a great morning learning about the different types of apples (spoiler alert, there are a LOT), how to grow them organically and even how best to pick them.
After the theory comes the practice and thus we were handed our very own wheelbarrow and sent off into the orchard to pick as many apples as we could possibly carry. The deep red apples looked so enticing, we went on a veritable picking frenzy. I totally understand why Snow White fell for the bate and ended up biting into that red apple now.
Where we went: Vink Fruit Orchard has apples, pears and blackberries all of which can be picked in the orchard depending on the season. Price: You pay per kilo of fruit that is gathered.
Flevoland to do in spring: Flevoland Tulips
Come spring, the Netherlands erupts into a sea of different colors. Rows of tulips as far as the eye can see change an otherwise monotonous, and let’s be honest monotonous, landscape into a multicolored canvas. Flevoland tulips cover over 5000 hectares of land!
Where to go to see Flevoland Tulips
Tulip Island: 150.000 tulip bulbs are planted on an island that is shaped like…a tulip. The island is reachable via boat from the mainland. Location: Zeewolderdijk, Zeewolde
Noordoostpolder: The Profytodsd Tulip Festival runs between April 16th and May 9th. Specific walking and cycling routes are created to enjoy the tulips up close. Location: Creilerpad 14, 8312 PS Creil, Netherlands
Hanneke’s Pluktuin: Interested in taking some tulips home? Head for a designated pluktuin (picking garden) to pick your flowers, do not pick them anywhere else! More info: Website & openinghours
Practical details for visiting Flevoland
How to get to Flevoland
Flevoland is easily reachable via train from Amsterdam. Daily trains run between Amsterdam and Almere (20 minutes) or Amsterdam and Lelystad (40 minutes). Consult the timetable and book tickets online.
Best time to visit Flevoland Holland
That depends on what activities you want to partake in. Spring is the very best time for tulips (April/May) however if you are looking to do some fruit picking in Flevoland, consider booking a trip in September.
Good to know: This part of the Netherlands is not prone to over-tourism. Therefore one can easily head over in high season (July & August) when the weather is at its best!
Flevoland Netherlands a worthwhile excursion
Squished between the tourist hotspots Amsterdam and Giethoorn, it makes sense to add Flevoland to your itinerary when traveling around the Netherlands. This part of the Netherlands is wonderfully untouched by overtourism and has managed to construct a thriving province in the time span of 50 years.
Visit the modern-day cities of Almere and Lelystad, reconnect with nature in the Oostvaardersplassen or the man-mad Marker Wadden or take the kids out to pick some delicious fruit. There is plenty to do in Flevoland for young and old!
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING NETHERLANDS
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Amsterdam: The best weekend trips from Amsterdam
Amsterdam: Places to see around Amsterdam by train
Amsterdam: 16 Castles around Amsterdam to visit by train
Amsterdam: Practical guide to public transportation in Amsterdam
Haarlem: The easiest day trip from Amsterdam
Leiden: An unforgettable weekend in Leiden
Frisian Islands: An adventure guide to the West Frisian Islands
Friesland: A guide to Friesland & the West Frisian Islands