Country guides Europe
Netherlands Travel Guide
From its fun-loving capital, Amsterdam, to its historically rich towns of Delft and Groningen, the Netherlands is guaranteed to delight holidaymakers. A tulip-and-windmill-strewn countryside and gorgeous national parks add more dimensions to this fascinating place.
Most travellers visit Amsterdam first, admiring 17th-century bridges and riverside houses as they navigate the city's famous canals. World-class museums, concert halls and art galleries are also on offer. Otherwise, the city's coffeeshops and lenient attitude toward cannabis have made it a renowned drug tourism destination, while its Red Light District has been a mainstay of the global sex tourism industry for many years.
Tourists who venture outside of Amsterdam will be richly rewarded too. The 750-year-old city of Delft is renowned for its distinctive blue and white pottery, and boasts an interesting mix of historic sites and youthful energy. Rotterdam is a gleaming city of high-rise buildings and truly innovative architecture.
Best time to visit the Netherlands
The Netherlands' climate is quite similar to the United Kingdom's, featuring temperate and changeable conditions all year round, with lots of rainfall. The best time to visit is either in spring (April and May), when the tulips are in bloom, or in summer (July and August), when despite the hordes of tourists, lovely long days allow travellers to pack more sightseeing and adventuring into their stays.
What to see in the Netherlands
- Admire the paintings of the Dutch Masters in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.
- Visit the Anne Frank Museum for a poignant and humanising reminder of the tragedy of Nazi occupation.
- See the small town of Kinderdijk's historic windmills: an iconic sight, and what's sure to be an abiding memory of the Netherlands.
- The Van Gogh Museum houses more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings, and provides a fascinating insight into the troubled mind of the famous Dutch artist.
What to do in the Netherlands
- Take a tour through Amsterdam's famous canals for the perfect introduction to this historic city.
- Dress up nicely, and head to Amsterdam's Red Light District (De Wallen) for an unforgettable night on the town.
- Head to the Heineken Experience, and get a close-up look at how the Netherlands' favourite beer is brewed.
- Take a trip to fun, historic Delft, and go shopping at the Royal Delftware Factory for the iconic blue and white porcelain.
Getting to the Netherlands
There are plenty of cheap direct flights to the Netherlands from a big list of British and American cities. Several European low-cost carriers also offer cheap flights to Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Tulip Fever by Debroah Moggach, and The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas.
Golden Earring, Shocking Blue, BZN, and Frans Bauer.
The Girl with the Pearl Earring (2003), Simon (2004), Turks Fruit/Turkish Delight (1973), and De Tweeling/Twin Sisters (2002).
'White beer' (witbier) is popular, and is basically lager flavoured with a spice called gruit; while Dutch gin (jenever) is sweeter than English gin.
Bitterballen (breaded and deep-fried ragout served with mustard), pannenkoeken (pancakes, either sweet or savoury), and erwtensoep (a hearty green pea and smoked sausage soup).
What to buy
Blue and white ceramics from the Delft region, miniature windmills, and clogs (wooden shoes, known locally as klompen).
What to pack
When packing for the Netherlands, travellers should bear in mind that the weather is very changeable and subject to a lot of rainfall all year round. It's best to pack a good variety of clothing to deal with varying temperatures, and to carry a good rain slicker at all times.
What's on in the Netherlands
The Holland Festival (June) is a month-long cultural celebration that encompasses all art forms, from pop music to high-minded drama, and features many international artists. The Cannabis Cup (November) is the marijuana world's equivalent of the World Cup, where judges and curious tourists from all over the world congregate to judge the world's best weed.
Did you know?
- More than half of the surface area of the Netherlands is less than one metre above sea-level.
- Dutch people are the tallest in the world, with men averaging six feet (184cm) and women five feet six inches (170cm).
- The Netherlands has frequently topped lists as the world's greatest country for children to grow up in.
A final word
The Netherlands has a famously progressive and liberal society, and is blessed with cultural sights and attractions. Visitors can look forward to an unforgettable European holiday, whether they're seeking high culture or just plain fun.