Travel - Destinations
By: - at September 28, 2013

Top 15 Interesting Places to Visit in the Netherlands

Old Port of Rotterdam
Old Port of Rotterdam

The Netherlands is a small country in comparison to the United States, but is still full of extremely interesting places. So many in fact, that it can get a bit overwhelming to pick which ones to visit. From their museums boasting rich cultural Dutch heritage to their amusement parks and zoos, there are plenty of spots to enjoy. If you are the adventurous type who likes playing water sports, there are Netherlands' beautiful beaches. If you are the quiet type that would rather visit all the historic landmarks, this guide will help not miss all the essential locations in the Netherlands.

Buckle up and get ready to take notes, because you are not going to believe how much there is to see and do in The Netherlands.


15)  Anne Frank House
Anne Frank is a well-known figure of World War II and the Holocaust. The story of how she and her family, along with four other Jews hid from Nazi execution, is one of the most known tales of this extremely dark period in modern history.

Anne Frank House
By Hide-sp (Hide-sp's file), via Wikimedia Commons

The Anne Frank House is known in Dutch as Het Achterhuis, which translates to “the back house” in English, and is located in the number 263-265 of Prinsengracht Canal, Amsterdam. Both buildings were originally built by Dirk van Delft in the year 1635, and later on were remodeled into the domicile that Ann Frank and the other Jews hid within. It’s the very same building where the young girl hid for two years and a month from the Nazis. Donated by the company that owned the building to the Anne Frank Foundation, it was turned into a museum along with the building adjacent to it. This space acts as an exhibition for Anne’s life, showing where she hid inside the building. The museum also serves as a symbolic structure, against all forms of persecution and discrimination.

The museum also holds a bookshop as well as a café, and even contains the Academy Award won by Shelley Winters for her role as Auguste van Pels in the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank”. It receives over a million visitors yearly, making the museum a must see for any travelers who finds themselves in Amsterdam


14)  Utrecht Boat Trips
Utrecht is one of the four largest cities in the Netherlands, and is second only in population to Amsterdam. It was the country’s cultural center until the Dutch Gold Age and due to its central position in the country, Utrecht is an important part of both the current rail and road transportation systems.

Utrecht
Utrecht

The city is ancient and was originally started as a Roman fortification around the year 50 CE. If you are traveling with someone who really digs architecture of all ages, they will have plenty to see. Utrechts' architectural attractions include many preserved ruins and buildings. A good way to see all of these charming old locations would be taking a boat trip along the Oudegracht, or "old canal" in English, enjoying the views from the waters of the Rhine River.

View Along the "Old Canal"
View Along the "Old Canal"

These trips stop at some of the best places to take a look at in all of Utrecht. You can eat a hollandaise crêpe at a pannenkoeken joint, or have a meal at some of the most famous restaurants in the city. Enjoy a guided tour through the Stadskasteel Oudaen beerhouse (and have a drink or two), or see a play at the quaint little Werftheater.

Utrecht in the Winter
Utrecht in the Winter

Even the streetlamps and two-layered buildings along the canal will keep your interest without getting off the boat, but make sure you don’t fall overboard - especially during the colder months!


13)  Euromast
There is a lot of excitement about climbing the Eiffel Tower or taking in the windy views from the top of the Empire State Building. The Netherlands's response: The Euromast. The Euromast is situated in the city of Rotterdam, and has attributes that neither of the other two structures have to offer.

Euromast and Rotterdam
Euromast and Rotterdam

After all, how many observation towers will let you go up them in the elevator and instead of going down again the same way, let you choose rappelling as your method of decent? Not many, or more correctly, just this one. The Euromast was designed in 1960 by the architect Maaskant to celebrate the Floriade, which is the international horticulture exposition held in The Netherlands. Today, it’s still one of the most interesting places to visit in the city.

top of euromast

After you get up to the top of the tower, make sure to take in the view and even snap a few pictures. On a clear day, you can even see the Flemish city of Ambers. Don’t be too rushed to get on with your extreme repelling. If you are visiting with your significant other, than having a romantic dinner at the restaurant or even spending the night in one of their suites may be a lot more special than an extreme experience down the face of the tower.


