The Netherlands is a fascinating country to visit, combining almost two thousand years of history and architecture with endless scenic canals and waterways. Ancient towns like Breda, Maastricht, and Middelburg have been in existence for at least a thousand years. If you love flowers, you should plan your visit for spring or early summer when the famous tulips put on their spectacular show of color.
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The quaint town of Alkmaar can trace its origins back to around 900AD and is an interesting destination for anyone interested in Dutch history and architecture. At one time, the town was an important agricultural hub – farmers used to come from far and wide to sell their produce in a floating auction house, the Broeker Veiling Museum, which is a must-see on your itinerary. Other interesting attractions include the Piet windmill, one of the original ten windmills that stood along the town walls, the Weighing House, and the Cheese Museum on the Market Square. Try to visit on a Friday when the cheese market is re-enacted for tourists. Close by you can visit the National Beer Museum, located in an interesting building dating back to the 1600's.
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Amsterdam is not only the cultural heart of the Netherlands but also one of the most interesting cities to explore in Europe. Art enthusiasts can lose themselves for days in a large variety of museums, including the Rembrandt House Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Hermitage Museum (a branch of the famous St. Petersburg Hermitage in Russia), and the modern art Stedelijk Museum, while children and science enthusiasts will love the Nemo Science Museum. For a change of pace, you can take a boat tour of the famous Amsterdam canals to see the city's famous narrow houses from a different perspective. Amsterdam is extremely easy to navigate by public transport, boat, or bicycle or on a free walking tour, and it offers year-round festivals to suit all interests.
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Arnhem is a delightful old town located on the site of a previous Roman settlement. The town provides an ideal springboard for exploring the Gelderland province and has a lot of history to showcase. You can start by visiting some of the area's most interesting museums such as the Netherlands Open Air Museum (showcasing Dutch history), the Airborne Museum Hartenstein (to learn about the WWII Battle of Arnhem), the Kroller Muller Museum (van Gogh and a sculpture garden), and the Wine Museum. You can get outdoors and active in the National Park de Hoge Veluwe, where you can explore by free-to-use bicycles. Arnhem also has a very interesting old city center that you can tour on foot to see several examples of 15th century architecture and parts of the old town walls.
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Located in the North Brabant province, Breda is a fascinating medieval city that is a must-see attraction for visitors interested in history and architecture. The once-fortified town has always occupied an important strategic position, and some of the highlights you can see in the extremely well-preserved historic center include the Breda Castle, the Gothic Grote Kerk (dating back to 1290 and boasting an impressive 97m tower), the Begijnhof, and Spaniard's Hole. The Port Quarter boasts a number of ancient storehouses and the Gastespoort, one of Breda's three medieval gates. The town also has a number of interesting museums, including the Begijnhof Museum and the Breda Museum housed in a 17th century Meat Hall. For a breath of fresh air you can go walking, hiking, or cycling in Mastbos, a lovely woodland near the Bouvigne Castle.
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Occupying a unique position at the confluence of several rivers, De Biesbosch National Park encompasses the largest freshwater tidal delta in Europe. De Biesbosch provides a wonderful back-to-nature experience for wildlife watchers and a marvelous outdoor playground for hikers, walkers, cyclists, and boating enthusiasts. You can rent a boat or canoe to explore the maze of streams and canals frequented by dozens of beavers and water birds or join a guided canoe tour from one of the three visitor's centers. Guided birding walks and hiking excursions are available year round. If you would like to stay for a few nights, you can book into the Ecolodge or try Glamping. Nearby attractions include Holland's oldest city Dordrecht and the windmills of Kinderdijk.
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Located in the west of the Netherlands, Delft is a picturesque little town whose historic downtown area encircled by canals makes it a favorite with history buffs and photography enthusiasts. The town is famous for its blue-and-white Delftware crockery and for being the birthplace of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer who is buried in the Oude Kerk. You can easily explore the compact Historic Town Center on foot to visit the Oude Kerk (13th century), the lively town square and the Niewe Kerk (which is not so new – it was built in 1496!). There are some interesting museums to explore, including the Science Center Delft, the Delft Historic Tobacco Museum, the Vermeer Delft Museum, and the Paul Tetar van Elven Museum, which showcases Delftware.
