Contrary to popular belief, there are many things to do and see in the Netherlands besides Amsterdam. We have charming cities, medieval towns, nature parks, and megaliths; the women are beautiful; yes, we also have tulips, cheese, and windmills. Moreover, the country is small and mostly flat, making it easy to navigate if you want to cycle the entire length of the country.
Although the Netherlands is the country where I was born and raised, I have not seen everything there is to see. That is why I have asked some fellow travel bloggers to share their tips on sightseeing, activities and nature to add to some of mine.
Sightseeing and Activities in the Netherlands
Of course, this can’t be an exhaustive list. However, below, you will find many of the highlights. Click on the link in the markers below to see and read more about the place. And yes, if you were wondering, many of these trips can be made as day trips from Amsterdam.
IT IS ALL ABOUT FLOWERS
City breaks in the Netherlands
Rotterdam is second to none
Rotterdam is not only the second-largest city in the Netherlands, but it also has one of the most important harbours in the world. The city is famous for its modern architecture, international vibe, and accessibility. In addition, it has excellent public transport, waterways, and the iconic Erasmus Bridge.
- explore the food markets
- let the Second World War monuments touch your heart or
- if you want to go local, visit a coffee shop.
- Alternatively, book a private day trip to Rotterdam and the Kinderdijk windmills.
The Hague or Den Haag
The Hague, or in Dutch ‘Den Haag’, is after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the most important city in the country.
While The Hague is mainly known for being the home to the U.N. International Court of Justice and the Dutch government, it is also an excellent destination for a city break or a stop on a European adventure. This northern city in The Netherlands is home to some stunning architecture, fascinating galleries and museums and is one of few cities in Holland to be located on the coast. While it’s not considered a beach town in the same way as Barcelona or Nice, it still has a beautiful coastal atmosphere.
The architecture in The Hague is probably one of the best reasons for visiting this Dutch city, with buildings like the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk (St. James Church), the Noordeinde Palace (the king’s office), Binnenhof and the Peace Palace (picture below) all being must-sees. Thankfully, many of these buildings are located near each other in the historic quarter, making a whistle-stop tour of the top sights easy and inexpensive.
Art in The Hague is a big deal, with some world-renowned works by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Mesdag housed in galleries around the city. For example, the Mauritshuis Museum is home to the famous Girl With The Pearl Earring. At the same time, the Museum Mesdag features a 360-degree panoramic piece that allows you to step into the fishing village of Scheveningen in the 1800s!
Drink and Dine
Once you’re all cultured out, head to some of The Hague’s fabulous bars, cafés and restaurants to drink and dine the night away. The UNESCO-listed Passage’ is a lovely spot to enjoy a coffee, and the Haagse Market is the best place to pick up local produce and delicacies. Many bars around the Grote Markt, and the Van Kleef Distillery is a fantastic place to try gin and genever.
Or, if you want to combine as much as possible in one day, book a private tour of The Hague with a local guide.
By Chrysoula – Travel Passionate
Utrecht, the centre of the Dutch universe
Our favourite city in the Netherlands, Utrecht, is full of all the characters you get in Amsterdam but without the crowds. There’s so much to see in the beautiful city of Utrecht, from canal sidewalks to parks and woodland. Plenty of history and the quirky, old-world streets are picture-perfect.
Some of our favourite museums are in Utrecht, including the Miffy Museum. This is where author Dick Bruna came from, so a great place to indulge in everything to do with the sweet little rabbit. The impressive Speelklok Museum is full of musical instruments, including great travelling organs.
For some alternative fun, go on a quest around the city, searching for a monster by solving clues that will unlock stories.
On our trips to Utrecht, it’s always the city that makes us wish we had longer to linger there and explore some more. It’s beautiful.
By Nichola – Global mouse Travels
Utrecht is the most central city in the Netherlands. The main station is rather busy, with sixteen platforms and more than 176,000 passengers per day. In addition, the station is connected to Hoog Catharijne, a large shopping mall.
The Delft blues
We always love visiting the Netherlands, especially during the Spring. However, deciding what to see is often challenging with a vast array of little towns, cheese farms, sandy beaches, and family-friendly fun!
