Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) in the UKAddress:
Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) in the USAAddress:
Things to see and do
Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis)
The Royal Palace (www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en), which dates from 1648, was originally Amsterdam’s town hall; it is regarded as the most important cultural and historical building from 17th-century Amsterdam. The building’s exterior was originally made of white stone, although none of the white is actually visible today, whilst famous painters including Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol were brought in to contribute to the interior. Today, the palace, which has been state property since 1936, houses an impressive collection of furniture left behind by Napoleon who made it his home in 1808, as well as chandeliers and clocks from this period. The palace is the official residence of the Dutch Royal Family. Its interior is open to the public.
Anne Frank House
The historic house (www.annefrank.org/en) where teenager Anne Frank, her family and four other Jews hid from the Nazis during World War II is today a permanent exhibition dedicated to her memory. In August 1944, they were betrayed to the Germans. Anne died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; however her father survived and published her diary, which is on display here.
A brief train ride from Amsterdam, Haarlem makes a serene alternative to the capital. Its beautifully preserved historic core centers on the Grote Kerk, a magnificent Gothic church. Admire the paintings of 17th-century master Frans Hals, then zip over to Zandvoort, a major beach resort.
A longtime intellectual center, Leiden (www.visitleiden.nl/nl/landingpage) is the site of the country’s first university, dating from 1575. Among the dozen museums dispersed along its canalways is De Lakenhal, with masterworks by native son Rembrandt van Rijn, and the Boerhaave natural sciences museum, which holds the microscopes used by van Leeuwenhoek.
Nationaal Park Zuid Kennemerland
Cycle or hike through the Kennemerland national park (www.np-zuidkennemerland.nl/299/en), a unique ecosystem skirting the coast west of Haarlem. Paths weave through woods, by lagoons, and up along massive dunes, which stretch 20km up the coast. Bright blooms enhance the golden sands in spring.
Corpus Experience, Leiden
Explore the interior workings and health of the human body at Corpus, a new visitor attraction near Leiden (corpusexperience.nl). The attraction also incorporates a medical information centre with changing exhibitions.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Take a trip to the Hoge Veluwe National Park (www.hogeveluwe.nl) near Arnhem, among whose attractions is an underground museum dedicated to subterranean life, and the Kröller-Müller Museum (krollermuller.nl/bezoek) which contains 90 Van Gogh paintings and over 180 Van Gogh drawings as well as numerous masterpieces from other famous masters such as Monet, Seurat and Picasso. Bicycles are available free of charge to visitors.
Enjoy a football match at one of the top Dutch stadiums, Amsterdam Arena, home of the famous Ajax (www.ajax.nl), PSV’s Philips Stadium in Eindhoven (www.psv.nl) or De Kuip (Feijenoord stadium), in Rotterdam, where Feyenoord play (www.feyenoord.com).
Drive or cycle across the Afsluitdijk, a 30km (19 mile) barrier built in the 1930s to close off the Zuiderzee from the North Sea, creating the now freshwater IJsselmeer. Motorists can stop at a lookout point halfway across the road linking Friesland with Noord-Holland.
Standing at the mouth of the Rhine river, the port of Rotterdam (www.rotterdam.nl) is a showcase for innovative architecture. Ride the high-speed lift up Euromast in Rotterdam (www.euromast.nl), and dine at a height of 100m (328ft) overlooking the world’s biggest harbour. Then, if you’re brave, ascend even higher to 185m (605ft) with the Euroscoop experience. Step back into history at De Zaanse Schans village (www.dezaanseschans.nl), a short distance from Amsterdam, with its traditional houses, working windmills, clog factory, cheese farm, boat builder’s and several museums.
Explore the Waddeneilanden, an island chain off the coast of Friesland. Served by regular ferry services in summer, the five isles are fringed on their North Sea side by fine sand beaches. Cycling is the accepted way to get around and wadlopen (hiking the mud flats at low tide) is a popular activity.
Stroll around the historic city of Gouda, following the Cheese Map (available from the local tourist office; www.welkomingouda.nl), which leads visitors around the various landmarks, including the Weighhouse Museum, associated with cheesemaking in the city.
