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The Old Masters: Art Treasures of Holland by River

Discover the cultural heights of Holland’s Low Lands as you join experts to learn about artistic masterworks, renowned museums, historic architecture and an iconic earthenware factory.
Rating (5)
Program No. 19504RJ
10 days
Starts at

The Old Masters: Art Treasures of Holland by River

Discover the cultural heights of Holland’s Low Lands as you join experts to learn about artistic masterworks, renowned museums, historic architecture and an iconic earthenware factory.
10 days
Starts at
Program No. 19504 RJ
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At a Glance

Voyage through the provinces of North and South Holland on a private barge and discover the landscapes that inspired Old Masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Flinck, Hals and Bol. In museums, professional art experts introduce the great artists of the Low Lands, while field trips explore churches, medieval towns and Holland’s oldest earthenware factory.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Admire the largest private collection of van Gogh paintings at the Kröller-Müller Museum.
  • Learn how Delft pottery is made at the oldest surviving factory.
  • Explore Rotterdam's Pilgrim Fathers' Church where the Pilgrims said their last prayers before sailing for North America.

General Notes

While you are taken by bus to the various sites outlined in the program’s itinerary, the barge makes its way to the next port, and meets you there at the end of the day. (No barging during the night).
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Undutchables
by Colin White
A laugh-out-loud, irreverent guide to Dutch character and habits, including how to drink coffee and why you shouldn't even think about haggling over prices.
Rembrandt, Master of the Portrait
by Pascal Bonafoux
With over 200 illustrations, this pocket-size encyclopedia traces the life and career of artist Rembrandt von Rijn. It offers insight into his influence on the art of the portrait -- an illuminating companion for any visit to Amsterdam and its museums.
by Walter S. Gibson
A volume in the excellent "World of Art" series, Gibson's book dispels the myth of Bruegel the simpleton artist and replaces it with a portrait of a man who understood the needs of his patrons. With many black-and-white and color reproductions of the paintings.
Flemish Art and Architecture 1585-1700
by Hans Vlieghe
A lavishly illustrated overview of the art of the southern Netherlands from 1585-1700.
Culture Smart! Belgium
by Mandy Macdonald
A concise, well-illustrated and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.
The Coffee Trader, A Novel
by David Liss
An entertaining, suspenseful work of historical fiction set in Amsterdam. It's 1659 and in the new, capricious world of stocks and investment, a desperate Portuguese-Jewish trader partners with a Dutchman. Their idea: import the first shipment of coffee to the country. What follows is a wild tale of ruthlessness, greed and fortune.
Tulip Fever
by Deborah Moggach
In this surprise bestseller, set in 1630s Amsterdam, a man contracts the talented painter Jan Van Loos to paint a portrait of him and his beautiful wife, Sophia. A vivid drama unfolds as a mutual attraction develops between Van Loos and Sophia.
Eyewitness Guide Amsterdam
by Eyewitness Guides
A wonderful guide to Amsterdam, filled with detailed drawings, photographs and thumbnail sketches.
Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp
by Elizabeth Honig
An insightful, illustrated study of the transformation of Flemish society.
Master of Shadows, The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens
by Mark Lamster
Ranging from his home in Antwerp to London, Madrid, Paris and Rome, Lamster uncovers the gripping tale behind one of the world’s most famous painters and his double life as a secret agent, diplomat and political operative in 17th century Europe.
by Kristin Lohse Belkin
Belkin chronicles the 17th century artist Peter Paul Rubens from his early family life to his influential interactions with the Italian Renaissance masters and finally to Antwerp, where he rose to fame as a renowned painter and diplomat to the royal courts of Europe.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by Susan Vreeland
This finely-crafted novel tells the story of the girl in an imagined, undiscovered portrait by Vermeer. Created in the 17th century, the painting passes through a number of people's hands, providing a series of tales that reflect the history and character of Holland and Europe through the years.
Girl With a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier
Chevalier's richly drawn novel imagines the story behind Vermeer's mysterious portrait of a turbaned girl with a pearl earring.
My Favorite Plant, Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love
by Jamaica Kincaid (Editor)
An anthology of essays on plants and gardening from contemporary authors as well as luminaries of the past. This handsome, little book features selections by (among many others) D.H. Lawrence and William Carlos Williams.
Niccolo Rising
by Dorothy Dunnett
From the reigning queen of historical fiction comes this fast-paced, thoroughly-researched novel of ambition and worldly goods in 15th-century Bruges. This is the first volume in her House of Niccolo series.
by Anita Shreve
Shreve adeptly explores the themes of love and loss in her WWII story of a married Belgian woman who falls in love with the British pilot she is sheltering as part of the underground resistance movement.
The Black Tulip
by Alexandre Dumas
A gripping classic about love and adventure and tulips. In 17th-century Holland, Cornelius von Baerle is falsely accused and jailed. He fights for his freedom with the aid of his jailer's beautiful daughter.
Amsterdam, A History of the World's Most Liberal City
by Russell Shorto
Russell Shorto opens this delightful ode to an adopted city with his daily journey, by bike of course, through his neighborhood to drop off his toddler son. He spins a tale of a diverse city wrestled collectively from the sea, its coffee shops, canals, personalities and politics, with panache.
by Mike Dash
The story of the world's most coveted flower and the extraordinary passion it aroused, this vivid history traces the story of the tulip from its origins on the Turkish steppes to status as an absurdly desired object in Europe and its key role in the financial follies of 17th-century Holland.
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10 days
9 nights
21 meals
8 B 5 L 8 D
In Transit
In Flight
Arrive Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Conscious Hotel Museum Square

Activity note: Motorcoach time: 1.5 hours (40 miles) Walking approximately .6 miles (1 kilometer), standing for approx 1 hour.

