The Netherlands is a country proud of its glorious history as well as its successful present. You’ll enjoy the scenic countryside and the stunning architecture. It can be very crowded because it has a high population density. The country is also known as Holland throughout the world.

The north is a place to getaway. It has a low population and a beautiful countryside; you can enjoy the Frisian islands and lakes. The south of the country shares its borders with Belgium. It has a long Catholic history. On the west is the most important part of the country, which is called Randstad. It is home to four big cities. The eastern part of it has the natural beauties, from Hoge Veluwe to Zwolle.

Places to See in the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital city. Cities like Groningen (educational city), Arnhem (green city), The Hague (Judicial capital), Maastricht (medieval city) and Rotterdam (artsy city) are all a must visit. Some natural attractions are Hoge Veluwe national park, Kinderdjik (windmills), Schokland (ghost village) and Keukenhof (flower fields).

Natural Sites

Tulip Gardens

The Netherlands is famous all around the world for their tulips. If you want to enjoy these flowers to the fullest, go to the Bulb Region or North Holland.

Countrysides

Don’t be surprised! The Netherlands is particularly known for its magnetic countryside, which can be found in all provinces and regions. Wide, flat grasslands, picturesque villages, old farms, and windmills all add up to the country’s strong appeal.

The Zaanstreek-Waterland is especially beautiful. Volendam and Marken are known for their folkloric fisherman boats and traditional clothing. South Limburg attracts travelers with its rolling hills and timber-framed houses, as well as numerous castles. The Gelderland province combines plentiful castles, such as Palace ‘t Loo in Apeldoorn, and magnificent sceneries of the Veluwe.

Keukenhof Garden

The largest flower garden in the world, Keukenhof only works from March till May. It is a great opportunity to see all the treasures of the Dutch flower industry. However, you should be prepared for huge tourist crowds in the garden and everywhere throughout the Netherlands during this time of year.

Zuid Kennemerland National Park

Kennemerland national park is a unique ecosystem, situated on the coast to the west of Haarlem, is perfect for cycling and hiking. Walk or ride through the green woods, up massive dunes and, along blue lagoons. Also, in spring, bright blooming enhances the golden sands.

Hoge Veluwe National Park

The national park, situated near Arnhem, boasts, among other attractions, an underground museum of subterranean life, and the Kroller-Muller Museum with the collection of 90 Van Gogh paintings and over 180 Van Gogh drawings.

There are also numerous masterpieces from such famous artists as Monet, Seurat, and Picasso. A pleasant bonus is: bicycles are available for free for park visitors.

Wadden Islands

This island chain is located off the coast of Friesland. During the summer, regular ferry service runs to the islands, and a bicycle is a great way to move around. Also, wadlopen, hiking the mud flats at low tide, is a quite popular activity.

Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer

The Aalsmeer Flower Auction in five halls of the world’s largest commercial building at 999 thousand sq m, near Schipal airport. You will have to get up earlier, as the best time to arrive is 7 am on Thursday.

Cultural Sites

Windmills

The Netherlands is a country of windmills. These buildings are an important part of the Dutch culture. Kinderdijk boasts 19 beautiful windmills. The Zaanse Schans displays windmills too, as well as a museum of traditional crafts and old Dutch houses. And if you want to see the tallest windmills in the world, go to Schiedam, famous all around the world for its jenever.

Museums and Galleries

  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
  • Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
  • Kröller-Müller Museum, Hoge Veluwe National Park
  • Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven
  • Groninger Museum, Groningen
  • Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
  • Hermitage, Amsterdam

Top Cities

Amsterdam

The capital of the Netherlands is a real travelers’ delight. Wander through its ancient streets, admiring the 17th-century monuments, or take a candlelit boat ride along its lovely canals. Admire the paintings of the Dutch masters at the Rijksmuseum or dare to visit the Red Light District.

Utrecht

Before Amsterdam stood up in the late 16th century, the country’s most important town was Utrecht. The town has saved most of its medieval buildings and streets, as well as exquisite ancient churches. It is also home to the Netherlands’ biggest university and boasts a vivid youthful vibe.

