Although the Netherlands is famously known for its graceful canals, brightly colored tulips, and enormous wheels of cheese, there is still much more to this European country than meets the eye. Dutch civilization may date back to the prehistoric Ice Age, but it has since transformed and grown to the progressive and powerful country that stands there today.
The Netherlands is chock full of history and culture, and it might be tough to pinpoint all the best places to visit during your trip. But we’re here to let you know about some of the most fascinating destinations in the entire country, from the spinning windmills of Kinderdijk to the grandiose palaces in the Hague.
Even though the country is relatively small compared to its other European neighbors, you’ll find that there is something exciting around every corner! Whether you’re interested in design, history, or food, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time in the Netherlands.
Staying Safe in the Netherlands
Similar to other European cities, the Netherlands remains a safe place for tourists to visit. While there should be little concern when traveling to smaller towns and villages, tourists should still take precaution when traveling to bigger, busier cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague. Petty theft is not uncommon, so keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Keep in mind that prostitution and marijuana are legal in the Netherlands. However, marijuana cannot be transported across country lines and hard drugs are strictly prohibited at all times.
But while Netherlands is very safe as a whole, no matter where you travel you absolutely NEED to have travel insurance.
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#1 – Amsterdam Centrum
One of the most incredible free places to go to in the Netherlands
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Over 85,000 residents
The inner, historical city of Amsterdam is a winding labyrinth of small canals and cobblestone bridges that link together 90 different islands. While Amsterdam Centrum is famous for its picturesque canal ring, it’s also home to thousands of historical monuments and buildings!
Like most major cities, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars to keep your appetite satisfied throughout the day. Amsterdam Centrum is one of the Netherland’s most visited neighborhood’s that you absolutely must explore! Also – if you are staying in Amsterdam, you should check out our post about the best hostels in Amsterdam.
- Anne Frank House was the original hiding spot of Anne Frank and her family during World War II. Although it’s now a museum, the house is a somber yet fascinating exhibit to explore the life of Amsterdam’s most famous resident.
- Noordermarkt is an organic farmer’s market that sells everything from homemade cheeses and jams to fresh fish and meats. Although it’s only open on Saturday, it’s still worth visiting to check out the local produce.
- The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is a lavish 17th-century building that was once the city’s town hall. The architecture alone is stunning, but the domed cupola that sits atop the palace is the highlight.
P.S. – Save a bit of cash in Amsterdam with our EPIC guide to the best party hostels in Amsterdam!
Where to Stay
#2 – The Hoge Veluwe National Park
- 55 square kilometers of diverse landscapes
- Home to museums with well-known collections of art
Predating the Ice Age, The Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the Netherland’s oldest and most diverse landscapes. Once you enter the park, you’ll be faced with an entire world of dusty sand dunes, low-growing heathlands, and canopied forests.
Besides the plethora of outdoor activities, the park is also home to a few museums and monuments to explore.
- Kröller-Müller Museum is a small art museum and sculpture garden inside the park. Besides containing works from artists such as Picasso, Redon, and Seurat, the museum also contains the second largest Van Gogh collection.
- Museonder is a museum that’s built completely underground! Focusing on geology and biology, Museonder contains many skeletons, fossils, and excavated finds.
- Cycle through the park on one of the free shared bicycles scattered around. They really come in handy when you want to reach areas of the park that can’t be accessed by car.
#3 – The Cool District, Rotterdam
One of the most underrated places to see in the Netherlands
- Charming, artistic neighborhood
- Eclectic nightlife and cocktail lounges
The appropriately named neighborhood of Cool lives up to its expectations! Tree-lined streets and red, brick roads make the Cool District one of the most charming places to visit in Rotterdam.
But look a little closer and you’ll see some of the quirkiest and trendiest hot spots in the whole city. During the day you’ll find vintage boutiques and cozy coffee shops. But Cool really comes alive a night when the main streets are overflowing with barhopping, urban locals.
