Best known for its tulips, lined canals, bike culture, and green energy, the Netherlands has harmonized the relationship between humans and nature. Located in northwestern Europe, the country was home to some of the world’s most famous painters, including Vincent Van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, and Rembrandt.
With many historical sites, plenty of windmills, and delicious cheese, a trip to the Netherlands will provide you with plenty of memories for days to come. A welcoming nation with plenty of English speakers, you’ll have no problem getting around this gorgeous nation.
Welkom – Welcome to the Netherlands!
Artistic visions aren’t the only highlight of the Netherlands and visitors will also experience the beauty of its old and new architecture. The windmills are a famous symbol of the Netherlands, but modern construction projects have gained worldwide attention for their eclectic styles.
Travelers will also notice the peaceful streets because many Dutch choose to travel by bicycle. With calm canals and flat terrain, the Netherlands is a great place to ride a bike as you hop from the tranquil landscapes to the packed cafes.
Lined with canals, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ famous capital and a treasure box of entertainment. With numerous museums, you can explore the world of art through iconic painters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The cafes are another hotpot in Amsterdam, and they are often called “gezellig” by locals.
This word translates as “cozy” and is the embodiment of cafes, where people can go to connect with friends and have a good time. The city is also dominated by boats and bicycles. Out on the canals, you can cruise over the water on a boat, and when you’re back on dry land, a bicycle is a way to go.
- Culture and History
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Much like the rest of Europe, the Netherlands has an extensive history that stretches back to the years before 800BC. Hunter-gatherers were the first occupants of the Netherlands, who eventually learned how to farm on difficult terrain. By the 1st century AD, the Roman Empire conquered southern portions of the country.
For almost 300 years, the Romans lived in the country until Germanic tribes began to invade. Even though the terrain was difficult to live on, the numerous waterways did protect the country from invasions. Most historians agree that northern parts of the Netherlands have never been invaded because it was so difficult to navigate through the rivers.
The most famous invaders were the Vikings, though even they were only present in coastal areas. As time went on, the Netherlands began to struggle with advancing as more people wanted to claim the land. The Eighty Year War happened from 1568-1648 and was a fight between Spain and the Netherlands.
A silver lining of the war was that it made provinces very important centers for trade. This helped the Golden Age of the Netherlands bloom.
The Golden Age is perhaps the most famous time period when artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer painted some iconic works. The Girl with a Pearl Earring was painted by Vermeer in 1665 and is one of the most famous icons of the time period.
The Dutch have spread all over the world and the Dutch East India Company was a famous business within the trading markets, which traveled all around Asia.
Since the Netherlands ‘ famous history, it has only grown from there, and now the country has become a world leader in sustainable energy and eco-friendly agriculture practices. Now, the Netherlands is extremely prosperous and is often ranked within the top ten happiest countries in the world.
The people have worked hard for their happiness, and instead of respect being earned by the number of years you’ve lived, the culture values those who work hard to achieve their goals and the various skills or techniques you’ve accumulated on the way.
The Dutch are open, and they simply like to be direct or straightforward, which can sometimes rub others the wrong way. But the locals aren’t trying to drive people off, instead, they just like to practice wholehearted honesty.
While the Dutch are very open-armed to visitors and you won’t have to worry about any language barriers. The Netherlands is highly proficient in the English language and is often called a top-English-speaking country.
English is not the country’s official language and locals will speak Dutch to each other. Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands and is spoken by almost the entire country’s 17.53 million citizens (as of 2021).
It’s a good idea to create a spending budget to estimate the overall cost of your trip to the Netherlands. A great way to plan or keep a small fund of money for emergencies or unexpected costs, the Netherlands, although not the priciest, is an expensive country to visit because it’s in Europe.
If budget travelers take the time to plan out their spending ahead, they can find ways to reduce the cost of their trip. With plenty of different experiences available, the Netherlands is a great place to go whether you have a low, mid-range, or high-end budget.
For the majority of travelers, the most expensive portion of their budget will go towards paying for their airline ticket. The Netherlands is an expensive country to fly to and the average cost of a flight is around one thousand dollars.
Due to the popularity of the country with tourists, there are many airlines that have special sales or deals that can dramatically reduce the price of your ticket. You will also notice that tickets tend to be more expensive during the high tourist season.