Delft was one of our favourite towns during our week-long trip to the Netherlands. But, of course, celebrating Kings Day (April 27th) might have been fun. Still, it is a beautiful quintessential town with flower-filled baskets lining the streets, towering historic churches, fabulous cafes, and warm people.
The Delft Market
If you decide to visit Delft, here is how to spend the day. Start with a coffee and snack from Kek near the market square. Then, wander over to the town square to admire the church on all sides. If there is a festival, this is where all the action will take place!
After a nice lunch (the pancakes are a favourite), head to the Delft Pauw factory, where you can see how the fabulous Delft pottery is created and hand-painted with intricate designs. It might not seem like a kid-friendly activity, but a great park is just down the road to play.
Check out more ideas on what to see and do with kids in the Netherlands.
By Chelsea Sipe – Pack More Into Life A family travel blog.
Eindhoven, the city of lights
In the south of the Netherlands, Eindhoven is the former home of Philips and the alma mater of many technical wizards who graduated from the Technical University. Although not the prettiest of cities, it is an exciting place to visit, if only because of its history. At the beginning of the last century, it was a small village with only a few hundred inhabitants. Then, the city became more extensive and more prominent due to the Phillips family, who started a factory in light bulbs.
Now ex-pats and international students flock here to work at one of the many tech firms, study at the Technical University or work as an industrial designer. The city has many excellent international restaurants, fascinating museums (Philips, DAF, Modern Art), and charming architecture. The gentrified old Philips factories in Strijp-S are fertile ground for industrial design, hip restaurants and alternative shops.
It is all about flowers
Flower Market Aalsmeer
Fans of tulips religiously head to Keukenhof in spring, but flower lovers can enjoy vast quantities of unique plants at any time in Aalsmeer. It is the home of Royal Flora Holland, the largest flower market globally. With its three auction houses (the most prominent being in Aalsmeer), the company handles 60 per cent of the world’s flower trade.
Flower trade in The Netherlands
Every day 45 million flower pieces change hands. Walking around the grounds is prohibited, but you can witness the amazingly efficient market operation from elevated walkways. One can observe how the deals conclude after gazing at the hectic traffic of the little flower carts. The flower brokers behind the glass windows of the trading area will remind us of the trading floor on Wall Street. The market even had its price crash: at the peak of the tulip mania, the price of flower bulbs skyrocketed, but tulip bulb prices collapsed abruptly in one day in 1637.
Aalsmeer is only about an hour from central Amsterdam by public transport, and the entry fee for Royal Holland is 8 euros. The market is open from Monday to Friday between 7-11 a.m. (Thursday only until 9 a.m.). The sooner you arrive, the more activity you can witness, so getting up early is worth seeing more action.
By Eva Kisgyorgy – Travellina
See tulips in the Keukenhof
Less than an hour from Amsterdam is one of the top attractions of the Netherlands in the springtime—Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. From mid-March to mid-May, over 1 million visitors see the colourful tulips for which the Netherlands is famous.
Many visitors don’t know that Keukenhof is much more than tulips. There are 1600 varieties of flowers, so no matter what time you visit and whether spring comes early or late, there are many types of roses, hyacinths, daffodils, and more to see across Keukenhof Gardens’ 80 acres.
Each year has a theme, and displays, sculptures, and flower beds are designed to accompany that theme around the park. Visitors will also find hands-on exhibits, workshops, and places for photographs, such as the famous windmill.
After visiting the gardens, rent a bicycle in the car park and explore the nearby flower fields. The commercial growers whose land surrounds Keukenhof have areas with big stripes of purple, white, and all the rainbow colours. And they smell fantastic. There are loops from 5 km to 25 km that you can explore.
Get to Keukenhof via public transportation if you don’t have a car. Visitors can catch a special shuttle from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Haarlem Station, and Central Station Leiden.
By Laura Longwell – Travel Addicts
To read more about the Keukenhof, click here.
Nature at its best
Biesbosch Nature Reserve
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about The Netherlands, but its nature is diverse and truly stunning. A great example is Nature Reserve De Biesbosch, a river delta with creek and willow forests. It is the largest freshwater tidal area in Europe. Thanks to its connection with the sea, the water level changes by about 70 to 80 cm due to the tide. Freshwater creeks and rivers influenced by tides are rare, even worldwide.