- Rotterdamse Schouwburg Theater is a modern event hall showing many different types of performances. Everything from 60-piece symphonies to Italian operas graces the stage of Rotterdamse Schouwburg Theater.
- Witte de Withstraat is a small street that runs through the middle of the Cool District. Not only are there funky dining establishments on every corner, but the walls are plastered with colorful graffiti and vivid street art.
- Galerie Ecce is a modern art gallery showcasing the works of Dutch artists and designers. It first opened in 1994 and remains an iconic staple on Witte de Withstraat.
#4 – Museumpark, Rotterdam
- Beautiful park surrounded by museums
- Art galleries ranging from medieval to modern
The lush, grassy fields of Museumpark are surrounded by – you guessed it, Museums! Half a dozen different museums surround every corner of Rotterdam’s most popular outdoor escape.
If you’re not bothered by visiting the museums and just looking to escape the city for a few hours, then Museumpark itself also has several glistening ponds, flowing fountains, and art sculptures to admire.
- Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the several art museums located next to Museumpark. The art collection is quite impressive and includes everything from contemporary sculptures by Dali to Renaissance works by Rembrandt.
- Chabot Museum is solely dedicated to the Dutch artist Hendrik Chabot. Set in a modern villa, the museum contains paintings and sculptures from the private collection of some of most affluent Dutch elite.
- The Netherlands Architecture Institute is a complex focused on urban development and architecture throughout the Netherlands. Besides being a museum, the institute also has a library, cafe, and event hall.
#5 – Haarlem
- Considered Amsterdam’s little brother
- Quaint town with 17th-century architecture
Although it’s a quick 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam, Haarlem feels like an entirely different world. While North Holland’s capital has deep, historical roots from the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age, it has since transformed over the years to become a buzzing metropolis rich with culture.
Besides being home to magnificent cathedrals and buildings, Haarlem is also known for brewing beer and growing Tulips!
- Grote Markt is the sprawling plaza lies in the center of the historic city center. Every day, thousands of visitors and locals flood the plaza grounds making Grote Markt one of the most bustling attractions in all of Haarlem. Don’t forget to come on Saturday for the local farmer’s market!
- Grote Kerk stands 75-meters high and overlooks the neighboring Grote Markt. Not only does the cathedral have grand marble columns and delicate window paintings, but it also contains an 18th-century organ that was once played by Mozart!
- Grote Houtstraat is one of Haarlem’s busiest shopping districts. You’ll find everything from big name brands to small independent boutiques selling a variety of clothing, housewares, and souvenirs for every budget.
#6 – Kinderdijk
- Iconic, spinning windmills
- Riverside town
No trip to Holland would be complete without visiting some of the iconic, infamous windmills! Because of the town’s proximity to the Lek and Noord Rivers, Kinderdijk’s residents built the windmills in order to pump out the excess river water to prevent the town from flooding.
Although visitors from all over the world come to mainly admire the Kinderdijk Windmills, there are several other activities that explore the history and culture of this lovely, little town.
- The Kinderdijk Windmills are by far the biggest attraction in Kinderdijk. Built in the mid-1700s, the 19 windmills are collectively a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although they still spin and function, they are no longer needed to drain the rivers.
- Boat tours are conducted down the Kinderdijk basin, where you can see the best views of the windmills while enjoying a relaxing ride. Some routes are hop-on-hop-off, so you can explore the fields and windmills as you please.
- The Kinderdijk Visitors Center is an educational insight into the history of the village and production of the windmills. You’ll also have the opportunity to walk inside one of the windmills!
#7 – Keukenhof Gardens
A beautiful outdoor place to visit in the Netherlands
- 32-hectares of blooming tulips
- Open two months out of the year
There is nothing quite like walking through the lush, vibrant Keukenhof Gardens. With a shocking 7 million flower bulbs planted annually, Keukenhof Gardens is the largest flower garden in Europe and second largest garden in the entire world!
The best time to visit the garden is in spring, where you can see the tulips fully bloomed in every vibrant color imaginable. If you’re lucky to visit during April, you’ll see the magical flower parade with flower-covered floats, dancers, and live music!
