Europe in a Van Part 8 – The Netherlands: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Leiden and Amsterdam

Heavy hearted and sad is how I will leave The Netherlands. What a place! We did a good bit of travelling around to see as much as we could in the 5 weeks we’ve been here. Combine that with some dog and house sitting, we’ve had a super time. Well, except the weather – rain, wind and cold – which makes vanlife a bit more challenging. We hit up all the main spots – city camping in Rotterdam, rural Utrecht, lakeside Leiden and a last minute trip to Amsterdam.

Highlights and Lowlights


  • We spent a good bit of time pet and house sitting, which has ben a nice break from the van and included lots of furry cuddles!
  • We bought second hand bikes in Utrecht and it has opened up a whole new world of adventure
  • Autumn is here – my favourite time of the year, we’re back in hoodies and leggings and I LOVE it. The rain can p*ss off though


  • While I’m enjoying riding around on the bike, the sheer volume of cyclists makes The Netherlands a pretty inaccessible place
  • Rain, rain go away. We’ve been living in consistent dampness now for a few days and it is zero fun.

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

World Port Day in Rotterdam

Campsite Stadscamping Rotterdam
Cost – €34 per night for two people including electricity
Facilities – No extra facilities
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.

A basic but well located and clean campsite. It was a bit on the pricey side given how basic it was but the location certainly made up for that. We were a 5 minute walk to the local metro station which brought us into the centre in 10 minutes or so.

A brown wooden and glass door is opened back against a brick wall. There is a large sign on the door with the symbol of a woman on it. The sign has a white background with a black symbol. It also says WC in large black letters. There are white flower pots with pink and white flowers in them at the bottom of the door.
The entrance to the ladies bathrooms in Stadscamping Rotterdam

One of the things I really liked about this place were the signs on their bathroom doors (I’m an accessibility nerd, and proud). These signs were a good size, high contrast and were on the correct side of an open door. The good signs continued inside with each door having one and even directional signage which was easy to read too. Apart from these signs though, there was nothing else to speak of regarding accessibility.

Things to see and do – while we were there, we happened to stumble across the World Port Days celebrations. There were ships, submarines, displays, robotics and plenty of stands set up along the river in the city centre. We did a tour of a naval ship and explored Rotterdam Port on a Spido Boat tour.

A large black submarine is tied up along the quayside in Rotterdam. The sky above is light blue.
A naval submarine at the quayside in Rotterdam

Note – Rotterdam city and its infrastructure are pretty accessible with a good amount of tactile paving, large signs and audio pedestrian crossings. However, the prevalence of so many bikes, electric scooters, mopeds, trams, electric cars and electric mini cars (like small smart cars) means you have to have eyes on the back of your head. Every time you cross the road you essentially cross 4 lanes of traffic, with 2 of those lanes having almost silent traffic.

Utrecht – the charm of Amsterdam without the tourists

Campsite Camping Buitengoed de Boomgaard
Cost – €25 per night for two people including electricity
Facilities – restaurant and bar (reduced hours during low season), swimming lake, playground, mini-golf course (at an extra charge), small camping shop and a small animal petting meadow.
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

Utrecht city is a beautiful spot with lots of charming cobbled streets, canals and lots of cafe’s and restaurants. Our campsite was a couple of train stops outside the centre and was just as charming as the city itself. The pitches were a good size and their bathrooms were the nicest we’ve seen so far.

However, it really let us down on the accessibility front. We did get a map at reception, which had a QR code for a private website with loads of helpful information about the campsite and surrounding area. There were no signs on the bathrooms (inside or outside), the campsite signage was hard to read (low contrast) and the map was also hard to read.

The inside of a sanitary block. The walls are sage green and wood panelled, the floor is grey lino and there is a tactile picture on the wall of grass and flipflops
The bathrooms in Camping Buitengoed de Boomgaard

Utrecht itself was much the same as Rotterdam with good infrastructure but an abundance of silent but deadly vehicles. I found some great tactile signs on the train station handrails and some great big signs in the central station.

Things to see and do – We did an excellent free walking tour of Utrecht, which gave us a great overview of the city as well as some random factoids. We also did some bike shopping and bought 2 second hand bikes, which have proven to be great to have.

Two bikes are standing in front f a green hedge. One bike is black and the other light green. Both bikes are the typical Dutch style with wide handlebars and low middle bar
Our new bikes!

Livin’ it up in Leiden

The Netherlands just keeps on delivering when it comes to nice towns and campsites. Leiden is a cute little city with yet more canals and bikes and a fantastic natural history museum.

Campsite Camping Vlietland
Cost – €30 per night for two people including electricity
Facilities – lakeside with boat rental and restaurant nearby
Accessibility score – 3 / 5

A lakeside retreat! A lovely spot within easy reach of Leiden. This site was literally on the side of a lake, with boats moored up beside the campers. The sanitary blocks were lovely and clean and the staff were great. They also had free (and decent) WI-FI which was a plus.

A view over a blue lake with a variety of boats tied up to a wooden mooring. The sky above is bright blue
The moorings at our campsite in Leiden

However, apart from having a map and the fact that it was a small site, I didn’t see any other good examples of accessibility. The bathroom door signs were small, the pitch signs were small and the lighting was only OK. However, it was a small campsite, so it was easy to get around.

Things to see and do – We cycled into Leiden twice during our stay. Once to visit Naturalis, their Natural History Museum. This is a must see if you are ever in Leiden. With over 4 million specimens, it is a huge collection of everything from tiny bugs to full dinosaur skeletons.

On the second day we went in to visit Sophie Kattencafe for some yummy food and delicious kitty cuddles. We visited the round fort in the centre of the city and took a trip to their Botanical Gardens, which are the oldest of their kind in The Netherlands.

Awesome Amsterdam

You know how much I love an alliterative and cheesy headline so I maxed out on this one. To finish up this fortnight, we are in Amsterdam, doing some more house and pet sitting. I’ve also been doing some in person yoga (first time since before COVID!) and we’re just generally relaxing and exploring the city. The water pump in the van is still not fixed, but we have one winging its way to Dublin, ready for our arrival there next weekend.

I’ll be taking a holiday from my holiday for the next 2 weeks as we return to Dublin for a wedding. We’ll be flying from the huge Schiphol airport this weekend so keep an eye on Instagram to see how that goes!

Ta ta for now! Aoife, x

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