For a small country, the Netherlands, often (incorrectlly) known as Holland, has many features which are well-known throughout the world: tulips, windmills and cheeses, just to name a few, and not to mention one of the most famous capital cities in the world in Amsterdam. It’s a great place to travel because everything is nearby and the public transport is great, too – or if you’re more energetic, cycling around is very practical. Here are our travel tips for 25 things to do in the Netherlands to inspire you to plan a Dutch holiday soon.
The Peace Palace in The Hague
Admire the Floral Displays at Keukenhof Gardens
One of my all-time highlights in the Netherlands was visiting the Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse. This vast area is planted with a spectacular array of tulips and other flowers and is only open for a couple of months each year (around March to May) but I would argue it is well worth timing your travels to catch it.
Sample Cafe Life in Maastricht
The town of Maastricht is perhaps better known as the home to the Treaty of Maastricht which kicked off the formation of the EU, but it is a lovely place to visit too. It sits in a peninsula of land right in the south of the Netherlands and is almost in both Belgium and Germany, and is full of fantastic cafes.
Watch the Kinderdijk Windmills Turning
You can’t get more Dutch than a bunch of old windmills and one of the most scenic spots to snap lots of windmill photos is at Kinderdijk. There are a total of 19 historic wooden windmills along a canal here and you can either walk, cycle or cruise the canal to explore them.
See Art at Mauritshuis
The Mauritshuis or Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague is a gallery housed in an old palace, and it includes works from a number of famous Dutch painters including Rembrandt and Vermeer and the Flemish artists Bruegel and Rubens.
Go Geometric at the Rotterdam Cube Houses
The cube houses or Kubuswoningen built in Rotterdam are a particularly unique attraction, and well worth a look! Built in the 1970s, these houses are cubes on a strange angle, designed to look like a forest of trees, and one has been opened for public viewing.
Learn about Dutch History at Zaanse Schans
This historic town near Zaandijk is really a big museum, featuring a number of windmills plus a bunch of historic houses moved here from all around the area. There’s also a Zaanse Schans museum to tie it all together.
Go on a Amsterdam Canal Cruise
It may be a somewhat stereotypical tourist activity but cruising the canals of Amsterdam in their low-lying canal boats is popular for a reason – it’s a great experience! Seeing Amsterdam “from below” is an interesting perspective and it’s one of the best ways to see the unique canal-side buildings and some of the narrowest houses you can imagine.
Visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Located in Amsterdam close to the Rijksmuseum, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum features a huge range of works from each of Van Gogh’s different periods, and as Kimberley found, it also has great children’s activities to keep them interested and occupied if you are travelling with your family.
Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows by Kimberley Sullivan
Tower above the Minature Village of Madurodam
The miniature village of Madurodam, in Scheveningen, The Hague, is a unique way to see all of the main attractions of the Netherlands in one small space. It includes models of many Dutch places at a 1:25 scale and even includes mini tulips!
Maduradam by arwa
Buy some Delft Pottery
The town of Delft is most famous for its Delft Blue Pottery but is a lovely town even for those without a keen interest in pottery. It’s a scenic spot with canals like Amsterdam and has some really interesting architecture in the town centre.
Enjoy the View from Utrecht Cathedral
The Domkerk or cathedral in Utrecht has a high tower which serves as the symbol of Utrecht. It’s also the only truly Gothic church found in the Netherlands.
Visit the Original Haarlem
Although it’s the namesake of New York’s Harlem district, the Dutch town of Haarlem is different in many ways. It’s a short ride from Amsterdam to Haarlem and is actually the eighth largest city in the Netherlands – visit on Saturday for the big outdoor markets held in Grote Markt.
Take on some Culture at the Museums in Leiden
The oldest university town in the Netherlands is Leiden, part way between Amsterdam and The Hague, and there is a museum to interest everyone. Take your pick from museums such as the National Museum of Antiquities, the Rembrandts at the Municipal Museum or Boerhaave Museum, covering contributions to science from Dutch researchers.
Relive History at the Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is not just my favourite Dutch museum but one of my favourite museums in all of Europe. Housed in the very building where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II, it will be exceptionally meaningful to anyone who has read Anne Frank’s diary, but also very interesting to people who haven’t.
Taste Dutch Beer at the Heineken Experience
Fans of the Dutch beer will love a visit to the Heineken Experience, a combined brewery and visitor centre in Amsterdam.It was renovated and reopened in 2008 and includes a combination of history, how-to and, of course, some beer samples.
Take in the Sun at Zandvoort Beach
As a half day trip from Amsterdam, visiting Zaandvoort Beach is a great way to spend a warm day in North Holland. Motor racing fans may know the name as being home to Circuit Zandvoort, but it is also one of the Netherlands’ most popular beach resorts.
Try Watersports at Scheveningen Beach
Another beach alternative is on the North Sea near Rotterdam where you can spend a summery day at Scheveningen Beach. There is a long pier and numerous water sports and boating activities available here.
Take a Rotterdam Harbour Cruise
For a cruise of a different kind, the Rotterdam Harbour Cruise will showcase not the quaint buildings and sweet canals of other Dutch cities, but rather the bustling port that until 2004 was the busiest port in the world, and is still by far the largest port in Europe.
Go Underground at the Sint Pietersberg Tunnels
The Sint Pietersberg of Maastricht date back to Roman times and the tunnels used to extend right into Belgium. Sint Pietersberg is actually a Roman fort near Helpoort and is the best point to explore some of the tunnels.
Sample the Wares at Alkmaar Cheese Market
The Netherlands is famous for its cheeses and one of its most popular tourist attractions is the Alkmaar Cheese Market. Every Friday from April to September the locals recreate the old-style cheese market which has been running since the 16th century.
Try some Gin at the House of Bols
If the Heineken beer tasting didn’t meet your requirements, perhaps it’s the House of Bols you’re looking for – it is a Dutch gin museum run by the Bols distellery and you can take an hour long tour ending up with a special cocktail.
Have a Cheesy Experience in Gouda
Another well-known Dutch cheese is Gouda, and the town that gives its name to this cheese is a lovely place to visit. I enjoyed a day in Gouda and was surprised at how much cheese I saw! (I ate a fair bit of it, too!).
Buy Books at the Deventer Boekenmarkt
For book lovers, time your visit for an early August date and you may be able to see the Deventer Boekenmarkt, the largest book market in Europe held in the town of Deventer. Over 800 book stalls are set up outdoors along the Ijssel River and browsing them all could take you most of the day.
Visit Rotterdam Zoo
With over a million visitors a year, the Rotterdam Zoo or Diergaarde Blijdorp as it is known locally is a great day out. It also includes an Oceanium with sharks, penguins and all manner of fish.
Walk Through Amsterdam’s Enchanted Forest
For something a bit off the beaten track, Andy recommends the Amsterdame Bos or Amsterdam Forest, one of the largest city parks in Europe. It’s a great place to cycle and there is also a goat farm to visit, or you can just enjoy the green, peace and quiet.
Your Netherlands Tips
Do you have any tips on what to do in the Netherlands? Let us know about something we’ve left out of our list by leaving a comment below.