- Keukenhof Castle was built in the late 1600s to collect the herbs and berries harvested in the park before they were sent to Castle Slot Teijlingen. The outside of the castle is gorgeous, but you can also visit the inside with a guided tour.
- Strawberry Fields Garden is a themed garden that showcases the vibrant rainbow shades of the tulips. Inspired by the Beatles, Strawberry Fields Garden has some of the brightest red tulips around.
- The Green Machine Garden is dedicated to the edible herbs and flowers of the world. You’ll find every type of edible plant in the garden, including tea leaves, lemon balm, aniseed, and even chocolate mint.
#8 – Delft
- Home to traditional Delft pottery
- Birthplace of the painter Johannes Vermeer
While many tourists rush to see the canals of Amsterdam, they often overlook visiting the historic city of Delft. Although Delft is brimming with quaint cafes, beautiful parks, and boutique shops, it’s laid-back atmosphere makes it a peaceful city where you can experience traditional Dutch life.
The narrow canals are also so stunning that they give Amsterdam a run for its money! Also – If you are making the trip there, you should definitely check out our article about the best day trips from Amsterdam.
- Oude Kerk may not be the biggest church in Delft, but it’s definitely one of the most unique! Oude Kerk’s tower leans 2-meters, giving the church a completely off-centered tilted look and the deserving nickname “Skewed John”.
- Voldersgracht is one of the prettiest canals in the whole city. The buildings and bridges are said to be built in the mid-1300s, making it one of Delft’s oldest canals.
- Delft Flea Market occurs every Thursday and Saturday in the morning. Although you’ll find all types of antiques and vintage housewares, the flea market is known to sell traditional decorative pottery, otherwise known as Delftware.
Where to Stay
#9 – Utrecht
A must visit place to visit in the Netherlands on the weekend
- The Netherland’s 4th largest city
- Home to the largest University in the Netherlands
Before Amsterdam became the most prominent city in the Netherlands during the Dutch Golden Age, Utrecht was considered the cultural and religious epicenter of the country.
Utrecht was once the heart of Roman Catholicism in the Netherlands when the Pope appointed the bishop of Utrecht as the ruling prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Present day Utrecht is now a populous city overflowing with museums, sports arenas, and theaters.
- Rietveld Schröder House is a design lover’s paradise! This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built by the architect Gerrit Rietveld and contains an open floor plan with moveable walls and sliding panels.
- Miffy Museum is an adorable museum dedicated to everyone’s favorite rabbit, Miffy! With original illustrations, interactive exhibits, and play areas, Miffy Museum is for the cartoon-loving kid in all of us.
- The Dom Tower is an iconic landmark of Utrecht standing 112-meters over the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, then climb the 456 steps to the lookout point at the tip of the tower.
Where to Stay
#10 – Wadden Islands
- Five diverse islands
- Perfect retreat away from the city
Although the Netherland’s share the Wadden Islands with Germany and Denmark, it still remains a peaceful retreat where you can get in touch with nature. Located off the Dutch coast, the five islands are protected environments where busy holiday seekers go to spend a few relaxing days away from the big cities.
Even if you only have time to visit one island, you’ll be thankful that you had the chance to visit the serene islands of the Dutch Wadden Sea!
- Texel is the largest island in the Wadden Islands and is the most popular destination for tourists. With over seven different villages to explore, Texel remains an untouched nature reserve while also having several facilities like restaurants, resorts, and activities.
- Vlieland may be the least populated, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. The steep sand dunes stretch over the majority of the island, making it feel as if you’re on a secluded island!
- Schiermonnikoog is the smallest island at only 16-kilometers long and 4-kilometers wide. Although there is only one village on the island, the highlight is the Schiermonnikoog National Park which is the first national park in the entire country.
#11 – Statenkwartier, The Hague
A great place to see in the Netherlands if you love architecture
- 19th-century architecture
- Residential, tourist-free neighborhood
Situated next to the Hague’s main harbor, Statenkwartier continues to impress visitors with its art nouveau architecture and modern bright red buildings. Due to its extensive history during World War II, Statenkwartier was designated as a national heritage site by the Dutch government.
