The Netherlands is a fascinating country to visit, combining almost two thousand years of history and architecture with endless scenic canals and waterways and an energetic modern vibe. Ancient towns like Breda, Maastricht, and Middelburg have been in existence for at least a thousand years, and the entire country is a treasure trove for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. Now let’s have a closer insight into this culture-rich piece of land!
First things first, starting off with a brief description of the largest Dutch cities:
• Alkmaar – picturesque town, where you can every Friday from April to September visit traditional market with cheeses – de Alkmaarse kaasmarkt. You can also visit a museum of cheese. Everything you need to know is here: http://www.kaasmarkt.nl , http://www.kaasmuseum.nl.
• Amsterdam – capital of the Netherlands offers you a lot of interesting attractions. Located there is e.g. museum of one of the most famous victims of nacism Anne Frank Huis (www.annefrank.rog). Building of the museum in the shape of boat NEMO offers the biggest interactive exposition of science and technology in the Netherlands (www.e-nemo.nl). Rijksmuseum will astonish you with collection of almost 1 million of artistic exhibits situated in 200 exposition halls and acquiant you with works of Dutch masters from 17th century (www.rijksmuseum.nl). You certainly can’t left behind the Van Gogh Museum, in which you will find unique collection of drawings and paintings of this famous artist (www.vangoghmuseum.nl). Amsterdam also offers the lovers of unrestrained fun amounts of coffeeshops or the famous district Wallen, known also as Red Light District.
• Delft – the town is famous mostly because of production of porcelain Delfts Blauw (Delft Blue), so there can’t be missing a porcelain museum De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (www.royaldelft.com). Interesting is also a monumental building of the town hall on square Markt.
• Den Haag – in Den Haag you can visit e.g. center of Dutch politics Het Binnenhof or Madurodam, 25 times decreased town, where you can as from bird’s eye look on everything what is typical for the Netherlands (www.madurodam.nl). Part of Den Haag is also Scheveningen – famous touristic paradise with beaches, promenades and bars.
• Groningen – town was from major part ruined during the World War II., but still has a lot to offer to its visitors. Symbol of the town is a church tower Martinitoren, which is situated on the square Grote Markt. You can have a cup of coffee there in very unusual building Gaoudkantoor.
• Maastricht – the Vrijthof square is dominated by a Romanesque basilica Sint-Servaasbasiliek and Gothic church Sint-Janskerk. Interesting experience can also be a visitation of gallery of the art Bonnefantenmuseum built by proposals of famous Italian architect Alda Rossi.
• Naarden – is one of the best preserved fortified towns in Europe and it’s known also because of its star shape. John Amos Comenius is buried here (www.comeniusmuseum.nl).
• Rotterdam – center of the town was completely destroyed during the WW2. In fifties began a new construction and Rotterdam became one of the few European cities with development of skyscrapers. Besides nice walk between high-rise buildings you can visit Euromast, 185m high tower, from which you can savour view to the town of modern architecture (www.euromast.nl). And for lovers of architecture the city of Rotterdam offers museum Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (www.nai.nl). Europort, largest port in Europe, will dedicate you to the history of sea transport (www.europort.nl).
• Utrecht – one of the oldest Dutch towns can offer you a lot. Go to the highest church town in the Netherlands Domtoren (www.domtoren.nl) or walk through the university area De Uithof. It’s a singular case of collection of unique buildings in modern architecture. Rietveld Schroderhuis is, on the contrary, the lone building, which was at that time built by architectonal principles of art movement De Stijl. In 2000 was written to the Word Heritage UNESCO list (www.rietveldschroderhuis.nl). Utrecht is outstanding also thanks to the canal Oude Gracht, on which shores are from spring to autumn opened terraces of dozens of cafés and restaurants.
• ’s Hertogenbosch – in this town was born famous Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch. His world full of fantasy can be admired in Jheronimus Bosch Art Center (www.jheronimusbosch-artcenter.nl)
• Zaanstad – how was life in 17th and 18th century in the Netherlands will bring you inhabited open air museum in province North Holland De Zaanse Schans (www.zaanseschans.nl).
Now let’s see the other attractions!