12)  Zaanse Schans Windmills
One trademark landmark of The Netherlands is it's landmark windmills. Filling painting after painting and postcard after postcard, they are a sight worth seeing for yourself. Situated in the province of North Holland and pretty close to Amsterdam, lies the city of Zaandam and it's famous windmills. As one of the most touristy attractions in the entire area, they are part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, according to the official website.

Windmills at Zaanse Schans
Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Don’t think that this region only has to offer some views of windmills and water There are restaurants, river cruisers, museums, shops, and traditional crafts stores. Time will fly during your stay because there is so much more to do than just snapping a few pictures of the windmills. There are a total of eight windmills you can see at the Zaanse Schans, with six of them being industrial windmills, while the other two are smaller ones. Have fun guessing which one is which, since they each have names, like “The Cat”, “The Ox”, or “The Young Sheep”.

Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans

There are group rates available as well as guided tours and activities for children that you should definitely check out. Lots of discounts means you can stretch your Euro pretty far, making the best out of visiting this region that is right out of the seventeenth century.


11)  Ijssel Lake
Ijssel Lake offers some interesting options if you want to see everything The Netherlands has to offer. One of these options is a bike route around its ports and fishing towns, and it is well worth the physical effort due to the amazing views. Squeeze in a little physical activity while seeing some of the prettiest landscapes in all of The Netherlands. Using only your bike as transportation, you will stop at some of the prettiest and oldest fishing towns of the Zuiderzee, or "Southern Sea." Hot spots to hit during your bike route are Spakenburg and Harderwijk. Harderwijk was once part of the Hansa Association, a merchant’s guild formed in North Europe between the XIII and XVII centuries.

Highway E22 - Serves as the Border of this Artificial Lake
Highway E22 - Serves as the Border of this Artificial Lake

Crossing the Voluwe Forest, you can visit the Woudagemeaal Vapor Pump, the oldest in the world still in operation. In the Frisian region, you’ll be able to hear the local’s own language, which is closer to English than it is to actual Dutch. While you are there make sure to visit some old battlefields and commemorative places. Some of these historical landmarks date all the way back to the year 1345.

Woudagemeaal Vapor Pump
Wouda Vapor Pump
By Reboelje, via Wikimedia Commons

Then you can take the ferry in Stavoren to Enkhuizen, and this trip will require you to cross Ijssel Lake. The trip takes about an hour and a half to get completely across. Formerly Ijssel Lake was part of the Southern Sea, but it later became a freshwater lake when a dam was built in the year 1932 to prevent the floods from destroying the coastal towns.

Woudagemaal Dam Sea Side
Woudagemaal Dam Sea Side
By Reboelje, via Wikimedia Commons


10)  Wadden Islands
While we are talking about the ZuiderZee, it’s worth mentioning the Wadden Islands. Situated on the coast line of the Wadden Sea, these five islands (five that belong to the Netherlands, that is) offer each one its own unique atmosphere and sightseeing spots. The islands are named Texel (the larger one), Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland (also known as “Wadden’s diamond”) and Schiermonnikoog.

Aerial View of the Wadden Region
Aerial View of the Wadden Region
By Mogens Engelund, via Wikimedia Commons

Texel Island

The flow of the tides dominates this area, which makes a dynamic mix of the terrain made up of sea and sand. You can explore the vast, beautiful beaches of dunes and sand, while observing the rich and lively fauna the Wadden Islands have to offer. This includes a variety of fish, birds and sea lions that all thrive in these shallow areas. All of this nature can be comfortably be viewed from a fancy terrace, enjoying the sights all while keeping relatively clean and dry. While staying in the Wadden Islands, make sure to take a chance at crossing the marshes by foot when the tide is low, having the wonderful chance of walking on the sea floor. You can even cross from island to island this way, depending on the tide. These excursions have different levels of difficulty, which is measured by their duration. There is a beginner, advanced and expert trek so no matter your athletic capabilities, you will still have a chance to enjoy this attraction. Talk to a guide before picking an option. Or take a ferry and see them all in one sitting, if you are not the walking type.