You will love wandering around the Utrecht’s old city, carved by numerous canals. You can go up the elegant 14th-century tower of the Dom cathedral. Or visit the city’s numerous museums, including the one, which is dedicated to Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy.

Maastricht

Often called the country’s most beautiful city, Maastricht is known for its romantic lanes, old monuments, and the so-called “Burgundian” atmosphere. It is also the oldest fortified city in the Netherlands. The city’s highlights are the basilica churches of Our Lady and St. Servatius, as well as fascinating caves, located in the surrounding hills.

Leiden

The birthplace of Rembrandt, the city is also home to the country’s oldest university. Leiden is also filled with narrow medieval streets and numerous ancient monuments. And a dozen museums, spread along its lovely canals will keep your entertained all-day-long.

The Hague

The judicial capital of the world hosts the Peace Palace and many international organizations. Also, the Dutch government sits here, in the ancient Binnenhof. The city attracts architecture admirers with a rich collection of palaces and government buildings.

Haarlem

Just a short train ride from the capital, there is a city of Haarlem. A majestic Gothic church, the heart of the city, is located on the Grote Kerk. Don’t forget to take a look at magnificent 17th-century paintings by Frans Hals, and then head to Zandvoort, a major beach resort.

Rotterdam

The port of Rotterdam on the Rhine River is a great example of innovative architecture. Take a high-speed elevator ride up Euromast and have dinner at a 100m height, while looking at the world’s biggest harbor. And if you are brave enough, go higher to 185 m for the Euroscoop experience.

Deep into the history at De Zaanse Schans village, situated not far from Amsterdam. It boasts traditional houses, still working windmills, clog factory, cheese farm, boat builders and several museums.

Gouda

If you follow the Cheese Map, available from the local tourist office, you can’t miss Gouda. This historic city will lead you through its narrow streets and various landmarks, which include the Weighhouse Museum, the symbol of cheesemaking in the city.

Delft

The Royal Delft pottery in the town of Delft is where you should go to watch the skills of real porcelain makers. The hometown of Johannes Vermeer nowadays boasts a center, dedicated to the painter of The Milkmaid and other masterpieces of art.

Top Tourist Attractions

Koninklijk Paleis

The Royal Palace, which dates back to 1648, was in the past Amsterdam’s town hall. Nowadays, it is considered the country’s most important cultural and historical building. It was originally built of the white stone, although it’s not white on the outside today.

As for the interior, the most famous artists, such as Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol contributed to it. The place is home to an exquisite collection of furniture, left by Napoleon, as well as chandeliers and clocks from the 19th century. The palace is the official residence of the Dutch Royalty, although its interior still open to the public.

Anne Frank House

This house is the historic building, which hosted Anne Frank, her family, and four other Jews, who hid here from the Nazis during World War II before they were sold out to the Nazis in 1944.

Nowadays, the house hosts a permanent exhibition. Anne Frank died in the concentration camp at the Bergen-Belsen, but her father survived and published her diary, which is now on display in the House.

Afsluitdijk

Drive or cycle across the Afsluitdijk, a 30km barrier, which was built in the 1930s, to separate the Zuiderzee from the North Sea and make Usselmeer freshwater. If you are going by car, stop at a view point halfway across the road, which links Friesland and Noord-Holland.

Madurodam

The miniaturized copy of the Netherlands, situated at Madurodam, represents the country in 1:25 scale. It includes windmills, a cheese market, and the most extensive miniature railway in the world.

Cheese Markets

When in the Netherlands, you should definitely enjoy the atmosphere of the country’s numerous cheese markets. The best and most famous is Waagplein, in Alkmaar. Every Friday, from the middle of April till September, thousands of wheels of cheese are lined up in rows by guildsmen wearing traditional costumes. Also, the town of Edam, home to one of the most famous kinds of cheese, holds a similar market on Wednesday every summer.

Dutch National Railway Museum

The Het Spoorwegmuseum at Maliebaanstation in Utrecht hosts an exquisite collection of historic rolling stock and memorabilia. Getting to the museum is also easiest by the regular train connection from Utrecht Central.