Architecture aficionados will absolutely adore getting lost in the streets between the contemporary dwellings and peaked rooftops of the buildings.
- Municipal Museum is a late 19th-century art museum dedicated to the artwork of Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter. Although you’ll see most of his later work in the museum, don’t miss his famous Victory Boogie-Woogie, one of Mondrian’s last abstract piece.
- Frederik Hendriklaan is the main street that runs through Statenwartier. Over 1-kilometer long, this street is a shopper’s paradise with over a hundred different shops where you can buy anything your heart desires.
- Laan van Meerdervoort is the longest street in the entire country! Stretching over 6-kilometers in length, it’s worth visiting even if just for the bragging right.
#12 – Voorhout, The Hague
- Historic churches and monuments
- Once home to the wealthy and affluent
When visiting the Hague, make sure to stop by Voorhout, the oldest neighborhood in the entire city. Home to some of the Netherland’s top attractions, Voorhout continues to house some of the most prominent government buildings and monuments.
It’s also home to the once royal residence of the Dutch royalty! If you’re looking for a picturesque neighborhood rich with Dutch history, then venture over to the fascinating district of Voorhout.
- The Royal Residence was once the main home of Prince Henry, and then Princess Sophie of the Netherlands in the late 1800s. It’s now a full-time art museum dedicated to Escher. Take the guided walking tour to see both the museum and the rooms of the palace.
- Kleine Kerk is a 19th-century medieval church and one of the landmarks of Voorhout. The church and surrounding cemetery had to be expanded over the years, giving it the name “Small Church”.
- Het Boerhaavehuis is the pastor’s house that’s located right next to the Kleine Kerk. Built in a traditional Dutch Renaissance style, Het Boerhaavehuis is now recognized as a national monument.
Where to Stay
#13 – Marken
- Only 2,000 residents
- Can be explored just on foot
The fairy-tale town of Marken is one of North Holland’s top attractions. Although it has the perfect location right on the banks of the Ijsselmeer Lake, the wooden Dutch houses make Marken the ultimate picturesque town!
Painted in a variety of bright, vivid colors the houses were built on poles in order to keep the people who lived inside dry since many are located right on the lake. Although there is now a water control system to prevent flooding, you can still visit the unique homes that make Marken so architecturally diverse.
- Paard van Marken is the town’s iconic lighthouse that sits on the edge of the Marken Peninsula. Although the lighthouse was transformed into a private home, it’s still amazing to look at as it towers over the water at 16-meters high.
- Marken Museum showcases the traditional handicrafts, folk clothing, and art pieces made by the local residents. The museum is built inside several old fisherman houses, one of which has been preserved so you can see how the fisherman lived in the 1930s.
- Klompenmakerij is a small museum and workshop dedicated to Holland’s legendary wooden clogs! During your visit, you can see how the clogs are produced by machine, as well as by hand.
#14 – Valkenburg
One of the more unique places to visit in the Netherlands!
- Rolling hills and grass fields
- Medieval ruins and monuments
Nestled in the Geul Valley, Valkenburg is a medieval lover’s dream! Not only does the town have a deep seeded history as being the setting of World War II sieges and Dutch conquests, but it also has beautifully preserved medieval architecture.
While Valkenburg was once a booming tourist town, it has since refocused its efforts to maintain its historic buildings and monuments.
- Valkenburg Castle remains the main focal point in Valkenburg, as its the country’s only hilltop castle! Now barely a standing pile of rubble, the castle has made its mark on history during the Salian Dynasty, the Dutch Spanish War, and the Franco-Dutch War.
- Marl Quarries are large caves that take you deep inside the hills of Valkenburg. Some of the caves have special exhibits, like a recreation of the Roman catacombs. But the real treat is coming during the winter to see the indoor cave Christmas Markets!