9)  Artis Zoo
The Artis Zoo is right in the center of Amsterdam, and has the honor of being the first zoo ever to be built in The Netherlands. The Artis Zoo was founded in the year 1838. This means that not only the animals are worth seeing like at any zoo, but also the buildings are worth checking out as well. Some of the buildings that are used by the zoo are even older than the actual zoo. For example, the wolf house was formerly an inn that was converted into a zoo property.

Artis Zoo Entrance
Artis Zoo Entrance

You can visit the aquarium and be amazed at the wonders of underwater life, explore the rainforest, tropical reefs, or the real Amsterdam Canal. In the Butterfly Pavilion, you will be witness to some of the prettiest butterflies you'll ever see fluttering all around you, with newly metamorphosed butterflies being released twice a day. In the Planetarium, you can see films on their curved 2,060 square foot dome. Shows are in Dutch.

Lion artis zoo

You can also visit the Insectarium, which would be especially cool if bugs are your thing. September is a great month to visit the zoo, as there is a 25 percent discount on tickets for all ages. And remember, never feed the animals!


8)  Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum was closed between 2003 and April 2013. Now that it has its doors open again, it becomes an automatic “must see” in The Netherlands. It doesn’t only boast paintings, drawings, porcelain, and furniture from the Dutch Golden Age, all neatly placed next to each other for your enjoyment. It's collection is not limited to pieces by famous painters as Rembrandt or Van Gogh. It also has an impressive Asian Art pavilion that is brand new, and open to explore to your heart’s content.

Rijksmuseum
By Danbu14 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The museum has historically relevant pieces ranging from the Middle Ages to modern times, special collections with famous and unique historic artifacts, art, science, and history pieces. From silver miniatures to musical instruments, including national relics, armor, and ship models. Here is an example of artwork from the museum below:

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt
The Nightwatch by Rembrandt

The Cuypers Library will make some of you drool. It’s the oldest, largest art library in the country. It has been restored to its prime condition after intensive restoration work. The library houses a great collection of books, auction catalogues, and journals. Visitors are free to browse them, as well as use the open Wi-Fi and iPads to explore the digitalized versions of the curated works. After the ten year restoration process, and with the addition of plenty of new acquisitions during this period, the Rijksmuseum is well worth getting lost in for a few hours.


7)  Flower Fields
Another central subject of all postcards from the Netherlands are the flower fields that are full of blooming tulips. They are truly places to visit, with thousands of brightly colored flowers blossoming beautifully in the peak of spring.

flower fields

The blooming starts at the end of March and lasts until May, so your best chance at seeing it at its prettiest is the second half of April. Usually, saffron starts blooming first, followed by narcissus, smaller early tulips, and jacinth flowers. Last but not least are the tulips, showing their best colors to visitors who most likely made the journey to The Netherlands just to see them. The first ever financial crash was dictated by the tulip bulb market price. The best fields are located beyond the dunes in the Northern Sea, between the cities of Leiden and Den Helder. Other nice fields can be found near Enkhuizen and in the Flevoland province.

Keukenhof Park
Keukenhof Park
By Tiago Fioreze, via Wikimedia Commons

The Keukenhof park must be seen if you are in Holland, boasting a grand 2,700 trees and more than 32 hectares of blooming flowers and gardens. Attractions also include flower shows in pavilions that will take you breath away. The Keukenhof de Lisse gardens are famous too, and you won’t want to miss them. Keep your calendar close, since they open only from the middle of March to the second week of May.


