Housing more stereotypes than any other nation on the globe, the Netherlands is Central Europe’s liberal, easy-going and open-minded corner with a rich and moving history matching its long stretch of North Sea coastline. Travellers that look beyond the haze of marijuana smoke will find a vital nation of great culture, which goes about its business in the unique typical Dutch way yet retains a laid-back feel for visiting tourists.
Best destinations in Netherlands
With individual delights scattered throughout its rich and verdant landscape, Friesland, located to the north of the Netherlands, makes for an entertaining and memorable holiday destination. Friesland’s attractive pastoral terrain, dotted with charming long thatched-roofed farmhouses, leads in the west to some popular and attractive coastal villages offering a rich array of culture, history and an outdoor ambience second to none. A trip along with the coast sampling the unique delights of each town is a truly enchanting experience that will leave you wanting more.
Before setting off on your coastal odyssey, pay a visit to the quaint old market town of Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. Leeuwarden has many delights, including its quirky leaning cathedral, the Oldehove and the Prinsentium, a small park by the river offering secluded areas and amazingly colourful blooms in spring and summer. The town’s proudest boast however is its museums. The Het Princessehof was the birthplace of genius graphic artist M.C. Escher and is now the home of a brilliant ceramics museum whose bewildering collection of tiles from around the world will take the breath away. Be sure also to pay a visit to the Fries Museum, one of the best regional museums in the Netherlands where you can trace the development of Friesland culture from prehistoric times to the present day. Move along towards the coast and experience the welcome from sophisticated Harlingen. An ancient port, Harlingen acts as the terminus for ferry trips to the nearby islands and is home to traditional Dutch sailing barges. Arrange a canal trip on one of these unique vessels or stroll down the Voorstraat, a beautiful and tree-lined avenue flanked by elegant 18th-century mansions. Enjoy a bite to eat at one of Harlingen’s harbourside restaurants before visiting the Island of Terschelling. Here you can enjoy a pleasurable stay on its west coast before heading eastwards to some fine isolated beaches and a wonderful nature reserve. Head back to the mainland and stop off at Hindeloopen, regarded as the tidiest town in the Netherlands. Nestling cosily against the sea, this pretty town of canals, old streets and wooden footbridges also boasts some fine restaurants and cafes.
Enjoy a bike ride between some of Friesland’s charming coastal villages. Move inland and experience the culture and history of its main town. Sample the local fare from the markets and fishmongers, or prepare a picnic and enjoy watching the comings and goings of Friesland, a cosy corner of the Netherlands.
Noord-Holland (North-Holland), Netherlands
Offering a vision of traditional Holland, the Noord area is rich in culture, nature and history and is blessed with some entertaining and exciting cities. Think of windmills and polders, vast tulip fields, canals and old farmhouses and you are only beginning to appreciate the charms of this most popular of tourist areas. Rugged areas of dune and long broad expanses of sandy beaches are counterpointed by some charming towns brimful with culture and sophistication in a region blessed with a little bit of everything.
By far the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Nord region is Amsterdam. With its tree-lined canals and wealth of quirky cafes and bustling markets, charming and lively Amsterdam guarantees the visitor an unforgettable experience. A confident mix of old and new, the city features beautiful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and boasts some world-class museums, among them the moving and impressive Van Gogh Museum and the superb Rijksmuseum, home to some of the world’s finest artworks. Wind down from the excitement of Amsterdam with a trip to one of the many historic towns and villages scattered all around. Offering real reminders of the past, these towns-known collectively as the Golden Circle-include the gem-like Haarlem, which not only offers easy access to some wild and untamed stretches of dune and beach but also boasts fine cultural attractions in the Frans Hals Museum and the busy and exciting Grote Market. Don’t miss Edam, one of the Netherlands’ most appealing little villages. Experience its proud seafaring heritage and of course sample its world-renowned cheese before moving on to the countryside blessed with quaint windmills and fields and fields of tulips and other bulb flowers. Arrange an unforgettable sailing trip onboard a superbly maintained Dutch sailing ship and return to the green and fertile fens where the birdwatching opportunities are among the best in the entire country. Sample the quality and freshness of the local produce in a cosy restaurant or travel to one of the larger towns to spoil yourself with some international cuisine at a smart and fashionable bistro.
Pay a visit to this most stimulating of regions. Enjoy its history, culture, landscape and culinary delights, savouring the vitality of them all. Encapsulating everything good about the Netherlands, the Noord region is a genuine treasure-trove of delights and offers something for everyone.