- Wilhelminatoren is a 30-meter high lookout tower with sweeping views of the city and surrounding area. To reach the tower, you can take an equally as impressive cable car to the top.
#15 – Nationaal beek- en esdorpenlandschap Drentsche Aa
A nice quiet place to see in the Netherlands
- 16 small villages inside the park
- Rural farming practices
The Nationaal beek- en esdorpenlandschap Drentsche Aa (also known as the Drentsche Aa National Park) is a sprawling 34,000-hectare farmland that’s almost as impressive as the name itself!
The park has remained virtually untouched by agricultural advancements and implementations, and 19th-century farming methods are still practiced today. If you’re looking for a slice of serene beauty, then the rural countryside of Drentsche AA is for you!
- The Strubben-Kniphorstbosch is an archeological site that you can spend all day exploring! Walk through dozens of ancient burial sites and several stone tombs that have existed for over 4,000 years.
- Drentsche Aa River runs 28-kilometers through the vast meadows and farmlands of the park. The trickling stream is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, or maybe a quiet picnic with your friends and family.
- Zuidlaren is a midsize village with over 10,000 residents. Take a short walk through Zuidlaren and you’ll discover several World War II memorials, monuments, and buildings.
Recommended Article – have you checked out our article about the best hostels near Amsterdam Airport?
#16 – Edam
A must-see for foodies!
- Cheese shops and foodie paradise
- Less than 8,000 annual residents
Cheese lovers must add Edam to their itinerary! Not only is Edam the birthplace of the cheese with the same name, but it’s also a cultural city with a gorgeous historic city center! Bordered by the old city walls, Edam has managed to preserve many of its 17th and 16th-century monuments.
And when you’re done exploring the historic side of Edam, stop into one of the many cheese markets and shops to sample some of the most mouth-watering cheese in all of Holland!
- St. Nicolas Church is on a lucky streak! After surviving multiple fires and lightning strikes in the 17th century, it still manages to be one of the most unique churches in Europe. The stained glass windows shine in every color and illuminate the interior altar.
- The Edam Museum during the mid-1500s was considered the oldest house in the city. Take a step inside and see how traditional Dutch locals lived during this time period.
- The Edam Cheese Market is not your average farmers market! Every summer, costumed employees dress up and perform a haggling auction over the giant, waxed cheese wheels.
#17 – Zaanse Schans
- 18th-century preserved town
- See Dutch traditions like cheese-making and clog-carving
Although some visitors may call Zaanse Schans kitschy, it still remains one of the most picturesque frozen-in-time towns. From the 18th-century windmills to the 19th-century homes, Zaanse Schans feels as if you’ve stepped back hundreds of years in history.
Besides having some of the most scenic streets and buildings, Zaanse Schans is also home to several educational museums. If you’re looking to escape the city life of Amsterdam, then Zaanse Schans is a quick, 15-minute train journey away.
- The windmills can be seen lining the edges of the lake in the middle of Zaanse Schans. From mustard mills to sawmills to oil mills, you’ll see a big variety of 16th-century spinning windmills during your visit.
- The Wooden Shoe Museum is dedicated to the famous Dutch clog. Unlike other clog museums, you’ll find plenty of bizarre clogs carved into sharp points, roller skates, and even wedding shoes. Don’t miss the clog making demonstrations that occur several times during the day!
- Albert Heijn Grocery is more than your average supermarket. This Zaanse Schans’ staple now sells a variety of gourmet goodies, from freshly roasted coffee beans to aromatic spices.
#18 – Red Light District, Amsterdam
Certainly one of the most exotic places to see in the Netherlands
- Center of Amsterdam’s nightlife
- Neon lights, cheap drinks, and people watching
Most tourists who travel to Amsterdam have preconceived notions of what goes down in the city’s Red Light District. Although it may have quite the naughty reputation around the world, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is now a major attraction for all types of visitors!
While you’ll still find your rowdy bachelor parties and infamous “coffee shops”, it’s still worth visiting just to people watch and gawk at the neon lights that illuminate the night sky.