Things to Do in the Netherlands

Cycling

The Netherlands is the place perfect for cycling. There are 22 thousand kilometers of bicycle paths throughout the country. Many of them are numbered. Going on a cycling trip is extremely easy: you get a map, pick a number, and take off.

The most scenic areas for cycling trips are the Green Heart, Hoge Veluwe National Park, South Limburg, and the Zaanstreek-Waterland. Just beware of strong winds and cold rainy winters.

Beach Relax

The Netherlands has a 1245km-long coastline and numerous beaches. Summer time in the country is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. In Scheveningen, weather conditions come close to tropical, so expect huge tourist crowds there. Quieter and more family-friendly beach spots are Zandvoort, Bloemendaal, Bergen, and the West Frisian Islands.

Water Sports

You can do boating in the Netherlands without a license, as long as the boat is not over 15m long or 20km/h fast. You can find lakes, suitable for boating, in every province. However, the most popular are the Frisian Lakes, Wijdemeren, Kaag, and Aalsmeer. Most of them are calm, offering opportunities not only for boating but also for parasailing and rafting.

Music

The Netherlands has been known for great musicians in the past, and nothing has changed in the present. The Royal Concertgebouw, the major symphony orchestra of Amsterdam, is called by many the world’s best symphony orchestra.

High-level performances in various music styles are held all over the country. The number of music festivals happening all-year-round is uncountable.

Top Festivals

King’s Day

Celebrated every year on April 27, the King’s Day is a national holiday. The festivities are held all over the country. Every city, town, and even village organizes free markets and authentic Dutch games. Most people wear national colors this day, and you’re also advised to wear orange.

Pinkpop

It is a three-day annual pop festival with Pentecost, held in Landgraaf, Limburg.

Lowlands

A pop festival, held every last weekend of August at Biddinghuizen, Flevoland.

Summercarnaval

It is a big parade, held in the center of Rotterdam. It is one of the biggest events in the Netherlands, which attracts numerous visitors.

Northsea Jazz Festival

Held in the Ahay Stadion in Rotterdam, this big summer jazz festival takes place every year since 2006. Before that, its home was The Hague. During three days of the festival, you are about to witness around 1800 jazz, blues, funk, soul, hip-hop, latin, and R’n’B performances.

Vierdaagsefeesten

This summer festival in Nijmegen starts on the 3rd Tuesday of July and lasts seven days. Over million people attend the event every year. Top Dutch bands take part in the festival. Moke and Racoon, De Affaire are focused on alternative and rock music, while The Matrixx plays electronic dance music.

Sensation

One of the world’s best-known parties, formerly called Sensation White, is held in Amsterdam Arena every summer. 40 thousand people, dressed in white, gather to hear world’s best DJs. Tickets sell out fast, so you should act quick.

Dance Valley

One of Europe’s largest dance festivals, Dance Valley attracts over 40 thousand visitors every year. It is held in the middle of July in Spaarnwoude park. The event territory consists of circus tents, each in a different genre of dance music.

Mystery Land

This flower-power-themed dance festival hosts over 50 thousand visitors annually. It takes place at the end of August near Schiphol Airport. All dance genres are present at the festival, as well as numerous workshops and a theater, which are, actually, not common for dance festivals.

Defqon.1

This dance festival is focused on the harder dance styles and takes place in the middle of June in Flevoland.

Carnival

The Catholic celebration of Carnival is held in the Southern Netherlands, since medieval times. It takes place in February or March, right before Lent.

Parades happen in all cities and towns on Sunday, and sometimes, also on Monday. Many other events are held throughout the week, including street painting and beer drinking contests. We recommend going to Maastricht, Breda, or ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the events.

When to Go

Summers can be as tolerable as winters. There is rainfall all throughout the year. You should go from May to September. These are adequate months to travel to the Netherlands.

What to Wear

Summers are relatively warm. Excessively hot weather is quite rare. Lightweight clothing will do, but take a jacket or a sweater, even for summer time. Winters are rather cold with occasional snowfalls possible. Rainwear is required all-year-round.