Beavers in the Biesbosch
The most famous inhabitant of the area is the beaver. After their extinction in 1826, they were reintroduced in 1988. The population currently stands at over 250. The rodent is the pride and joy of De Biesbosch, so try to spot one at a beaver hot spot or during a beaver walking tour. To get the ultimate experience, you can even camp in a beaver lodge!
The area is now a nature and recreational park, so De Biesbosch is excellent for walking and biking. However, the best way to absorb the feeling is from the water. You can either go on an electrical cruise (the whisper boat!) or rent a canoe. It is also a perfect location for a family holiday, as kids will love the wooden boardwalks and adventurous paths (but leave your stroller at home and take the baby carrier with you!)
By Babs – travel gear for kids
Visit Texel, one of the Wadden islands.
Located around two hours by train from Amsterdam, Texel Island could be a nice day or a weekend trip from the Dutch capital. You can take a train to Den Helder and a ferry to Texel Island from there. The best way to get around Islandland is on a bicycle. You can take your own or rent one when on Texel. Bicycle paths are everywhere, so getting around on one is charming.
The most important place on Texel is Den Burg village. It’s centrally located and a great place to start your trip. There are many cafes and restaurants and a tourist office.
Ecomare seal shelter and nature museum
One of the most exciting places on Texel Island is Ecomare. It’s a seal shelter and a nature museum. They take care of sick or wounded seals and protect them. Once they are healed, they are brought back to the North Sea. EcoIslands are located in the western part of the Island, where the Dunes of Texel National Park are. You can cycle through beautiful nature there.
The variety of the Texel landscape is unique comparIslandh the rest of the Netherlands. The Island also has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Netherlands, with a fantastic combination of white sand and a dark blue sea. It’s perfect for surfers! Many restaurants are there, so you can spend the whole day just by staying at a beach.
With its beautiful nature, many child-friendly places and Ecomare seal shelter, Texel Island is a great place to visit during your trip to the Netherlands.
By Tea – Culture Tourist
Three countries point – Drielandenpunt Vaals
Want to spend the day outdoors and visit three countries simultaneously? Then, you can do just that at the Three Countries Point or, as they say in the Netherlands: ‘het Drielandenpunt’. Located in the very south of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg, the Three Countries Point is precisely what one might expect – a point where three countries share a border. Also called a “tri-point”, the spot in the south of the Netherlands is shared with Germany and Belgium!
To get there, you can head to the small town of Vaals, NL (close to the German city of Aachen) and make your way to the point via car or walking trails. You might make it a day trip from Maastricht if you are in the area!
The area is very rural – making it great for hiking, biking, bird-watching, photography, and enjoying fresh air. Given the high elevation (which is still relatively flat, but for the Netherlands, it’s high), you can climb several lookout towers for a fee. These towers – one in the Netherlands and one in Belgium – allow for amazing views of the rolling countryside below.
There is a stone monument with flags at the actual three countries’ point, and the borders are laid out on the ground so you know which country you are in! The whole area around the point is made for visitors – with several restaurants, cafes, and patios to relax on. There are even attractions for kids, like the Labyrinth Drielandenpunt – a giant, challenging hedge maze!
By Eric and Lisa – Penguin and Pia
Borderline at the Meinweg national park
The Netherlands is one of my favourite countries for its open-minded, intelligent people and beautiful landscapes. One place you’ve probably never heard of, which is worth visiting if you’re in the area, is Vlodrop. Nestled in the Southeast corner of the country, about 40 minutes by car from Maastricht, you will find the sleepy town of Vlodrop. But the natural attraction is just up the road to the De Meinweg National Park. It is a seemingly enchanted forest with exciting flora like heather fields and rare fauna like the common adder and blindworms. There are also wild deer and boars, which are always exciting to encounter. In 2002 Meinweg became part of the Maas-Swalm-Nette Park, a protected area between Germany and the Netherlands.
Relax in the forest
A popular place to stay within the forest called The Boshotel is a great way to relax and unwind from the world. Further up the road, deeper into the national park, is the former residence of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was guru to The Beatles. He set up his university there on a small campus, and to this day, they regularly hold courses on meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda. And last time I was there, they had campus tours available every Sunday afternoon. Vlodrop is a quiet place, but the peace you will feel walking through that forest, especially in the Spring and Summer, will be a magical experience.