- Zaanse Schans
Those who wish they could travel back in time and visit the Netherlands of the 17th and 18th centuries have come to the right place. Zaanse Schans is located around 15 kilometers to the north of Amsterdam and is styled as an open-air museum where you can take a stroll around a traditional Dutch village and find out how ancient craftsmen would have worked. Just some of the sights include a shipyard, a grocery store, a pewter factory, and a range of dainty green wooden houses. You will also find some graceful windmills although out of the 600 that would have dotted the area in the days of old, only 5 now remain and can be visited by the public. These include an iconic saw mill as well as an oil mill and you will find fun live demonstrations like a clog making session.
There are many things that make the Netherlands the unique place that it is, but nothing complements better the traditional Dutch landscape than its picturesque windmills. The country is full of them, but the UNESCO-protected 19 old windmills of Kinderdijk are, no doubt, one of the most famous sights in the Netherlands.
Designed in 1740 to drain the Alblasserwaard polders and to prevent flooding, the windmills were perfectly preserved ever since. Nowadays, tourists from all over the world come to admire this idiosyncratic scenery and learn about the brilliant Dutch water management. Moreover, from April to the end of October, one of these ancient generators is open to the public in order to be explored and admired.
Kinderdijk sits in the province of South Holland, about 15 km east of Rotterdam, and can be easily reached by car, train, bus, and even by boat during the tourist season.
Established in 1952, in the little town of Kaatsheuvel, Southern Netherlands, Efteling is among the oldest theme parks in the world and the largest attraction of its kind in the country, about twice as large as California’s famous Disneyland.
The park is divided into four different realms – each with its own theme, and has lots of attractions to entertain the entire family, from wide-open green spaces, concerts, and theatrical performances to bars, restaurants, and a four star hotel.
- Towns by the Zuiderzee
Among the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands are the small hamlets along the Ijsselmeer, the freshwater lake that resulted from the closing of the sea entrance to the Zuider Zee. These towns flourished during Amsterdam’s Golden Age, when they had access to the Atlantic and prospered as fishing and trade centers, but lost importance as the harbors silted up. Time seems to have stood still for the fishing village of Marken and the seaports of Volendam and Enkhuizen, where many of the colorful houses have become museums and shops. Enkhuizen has preserved many of its buildings and seafaring industries in the open-air Zuiderzee Museum, where the cultural heritage and maritime history of the old Zuiderzee region is preserved. Here, you can see craftsmen at work learning old maritime skills. In Volendam’s harbor, you can see a collection of colorful old wooden boats.
- Arcen Castle
Arcen Castle is steeped in mystery and has stood in Limburg for over three centuries, placing it among the oldest surviving strongholds in the Netherlands. Several impressive, landscape gardens lies beyond its double-moat, which regularly hosts outdoor events.
- De Haar Castle
Near the lovely old city of Utrecht, the fourth largest in the Netherlands, Kasteel De Haar is the largest fortification in the country. This spectacular castle, built by the famous Dutch architect, PJH Cuypers, required so much land (it sits on a spectacular 250-acre park) that the entire village of Haarzuilens had to be relocated to accommodate it. While the original castle site was established in the 14th century, this newer structure dates from 1892 and is well worth taking the time to explore. Inside, you’ll be rewarded with impressive collections of antiques, furniture, paintings, and tapestries, but it’s the gardens that really draw the crowds – along with the castle’s fairytale looks.
If you want to see the whole of the Netherlands but don’t have time then travel to Madurodam in The Hague. Here you will find a mini version of the Netherlands on a 1:25 scale and you can see all the county’s top destinations including cute windmills, main landmarks, and decorative features like bridges. This model city even includes its own harbor as well as a railway system and an airport.
Imagine the tranquility of spending a few days in a peaceful Dutch village surrounded by scenic waterways and canals. The centuries-old village of Hiethoorn is almost completely devoid of roads, and many houses can only be reached by boat or by making your way along a footpath or bicycle trail – bike rentals available in the village. As you can imagine, boating is the primary activity in Giethoorn, and you have a number of options for renting a suitable boat to explore the area. You can spend a peaceful day or two gliding along the canals, stopping at the many waterside restaurants to sample some regional Dutch food and drinks. There are three canal-side museums to visit, showcasing ancient Dutch life, vintage motor cars, and precious gemstones.
Although considered a small country, there’s many places worth a visit in the Netherlands as you can see. In this article I’ve laid out some of the best places, definitely worth a vist. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration on where to go!
Have a great day!