What to see in the Netherlands: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries

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Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

In the Netherlands, in addition to large cities, with particular and very specific characteristics, there are magnificent landscapes and delightful villages where time seems to have stopped. Spring is certainly the best time to be amazed by immense expanses of tulips with bright colors, while in summer it is nice to jump on a bicycle to explore suggestive towns or run around among the omnipresent mills.

State-of-the-art cities and fishing villages, contemporary architecture and ancient churches, modern and ancient art, a small country that contains a plurality of aspects that can fascinate for the harmonious coexistence between modernity and tradition. So let's discover the guide of the Netherlands: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries!


  1. The main tourist regions
  2. Major cities of the Netherlands
  3. 10 things to see: the most important sights in the Netherlands
  4. The main routes in the Netherlands
  5. Where it is
  6. Travel informed: useful information
  7. What to do in the Netherlands Holland: activities, excursions and tours
  8. User questions and comments

The main tourist regions

The Netherlands is made up of 12 provinces: North Holland, South Holland, Zealand, North Brabant, Utrecht, Flevoland, Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland and Limburg. Each of which is characterized by its own peculiarities, both of a historical-artistic and naturalistic nature. Being very small, and some similar in characteristics, we can divide them into macro-areas. Here they are:

1 - Northern Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe)

The northern part of the country is very fascinating from a naturalistic point of view. In Friesland and Groningen there are various types of landscape which offer numerous opportunities for fun and sports. I am indeed lands of water, lakes and canals, but also of ancient villages and vast pastures.

To mention the Wadden Sea, a nature reserve that has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 2009 and the Nationaal landschap Middag-Humsterland, the oldest cultural landscape in Holland.

The Drenthe region is known above all for its dolmens, prehistoric funerary monuments, built with huge boulders that probably came here from Denmark during the ice age. Here, too, there is no lack of opportunities for sports and outdoor activities; the province even boasts three national parks, including the second largest in Holland, the Drentsche AA.

  • Reference airports: Ameland and Drachten for Friesland, Stadskanaal and Oostwold for Groningen and Hoogeveen for Drenthe
  • Main towns: Leeuwarden, Sneek, Hindeloopen, Stavoren. Islands: Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, Groningen, Haren, Bourtange, Assen, Emmen, Coevorden
  • Main attractions: National parks (Lauwersmeer, Schiermonnikoog, Drents-Friese Wold and Alde Faenen), Eise Eisinga royal planetarium in Franeker, Woudagemaal pumping station in Lemmer, Paterswolde lake, Pieterburen seal rehabilitation center, Strubben-Kniphorstbosch in Anloo by Emmen
  • Best time: from mid-May to mid-September, temperatures range from cool to mild / hot, although there is no lack of rains. July and August are ideal for a beach holiday, daytime temperatures above 20 ° and water temperatures of 17 °
  • Getting around: by car for greater autonomy, but there are also efficient public transport; from Schiphol, The Hague and Rotterdam there is a direct train to Leeuwarden. Villages and towns are connected by bus. The Frisian Islands can be reached by ferry (times vary according to the season). The most important towns in Drenthe can be reached via 9 railway stations, while the smaller ones are connected by bus

2 - Western Netherlands (Flevoland, Utrecht, North Holland, South Holland)

Certainly the most touristic part of the country. Here indeed lies the true Dutch essence.

In addition to Amsterdam, in the western Netherlands there are many small places to savor the true essence of the nation. In fact, very close to the capital are the fishing villages of Volendam and Marken or the cheese market of Edam or Alkmaar.

Also here we find other musts of a trip to Holland: from the historic cities of Leiden and Delft, the tulips of the blooming fields and the Keukenhof and the mills of Kinderdijk. Without forgetting the beauty of its coastline dotted with seaside resorts such as Scheveningen and Noordwijk. Among the largest cities, in addition to the capital, we remember Rotterdam, modern port city, riot of contemporary architectural works.

The panorama of the western Netherlands ends with Utrecht, the smallest province in the country but has a lot to offer: cities, picturesque villages, multifaceted nature, as well as attractions and museums, and Flevoland, the youngest region where the dominant role is played by the omnipresent tulips.