Language

Dutch and Frisian are the official languages in the country. But you need not worry because the majority of the population are taught English from an early age.

Currency

The currency in use is Euro. You can recognize exchange offices by the letters GWK. All major credit cards are easily acceptable, and ATMs are available widely.

Local SIM Card & Free WiFi

Local SIM cards will work with most American smartphones, but you should still check with your provider, before leaving. If there is a problem with your phone, you can get a prepaid mobile phone at a mobile phone shop for as little 35 Euro on special offer. It usually comes with a small amount of call time stored.

Local SIM card can be purchased for 5 Euro and then, loaded with a prepaid card. Major providers are Phone House, Orange, T-Mobile, and Vodafone in most cities and tourist areas.

Wi-Fi is widely available in hotels, cafes, restaurants, tourist offices, and other public facilities. Internet cafes are not really widespread. However, many libraries, tourist offices, coffee shops, and hotels provide computers for their visitors, often for free. But sometimes, you will have to pay from 2 to 4 Euro per hour.

Culture

The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. However, the Dutch are not very religious. The nation is very tolerant. There isn’t much you can do to surprise or ruffle them. On the opposite, the Dutch straightforwardness can surprise foreigners sometimes. You are expected to be direct and tolerant too.

The common greeting is hand shaking, both for men and women. Women or a man and a woman can also kiss on cheeks three times if they know each other well. You can be late for social gatherings, but not for business meetings. Casual wear is acceptable in most situations, but for business, events choose something more formal. Also, for formal events, you should dress nicely.

Local Cuisine

The Netherlands is not particularly known for its cuisine, as it is quite simple and rustic. It also differs, depending on the region. A traditional Dutch meal consists of meat, potatoes, and some vegetables.

Western regions are known for various types of cheese: Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, and Beemster. Coastal regions are famous for their seafood culture, represented by raw herring, served with chopped onions.

Top Dishes to Try

  • Stamppot – mashed potatoes with one or several vegetables
  • Gelderse rookworst – a traditional smoked sausage
  • Metworst – a dried sausage
  • Pea soup – winter dish, made of green peas and a smoked sausage
  • Oilbollen – traditional Dutch dumplings consumed for New Year’s Eve
  • Asperges flamandes – white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, ham, crumbled hard-boiled eggs, served with boiled potatoes
  • Dutch pancakes – can be either sweet or savory, in a variety of tastes: apple, syrup, cheese, bacon, etc.

Top Desserts

  • Poffertjes – small slightly risen pancakes with butter and powdered sugar
  • Syrup waffles – two thin layers with syrup in between, made fresh on most street markets and specialized stalls
  • Chocolate sprinkles – served on top of buttered slices of bread, traditional Dutch breakfast
  • Dutch peanut butter – quite different from the US variant, but still delicious

Top Drinks

  • Coffee – the Dutch are among the largest coffee fans in the world
  • Black tea – another popular everyday drink, which comes in different varieties, from traditional to fruit infusions
  • Hot chocolate – traditional winter drink for the Dutch, usually served with whipped cream
  • Beer – the Dutch have a strong beer culture, world-famous Heineken being just one of the various brands served in the country
  • Wheat beer – a lager, flavored with a spice mix, called gruit, thus, tastes better, than most famous Pilsner varieties
  • Bitter – traditional winter alcoholic drink, which comes in different varieties, with orange bitter being the traditional King’s Day drink
  • Dutch gin – the predecessor of English gin, available in two types: old (oude) and young (jonge)
  • Beerenburg – jenever with herbs added and an alcohol percentage of around 30%

Getting Around

For getting around in the country with the help of public transport, you need to have an OV-chipkart. It will assist you on trains, metros, and trams as well as the bus.

By Plane

Due to the country’s small size and the variety of road and rail connections, domestic flights proved to be unprofitable and were canceled.

By Train

Rail connection is regular between cities, towns, and large villages. Most lines have trains running every 15 minutes. Intercity trains only stop at major stations, and Sprinters stop at all the stations. The country is small, and a rail trip from the North to the South will take only 4 hours.

Most routes are operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. Keep in mind, 5-10-minute delays are quite common. Also, the trains can be rather crowded during rush hours.