Morning: Join the Group Leader and your fellow Road Scholars at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to board the motorcoach and transfer to the picturesque village of de Zaanse Schans, just north of Amsterdam. We will visit a klompenmaker and observe the art of wooden shoe production.

Lunch: Enjoy an authentic taste of the Netherlands at a village restaurant located in an 18th-century grain barn. The restaurant specializes in Dutch-style pancakes, savory or sweet treats, which can measure almost a foot in diameter, and often eaten as a main course.

Afternoon: We proceed to Amsterdam by motorcoach and check into our hotel. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as "Free time" and "At leisure" offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to settle into your room and relax or explore independently.

Dinner: For our welcome dinner at a local restaurant, enjoy an authentic rijsttafel (rice table), a bountiful assortment of tasty dishes served with rice. The rijsttafel came out of the colonial era in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia), based on the traditional Nasi Padang feast. Your meal includes water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Kröller-Müller Museum, Transfer to Barge in Amsterdam
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Motorcoach time: 2.5 hours (125 miles); Please note that the barge does not move at night and only motors during the day.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room, the breakfast buffet’s choices will feature various meats, cheeses, eggs, yogurt, pancakes, cereals, breads, juices, and hot beverages.

Morning: After hotel check-out, everyone brings their luggage to the lobby and staff will load the motorcoach. We then embark on a field trip to the remarkable Kröller-Müller Museum. This magnificent art museum is home to the world’s second-largest collection of van Gogh paintings as well as works by other artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Situated in a national park with woodlands, heath, and plains, the museum is a testament to one of Europe’s most significant art patrons, Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), who collected more than 11,000 art objects that formed the core of the institution bearing her name. The museum has continued to grow and today has one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy the food of your choice in the museum cafeteria. The Kröller-Müller Museum cafeteria offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and hot and cold beverages.

Afternoon: We return to Amsterdam and board the barge that will be our home for the next seven nights. You will have some time to settle in to your cabin before meeting the captain and crew during a barge safety orientation.

Dinner: Aboard the barge, enjoy a plated three-course set menu featuring tasty local cuisine with coffee, tea or water. Other beverages are available for purchase that can be charged to your tab and settled prior to departure with cash (in Euros only) on the last night on board. Dinner each night will fit this description.

Evening: At leisure. Your evenings are free to spend time with new Road Scholar friends, relax, or go exploring on your own.

Barge to Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, Dutch History & Economy
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Barging time: 4.5 hours

Breakfast: Aboard the barge, the breakfast buffet’s choices will feature various meats, cheeses, eggs, yogurt, pancakes, cereals, breads, juices, and hot beverages. Breakfast each morning will fit this description.

Morning: While barging to Haarlem, you will see locks, bridges and lots of traffic on rivers and canals. The Dutch are passionate about the water and all kinds of crafts will pass us from sailboats to yachts. Heavy cargoes such as stone and steel are still transported by barge. When arriving in Haarlem, look to your left for a large building with a glass dome. It’s a prison! The panoptic design was originally conceived by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1785, allowing one prison guard to observe any of the inmates without them knowing.

Lunch: Aboard the barge, light lunches will typically be soup and salad or sandwich plus water, coffee or tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Haarlem dates back to before the medieval era and was granted city status in 1245. One of its cultural jewels is the Frans Hals Museum, in an impressive building that was once an Oude Mannenhuis (old men's house). Frans Hals (1581-1666) was the most famous painter of the 17th century "Golden Age" when Haarlem was a prosperous and powerful center of culture and the arts. He specialized in portraits -- individuals and groups -- depicting people from all walks of life. An expert lecture followed by a guided excursion will introduce this great Dutch artist. After the presentation, you will have free time to continue exploring this fine museum on your own. On our way back to the barge, we will stop at the statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster, who it is said, to have discovered printing with movable type before Johannes Gutenberg. After boarding the barge, we have a lecture on the history and economy of the Netherlands.

Dinner: Aboard the barge.

Evening: At leisure.

Aalsmeer Flower Auction, Cruquius, Leiden
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Motorcoach time: about 1.5 hours (45 miles).

Breakfast: Aboard the barge.

