When I was eight we moved to The Hague, the seat of government of the Netherlands. The Hague is where I have lived almost all of my life. Nowadays, I live in Amstelveen. As a child my family and I used to visit France once a year. When I got older we travelled more extensively.
So as soon as my parents let me, I started to discover the world, one adventure at a time. On these adventures I used to bring my disposable camera. I photographed my parents and siblings, took ‘artistic’ shots of buildings in the cities and tried to capture nature in unique ways.
My love for photography grew. This disposable camera was exchanged for a digital camera and eventually a DSLR camera. My photography skills improved as I taught myself more through online courses.
Why Visit the Netherlands
Dutch society is independent and modern. We are pragmatic people. You can trust a Dutchie to tell it like it is – honest and straight to the point. It’s not meant to be rude, it’s just how we communicate. We live by schedules. Randomly stopping by someone’s home is not something that we do.
The Netherlands has a lot to offer: bustling cities, wonderful landscapes, age-old traditions and a rich history. It’s a country you can visit year-round. I especially love my country as it’s not that big and many of our highlights are close together. This allows you to visit several cities in a weekend/week.
My favourite place would have to be Texel. Home to white sand beaches, wildlife-rich reserves, sun-drenched forests and quaint villages. Need I say more? Texel is the largest and most visited of our Wadden Islands. It’s a paradise for beach-lovers with its 30 km of long sandy beaches.
Top 5 Attractions of the Netherlands
The Netherlands combines popular attractions with endless hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. You can spend weeks exploring the old windmills, tulip fields, national parks, romantic cities and unique architecture. Below are my top 5 attractions and hidden gems:
1. De Hoge Veluwe National Park, Gelderland
De Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the largest national parks in the country. Within its 5,400 hectares lies countless examples of rare wildlife species and some of the most iconic buildings in the Netherlands.
Many endangered species call this national park home such as moor frogs and grass snakes. The land is characterised by pine forests, grasslands and sand drifts. A must-see place here is the Kroller-Muller Museum which houses one of the largest Vincent van Gogh collections in the world.
2. Delta Works: Zeeland’s Spectacular Dikes
The Delta Works are a series of construction projects in the provinces of South Holland and Zeeland. These structures are hi-tech dams which control how much water enters the key estuaries from the North Sea.
These engineering projects have been called “One of the seven wonders of the modern world”. The area is beautiful too – home to wonderful beaches, stunning nature and fantastic gastronomy. The main attraction is the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge which is 8km in length. Such a unique sight!
3. De Haar Castle, Largest Castle in the Netherlands
De Haar Castle is located just outside of Utrecht and is the largest castle in Holland. This castle sprawls across a 250 acre park and the original site dates all the way back to the 14th century. It was restored over a 20 year period from 1892 to 1912 by the famous architect Pierre Cuypers.
The castle has amazing towers, turrets, moats, gates, bridges and gardens. Indeed, the gardens are just as luxurious and spectacular as the castle itself. Visitors can stroll through the gardens and take in the beautiful bodies of water, kitchen gardens and French-style gardens.
4. UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk
There are 19 windmills at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk that date from 1722 – 1761. This is the largest grouping of these types of windmills anywhere in the Netherlands. The ingenious system of windmills and pumping stations has kept the soil dry here for centuries now.
Kinderdijk is located 1.5 hours drive from Amsterdam and just 15 km east of Rotterdam. There are two main windmills that visitors can experience up close: museums Nederwaard and Blokweer. You can also watch a film in the secondary pumping station and engine room called Wisboom.
5. Keukenhof Flower Garden in Spring
Keukenhof is the largest and most famous flower park in the world known for its tulips. There are more than 7 million flowers that bloom here during the spring season (April and May). You can explore many gardens and four different pavilions which showcase a fantastic variety of flowers.
The gardens’ collection includes tulips, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and many other flowers. Of course, this destination is naturally a favourite spot for photographers who are simply overwhelmed by the colours and landscapes here. It’s a photographer’s paradise that’s for sure.
Top 5 Hidden Gems of the Netherlands
1. Amersfoort, The Cutest City in the Netherlands
Amersfoort is a cute little city that is truly one of the biggest surprises in the entire Netherlands. There are many charming medieval buildings here and a canal that runs right the way through the city. Everything is within walking distance which makes it a great city to visit even just for the day.
This is the type of place where you can go walking for hours and shop at the cute little boutiques, enjoy a coffee at the cafes, a meal at the restaurants and get lost in the streets. You can also visit The Mondriaan House, Museum Flehite and the Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren tower.
