The Netherlands is a small country with a big personality. The capital city of Amsterdam is eclectic and culturally diverse. Further, afield, you'll discover the quaint towns and lively cities that make it one of the most fascinating countries in Europe. From exploring Amsterdam to cycling through the picturesque Dutch countryside, you’ll never run out of things to do in the Netherlands. On your next trip, look beyond the normal tourist destinations and head to the lesser-known areas to experience everything the country has to offer.
Although Amsterdam is home to plenty of shops, cafés, and historic building, the main event in the capital city has always been the art. Amsterdam’s rich artistic heritage is world-famous, and the Dutch Golden Age of painting is celebrated to this day. Amsterdam is home to many famous artists, including Van Meer, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, and you can see works by each of them in the city. The two most famous museums to visit are the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijksmuseum is a national museum with work by Vermeer, Ruisdael, and Rembrandt. It’s also home to Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Night Watch." Spend a few hours admiring the collection before walking down the road to the Van Gogh Museum, where you can see many self-portraits as well as “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom."
Efteling is a fun, albeit slightly less academic, Dutch attraction. The biggest amusement park in the Netherlands, Efteling, is located just outside of the village of Kaatsheuvel. Spend the day saying hi to the gnomes and dragons, going on rides, enjoying the lush surroundings, and catching some live performances. There are plenty of different regions in the park, each based on a well-known myth or fairytale. Efteling is a lot of fun for kids and adults, and there are plenty of unique decorations and animatronics to keep you entertained for hours.
After you've seen Amsterdam, a trip to Utrecht is a must. The city is home to the inspiring 14th-century Castle De Haar - the largest in the Netherlands. Not only is the castle stunning, but the rooms are full of breathtaking art, traditional textiles, and antique furniture. After your tour, enjoy a picnic in the castle grounds. The 250-acre park is the perfect place to relax, and there are plenty of walking and cycling routes to enjoy while you’re there.
While you’re in the Netherlands, do what the Dutch do and hop on a bike! Bike riding is a way of life both for transportation and fun. The country is covered in bicycle routes, and you can visit every corner of it on a bike if you have the time and endurance. As a bonus, the Netherlands has an excellent bike rental scheme that makes renting super convenient and affordable. Explore cities or take a tour of the coast while getting exercise and experiencing the country like a local.
Head to the port city of Rotterdam to learn more about the Netherlands' maritime history. Not only is it the second-largest city in the country, but it’s also home to the historic Old Harbor, known locally as the Oude Haven. Oude Haven was established in the 1300s, making it the oldest in the country. Spend the afternoon strolling through the harbor and admiring the beautiful architecture before heading to the nearby Delfshaven, a hip neighborhood full of boutiques, cafés, and art galleries.
Dutch windmills are world-famous, and the place to see the best examples of them is Kinderdijk, a small village set along the Noord River. Apart from the idyllic countryside that surrounds the village, Kinderdijk is also home to nearly 20 windmills that date back to the 1700s. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the windmills are also the oldest in the country.
Head to the lesser-known Delft to see a quintessential Dutch market town. Delft is located right in between Rotterdam and The Hague, so it’s the perfect spot for a day trip when visiting either city. Stroll through the town and take advantage of the many cute shops and cafés. You can visit the historic Town Hall and even climb to the top of the Nieuwe Kerk to get a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. Make sure you visit on a Thursday so you can go to the weekly market.
The Garden of Europe, known in Dutch as Keukenhof Gardens, is one of the largest flower gardens in the world. The breathtaking space is located right in the middle of the famous Bulb region, where tulips grow, unlike anywhere else on earth. Hop in a boat and enjoy a tour of the grounds before finding the perfect spot for a picnic. For those of you with a green thumb, plan your trip for when a flower show or market is being held to have a truly memorable experience.
If Efteling made you feel like a gnome, Madurodam will have you feeling like a giant. Located in The Hague, Madurodam is a model-sized version of the Netherlands on a 1:25 scale. If you want to see the whole country, but only have a few hours to spend, this is the way to do it! Towering over the entire country, you’ll be able to see all of the important landmarks and cities, plus little windmills, bridges, and railways. There are even miniature canals with boats in them running through the cities. A trip to Madurodam is a surreal experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Villages don’t get much more idyllic than Marken. The small Dutch market town is extremely photogenic. Apart from seeing the traditionally built wooden houses, make sure you visit the Wooden Shoe Factory and pick up a pair of locally made clogs as a souvenir. Next, head to the Marken Museum to learn more about local traditions and history.