Most tourists will visit the Netherlands from April to October, and the absolute peak months for visitors are July and August. However, tourists do visit the Netherlands all year round, and during the winter holidays, you may also find that airline ticket prices increase.
Due to the numerous airlines servicing the country, if you take your time to find a deal and book your ticket in advance, you could pay several hundred dollars less than the average price.
Getting to the Netherlands is just the start of your journey and travelers also need to plan where they will stay for the duration of their vacation. There are a lot of different accommodation options in the Netherlands and different places have various price points. The most affordable places to stay will be hostels, while luxury hotels or resorts will be the most expensive.
There are a lot of hostels in the Netherlands, no matter where you are in the country, with the most affordable option being dorm rooms. If you’re in quieter towns and there’s a hostel, you should expect the price to be less. However, in big cities like Amsterdam, all types of accommodation will be more expensive.
Many hostels also have private rooms, which are a more expensive accommodation option.
In the capital city, you should expect to pay more per night for a private room. Hotels are an option that provides more privacy, though at a higher price. While budget hotels may save you a bit of money, the prices will only increase when choosing a mid-range or luxury option.
Airbnb is another accommodation option, which offers choices like private rooms, apartments, and private homes. Most private rooms will be decently priced, while apartments will cost potentially double or more per night. For travelers in big groups, private homes may be the best choice.
While it is always important to have a safe place to rest and keep your belongings, the biggest adventures will be out in the cities, streets, and landscapes of the Netherlands. One way to experience a new adventure is by diving headfirst into the local cuisine. Food is a wonderful way for travelers to excite their taste buds and connect with Dutch culture.
Dutch cuisine is known for being blander and using minimal spice. Staple foods in Dutch cuisine include various vegetables, cheese, fish, and meat. But fish and meat are not normally eaten in large quantities. Dairy is heavily incorporated into the cuisine and famous cheeses like Gouda and Edam have become very popular.
Gouda cheese is the most famous type of dairy that originated in the Netherlands, however, native US travelers shouldn’t expect it to be anything like the American version. Gouda in the Netherlands comes in a variety of flavors that are all due to the age of the cheese. The cheese is sold almost everywhere from restaurants to grocery stores and local markets.
Another famous dish is stamppot, which is also the national dish of the Netherlands. Stamppot is a potato-based dish with vegetables and rookworst (a type of smoked sausage).
Erwtensoep is another favorite dish, which is a pea soup with shredded cheese and rookworst. Rookworst is widely popular throughout the country and is incorporated into various dishes.
The coastal areas of the Netherlands have also made fried fish a favorite dish, which is often served with a mayonnaise-based sauce for dipping. Most locals will eat the fish on bread, though it can also be eaten without any extra gluten.
Broodjes are the Dutch version of sandwiches, which are the best choice for travelers who are consistently on the go. The sandwiches come in various styles and feature all types of ingredients. Finally, for the sweet-toothed travelers, poffertjes are the local pancakes, which are dusted with a fine layer of powdered sugar.
While you may be excited to try the local food, you need to be conscious of the price. Restaurants are expensive so the cost of eating out will quickly add up. Less expensive places to eat would be fast food type establishments, though eating at one for every meal may get boring.
For travelers who have the ability to cook for themselves back at their accommodation location, buying local groceries can help lower the cost of food. The Netherlands is also thriving with drinking establishments, so travelers who wish to also enjoy the local alcohol need to be aware of the cost.
Beer and wine are usually well-priced while hard alcohol and spirits will be more costly, especially at nicer establishments.
How to Get Around
The Netherlands is a small country, which makes it easier to get around. However, just because it’s small size doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of places to explore. With lots of cities and locations in the countryside, you’ll most likely find yourself traveling all around the Netherlands.
By far, the most popular methods of transportation include trains, buses, local public transportation, bicycles, and car rentals.
Trains are the fastest way to get around the Netherlands and they are very reliable and affordable price. Most tourist areas are less than 3 hours away from Amsterdam by train and the cost will vary depending on the distance you’re traveling.
The Netherlands also has special tour packages, which are basically unlimited train pass for a set amount of time. The package includes the buses and it would give you the best price if you’re traveling a lot.