2. Alkmaar, The City of Cheese
Alkmaar is best known for its cheese market which is the oldest cheese market in the Netherlands. It has a lovely old city centre full of courtyards, canals and terraces that are guaranteed to surprise and delight.
The museums here are fantastic and include the Cheese Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Beatles Museum. I highly recommend a visit to all of these places. Visitors can also venture outside of the city for an afternoon or day trip where beaches and sand dunes are only 15 minutes away.
3. Charming Canal-Ringed Town of Delft
Delft is a charming town with historical monuments and medieval architecture. The city is famous because of a man called Johannes Vermeer (original name Jan Vermeer van Delft) who was a well-known painter.
Delft Blue is a type of earthenware that has become popular globally and originates from Delft. You can discover how this earthenware is made at the Royal Delft factory which has been producing blue pottery since the 16th century. The town is also known for its university.
4. Discover Amsterdams Neighbour, Haarlem
A city with an attractive city centre, museums, shops, restaurants and a beach just around the corner. Haarlem is a diverse place – ranging from hidden courtyards to trendy concept stores and from medieval churches to fancy restaurants. There’s never a shortage of things to do here.
Haarlem is just a short 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam and makes for a great addition to this city. It’s often referred to as a scaled-down version of Amsterdam. Best things to do include a visit to Teylers Museum, exploring the Grote Markt, seeing the Molen de Adriaan windmill and much more!
5. Visit Groningen, Vibrant University Town
Groningen is the largest university city in the north of Holland. You can feel the city’s youth and energy when you walk through the centuries-old streets. There’s always events and activities happening in this uni town.
This hidden gem of the Netherlands has beautiful monuments like the Martini Tower and a fantastic shopping, restaurant and bar scene. Food here tends to revolve around the sea as the town is situated on the coast of the Wadden Sea. Many restaurants and eateries serve delicious seafood!
Food of the Netherlands
Traditional Dutch cuisine is not particularly diverse but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. It’s very simple and straightforward. The traditional Dutch meal consists of a lot of vegetables accompanied with a little bit of meat.
However, every region and every city in the Netherlands has its typical specialties such as the Bossche bol from Den Bosch or Suikerbrood (bread) from Friesland. Traditionally, some dishes are enjoyed mainly in specific seasons like asparagus from Limburg and mussels from Zeeland.
My favorite Dutch foods are Stroopwafel and Bitterballen. A stroopwafel is a thin round waffle with syrup. A bitterbal is is a deep-fried meat ball with a lovely crust. This year the bitterbal was even elected a cultural heritage food. Don’t forget to try one of our famous Dutch cheeses too!
Travelling in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a small country with one of the best public transport systems in the world. Wherever you want to go, you can get there easily by train, bus, tram or ferry. It never takes long and virtually all of the highlights in Holland are within easy reach by public transport.
Along the way you can admire the unique Dutch landscape. When you arrive in a city, you nearly always get off in the city center and you’ll never have to worry about parking. For ‘bigger distances’ I recommend the train. Our country has an extensive railway network and the trains are modern.
Since our country is a relatively small place, you can travel from Amsterdam to Utrecht in just 30 minutes and from The Hague to Amsterdam Central Station in just 50 minutes. And even travelling all the way up north (Groningen) and down south (Maastricht) takes just two hours!
My Favourite Travel Memory
I have always loved the beach, so my happiest memories of traveling around the Netherlands were when I was at the beach. I especially have a lovely memory of visiting Texel – which is a place I also recommend.
My boyfriend and I watched the most mesmerizing sunset on the beach and made our way back to the hotel through the sand dunes where we saw loads of bunnies (rabbits). It couldn’t have been a better evening!
Need to Know Before you Go
Booking in advance can save you a headache, especially if you’re traveling to bigger cities like Amsterdam during peak season. Hotels in city centres usually get booked up in advance during summer and some attractions can see you spending hours in a queue if you don’t book online.
If you are looking for an innocent cup of caffeine and slice of banana bread, steer clear of coffee shops – those brownies aren’t the type you’re looking for! Instead, search for a cafe or type of lunchroom.
Be aware of the designated bike lanes which are painted red and have a symbol of a bike marking them. If you hear the ding of angry bells, quickly move off the lane – Dutch cyclists would rather hit you than stop.
Thanks for reading my Netherlands travel guide. If you have any questions or would like more information feel free to message me on Instagram!