Holland is a great country to travel to and should be on the list of every self respecting traveler. The country has a wide variety of cultural and historical sites, a very typical flat landscape and an international, open-minded and welcoming population. The country is small and most of its highlights are easily reached by public transport within two hours from capital city Amsterdam. Here are 10 suggestions on what to do during your visit to The Netherlands:
Amsterdam is world famous and has a reputation of being sort of a sin city. While it is true that you can find things here not found anywhere else in the world, note that Amsterdam is far more than sex, drugs & partying like there is no tomorrow.
The city’s center still displays the same beautiful merchant buildings like it has done for hundreds of years, with a lot of the buildings dating back to the 17th century. The museums are filled with art of “golden age” world famous painters and the canals are still as beautiful as they have ever been.
When you plan your trip around the end of April you will have the joy to experience Queensday. On this day The Netherlands explode in an immense national party and almost a million people come to Amsterdam to visit markets, enjoy the music, drink and dance and simply celebrate being Dutch. Dress code: Orange.
Riding a bicycle is something you simply have to do during a visit to The Netherlands. You will find the most bicycles per person there and cyclists even have their own lanes on most of the roads. Riding your bicycle into the countryside is a popular past time for Dutch people and tourists alike so it will not be difficult for you to arrange a relaxing day on a bike.
The colorful flowers of Holland are unique in the world and every year tourists fly in from all over the world to see them. Note that most of the flowers bloom in spring from March to May, with the best month being April. At “De Keukenhof” you can find the best flowers beautifully decorated in a very “touristic” setting. If you don’t feel like joining the queue with hundreds of Japanese tourists you can simply take the train to the area where the flowers are grown (Bollenstreek) and walk or cycle in between the fields.
Not far from Amsterdam you can find an area with all the stereotype images of The Netherlands combined: a flat rural land with dikes, clogs, windmills, flowers and wooden houses. A famous destination is “De Zaanse Schans”, an open air museum, and Volendam, a traditional fishing village. The area is a bit touristy and commercialized like so many tourist highlights around the world but if you are lucky you do get to wear Dutch traditional clothing!
The Hague is the governmental city of The Netherlands. Here the Royal Palace, the Parliament buildings, embassies and ministries can be found. Next to these national institutions you can also find the International Court of Law, and every other international organization that takes itself seriously. The city is laid-back and hosts great museums, architecture and all sorts of restaurants.
A popular site in The Hague is Madurodam, often referred to as “Little Holland”. This is a large open air museum where you can see all the major architectural buildings in Holland in small duplicated scale models.
A large part of The Netherlands lies below sea level and to prevent the water from reclaiming the land, massive water managements plans have been put into action.
The enormous endeavors The Dutch have had to undertake in their fight against the water are best seen at the Delta Works in the south of the country.
When you are fan of the Dutch old city centers be sure to visit Haarlem, Delft and/or Leiden. They are all within an hour travel from Amsterdam and all have their own historic centers with canals and ancient buildings.
Maastricht is something else. It is a beautiful city in the south of the country and is very different from the flat and windmill filled image most people have of Holland. The landscape is hilly and life is at a slower pace and in a more French style, with people enjoying great food and wines.
To really experience something found nowhere else in the world, try to do some Boerengolven (Farmer’s Golf). Instead of Green’s and Birdie’s you will have cows, ditches and big holes in the ground. You will be hitting the ball with a clog on a stick and the pair who is best capable of avoiding the cow dung and barb wire can call themselves the winners.
Festival season is always highly anticipated by the Dutch (younger) crowds. From the end of May until the end of September (around the Dutch summer) you can find a large festival at least ones a week in different parts of the country. The “smaller” ones have about 10.000 visitors while the larger ones have more than 60.000 visitors and last for three days. The most festivals host electronic house music with the best Dj’s in the world, but there are also a lot of Alternative and rock festivals. The Dutch will throw a festival for basically everything so for sure you will be able to find something of your liking.
While you would not necessarily think about going to the beach when visiting Holland, note that on a sunny day the Dutch go to the beach by the hundreds of thousands. There are some great boulevards around with beach-side bars, restaurants and great parties on the weekends. Best and busiest beaches are Scheveningen (The Hague) and Bloemendaal (west of Amsterdam).