For budget travelers, buses are more affordable but a slower method of transportation. Most bus tickets between cities will cost a fair price. However, sometimes the buses don’t have as many options as the railway system does, which means that you may want to choose a train instead.
Bicycles and Car Rentals
Bicycle and car rentals are another popular way to travel throughout the Netherlands. Bicycles are great in concentrated areas like cycling the streets of Amsterdam. If you’re looking to go on a road trip, car rentals are a great way to go.
You will need to obtain an international driving permit or IDP before you set off for your trip. Car rentals are affordable, however, gas is very expensive.
Top Cities to Visit
Amsterdam is the most famous city in the Netherlands and also the capital, but there are other great cities to explore too. Home to palaces, canals, stunning architecture, and plenty of history, visiting as many places as possible should be a goal during your vacation. Here are the best Dutch cities for tourists to visit.
As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s reputation has spread far beyond the country’s borders and the city has become a top destination for travelers all over the world. While the Red Light District is the most famous part of the city, the entire area is lined with canals and cobblestone streets.
With charming architecture, tourists are eager to walk around the pristine pathways. Aside from eating out and partying, the city also has historically significant locations like the Anne Frank House or masterpieces like the Van Gogh Museum.
Oddly enough, The Hague is not the capital of the Netherlands, though it is where the Dutch Parliament and royal palace are located. Important courts are also located in this city like the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.
Between the government buildings, a multi-cultured atmosphere gives the city a unique character. With plenty of places to eat out and learn about the local culture, the Hague is a must-see city in the Netherlands.
With a busy port, Rotterdam is the Netherlands’ second-largest city, which has a futuristic appearance with its modern architecture. With lots of diversity in the streets, this is the best place to experience local and international cultures or cuisines. A sprawling metropolitan area, it’s also a great place to simply take a stroll and explore.
Utrecht is another city filled with canals and it is one of the country’s oldest cities too. The Domkerk Cathedral is an icon of the city that towers above the suburb-like landscape. With lots of students, this city has young energy and is filled to the brim with restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Delft is one of the best cities to visit in a short amount of time. Many travelers take a day trip to Delft to see the beautiful bricks, canals, and medieval-like architecture.
The city is also famous for creating ceramics in blue and white colors, which are sold at the Delftware Factories. Delft’s most famous historical resident is also Johannes Vermeer and there is a museum dedicated to this Dutch painter.
Points of Interest
While the cities are often the biggest attractions, there are also plenty of points of interest throughout the country that will wow and amaze visitors. With stunning outdoor sites and historic landmarks, there are plenty of places to add to your itinerary. Here are the top tourist destinations in the Netherlands worth exploring.
The Netherlands is famous for its tulips and Keukenhof is the place to go if you want to see the beautiful gardens of this flower. Often called the “Garden of Europe”, Keukenhof is outside Lisse and is the world’s largest public garden. The tulips blossom in April and May, but indoor gardening has made it a hotspot year-round.
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank and her family spent most of their time hiding from the Nazis during World War II. The house is where Anne wrote her diary, which has become world-famous after it was published by her father.
The house has been fully restored and tickets are sold for visitors to enter the grounds and see the inside of the home. However, it’s a popular location and tickets sell out early, so you should make reservations ahead of time.
Windmills are another icon of the Netherlands and Kinderdijk is a famous village that sits on the River Noord. With 19 windmills lining the banks of the river that have been fully preserved, the area is also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
De Hoge Veluwe National Park
With 13,800 acres to explore, this De Hoge Veluwe National Park is packed with dense woods, dunes, a sculpture park, and much more. People often visit for the day to take a hike or bike through the land of the park.
The sculpture park is filled with famous artists like Rodin, while the area in general, has been the focal point of famous paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Manet.
“Je Maintiendrai” (“I will maintain”)
With simplicity and sophistication, the Netherlands is a great country for visitors of all ages. The beauty of the country can be enjoyed by all travelers, while the historic areas and personalities give the country its unique character.
The small size of the country makes it easy to explore the tourist hotspots in one vacation, but the charm and appeal of the country will likely draw you back for more. Whether it’s your first time visiting or your return for another adventure, the Netherlands is an astonishing destination.
Visit the Netherlands’ official tourism website.