Some trains consist of two parts, and somewhere on the way, they are separated, and each goes in its own direction. Therefore, be attentive, when boarding a train. Also, keep in mind, Amsterdam has two terminals: Central and South. As they are not connected directly, check the destination of the train, when buying a ticket.

Wi-Fi is available at all major train stations and in most Intercity trains. However, electrical sockets are only available in a few Intercity trains in first class.

The ticket price depends on the distance. The average cost is around 0.25 Euros/km. Tickets are valid on any train on the route. There are first and second class tickets available. You must buy a ticket before the trip, as there are no conductors on the way. Tickets can be purchased from machines or online.

By Bike

The roads are bicycle-friendly here. Cycling in the Netherlands is much safer and more comfortable than in other European countries. Using cycle lanes and cycle paths is mandatory. They are identified by a round blue sign with a white image a bike, an icon on the lane, or by red asphalt.

Bike thefts are rather frequent. You are advised to use two locks of different kinds. Don’t buy bikes in the street from suspicious people, particularly those looking like drug addicts, as they have most surely, been stolen. All bike thefts should be reported to police.

By Thumb

Hitchhiking in the country is quite common. However, the lack of traffic in remote areas can lead to a long wait. Hitchhiking on motorways is forbidden, although often tolerated, as long as you don’t create a dangerous traffic situation.

There are both official hitch-hiking spots and recommended unofficial spots, mainly at the edges of major cities.

By Car

Cars are a perfect way to view the stunning countryside. But beware of the high fuel prices. Parking in the cities can also be expensive, and the number of parking spots is limited. So, within urban areas, you are recommended to use public transport.

Road Conditions

The highway network in the Netherlands is extensive. However, congestions during peak hours are common and should be avoided. There are emergency phones along the highways, in case your car breaks down.

Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi

To get around cities, it is easy to find a taxi in the street. All cabs have meters. It is more common, however, to book the taxi over the phone. Also, car hire is available from airports and main hotels. You need to be over 21 years old to rent a car. Roads are in excellent condition.

Right or Left Driving

Cars drive on the right side of the road.

The Netherlands Trip Cost

Overall, it might not be a cost- friendly destination. Food and accommodation (start with Twenty Euros/night) are expensive here. A bed in a hostel dormitory won’t cost less than 20-35 Euro. And a private double room costs a minimum of 60 Euro.

Food is also expensive. Even a lunchtime specialties won’t cost less than 15 Euro. For dinner in a nice restaurant, you will have to pay a minimum of 30 Euro. Alcohol is also costly, but cigarettes (six Euros/19 pieces) are cheap compared to rest of Europe.

You can cut your budget short only on travel costs. Stick to public transport and do not use rental cars if you want to save money. Museums are reasonably priced. And if your budget is very strict, you can always explore many Dutch cities and attractions on foot and for free.

Electricity & Plug Type

The Netherlands use type C and F sockets, as almost every country in Europe. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230 V.  Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.

How Safe is the Netherlands

In general, the Netherlands is a safe destination. However, you should still watch out for thieves and pickpocketers. Be careful, criminals often work in pairs: while one distracts the victim, the other one steals the valuables. In case of an emergency, call 112.

If someone’s offering you drugs, do not accept them, particularly if they are offered for free. Young women traveling alone should be aware of the possibility of their drinks being spiked. If you are in a group, it is better to leave all together.

Medical service in the country is of high quality. For EU citizens, medical treatment is free or reduced-cost. For all other travelers, full travel insurance is highly recommended. If you have a minor complaint, pharmacists are likely to help you.

There are no widespread diseases in the Netherlands. However, you should still make the necessary vaccinations. Vaccinations are recommended against tetanus, rabies, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.

During the summer time, you should be particularly aware of sunburns. It may not even feel hot, but UV-rays will still be rather strong. Be careful, always use sunscreen, and stay hydrated.

Food quality and hygiene are of high standard in the Netherlands. Tap water is safe to drink. Meat, dairy products, seafood, fruit, and vegetables are safe to consume too.

August 15, 2016 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

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