The Netherlands is an underrated travel destination for most people. It offers so much more than what people think. Most tourist will only go to Amsterdam and then think that they have seen the Netherlands(haha shesh). This is of course not the case. Think of destinations like Kinderdijk, Gouda, Utrecht, and Keukenhoff.
While I have written an extensive guide to Amsterdam, I have yet to write anything about the rest of The Netherlands (or Holland).
So here is it. Some amazing other destinations that you should see in the Netherlands besides the countries main ‘attraction’ Amsterdam.
The Netherlands is a relatively small country so getting around it is pretty simple and cheap. From north to south Holland it is about 300 kilometres and from East to West 200 kilometres.
You can easily travel by public transport to all the main city’s and attractions. The roads are quite busy, especially during peak hours, but you can definitely drive everywhere as well.
Yes, Amsterdam is an amazing city, filled with culture, monumental buildings, canals and several world-famous museums. But the Netherlands has so many more cities that you should see besides Amsterdam and that’s not just in my biased opinion 😉
One of the largest port cities in the world, Rotterdam has some of the best architectural buildings in the country. The city was bombed in world war II and lost a lot of their heritage buildings during those bombings. They rebuilt the city and they re-build it with some amazing architecture – WINNING!
The Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen) are one of the city’s most iconic attractions.
Another famous attraction in the city of Rotterdam is ‘The Markhallen’ where amazing architecture meats delicious food, what more could you want?
DEN HAAG – THE HAGUE
The Hague is home to a Gothic-style Binnenhof (or Inner Court) complex and is the seat of the Dutch parliament, and 16th-century Noordeinde Palace is the king’s workplace.
Some of the things that you can see in the city are the Mauritshuis museum, a 17th-century mansion that displays Golden Age art masterpieces including Vermeer’s very famous “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”
Madurodam park contains miniature models of famous Dutch buildings, which offers a great way of seeing a lot of the Netherlands in a day.
Utrecht is one of the Netherlands’ oldest cities with a compact medieval center set out around canals unique to the Netherlands. It has a similar vibe than Amsterdam, but it is a whole lot less touristy.
The city nowadays is a busy hustle and bustle student town. It has a remarkably diverse range of museums, great shopping 7-days a week, a lot of very tasteful places to eat and cute hotels to stay in.
Gouda! does anybody else think of the movie – She’s The Man when they hear Gouda cheese? because I do! as famously quoted By Amanda Bynes “you like cheese”? “why yes I do, my favorite’s Gouda!” hahaha SO funny! back to the serious stuff now… 🙂
Gouda is a charming Dutch city south of Amsterdam in the province of South Holland. It’s known for its namesake cheese and seasonal cheese market, regularly held on the medieval Markt square…
Also (if you have a car) drive to one of the local cheese farms. A lot of them offer behind the scenes tours that shows you how they make the world-famous Gouda cheeses.
Some farms that you can visit are:
- Cheese farm de Twee Hoeven – Dutch website
- Cheese farm Hoogerwaard – This farm of the 17th century they produce Gouda farmhouse cheese. A cheese made from raw milk to centuries-old recipe. Without the use of colourings and flavourings.
Closed Sunday. Opening hours visit: by appointment.
- Cheese farm Janmaat – Dutch website
- Cheese farm Jongenhoeve – Dutch website
If you want to see the famous mills of The Netherlands – This is the place. Such a beauty!
Kinderdijk is a village in the Netherlands’ South Holland province, known for its iconic 18th-century windmills. It is listed since 1997 as a UNESCO world heritage monument. Its water-management network features 19 mills and 3 pumping stations, plus dikes and reservoirs that control flooding in the polder (low-lying land).
It is such an iconic place, that it is truly a once in a lifetime must-see.
Also known as the “Venice of Holland” Giethoorn is a little town that was ripped out of a fairytale. Homes with thatched roofs, canals covered in greenery, and a town with no streets, YEP this little town is just a dream.
For a trip back into ‘Old Holland’, head for Volendam, a picturesque town on the shores of the IJsselmeer, just 20 km north of Amsterdam.
The little town is known for its colourful wooden houses and the old fishing boats in its harbour, which is lined with seafood vendors. The Volendam Museum features paintings, sculptures and pottery from 1800 to the present, a gallery of traditional costumes and mosaics made from millions of cigar bands. The Palingsound Museum chronicles the local music scene.
There are also some opportunities to dress in traditional Dutch clothing, including the famous klompen (aka Wooden Clogs)
NATURE AND GARDENS
The Netherlands is known for its amazing tulips. Home to the largest flower garden in Europe, some of the best tulip fields and some amazing nature reserves. Underneath are just a few that you could visit during your trip.
With the name the Garden of Europe, you know what to expect when you visit this flower garden in Lisse. It is also one of the largest flower gardens in Europe.
So if you are a tulip lover or just want to experience some of natures vibrant colours, then this is a beautiful place to stop over, if you are visiting Amsterdam. (about 30-40 minute drive from Amsterdam).
The walk is long around the garden but there are little stops where you can refresh and also a fully fledged tulip market where you can purchase seeds, merchandise or souvenirs. There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of flower beds and thousands of flowers (mostly tulips) in each. It’s hard to imagine but there are so many varieties of tulips – you’d be surprised.
The best time to visit Keukenhof depends on the weather but mid-April to early May is usually the most reliable for tulips.
Weekends and school vacations are best avoided. The garden is usually quieter early morning or late afternoon than around lunch time.
The best tulip fields are in the North of Holland, around 30 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam in an area known as the Bollenstreek (Translated: The bulb district).
The Bollenstreek is where you should go if you want to see the world-renowned Dutch flowers with your own eyes. This is the area where tulip farmers grow their flowers, yielding beautiful vistas every spring and summer.
