The Netherlands offers to visitors different attractions, including amusement parks, water parks, ski resorts, museums, zoos, and even miniature cities, among others. While most tourists focus on Amsterdam, the country’s vibrant capital with its great museums and art galleries, there are many charming towns and villages in this fascinating country to explore. It’s extremely easy to do at least a little sightseeing the Dutch way: by bicycle. Many communities actively encourage the use of pedal-power and provide bikes to explore the sights at no cost. However you choose to see the Netherlands, you’re guaranteed a great time in one of the friendliest and most liberal cultures in Europe.
Exploring Amsterdam’s Canals
While many of Amsterdam’s best tourist attractions can be easily accessed by boat tour or water taxi – including most of the major museums and art galleries – there’s much to be gained by simply strolling along the smaller, quieter streets that line the waterways. One such neighborhood is the Grachtengordel with its many small bridges and quaint 17th-century homes. You’ll be rewarded as you explore these 400-year-old streets by countless examples of beautiful architecture, small boutique shops, cafés, and hotels, as well as many quaint colorful gardens.
Madurodam – Holland in Miniature
No visit to the Netherlands is complete without taking in Madurodam on the outskirts of The Hague. Madurodam, since it was developed about 60 years ago is one of Holland’s most popular travel destinations. Famously a mini-city on a 1:25 scale, this thoughtful and amusing destination highlights all the qualities of the Dutch culture, including the perfectly ornamented bridges, canals, windmills, and major landmarks from all around Holland. The Peace Palace is there. You can see the King arriving at the opening of parliament at The Hague’s Binnenhof. Castles and palaces; churches and street markets; windmills and bulb fields; the Rotterdam Euromast in its lovely garden setting; the streets and canals of Amsterdam; even Schipol Airport is there with moving aircraft.
Keukenhof: The Garden of Europe
Think of the Netherlands, and you’ll inevitably think of tulips, the country’s most popular flower. And there’s nowhere better to enjoy its rich floral bounty than at the Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe. On the outskirts of Lisse, in what’s widely considered the “bulb belt” of the Netherlands, Keukenhof is the largest public garden in the world encompassing more than 70 acres of what was once the former kitchen (or “keuken”) garden of a large country estate. With more than 700 varieties of tulips, along with thousands of hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils – the site is home to the world’s largest open-air flower show.
De Efteling is one of the most popular attraction in the Netherlands. It is also one of the oldest theme parks in the world. It is a fantasy themed park that features over 30 attractions spread throughout four different fantastical realms: Fairy, Adventure, Travel, and Alternative. Situated in the town of Kaatsheuvel in Loon op Zand, the park has seen more than 100 million visitors throughout its lifetime.
The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (aka the Dutch National Museum) was founded in 1800 and its original location was in The Hague. In 1808, the museum relocated to Amsterdam and was housed in the Royal Palace before moving to the Trippenhuis. Its current building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and opened its doors in 1885. The museum features over 8,000 exhibitions of works of art and historical artifacts highlighting the rich and storied culture of the Dutch. It showcases the works of famed artists, Frans Hals, Vermeer and Rembrandt, just to name a few.
Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum, located in the Museum Square in Amsterdam South, is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the collected works of famous artist Vincent Van Gogh and his contemporaries. It houses the largest collection of Van Gogh work in the world: 400 drawings, 200 paintings and 700 letters by Vincent van Gogh.
Zaanse Schans is famous worldwide for its eight historic windmills, which were built in the mid-to-late 16th century, and its 35 historical houses. Located adjacent to the windmills is the Zaans Museum, an open-air museum the showcases exhibits highlighting the history of Zaan.
The Windmills of Kinderdijk
On the River Noord between Rotterdam and Dordrecht there is the famous village of Kinderdijk (“Children’s Dike”), with its well preserved 18th-century windmills. The village takes its name from an incident during the St. Elizabeth’s Day flood of 1421 after a child’s cradle had been stranded on the dike. Now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 19 Kinderdijk windmills, built between 1722 and 1761, are the largest surviving concentration of windmills in the Netherlands. Originally used to drain the fenlands, these majestic buildings with their impressive 92-foot sails are open to the public from April to October, including special Mill Days when the sails are set in motion.
Kasteel De Haar
Near the lovely old city of Utrecht, the fourth largest in the Netherlands, Kasteel De Haar makes for an excellent day trip. The largest fortification in the country, this spectacular castle – built by the famous Dutch architect, PJH Cuypers – required so much land (it sits on a spectacular 250-acre park) that the entire village of Haarzuilens had to be relocated to accommodate it. While the original castle site was established in the 14th century, this newer structure dates from 1892 and is well worth taking the time to explore. Inside, you’ll be rewarded by impressive collections of antiques, furniture, paintings, and tapestries, but it’s the gardens that really draw the crowds – along with the castle’s fairytale looks.
Diergaarde Blijdorp, officially known as Stichting Koninklijke Rotterdamse Diergaarde, is one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands, and also one of the most popular. It is located in northwestern Rotterdam. Its name translates to “Foundation Royal Zoo of Rotterdam” in English. Among its many attractions are the Oceanium (voyage through the bottom of the sea), African Gorilla Island, Crocodile River, Taman Indah (elephants and rhinos), and Ice Cave (polar bears).