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The historic small town of Edam is located just 30 minutes from Amsterdam and was founded in the 12th century. You can take a step back in time as you stroll along the pleasant streets lined with authentic 17th century buildings. The town's main claim to fame is for being the producer of Edam cheese, which has been exported all over the world for centuries. Until 1922, farmers from all over the Netherlands traveled to Edam to sell their cheeses, and today the cheese market is re-enacted as a tourist attraction every Wednesday during the summer months. Other must-see attractions include the Edam Museum, (located in a beautiful house built in the 1540's), de Kaaswaag (cheese weighing house), and the 15th century Grote Kerk Cathedral.
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The Dutch city of Eindhoven is an energetic and exciting place to visit, boasting more than its fair share of innovation, creativity, technology, and design. You can spend hours exploring the many city museums that cater to all tastes – try the Van Abbemuseum (modern and contemporary art), the fascinating Philips Museum (science and medical innovation), the Brabant Soccer Museum or Heritage Park, where you can tour life-size local farmsteads and houses from the Middle Ages and beyond. If you are interested in design you can do a two-hour design-themed city walk, and you can also discover the highlights of the city on a cycle tour or a guided walking tour. There are many enjoyable and educational activities for visitors travelling with children.
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Imagine the tranquility of spending a few days in a peaceful Dutch village surrounded by scenic waterways and canals. The centuries-old village of Hiethoorn is almost completely devoid of roads, and many houses can only be reached by boat or by making your way along a footpath or bicycle trail – bike rentals available in the village. As you can imagine, boating is the primary activity in Giethoorn, and you have a number of options for renting a suitable boat to explore the area. You can spend a peaceful day or two gliding along the canals, stopping at the many waterside restaurants to sample some regional Dutch food and drinks. There are three canal-side museums to visit, showcasing ancient Dutch life, vintage motor cars, and precious gemstones.
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Like Edam, Gouda is best-known for the world famous cheese that has been produced in the region and sold in the city for centuries. Foodies should not miss the chance to visit Gouda on a Thursday (April to August) when the city re-enacts the age-old cheese market for visitors to enjoy. You can look forward to a full day of fun, including cheese auctioning, cheese weighing, cheese-making exhibitions, and High Cheese at the Cheese Museum. Other activities include tastings with beer and wine, canal cruises, and much more. The city has an excellent Historic Center you can explore on a guided walking tour, and there are a host of museums and interesting attractions for children.
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The lively university town of Groningen is located near the coast in the extreme northern corner of the Netherlands. If you love history, art, and culture you will enjoy spending a few days exploring some of Groningen's unique museums, which include all things arty at the Groningen Museum, the unique Netherlands' Strip Museum (chronicling the history of the comic strip), the Graphic Museum, the Nautical Museum, and the Tea Museum. You can also visit some of Groningen's eighty surviving mills (flour mills, water mills, saw mills, etc), explore a few of the city's ancient churches and climb to the viewing gallery of the 500-year-old Martini Tower.
12.Hoge Verluwe National Park
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During your visit to the towns and cities of the Netherlands, you can take some time out to commune with nature in the Hoge Verluwe National Park. Pick up some helpful maps and find out which activities are on offer at the Visitors' Center. The park safeguards and showcases a wide variety of flora and fauna you can discover as you walk, hike, or cycle through the wide open spaces – free-to-use white bicycles are available. The park offers guided safaris with a park warden, and in June and July, you have the chance to go on a night safari and sleep under the stars. In addition to wildlife, the park is also home to the historic Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, which was formerly the country home of one of the Netherlands' foremost families.
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Although the Dutch town of Leeuwarden lies a little off the usual tourist routes, it can be reached in less than two hours from Amsterdam, making it a viable option for an interesting day trip or overnight excursion. Leeuwarden has an interesting and well-preserved Historic Center where you can go on a walking tour to see some excellent examples of historic Dutch architecture, including the Blokhuispoort and the Oldehove. There are plenty of places to eat and drink as well as some good museums and galleries, including the Fries Museum (showcasing Friesland) and the Het Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics. For shopping, you can head to Klein Kerkstraat, which is voted the best shopping street in the country.
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The attractive city of Leiden (aka Leyden) is located south of Amsterdam in the heart of Holland's famed tulip growing region, which attracts thousands of tourists each year in April when acres of tulips light up the landscape. Leiden has many attractions for you to uncover during your visit, including several historic churches, the Town Hall, the Weigh House, and one of the last remaining local windmills that is now operated as a museum. Much of the center of the city is located around the Blaawpoorts Harbor, and boating and canal boat tours are very popular. You can feast on fresh seafood, visit some unusual museums, and then head to the spectacular Keukenhof Gardens (spring to summer only) to feast your eyes and learn all about tulips.
