The Netherlands Travel Guide

The Netherlands Travel Guide

The German poet Heinrich Heine described the Netherlands as a place where “everything happens 50 years later than anywhere else”. One will reach quite an opposite conclusion if comes to check out the actual state of affairs. The Netherlands is usually associated with tulips, clogs footwear, windmills, and Gedoogcultuur or a culture of permissiveness. The country has much more to offer apart from that, however.

Amsterdam is the most cosmopolitan city in the Netherlands with some of the best nightclubs in Europe, cobblestone lanes and the canals frame old gabled mansions. Rotterdam is the industrial center and home to the Europoort, one of the world’s largest ports. The Hague is filled with the headquarters of many international organizations and government institutions, including the International Criminal Court. With its neighboring seaside resort of Scheveningen, The Hague is the spot to enjoy some summer activities. Make sure to leave the capital city and explore the country’s smaller cities like Leiden, Edam, and Haarlem, which have changed little over the centuries.

Getting Around The Netherlands

The Netherlands has a comprehensive and efficient public transport system. All major cities have railway stations, while bus services serving all towns and villages. The comfortable Interliner long-distance buses connect destinations without rail links. Most intercity trains tickets in the Netherlands cost between 9-25 EUR, or even cheaper depending on the distance. Amsterdam to Utrecht is around 8 EUR and takes 27 minutes, Amsterdam to The Hague is around 11 EUR and takes 50 minutes, Amsterdam to Schiphol takes just 15 minutes.

OV chipcard or anonymous chipcards are great to avoid the surcharge for paper tickets. OV cards can be used on buses, trams, metros, and ferries. Take advantage of the country’s flatness and rent a bike for around 12 EUR per day. Public transport in Amsterdam is cheap, a GVB 1 hour one-way ticket is 3 EUR. Taxi fares are quite expensive, thus some drivers might refuse to give a lift for less than 10 EUR. It is surely illegal, but it is difficult to protest such a refusal.

Food in the Netherlands

Dutch food may not be popular, but it still has tasty meals to try. Dutch cuisine has absorbed a little bit from everywhere around Europe. German, French and Belgian meals are all mixed here. It is worth noting that Dutch food is quite straightforward and nourishing. Apart from restaurants with European food, there are numerous Chinese, Indonesian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Food prices in the Netherlands mostly depend on the city and the eatery’s location. Expect to pay around 15-25 EUR in an inexpensive restaurant. Meals in a mid-range restaurant cost around 60-70 EUR. Frituur snack vans serve fast-food near public transport stops and offer french fries wrapped in a traditional cone, sandwiches, meatballs, and Kebab for around 4-5 EUR. Thus, most fast food like FeBO and street stalls come for 5-10 EUR or cheaper.

French fries, which is a Belgian or Flemish dish, quite popular in the Netherlands. At first, I was sure that the french fries are all the same everywhere, but it turned out in the Netherlands this meal is delicious and addictive. You can’t just pass the stall without having one! Make sure to compare the fries from various street vendors, as it totally worth it! The traditional Dutch cuisine consists of meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Make sure to try pannenkoeken, traditional Dutch pancakes, wide cheese varieties, especially Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, Maaslander and Maasdamer, salted herring with chopped onion and pea soup with smoked sausages.

Accommodation in the Netherlands

With so many accommodation options in the Netherlands, there is also a chance to save on it. Most hostels in Amsterdam’s center are really expensive, while those closer to the outskirts have their prices ranging from 18-34 EUR per night for a dorm room. Rooms at budget hotels come for 45-70 EUR with amenities like free WiFi and bathroom. Couchsurfing and Airbnb are great options to save on accommodation. While Couchsurfing is usually a free fun, expect to get a shared room at Airbnb for around 20 EUR per night or studio apartment with prices starting at 45 EUR.

It might be tough to find accommodation in Amsterdam in late April, as the country celebrates the King’s Day — formerly Queen’s Day. At this time, accommodation prices are almost twice as high as they are during the normal days, while the capital is crowded with people coming from neighboring cities and countries. Campers will be spoiled for choice in the Netherlands, with numerous campsites and caravan parks, which are often situated in stunning locations. Expect to pay around 12-15 EUR per night at the campsite.

Top Free Things to Do And See In the Netherlands

Visit Het Plein in The Hague

This cozy old square in the very heart of The Hague was constructed in the early 17th century. The Het Plein cobblestones still remember kings and nobles that once were there, while the current leaders of the Netherlands usually have their lunch in one of the nearby cafes. The square is surrounded by elegant mansions of the 19th century, which are a genuine piece of art. With numerous cafes and bars around and a statue of William, Prince of Orange in the middle, the square is a popular spot for hanging out and making dates. In the summer the entire area is really crowded, but offers free street performances. You can reach the square on foot when coming to the Hague by train, just make sure to walk along the Herengracht street.