Sample the magical maritime atmosphere of Zeeland, a spectacular region of the Netherlands formed by the delta of three rivers. Zeeland is blessed with clusters of islands and semi islands, making it an ideal destination for boat trips, fishing excursions, or simply strolling along the shoreline marvelling at the ever-changing view. With charming seaside villages and busy inland towns, a region is a place offering something for everyone and its flat landscape makes for a perfect bicycling experience.
By far the largest town in Zeeland is Middelburg. This affable town is a perfect base for exploring the surrounding areas and contains within its winding streets a number of picture-perfect areas capturing the essence and spirit of the Netherlands. Gain an impression of the history of the region by immersing yourself in the medieval history of the town and visiting some of its architecture, including the Abdijkerken, an abbey church dating from the 12th century that was severely damaged by bombing in the Second World War. Also worth visiting is the Wandel Kerk, whose interior contains an outlandish, outrageous tomb of admirals Jan and Cornelis Evertsen, killed in naval battle in 1666. Be sure to catch the weekly market, which takes place in the town centre every Thursday and features the local women vendors dressing in traditional Dutch costume and filling the air with their colourful cries and banter. Sample some of the local produce on offer and take a horse-drawn carriage journey through this busy and friendly town before setting off for the coastline just west of Middelburg. This area of Zeeland offers some of the finest beaches in the whole of the Netherlands. Take a walk along the gently undulating dunes or cycle along the beach at low tide, breathing the fresh sea air before settling down for a well-earned picnic in a secluded area in the nearby woods.
For a real treat, make the trip to Veere, a cosy little town steeped in maritime history. Here you can stroll through the harbour area packed with yachts and boats and enjoy a coffee in one of the many outdoor cafes and watch the comings and goings of this charming town. Make your way back along the coastline by bicycle or car and enjoy the ever-changing seascape as you proceed. Return to Middelburg and enjoy a quality meal in a local restaurant. Take time out to explore the surrounding areas with surprises at every turn in Zeeland, an admirable region blessed by the sea.
Zuid-Holland, (South Holland) Netherlands
With the very best that the Netherlands has to offer, the Southern province of Zuid Holland is a feast of culture, history, beautiful scenery and a scattering of small cities and large towns, including The Hague, Delft and Rotterdam. Birthplace of such artistic giants as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Jan Steen, the province is full of reminders of its past glories and features elaborate town halls and beautifully maintained mansions. Take a journey around this entertaining province, stopping off here and there to sample the delights and individual welcomes of the many gems of the Southern Netherlands.
Because this region is blessed with a smart and efficient train service, why not take a train journey around the many superb attractions located within a sort distance of each other. Stop off at demure and sophisticated The Hague, enjoying its outdoor ethos by taking a stroll along its canals and winding streets. Here you can visit some world-class museums, including the majestic Mauritshuis and the Haags Historisch Museum, or make a trip to visit one of the many royal residences in the city. Move on from what is known as Holland’s greenest city to cosy and historical Delft, one of the best-preserved towns in the whole of the Netherlands. A little jewel of a town known as the city of the princes, Delft is set within an intricate tapestry of canals, cobbled streets and pedestrian bridges and is sure to enchant with its laid-back attitude and warm welcome. For a change of gear, travel the short distance to Rotterdam, the gateway to Europe. This busy and exciting city offers something for everyone, including superb shopping, eating and drinking opportunities and the fantastic Boijmans-Van Beuningen Museum, one of the city’s great attractions featuring an enormous collection of paintings spanning the centuries. Get away from it all with a trip to some of the surrounding towns and enjoy the pastoral landscape and the friendly rural welcome.
Dine in style at one of The Hague’s renowned restaurants before setting out to explore its shopping opportunities, enjoy a picnic on the banks of one of Delft’s canals or spoil yourself with a coffee in one of its renowned grand cafes. Make the worthwhile trip to Rotterdam and experience a leisurely waterway excursion past the wharves, landings and docks on board a gently chugging ferryboat or sample some of the city’s excellent nightlife. The Southern Netherlands, where you really are spoilt for choice.
Hotels in Netherlands
Decent hotels can be found throughout every province of the Netherlands, ranging in standard from budget-friendly youth hostels and family-run bed and breakfasts to first-class luxurious establishments. What also makes the Netherlands such a great holiday destination is that nearly everyone speaks some English and is glad to assist visitors.
The Netherlands has excellent connections with all other parts of the globe, with most flight services arriving at and departing out of Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (AMS). The excellent and highly efficient railway network covers numerous cities and towns throughout the Netherlands. Buses are comfortable as well but only cover regional localities. Amsterdam’s public transportation network means that a tram, metro or city bus is normally not far away.