6)  Madurodam Miniature Park
Are you feeling like you are still missing much of what The Netherlands has to offer? Do not worry, because there is Madurodam and the Madurodam Miniature Park. Just an hour by car from Amsterdam, this miniature park is literally The Netherlands. The complete country is constructed in a smaller scale, so you can play around in the whole country in just a little bit of time. You can play with the floodgates of the Oosterschelde, make planes take off from Schiphol Airport, load ships in Rotterdam’s port, and hold an auction at the flower market. In this tiny park, you can learn about the history of The Netherlands and most of its unique buildings in both an interactive and fun way.

The Entrance to Madurodam
Madurodam Miniature Park
By Staka, via Wikimedia Commons

And the Miniature Park
Madurodam Miniature Park

The park is divided in three areas: Old Towns, Water World, and Innovation Island. Old Town throws you right in the middle of the country’s cities, where you can see and explore some of its prettiest and most famous buildings from long ago. Water World (not the movie, thank you) is all about how the water plays an important role for the Netherlands, both as a source of wealth and as a danger to its habitants. Innovation Island is all about how Holland has become a source of inspiration for the rest of the world with its imaginative fashion, sports and architecture tendencies.


5)  Zeeland Beaches
The Zeeland Beaches claim to be the cleanest ones in The Netherlands, as well as the ones with most daylight hours. With a whopping 280 miles of beaches, there will be no problem finding the perfect spot for every traveler in your group.

Zeeland Nordzee
Zeeland Nordzee
By Jungpionier via Wikimedia Commons

Want to have a nice, relaxed day with your kids? Would you rather go wild and have fun playing water sports? With so many options and with each beach having its own character, going from beach to beach is kind of like a vacation in itself. Go find one of the many beaches with sports facilities and have fun!

Zeeland Beach
Zeeland Beach
By Lusitana, via Wikimedia Commons

You could also have a nice excursion on horseback and pretend you are in some soap opera romance (or not, up to you), or take a walk or ride a bike and give those poor horses a break. There are many snack joints, so you won’t have to walk much if you need a break from having the time of your life. You could always sit down with a fishing rod and see if you have any luck. Imagine how you could brag to your friends if you catch a mermaid!

The beaches are pretty safe, with Baywatch services working at all times, so you can leave your duck floatie (sorry, flotation safety device) back home. It's good to know that you and your loved ones are not at any serious risk, but don’t forget the sunscreen! The northern sun can be pretty ruthless.


4)  Efteling Theme Park
The Efteling theme park is the closest you will ever be to living in a fairy tale. The park opened its door in the year 1952 as a nature park with a playground, and a forest with all sorts of fairy tale paraphernalia designed by the artist Anton Pieck.

A few decades later, it was expanded to become a park that is twice the size of the original Disneyland in California. Inspired by myths and legends, fairy tales and folklore, this park entices both adults and children alike. Efetling is one of the most visited parks in the world.

Efteling Entrance Building
Efteling Entrance Building
By Stefan Scheer, via Wikimedia Commons

The Efteling has become a full-scale resort that includes the theme park, hotels, a golf course, holiday village, and even a theater. There is just no time to get bored when magic is all around you. Due to the rural area the park is settled in, there is tons of greenery all around, making it feel more like you are in a natural park than an amusement park. Gardeners work hard to keep the flowers and plants looking perfect for the visitors to enjoy, and there are plenty of resting spots by the gardens and ponds. So you can sit down and relax if you get tired of the excitement. Check out some of the rides you will find here:

The Flying Dutchman, Modern Water Coaster
The Flying Dutchman coaster
By Stefan Scheer, via Wikimedia Commons

Python Roller Coaster
Python ride at Efteling
By Hullie, via Wikimedia Commons

Haunted Castle Ride
Haunted Castle Ride
By Pacfrodo, via Wikimedia Commons

The Piraña, a River Rafting Ride in a pre-Columbian Atmosphere

By Stefan Scheer, via Wikimedia Commons


3)  Canals of Amsterdam
Since Amsterdam is often called “the Venice of the North”, every visitor should take the time to see it's canal system. There is a lot to see considering the canal has more than 62 miles that connect Amsterdam like a road system.