- Pub Crawls are wildly popular through the Red Light District. Almost every other establishment is a bar! What better way to get accustomed to the neighborhood by bar-hopping and having a nice cold beer (or shot)?
- The Amsterdam Dungeon is part amusement park and part museum. Explore over 500 years of dark, eerie, Dutch history as you walk through the underground Dungeon. Actors and performers reenact different stories throughout history, so you can visualize the horrors as if they were in real life!
- The Rembrandt House was once the residence of the famous Dutch painter for over 20 years. Not only will you find some of his original art pieces, but you’ll also see the preserved rooms and artifacts that he used in his house.
#19 – Kasteel De Haar
- Originally the private residence of the Van Zuylen family
- Built in the 1300s but renovated in the 1800s
While visiting Utrecht, don’t miss the largest castle in the Netherlands! Kasteel De Haar is a lavish, 19th-century castle with a vibrant past.
Just like a castle out of a fairytale, Kasteel De Haar has attracted celebrities, fashionistas, and politicians with its majestic architecture. Sprawling over 55-hectares, the castle also has manicured gardens, an on-site chapel, and even a museum.
- The castle gardens are almost just as grand and stunning as the castle itself. Designed by the Dutch artist Hendrik Copijn, the gardens contain several flowing water fountains, a rose garden, and even a hedge maze.
- The Dining Room is a deep red, ornate room where most of the castle’s formal dinners would take place. It’s easy to close your eyes and image a dinner party happening under the glittering crystal chandeliers.
- The Baroness Room is one of the 20 different bedrooms in the castle. Covered wall to wall in baby pink, you’ll feel like a princess once you step foot inside the Baroness Room.
#20 – Giethoorn
Great place to visit in the Netherlands for couples
- Nicknamed “the Venice of the Netherlands”
- Historic farmhouses and picturesque homes
The greatest hidden gem in all of the Netherlands is undoubtedly the town of Giethoorn. Instead of paved roads and cars, the entire town is only accessible by boat through the canals!
With over 150 bridges, you can hop from island to island admiring the picturesque houses all day. Giethoorn can also be explored in winter, where visitors ice skate over the frozen canals.
- Boat tours are popular through the canals considering it’s the only way to maneuver through the village! It’s best to book a boat or tour several days in advance (especially in the summer) as they tend to sell out fast.
- Het Olde Maat Uus is a museum where you can see an old Dutch farmhouse up close and personal. Of course, there are also costumed actors and live performances to give you a true taste of how life was back 100 years ago.
- The Histomobil is a museum dedicated to classic cars. You’ll find all sorts of carriages, bikes, and trucks that would make any car collector jealous.
#21 – Eindhoven
- The Netherland’s 5th largest city
- Modern, designed focused
If you’re looking to experience the metropolitan side of the Netherlands, visit the design-centric city of Eindhoven! Although it’s often overlooked by tourists who are more interested in seeing other historic Dutch cities.
Eindhoven is still a thriving, industrial hub that entertains visitors of all types. The sharp, angular design of the buildings are starkly contrasted to the charming, thatched homes of the rest of Holland.
- The Van Abbemuseum houses the country’s top modern and contemporary art collection. With over 2,700 works, you’ll see everything from Picasso’s paintings to Mondrian’s sculptures.
- Evoluon may look like a hovering UFO spaceship, but it’s actually a conference center! This bizarre building is a 77-meter steel dome that’s propped up on a small hexagonal, glass room, giving it the appearance of a flying saucer.
- Genneper Park is a breath of fresh air in the middle of Eindhoven. Whether you’re coming to enjoy a picnic with friends, or photographing the small ponds and lakes, you’ll find some sort of piece at Genneper Park
Where to Stay
Now that you have a taste of what the Netherlands offers, you’ll have no problem creating an action-packed itinerary! Explore the pristine natural parks and stroll through the gardens at the royal palaces. Admire the sculptures and paintings in the museums and smell the fresh spring tulips.
Whether you’re looking for buzzing cities or quaint villages, we’re sure you’re going to find it here in the Netherlands!
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