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Spring and summer are definitely the most popular times to visit Lisse in the famed Flower Bulb Region of western Holland, where these seasons provide a startling display of tulips in just about every color you can imagine. Such is their splendor that no photo can fully capture the moment – you just have to see it all for yourself. You can explore the colorful fields of flowers by bicycle and then visit Keukenhof Gardens, one of the world's largest flower gardens that is only open during spring and early summer when the tulips are flowering. If you visit Lisse during autumn and winter, you can spend some time visiting the coastal towns of Katwijk and Noordwijk and do some hiking through the sand dunes.
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Located at the southern tip of the Netherlands, the lively university town of Maastricht perfectly combines great medieval architecture with a trendy modern atmosphere. History buffs will enjoy the well-preserved Historic Old Town complete with cobbled streets, the Gothic Sint Janskerk (climb the prominent red tower for wonderful views), and the Romanesque Basilica of St. Servatius. At the opposite end of the style spectrum, the futuristic Bonnefanten Art Museum is a treat for all art enthusiasts. Other highlights of the town include St. Peter's Fortress and St. Peter's Caves, the Casemates of Maastricht (a network of defensive underground tunnels), and the Bisschopsmolen, the oldest working windmill in Holland.
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Dating back to the 9th or possibly the late 8th century, the fortified town of Middelburg is one of the oldest towns in Holland and was originally established to withstand Viking attacks. The town is full of interesting architecture you can admire as you take a walking tour around Spaniaardstraat and Singelstraat. The very impressive Gothic Town Hall dominates the central market (Markt), and other architectural gems can be found in the Kuiperspoort area. For a change from architecture, you can visit the Zeeuws Museum and the Abbey Tower of Long John (for a birds-eye view of the town). Families can have fun at the Mini Mundi amusement park and the petting zoo at the Kinderboerderij de Klepperhoeve.
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Located in the province of Gelderland near the German border, Nijmegen is another of the Netherland's historical and architectural gems that recently celebrated its two thousand year anniversary. You can reach the compact Historic Town Center in just 10 minutes after leaving the station and take a self-guided walking tour to see most of the highlights, including the Waag (Weighing House) on the Grote Markt (Market Square), Sint Stevenskerk, the Latin School, the Stadhuis (Town Hall), and the medieval Marienburg Chapel. At the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama, you can see over 250 vintage and modern bicycles, while the Museumpark Orientalis has an extensive collection of religious exhibits. Children will love a visit to the near-by Tivoli Amusement Park.
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Rotterdam is a major port city located in the south of the Netherlands. Severely damaged during WWII, much of the city has been rebuilt and is now known for its modern and innovative architecture – add the following buildings to your must-see list: Rotterdam Central Station, De Markthal, De Rotterdam, the Erasmusbrug and the towering Euromast, which offers panoramic views from its 100m viewing deck. History buffs can take a walking tour around historic Delftshaven, which survived the war almost unscathed. You can combine food and culture on a Bike and Bite food tour, hop aboard de Tenders at Leuvehaven for a 30-minute cruise tour or take the children to have the time of their lives at De Ballebak playground, the Rotterdam Zoo, and the Climbing Park Fun Forest.
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Texel is the largest of the Frisian Islands located off the mainland of northern Holland, offering visitors a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy. You can hire a bicycle to explore the villages, towns, and the 30-kilometer coastline, which has some of the best sandy beaches in the world. During the warm summer months, you can enjoy swimming, surfing, kite sailing, windsurfing, and catamaran sailing, while the children can hunt seashells and build sand castles. The island is dotted with interesting museums and landmarks to keep you busy on rainy days – try the Whaler's Cottage, the Aviation and Wartime Museum, the Shipwreck and Beachcombing Museum, and the Local History Museum. Each of the little towns and villages offer interesting shopping and dining options.
21.The Hague (Den Haag)
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The Hague is located in South Holland and is the seat of the Dutch Government, the Parliament, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court. The Hague perfectly combines old and new with a striking modern skyline and a wealth of historic buildings you can visit, including the lovely Peace Palace, which housed the International Court of Justice. You can take your pick from over 30 museums to visit, including the Mauritshuis Art Museum where you can see examples of many of the Dutch and Flemish Masters. Families can have hours of fun at Madurodam (miniature city) and the Duinrell Amusement Park. The city also offers vibrant nightlife and excellent shopping.