By Asher – Asher & Lyric
Feel like the king of the castle at Bourtange
Bourtange is a fortress town east of the Netherlands, right at the border with Germany in Groningen province. However, the term “fortress town” doesn’t do it justice. With fewer than 100 residents, this village is surrounded by an extensive system of earthen walls, restored to their 1742 appearance. Not only that, but the walls are star-shaped. The effect is fascinating and makes for a lovely day out.
Fortress of the 80 Years War
The fortress dates back to the Eighty Years War (1566-1648) when Prince Willem of Orange ordered a series of forts along the border with Germany, hoping to cut off Spain’s supply lines. It was marshy land at the time, and this was one of the few places with solid ground. After centuries of neglect, Bourtange was restored in the 20th century.
Make sure to walk around the village along the top of the wall, admiring the moat surrounding it and the concentric earthen walls beyond that. Looking toward the town, you’ll see a cluster of tiny brick houses, a windmill, a church, and various ex-military buildings such as barracks. Descend from the wall and walk toward the cobbled plaza at the centre of the star-shaped village; there, you can sit in a sidewalk café under a tree and enjoy the scene. Several museums, including a synagogue and a preserved 17th-century captain’s house, are also worth seeing. You can read more about it at Rachel’s Ruminations.
By Rachel – Rachel´s Ruminations
Dolmens of Drenthe
A dolmen, or a Hunebed as it is called in the Netherlands, is a megalithic tomb built in the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were typically covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow.
The ‘hunebedden’ are an emblem of the province of Drenthe. They were created by peasant tribes 5000 years ago. 54 of these graves have stood the test of time. Each passage grave is a tomb made from enormous, solid stones. The stones were left behind after the penultimate ice age and weigh up to 40 tons each (source).
Leiden and the Dutch Golden Age
Located only a 40-minute train ride from Amsterdam, Leiden is a quaint college town rich in Dutch history. The city of Leiden is known explicitly for being Rembrandt van Rijn’s birthplace, the place of Pilgrim settlement before sailing to the Americas, and the battleground for sieges and attacks throughout history.
The Dutch revolt against the Spanish in the 1570s is now celebrated as a holiday called ‘Leiden ontzet. Every October, the city celebrates the victory against the Spanish. This annual festival is held on 3rd October or 4 October. This is also an excellent time to taste a typical Dutch food: raw herring.
Leiden is also home to a surprisingly large number (and variety) of museums. Are you interested in the history of other countries? Be sure to check out the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden). The museum has a vast collection of antiquities from Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome. In addition, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, and the Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde) are excellent.
If you’re a fan of Rembrandt van Rijn, check out his memorial at Rembrandtpark. There is a statue of him and a mural commemorating his life. The park also has a great view of Molen de Put, one of the famous windmills in the city. Molen de Valk is another visit-worthy spot. You’ll learn so much about how windmills work inside this museum!
Leiden is a unique city worth a day trip from Amsterdam Or better yet, take a weekend trip to Leiden to experience more of the town.
By Constance – The Adventures of Panda Bear
Hoorn is another beautiful medieval city that you should visit in The Netherlands. It is located on the edges of one of the biggest lakes of The Netherlands, the Markermeer and is a typical fishing town in Noord-Holland. One great thing about visiting Hoorn is its location.
Hoorn is only a 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam, but the countryside surrounds it and the fact that not many tourists visit Hoorn, while there are plenty of things to see. Think of visiting the cheese market of Hoorn during summer or the Westfries Museum, where you can discover the good and bad parts of the VOC and the Golden Age for The Netherlands and the colonies.
And when you’re done exploring Hoorn for one whole day, it’s easy to sit back and relax with a drink at one of the many terraces. Enjoy the atmosphere and watch the sunset in the Markermeer to finish a special day in one of the many beautiful cities in The Netherlands.
Manon – Visiting The Dutch Countryside
Alkmaar cheese market
Alkmaar is in the province of North Holland- only about 30 minutes from Amsterdam by train. It is most famous for its Cheese Market, where they show you how cheese used to be traded many years ago.
It all started in 1365, and the tradition of cheese and the cheese market in Alkmaar continues to delight visitors today. Tradition is everything here! There are many roles within a cheese market, and each person is essential. The most fun thing is watching the men run back and forth with the special carriers and witness boats full of cheese go down the canal. Don’t forget to pop into a cheese shop and taste some. Then, if you want to take some back to your home country, let them know so it can be adequately packaged.