Cruising Through Amsterdam Canals
Floating On the Canal and St. Nicholas Church

The construction of the canals started in the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Era. Today, more than 1,500 bridges and 1550 monumental buildings can be found just along the three main canals. Those main canals are the Herengracht, Prinsengracht (where Anne Frank’s House is) and the Keizersgracht, and the three of them form a ring around the city called the Grachtengordel.

Historic Buildings Along Canal System
Green Houses and Historic Buildings Along Canal System

The Herengratch’s fanciest part, the Golden Belt, has many double wide mansions and gardens that dot the waterfront. On the Prinsengracht you can spot notable buildings like the Noorderkerk (Northern Church), Noordermarkt (Northern Market) and the Homomonument (Gay Monument). Along the Zwanenburgwal canal in the center of the city once lived the painter Rembrandt and the philosopher Spinoza. It was voted as one of the most beautiful streets of Amsterdam in the local newspaper, Het Parool.

One of the 3 Triangles at the Homomonument
Homomonument

If you are in Amsterdam during September, make sure to attend the Seven Bridges Festival, which is a jazz festival held at Reguliersgracht Bridge that is also free to attend. It is defiantly one of the best free activities to partake in, while staying in Amsterdam.


2)  Amsterdam Red Light District
The district was formerly one of the richest parts of the city, though today it’s more well-known for the certain kinds of businesses running in it.

Famous Landmark Moulin Rouge - Red Light District
Famous Landmark Moulin Rouge - Red Light District

It gets its name from the bright red neon lights illuminating the streets. But let’s be honest here, you are not going here to see the lights. The area is well known to have a high concentration of sex shops and even some brothels. 

Red Light District
Red Light District
By Massimo Catarinella, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also visit the Red Light District to see the churches that dot the area of course. For example, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. Formerly an illegal church, it was hidden in a house during the Reformation, since Catholicism was forbidden to be practiced in public spaces. Nowadays it holds several art exhibits and you can get a tour around the church and attached house.

Another View From the Canal of the Red Light District
Another View From the Canal of the Red Light District

Another church worth seeing is the Oude Kerk, which is the oldest church in Amsterdam and was built in the 13th century. It still holds services on Sunday mornings, as well as regular concerts where they use their famous organ.

Oude Kerk Church
Oude Kerk Church in Amsterdam
By Andreas Praefcke, via Wikimedia Commons


1)  Van Gogh Museum
If you are in The Netherlands and don’t plan on visiting the Vincent van Gogh museum, shame on you. Vincent van Gogh is likely the most well-known Dutch artist of all time, and one of the most famous around the world. His unique art style makes him instantly recognizable, and his art very well deserves to be properly appreciated.

Outside of the Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh Museum
By Wladyslaw, via Wikimedia Commons


By Warrox, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside the Museum
Inside the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
By jankie, via Wikimedia Commons

The Van Gogh Museum holds the largest collection of the artist’s works, giving you the chance to contrast his first works to his last, as well as with art by other artists of the era.

A Look at a Photo Shoot Inside the Museum
A Look at a Photo Shoot Inside Museum
By Eveline de Boer from Netherlands, via Wikimedia Commons

Last Look Inside the Museum
Last Look Inside the Museum
By tainaster@gmail.com from I live in AMS, NL, via Wikimedia Commons

There are also plenty of other expositions on 19th century art history, permanent and temporal exhibits alike. The museum buildings themselves will amaze you with their complex and interesting designs. Different designers and teams worked on each building, at different time periods.


Final Words
As you can see, The Netherlands is small but have so much to offer that you couldn’t possibly see it all in a single trip. There is an activity for every kind of person and a sight to see at every corner, so you will never get bored. Picking only a few sites to visit is really a gargantuan task, so if you can, take your time. Enjoy this little unique corner or the world and see as much as you can while you have the opportunity to visit. If your daily routine at home is driving you nuts, check this small European country out and all it has to offer. The Netherlands has a reputation of having some of the happiest citizens in all of Europe.


 

 

 

 

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