Kop van Noord-Holland is another region where you can find the famous colourful fields. It is also home to the world’s biggest single flower bulb field. More info on Bulb Flowers in Kop van Noord-Holland, especially the town Zijpe, you find on this website.
The country is not really known for its nature, but you’ll be surprised to know that there are some amazing nature reserves.
- De Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie – The 85-kilometer-long Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie is a defensive line with 46 forts including the island of Pampus.
- De Drentse Aa – Unique farmers landscape
- Groene Hart – Located near Rotterdam this reserve is home to a lot of bird wildlife.
- Nationaal Park De Loonse en Drunense Duinen – this reserve is more the 4000 hectares but, It has a lot of different plantations.
- De Waddenzee – The Wadden Sea has an unmistakable ecological value and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Because of the relatively warm water, many plants and animals can be found here. Seals (awwww), many different bird species as well as shellfish can be found in this sea. Such a wonderful place to get some fresh air too.
These are just some of the nature reserves and parks that you can visit. A more extensive list with loads of information can be found on Holland.com.
FOODS TO TRY
Even though Dutch food is not very famous worldwide, I can assure you that you can find a few good bites in the Netherlands! Many of them are snacks, so perfect to grab between one attraction and another.
- Raw Herring – If you like eating fish, you should definitely try this one. The traditional herring is served raw with chopped onions and gherkins. You eat it by grabbing the fish by the tail and hold it high above your head and lower it into your mouth. (bit strange but that’s how we eat them, NO JOKES!.)
- Cheese – Gouda cheese is the most famous, and most produced, Dutch Cheese, followed by Edam, Maasdam, Boerenkaas, Leyden and lesser-known cheeses.
The Netherlands is famous for being one of the biggest exporters of cheese in the world.
- Bitterballen – A MUST TRY – These are absolutely delicious and a must-try. These savory meatballs with crunchy crust are usually served with mustard.
- Kroketten – The common English translation of kroket is croquette. A typical Dutch croquette is made of meat ragout (or salpicon) covered in breadcrumbs, and deep fried until golden and crispy.
- Stamppot – In winter this is ‘The go-to” dinner. This dish is made from mashed potatoes with kale or sauerkraut and sausage.
- Stoopwafels – A stroopwafel is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle (YUM).
- Poffertjes – Poffertjes are very small Dutch puffy pancakes about 5 cm (2 inches) wide that are mostly flat, but are puffed up a little bit. They are made from white wheat flour, butter, milk, eggs, yeast and salt and then typically covered in soft sugar and butter… (my Aussie friends who have tried these say “they are the best”!)
- Drop – You either hate or love licorice, the Dutch people are in the team of those who absolutely LOVE it. They love it so much that they have the highest licorice consumption per capita in the world.
Language: Dutch, though English is spoken pretty much city-wide
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1
Electricity: Type C two-prong plug. Electrical power in the Netherlands and in most of Western Europe runs on a cycle of 50hz, and a voltage of 230 Volt, alternating current.
Currency: Euro (€).
Tipping: Like in most of Europe, tipping isn’t generally expected. However, it’s polite to leave extra change or round up.
Weather: Keep an eye on the weather report, as Mother Nature can be finicky in the Netherlands. Even in summer, there is a possibility that you might need a jacket.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Whether you are planning to visit in summer or winter, the country has its charms all year-round.
In summer cities like Amsterdam will be pretty busy, but you get to enjoy canal rides in the sun and wander the city in nicer weather. The gardens and tulips will be in bloom so you will get to see some of the tulip fields when visiting.
In winter (when lucky) you get to see the canals iced up and you get to skate them with the locals. Also, late November, into December is a popular time again because of the festive season with Christmas Markets and festivals going on all over the country.
MOVIES TO SPARK YOUR INTEREST
Be sure to check out one of the below movies to spark your interest in the Netherlands:
- Girl with a Pearl Earring – obviously about the famous painting by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer – explores the story of how the famous artwork came to be. Stars Scarlett Johansson (amazing!) Colin Firth (YAAAAS) and Cillian Murphy (Dreamy)
- The Hitman’s Bodyguard – this hilarious action film stars Ryan Reynolds and Samual L Jackson… I mean what more could you want? Also has an epic chase scene set in Amsterdam – whoop!
- The Fault in our stars – BE AWARE! this movie is sad and will make you cry…… however in this film they do visit The Anne Frank Museum, so if you wanted to get a look in, then be sure to check this movie out.
- Dunkirk(2017) – Partly shot using a few of the picturesque Dutch lakes, this is an incredible story and one I would advise everyone see at least once in their lives.
- Black Book – Definite must see Dutch film! Set during the 2nd world war and based on a true story, this movie was rated the best Dutch film ever to be made… Starring Carice Van Houten (GOT Red woman ahh).
- Oceans 12 – Last but not least! this hilarious, comedy, heist film was largely set in and around Amsterdam, showing famous hotels, bridges, streets and our little old train station hehe.
WORDS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Most Dutch people are bilingual and speak English very well (Some smaller towns in the countryside maybe not as good, but you should be able to have a basic conversation). It is however considered very polite to know a few words in the local language, no matter where you are in the world. So here are a few simple words that you can be useful for you.
- Hello/hi: Hallo/hoi
- Thank you: Dank je wel
- Bye: Dag/Doei
- Sorry: Sorry (same, but good to know)
- Good morning: Goede morgen
- Cheers: Proost
- Bon appétit: Eet smakelijk
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Do you have plans to visit the Netherlands soon? Where are you going too? Let me know in the comments below. Also, of course, if you have any questions or would like to know some more information feel free to ask.
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