Check the Binnenhof and Ridderzaal in The Hague

Not far from Het Plein square, you will find Binnenhof, Inner Court and the Hall of Knights. It accommodates Prime Minister’s office and the House of Parliament. Part of the complex was built in the 13th century, while it gained its current look in the 17th century. Binnenhof is the main historical attraction in The Hague and is closely connected with all periods of history of the Netherlands. The Inner Court of the castle is available in the summer months with no admission fee.

Leidseplein square in Amsterdam

I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Leidseplein square is the spot where nightlife in Amsterdam is concentrated. With so many nightclubs, bars, art galleries and coffeeshops located here, it would be a mistake to miss this place. The oldest coffeeshop in Amsterdam is also can be found here. The buzzing nightlife, street performances and friendly people all around attract travelers to enjoy the spirit of Amsterdam, which means most things there come for free.

Vondelpark Open Air Theatre

If you are visiting Amsterdam in the summer, then make sure to visit the open-air theater in the Vondelpark. Enjoy the dance performances, modern and post-modern and contemporary music for free on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With no equipped seats or canopies in the park, you have to stand or sit on the grass. For this reason, the performance might be canceled due to bad weather. But since performances come for free, it is still great to be there. The largest concerts and performances are held on Saturday and the Sunday evenings, at this time the park is particularly crowded.

The Amsterdam Red Light District

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without visiting the red light district. It was glorified by a lot of writers, poets and musicians, as this peculiar place has been known since the middle of the 14th century. The area is much safer than it once was, so one can enjoy its lovely architecture and narrow streets without worrying about life or wallet. The spirit of mystery and vice is still there, however. That is why the district is so popular with tourists. Most of them aren’t visiting the place for adult pleasures, but just for people watching. It is still much safer and cheaper, though – to watch – not to pay.

Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam

The floating market (Bloemenmarkt) is well-known for almost 200 years. Once founded on the Sint-Lucienwal canal, the merchants used tiny boats as stalls to trade tulip bulbs from them. In the 19th century the market has relocated to the Singel canal where it can be found today. Flower shops are located on the barges and can be moved along the canal. With a wide variety of herbs, seeds and bulbs, you don’t have to buy it. Enjoy the riot of colors and a variety of subtle flavors.

Top Things To See and Places to Visit in the Netherlands

Romantic Amsterdam

No doubt, Amsterdam is one the most frequently visited Dutch cities. Once founded on the Amstel river, it is filled with an interconnected canals that add romance and coziness to it. There are tons of opportunities for getting acquainted with the Amsterdam history, learn its culture and traditions, visit numerous museums or just strolling through the picturesque streets. Amsterdam is the best city to start with when you have a little time. The capital of the Netherlands is the place where everyone can find his own way, especially couples. Amsterdam is often compared with Venice because of the large amount of canals. Leisurely strolling along the canals, picnics in the parks and romantic views – Amsterdam offers it all.

Enjoy Tulips

Tulips have become a symbol of the Netherlands. In order to see the tulips in bloom some travelers head to the Keukenhof, where the world’s largest flower exhibition is held from early April to mid-May. Located just 15 minutes from Leiden and 30 minutes from Amsterdam, the Keukenhof garden is a part of the colored bedspread that covers the entire country in spring. The flower fields occupy a vast area along the sea between the city of Haarlem and the resort town of Noordwijk. Cycling the tulip fields is really popular and thrilling way to get the most out of the spring in the Netherlands. Another spot to enjoy the tulips is Noordoostpolder in Flevoland. With long rows of tulip fields, the whole place looks like a postcard.

See the Windmills   

Windmills in the Netherlands have served many purposes over the years. Perhaps the most important was to pump of water from the lowlands into the rivers to make the soil suitable for farming. With more than a thousand windmills in the Netherlands, some of them are still used for reclaiming land, such as the windmills at Kinderdijk. De Otter or De Kleine Otter is a restored sawmill that can be found in Amsterdam. De Valk tower mill in Leiden has a museum and can also be used for grinding.

The Dutch have restored many windmills and celebrate the National Mill Day, which is held every second Saturday and Sunday in May when more than 700 windmills all across the country can be visited for free. It’s a great opportunity to see the windmills that are usually closed to visitors. Consider riding a bike to travel through these memorable places.