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Located in central Netherlands, the medieval city of Utrecht is today a vibrant and bustling university town with a great deal to offer visitors. The city is filled with picturesque canals and wharfs as well as many medieval buildings you can easily explore on foot in the compact old town; free walking tours are available. The city has many interesting museums, starting with the Railway Museum, Speelklok Museum (musical instruments), and Centraal Museum for local history, art, and fashion. Garden enthusiasts can visit the Utrecht University Botanical Garden, Fort Hoofddijk, Oude Hortus, and De Haar medieval castle and gardens. Don't leave the city without climbing to the top of the Dom Tower for amazing views.
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Venlo lies on the Netherlands/German border in the south east of the country and was once an important trading town. Much of the city's historic old town was destroyed during WWII, but there are still a few remaining buildings you can visit today, including the City Hall and Romer House, both of which date back to at least 1520. Art lovers can look forward to a treat at the Museum van Bommel van Dam, which is the Dutch Museum of Modern Art, while the Limburg's Museum of Natural History has many educational interactive exhibits for all ages. For some outdoor exercise you can go hiking, walking, or cycling in the National Park de Groote Peel and enjoy wildlife watching in the National Park Maasduinen.
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Volendam is a delightful typically Dutch fishing village located just 12 kilometers north of Amsterdam. The village features on several day-tours from Amsterdam, or you could jump on a train and be there in under an hour. The lovely old harbor is packed full of old Dutch ships, and some of the prime tourist activities include dressing up in regional costume, trying on wooden clogs, and having your photo taken against the iconic Dutch backdrops the town provides. You can also take a boat trip to the island of Marken to see how the traditional wooden Dutch clogs are made and to admire the typical wooden houses. Cheese and fish are always in fashion in Volendam, and you should not leave without tasting some local delicacies.
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History buffs will find plenty to interest them in the ancient Dutch city of Zwolle, which was settled around 800 and stands on the site of early Bronze Age and Roman settlements. There are several interesting buildings that date back to around 1440 in the Historic Center, and you can download an app to guide you on a walking tour. A mighty defensive wall that once boasted 23 sturdy towers surrounds the entire city – the impressive Sassenpoort is the most well-preserved of the remaining towers. Museum lovers can spend a few pleasant hours in the Museum de Fondatie (modern art) and the Bonami Speelcomputer Museum, which will appeal to everyone interested in computers. There are plenty of places to stop for a drink or a meal.
25 Best Places to Visit in the Netherlands
- Alkmaar, Photo: Courtesy of lamio - Fotolia.com
- Amsterdam, Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com
- Arnhem, Photo: Courtesy of vivalapenler - Fotolia.com
- Breda, Photo: Courtesy of rgvc - Fotolia.com
- De Biesbosch, Photo: Courtesy of Klaus Rose - Fotolia.com
- Delft, Photo: Courtesy of lamio - Fotolia.com
- Edam, Photo: Courtesy of daumy - Fotolia.com
- Eindhoven, Photo: Courtesy of bbsferrari - Fotolia.com
- Giethoorn, Photo: Courtesy of Miroslawa Drozdowski - Fotolia.com
- Gouda, Photo: Courtesy of rob3rt82 - Fotolia.com
- Groningen, Photo: Courtesy of pwollinga - Fotolia.com
- Hoge Verluwe National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Ian Schofield - Fotolia.com
- Leeuwarden, Photo: Courtesy of Feiko Hendrik Jan - Fotolia.com
- Leiden, Photo: Courtesy of Sjaak - Fotolia.com
- Lisse, Photo: Courtesy of ronnybas - Fotolia.com
- Maastricht, Photo: Courtesy of Christian Mu¨ller - Fotolia.com
- Middelburg, Photo: Courtesy of rob3rt82 - Fotolia.com
- Nijmegen, Photo: Courtesy of DutchScenery - Fotolia.com
- Rotterdam, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Texel, Photo: Courtesy of TasfotoNL - Fotolia.com
- The Hague (Den Haag), Photo: Courtesy of Kisa Markiza - Fotolia.com
- Utrecht, Photo: Courtesy of TasfotoNL - Fotolia.com
- Venlo, Photo: Courtesy of Tobias Arhelger - Fotolia.com
- Volendam, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Zwolle, Photo: Courtesy of bbsferrari - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SakhanPhotography - Fotolia.com