Morning: We start the day with a visit to the Aalsmeer flower auction, the largest in the country. Flowers are trucked in early in the morning and auctioned off. Buyers bid on each lot by watching a large clock, the person who bids first not only gets the flowers but also pays the highest price. This goes on all morning, non-stop. As soon as the flowers are sold they are loaded on trucks and make their way to destinations all over Europe. Flowers destined for the US are taken to the nearby airport and are likely for sale in your flower shop the next day. Our next visit is the Cruquius Museum, where a museum docent will present the history of this former steam-powered pumping station, operational from 1850-1933. Learn about the technology used to drain the area around Amsterdam that was threatened with flooding in the past. Our day ends in Leiden, birth place of Rembrandt.

Lunch: Lunch at Cruquius. You have a choice of soup or sandwiches.

Afternoon: Back aboard the motorcoach, we travel to Leiden, Rembrandt's birthplace. Free Time: Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most in Leiden. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Dinner: Aboard the barge.

Evening: At leisure.

Vermeer, Barge to Drievliet, Mauritshuis, Delft Porcelain
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Barging time: 3 hours; Motorcoach time: about 1.5 hours (40 miles).

Breakfast: Aboard the barge.

Morning: Begin the day with a lecture by an art historian about the 17th-century artist Johannes Vermeer. We barge to Drievliet, where we will disembark and take a motorcoach to The Hague, seat of Dutch government and the International Court of Justice. Here we will explore the Mauritshuis. Accompanied by a docent, marvel at works by Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter, Frans Hals, Hans Holbein the Younger, and more.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch in the Hague on your own. You will find many restaurants close to the museum.

Afternoon: After lunch, we board a motorcoach to Delft where we visit the Porceleyne Fles, the oldest surviving porcelain factory in the Netherlands, producing Delftware since 1653. After an expert lecture, we will explore the factory before walking back to our floating home for dinner.

Dinner: Aboard the barge.

Evening: Join the Group Leader for a walk downtown to admire the magnificent Renaissance architecture of the Delft City Hall.

Barge to Rotterdam, Pilgrim's Church, Dordrecht Museum
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Barging time: 2.5 hours; Motorcoach time: 45 minutes (20 miles)

Breakfast: Aboard the barge.

Morning: We barge this morning to Rotterdam, where we disembark and walk to the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church. It was here in 1620 that the Pilgrims said their last prayers before sailing for England, where they boarded the Mayflower to the New World. During a presentation, learn little known facts about these events that led to our celebration of Thanksgiving before walking back to the barge. To set the stage for our afternoon field trip, an art historian will present a lecture on board to familiarize you with the various schools of Dutch painting from early Renaissance to Baroque, including the Old Masters.

Lunch: Aboard the barge.

Afternoon: Boarding the motorcoach after lunch, we embark on our field trip to Dordrecht where in the museum a knowledgeable docent will discuss the museum’s masterpieces by Dutch and other European artists. After the field trip, we transfer via motorcoach to the barge that will be docked in Gouda for the night.

Dinner: Aboard the barge.

Evening: Join the Group Leader for a walk to the 15th-century Market Square and view the Old City Hall, one of the oldest Gothic municipal buildings in the Netherlands

Sint Janskerk, Museum Gouda, Cheese Shop, Amsterdam
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Barging time: 4.5 hours

Breakfast: Aboard the barge.

Morning: Our field trip this morning is to Sint Janskerk (St. John's Church), a treasure of the late Gothic, where a local expert will provide background on the famous Goudse Glazen (Gouda stained glass) 71 panels depicting Biblical and historical scenes, some dating back to the 16th century. Our exploration continues at the Catharina Gasthuis that once sheltered the sick and homeless, also serving as chapel and library. It is now the home of Museum Gouda. Among its exceptional holdings are altar pieces from the Golden Age painted by Dirck Barendsz, Antonie Blocklandt, Pieter Pourdus, and Jan Steen. Having sated our quest for knowledge, we walk to a cheese shop to sample the renowned local cheese that takes its name from the city.

Lunch: Aboard the barge.

Afternoon: Relax as we barge towards Amsterdam. Weather-permitting, enjoy ever-changing vistas from the deck.

Dinner: Aboard the barge.

Evening: At leisure.

Amsterdam, City Walk, Free Time
Liza Marleen

Activity note: Walking approximately 1.8 miles (3 kilometers), standing for up to 2 hours on uneven terrain, stairs.

Breakfast: Aboard the barge.

Morning: Accompany your Group Leader to the center of Amsterdam to view Rembrandt Square, the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) and finally the Begijnhof (Béguinage). This tranquil courtyard dates back to the 14th century, when it was built for the Béguines, pious women who chose to live like nuns but without taking formal vows. From there, embark on your own independent exploration.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in Amsterdam.

Afternoon: Free Time: Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most in Amsterdam. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. If you haven’t already been there, venture to the Anne Frank House or the Rijksmuseum. If you want to relax, seek out one of the local cafés to sip a Heineken or cup of coffee while watching the locals.

Dinner: Aboard the barge. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Program Concludes
In Flight

Activity note: Barge check-out time is 9:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. Transfer from the barge to the airport is about 20 miles; about 30 minutes.

Breakfast: Aboard the barge. This concludes our program.

Morning: Morning transfer to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for departures. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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