Visit Dutch Cheese Markets

The Netherlands is a right place for cheese tasting. While you can find tons of various cheese brands here, the most popular are Edam, Gouda, and Maasdamer. Visit Alkmaar to see the cheese carriers wearing old fashioned clothes and how cheese is being carried, traded and weighed. Nibble the free samples before you buy! The market is open every Friday, from mid-April to mid-May. Similar cheese markets are held every Wednesday from July to August in Edam.

The Gouda cheese is another mouth watering brand that gave a name to a picture-perfect town in the province of South Holland. I believe everyone knows this cheese brand, while any trip to Gouda would allow expanding the knowledge of local history, which isn’t just about the cheese. The city of Gouda worth visiting because of its amazing architecture and the Gothic town hall erected in the 15th century. In addition to cheese making, candle production also flourishes in the city. Candle Night is a major annual Christmas event, which attracts thousands.

Dutch Herring

The cuisine of the Netherlands is based on fish and seafood. Herring is one of the local delicacies, which is sold in kiosks. It might remind a hot dog when being served, but instead of meat, they put the fish inside. A very delicious dish, which is definitely worth trying, in order to form your own opinion about yet another iconic food in the Netherlands.

Leiden

Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt and is considered one of the main museum cities in the world. It has plenty of them: national museum of antiquities, the museum of history and fine art, the museum of natural history and even an American Pilgrim museum. Don’t miss the De Valk Windmill Museum. Take a stroll through the Leiden Botanical Garden, which became a center of tulipomania in the 17th century.

Take a stroll in Utrecht

Amsterdam may have buzzing nightlife, The Hague has all the government control, while Utrecht is the religious capital of the Netherlands. In addition, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe, founded by the Romans. History lovers will find plenty of attractions here. Utrecht deservedly proud of its churches, with the most famous is St. Martin’s Cathedral or Dom Church. The Schroder House is a mansion built by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld is another local landmark. Like many other cities in the Netherlands, Utrecht is dotted with canals but has much fewer crowds. Utrecht can’t boast vibrant nightlife as other major cities, but it is worth visiting because of its coziness and fidelity to the traditions.

Hang Out at Groningen

Groningen has not only historic sites but provides great opportunities for party lovers. Put Groningen on your bucket list to enjoy its nightlife thanks to one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. I would suggest visiting Groningen for everyone interested in or professionally engaged in art as the local museum, which was performed by Philippe Starck is one of the best in the Netherlands. Make sure to check the calendar for upcoming festivals that are held here annually. As Groningen is a renowned world’s cycling city, you may consider renting a bike to take advantages of well-thought bicycle route system.

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is strikingly different from the other cities in the Netherlands as most of the old buildings were bombed in the Second World War. The city, however, was rebuilt again with some modern architecture and several skyscrapers made of glass and steel perfectly match the dynamic spirit of Rotterdam. Also known as Manhattan on the Mass, Rotterdam is the busiest shipping port in the Netherlands and Europe. Being an overlooked city, Rotterdam still has some historic sites to visit.  Go on a picnic in the Euromast Park or enjoy the modern architecture by visiting The Cubic Houses and Kunsthal Art Hall. Take a boat ride, visit the Maritime Museum or just stroll the streets as Rotterdam has it all!

Hoge Veluwe National Park

De Hoge Veluwe is the main national reserve in the Netherlands, established on an ancient settlement site. With the St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge in the North end, which refers to a name of hunters’ patron, the park hosts a lot of wild animals, most can be viewed from a bicycle. Rental service is available in three designated areas and free of charges as long as you don’t lock your bicycle. It also accommodates the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the Netherlands. Hoge Veluwe has the museum of underground life, so by descending deeper into the ground, you can enjoy various creatures and plants that have died out long ago.

Delft

Delft once was the first capital of the Netherlands, while now it is home to blue and white porcelain and Dutch tiles. It is no surprise that the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer found his inspiration here. Delft is some kind of Amsterdam, but without dirt, vice and fuss. It has very similar canal houses, beautiful bridges, bike parking all around and flowers in the windows. This quiet and cozy city is filled with interconnected canals, which reflect medieval churches. Just stroll the streets or take a boat tour around the canals to feel the spirit of Delft. Make sure to visit all these bars and nightclubs, which are always filled with students.

Visit The Dutch Wadden Sea Islands

The Dutch beaches of the northern coast are washed by a wadden sea. Twice a day at low tide, ebbing water makes the seabed a great spot for strolling and enjoying the local views. Mudflat hiking is one of the ways to reach the islands of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog. Each of the islands has its own feature – food, wildlife, active sports, and festivals. You can take a short trip on the ferry to get there during the high tide.

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