Alkmaar is a city perfect for strolling. Take in all the Dutch architecture possible as you cross bridges and meander through the small streets while keeping out of the way of cars and bikes. If you are so inclined, this is an excellent place for a bit of a boat tour. Getting a different perspective of any city is lovely, and Alkmaar is no different.
To book a tour through Alkmaar and the cheese market, click here.
By Jessica Cutrufello – A Wanderlust For Life
Frau Antje is a ‘typical’ Dutch girl used in advertising cheese (and other dairy products). She dressed in custom-made regional attire, which resembles a traditional look. Frau Antje was ‘born’ in 1959 (source Wikipedia). Since this year (2019), she is accompanied by ‘Herr Hans’, a boy serving cheese.
The job of a cheese carrier is still a man’s job, as the cheeses weigh up to 150 kilos.
De Rijp, just one short bus ride away from Central Station
The BEEMSTER was the first of the great lakes to dry up in 1612, and De SCHERMER the last in 1635. Here, historic villages such as DE RIJP, where herring fishing and whaling brought prosperity in the 17th century, beautiful town halls, (pack) houses and churches.
The island on which the villages are located is now known as the wetland bird pasture area, the Eilandspolder. The ideal place to make beautiful walks and bike rides over the old dikes. Unfortunately, the Eilandspolder itself only has waterways accessible for whisper boats, canoes or excursion boats.
The Hanseatic League
Strung along the river IJssel, you will find the medieval cities of Hasselt, Kampen, Zwolle, Hattem, Deventer, Zutphen, Elburg, Harderwijk and Doesburg.
¨The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe. Hanse, later spelled as Hansa, was the Old High German word for a convoy, and this word was applied to bands of merchants traveling between the Hanseatic cities – whether by land or by sea¨ (source Wikipedia).
Explore the area by boat or ‘go Dutch’ and cycle the route.
Thanks to Adri Hulshoff for the suggestion.
Time travel to the Zaanse Schans
Within one hour, travel to a 16th-century European countryside by bus no—391 from the Amsterdam central station. Wooden windmills dotted along the Zaans River, green paddy fields and colourful wooden houses – that’s Zaanse Schans for you.
Zaanse Schans is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is the birthplace of some of the most significant Dutch entrepreneurial ventures of the 16th and 17th centuries. This period is called the Golden Era of Zaanse Schans, as it became one of the planet’s most significant productions and trading hubs. Its advanced production technology with windmills at its centre and the trade route through the Zaans River brought prosperity to Zaanse Schans.
In the Zaans museum, you will be taken on a virtual tour of life in the countryside over centuries, how the windmills came into being and became an integral part of the “Zaans identity”. The audiovisual entertainment, paintings and artefacts, and workshops for cookie and chocolate making make it one of the best museums I have ever visited.
But even if you skip it, you can still spend the day basking in the natural beauty and watching birds and cattle in the field. You can also take a tour inside one of the functioning wooden windmills, climb up the stairs to the top to get panoramic views of the place or hire a boat to sail on the river. So make sure to include this day trip in your Amsterdam itinerary.
By Sinjana Ghosh – Backpack & Explore
Thanks, Tanja Sleeuwenhoek, for the following suggestions:
- De Rijp
- Enkhuizen, when travelling with children, do visit the Zuiderzeemuseum. Revive the stories of people who once lived on the shores of this town. See, hear, taste and smell everyday life around the Zuiderzee as it was before the big dam Afsluitdijk changed the sea into Lake IJsselmeer.
- Edam is a lovely historic town on the IJsselmeer and close to Amsterdam. Combine your visit to Edam with The Zaanse Schans and Volendam.
- Marvel at one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in the Netherlands, the Muider Castle, only 16 km away from Amsterdam. Buy your ticket to Muider Castle here.
- Naarden is a fortified town not far from Amsterdam.
- And, of course, Hindeloopen. A bit further away. But excellent day trip.
Is there more?
What do you think? Has this blog covered the most important places? I know missing Valkenburg, Maastricht, Haarlem, and Giethoorn are missing for sure.
Did I miss more?
Please let me know, mail me, or in a reaction below or via social media.
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