Netherlands


Overview

Netherlands travel guide, including map of the Netherlands, top Netherlands travel experiences, tips for travel in Netherlands, plus where to cycle in the Nethe

The Netherlands, tucked away between Belgium, Germany and the North Sea, is an often-overlooked holiday destination. The best way to explore the Netherlands’ countryside is by bike. Cycle past windmills, tulip fields, rough coastlines and picture-perfect villages.

An obvious – and worthwhile – place to visit is the Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam. Admire world-famous Dutch paintings in the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, cruise or walk along Amsterdam’s canals, and finish the day in one of the city’s many buzzing bars. The Hague's gothic architecture shelters some real cultural and historical gems, as well as being the government centre.

Other highlights are the remote Frisian Islands and their more frequented neighbour Texel, the charming town of Maastricht with its medieval centre, and the marshes and lagoons of Biesbosch National Park. Rotterdam is a hot spot for architecture fans, and Leiden is a charming little University city just half an hour's train ride from Amsterdam.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Go ice-skating on frozen canals – occasionally the right climatic conditions result in a Dutch super-freeze, and the whole country shuts down, pulls on its skates and takes to the waterways.
  2. Visit the Van Gogh Museum and take a walk around Vondelpark during a city break in Amsterdam.
  3. Enjoy the sea breeze and relax on the quiet Frisian Islands in the far north, much of which is protected nature reserves.
  4. Hire a bike (or bring your own) and cycle one of the Netherlands’ excellent long distance routes, for example along the rivers Maas and Waal.
  5. The Hague offers plentiful fodder for culture vultures. The Mauritshuis gallery is home to some of the country's most famous paintings by Rembrandt, and Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.
  6. Explore the quiet historical city of Leiden – the 17th century town centre is still largely intact, as are the museums and gardens owned by the University. Spot the poetry murals painted on buildings all over the city.

Wanderlust tips 

Join a guided mud walk, crossing over to an island in the Wadden Sea during low tide. It’s a bit messy, but great fun and a unique nature experience. A good area is Simonszand, a sandbank between Schiermonnikoog and Rottumerplaat, home to many birds and seagulls.

I wish I'd known...

Katherine Price shares her tips on surviving the Netherlands:

“Watch out for the cyclists! Amsterdam is known for its bikes for a reason.

"I also wish I'd known just how windy it could be – I visited in April, and because the Netherlands are so flat, there is nothing between you and that bitingly cold wind from the coast. It cuts straight through any jacket that isn't wind-proof, so layer up and make sure you have a proper wind- and rain-proofed jacket.”

Further Reading

Travel in the Netherlands: vital statistics

  • Capital of the Netherlands: Amsterdam
  • Population of the Netherlands: 16,7 million
  • Languages in the Netherlands: Dutch. English is widely spoken.
  • Time in the Netherlands: GMT +1
  • International dialling code in the Netherlands: +62
  • Voltage in the Netherlands: 220-240 AC 50 Hz
  • Visas for the Netherlands: Netherlands visa
  • Money in the Netherlands: Euro (€). Credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are available throughout the Netherlands. Many restaurants include a service charge in their bills and tipping is not necessary, but it is common to round up to the nearest euro or tip around 10%.
  • Netherlands travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Netherlands tourist board: Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions

When to go to the Netherlands

The climate in the Netherlands is temperate, with moderately cold winters and mild summers.

Plan your trip around 30 April to see a whole country, especially Amsterdam, going nuts on Koninginnedag, or Orange Day: the Dutch dress up in the national colour orange and celebrate the birthday of the Queen.

Netherlands international airports

Amsterdam (AMS) 15km from the city; Rotterdam (RTM) 6km from the city; Eindhoven (EIN) 7km from the city; Maastricht (MST) 10km from the city.

 

Getting around in the Netherlands

Netherlands Railways operates a good train network, connecting all major cities and many smaller towns.

There is a good service of regional and local buses. Hiring a bicycle is the perfect way to get around locally – the Netherlands is very bike-friendly, with 20,000km of designated fietspaden (cycle paths) and many repair and hiring facilities. You are allowed to take your bicycle on almost all trains.  

Ferries run from the mainland to the five Frisian islands, and along southern Zeeland.

The Netherlands accommodation

Hotels and hostels are usually of a good standard. You will find plenty of well-equipped and family-friendly campsites all over the country. If you cycle or walk around the Netherlands join Vrienden op de Fiets (Friends of the Bicycle) for a marginal annual fee to get bargain bed & breakfast accommodation.

 

The Netherlands food & drink

The Netherlands is not a gourmet country, but has a range of specialties worth trying. Street vendors sell delicious fish snacks such as rollmops, smoked eel, mussels and mackerel in a roll. Dutch cheese is more diverse than you might think – sample locally produced Edam and Gouda of different grades of maturity.

Fast food fans are well catered for in the Netherlands: chips (friet) are very popular and come with various sauces – try curry or ‘special’ (mayonnaise, ketchup and onions). Other takeaway classics are kroketten – spiced minced meat covered with breadcrumbs and deep-fried – and fricandel, a sort of minced meat sausage.

Dutch patisseries offer excellent cakes and cookies: try appelgebak (apple pie) and stroopwafels (syrup wafers). Large cities often have a selection of good Indonesian, Chinese and other Asian restaurants.

You can’t go wrong with Dutch beer, which is mostly brewed Pilsener-style.

Health & safety in the Netherlands

Good health care is readily available throughout the Netherlands. EU citizens should carry a European Health Insurance Card to access free hospital treatment.

Smoking cannabis is tolerated in so-called coffeeshops – it is illegal in public though.