Holland’s emblematic capital (www.iamsterdam.com) brims with romance, culture and kicks. Take a candlelit cruise along the canals, lined with narrow-fronted buildings dating from the city’s heyday as a trading centre, browse the paintings of the Dutch masters at the Rijksmuseum or join the punters prowling the alleyways of the Red Light District.
Visit one of Amsterdam’s diamond traders, and watch craftsmen cutting and polishing the precious stones. Among the best known is Gassan, in Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat (www.gassan.com/nl/juweliers), where stones can be selected and mounted in jewellery on the spot.
Museums and galleries
See some of the many great works of art, including those of Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Vermeer displayed in Amsterdam’s many museums and galleries, including the Rijksmuseum (www.rijksmuseum.nl).
Take a trip to Arnhem (www.vvvarnhemnijmegen.nl/arnhem), in southeastern Holland, scene of WWII’s ‘Operation Market Garden’, in which the city’s Rhine crossing proved a ‘Bridge too Far’ for the allied forces attempting to bring an early conclusion to hostilities.
Seat of Dutch government and royalty, as well as of the International Court of Justice, Den Haag (denhaag.com/en) thrills architecture fans with its rich catalogue of palaces and government buildings. As an added attraction, the adjacent seaside resort of Scheveningen features a vast sandy beach.
Enjoy a miniaturised flavour of the whole of The Netherlands at Madurodam (madurodam.nl), which replicates many aspects of the country in 1:25 scale, incorporating windmills, a cheese market and what is claimed as the world’s most extensive miniature railway.
Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer (the Aalsmeer Flower Auction)
Get up early to witness trading at Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer (the Aalsmeer Flower Auction) (www.royalfloraholland.com). Close to Schipol airport, the auctions take place in five halls at what is the world’s largest commercial building at 999,000 sq m (10.7million sq ft). It’s best to arrive by 7 am; Thursdays are busiest.
Head to the far southeast of The Netherlands to see the medieval architecture of Maastricht (www.vvvmaastricht.nl/de/home.html), Holland’s oldest fortified city. Highlights include the basilica churches of Our Lady and St Servatius, and spectacular caves in the surrounding hills.
Home to Holland’s biggest university, Utrecht (www.visit-utrecht.com) boasts a youthful, active vibe. The old centre, laced by canals, is a pleasure to stroll. Climb the elegant tower of the 14th-century Dom (cathedral) tower or visit the town’s many museums, including one dedicated to the work of Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy, in the Centraal Museum (centraalmuseum.nl/en/).
Tulips at Keukenhof Gardens
With some 4.5 million tulips and 15 kilometers of footpaths, Keukenhof gardens (keukenhof.nl), south of Haarlem, makes the ultimate outing for ogling Holland’s famed flower. The bulb fields in and around Keukenhof burst into colour from the end of March to mid May.
Enjoy the spectacle of one of Holland’s cheese markets. The best are Waagplein, in Alkmaar (www.alkmaar.nl), where every Friday from mid-April to mid-September, thousands of wheels of cheese are lined up in rows by the central weighing house, taste-tested and carted away by guildsmen in traditional costume. The town of Edam holds a similar market on Wednesdays in summer.
Watch the skills of the porcelain makers at the Royal Delft pottery (www.royaldelft.com), in the town of Delft. Also home town of Johannes Vermeer, it now features a centre (www.vermeerdelft.nl) dedicated to the painter of The Milkmaid and other masterworks of light.
Take a glass-topped boat tour round Amsterdam’s many waterways and harbour. It is an excellent way to see the city’s most interesting areas. Another option is to take a boat tour (www.lovers.nl), which links most of the major cultural attractions.
Rent a bicycle
Rent a bicycle and join the Dutch on the country’s most popular form of transport. There are around 29,000km (18,019 miles) of designated cycle tracks around The Netherlands, which due to its generally flat landscape, is ideal.
Dutch National Railway Museum
Relive history at the Het Spoorwegmuseum (Dutch National Railway Museum) (www.spoorwegmuseum.nl), at Maliebaanstation in Utrecht, with its extensive collection of historic rolling stock and memorabilia. A regular train link connects the museum with Utrecht Central.