  • Reference airports: Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam Airport and Lelystad Airport for Flevoland
  • Main towns: Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft,
  • Main attractions: Zaanse Schans, Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt, Keukenhof tulips, Kinderdijk mills, Utrecht Cathedral, Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort, Ouwehands Dierenpark in Rhenen, Oostvaardersplassen reserve, Horsterwold forest Urk island, the Bataviawerf and Nieuw Land Erfgoedmuseum museums in Lelystad
  • Best time: from mid-May to mid-September the climate is pleasantly mild. In Alkmaar the re-enactment of the cheese auction takes place every Friday morning from 10:00 to 13:00 in Waagplein square (from the end of March to the end of September)
  • Getting around: in most municipalities, trains run several times per hour. From Amsterdam, in 30 min, you can reach Haarlem or Zandvoort by train and Volendam by bus. The coastal towns and the Keukenhof are connected by bus

3 - Eastern Netherlands (Overijssel, Gelderland)

In the eastern part of the country there are Overijssel, famous for the "Hanseatic League", and Gelderland, the largest province in Holland.

The first has an extremely varied nature. The landscape of the Weerribben marshes, the hilly Noordoost-Twente area, and the Sallandse Heuvelrug national park, characterized by woods and heaths. And again, the IJssel Delta, with its sinuous banks, and the Mastenbroek, the oldest polder in Holland.

The Gelderland it is in turn divided into four regions: the Veluwe, the Arnhem-Nijmegen area, the Achterhoek and the Rivierenland. All four of these areas are incredibly beautiful and fascinating. The area of ​​the Veluwe boasts beautiful natural parks, the Kröller-Müller Museum and the Royal Palace of Het Loo. Arnhem and Nijmegen are very interesting historical cities while the picturesque hamlets and villages of Achterhoek are perfect for enjoying healthy relaxation in a peaceful environment. But the Achterhoek region is also known for its many castles and estates. The Rivierenland region, which means "Land of Rivers", is dotted with beautiful orchards, meandering canals, meandering rivers and vast natural landscapes.

  • Reference airports: Enschede Airport, Terlet Airport and Teuge Airport
  • Main towns: Enschede, Holten, Zwolle, Giethoorn, Kampen, Deventer, Holtenzaal, Nijmegen, Arnhem, Nijmegen
  • Main attractions: Hanseatic cities, Weerribben marshes, Noordoost-Twente hilly area, Sallandse Heuvelrug national park, Noordoost-Twente hills, IJssel Delta, Mastenbroek, Podere Weldam, Het Nijenhuis Castle, Doorwerth Castle in Doorwerth, Het Loo Palace Apeldoorn
  • Best time: From May to September, the temperature is mild and pleasant and it rarely rains. The highest average temperature in July is 22 °. Autumn is the hunting season, you can eat excellent game dishes
  • Getting around: the car grants greater independence; however the main cities are connected by trains and the villages by bus

4 - Southern Netherlands (Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg)

South of Holland it hosts 3 very different regions.

Brabant, which gave birth to Van Gogh, it has a strong historical-artistic-cultural side. In addition to the places that trace the footsteps of the famous artist there are historic cities such as Den Bosch and Breda, while architecture and design enthusiasts will certainly appreciate Eindhoven, the Dutch city of design. Here too, however, nature is not lacking. There are indeed well 5 five National Parks to explore on foot or by bicycle, including De Biesbosch and Loonse en Drunense Duinen.

The Zeeland region is instead a typical seaside resort with crystal clear water beaches and culinary delights from the sea. To deepen the knowledge and history of the area we recommend a visit to the Delta Plan and the MuZEEum in Vlissingen.

Still different Limburg, the southernmost province. Suffice it to say that in Maastricht there are vineyards. Unique case in the Netherlands! Here too there is no shortage national parks: in the De Groote Peel National Park you can walk through pastures and peat bogs, while the De Meinweg National Park is characterized by a rare terraced landscape.

  • Reference airports: Eindhoven Airport, Kempen Airport and Breda Airport for Brabant, Middelburg Airport for Zalanda and Maastricht-Aachen Airport for Limburg
  • Main towns: Eindhoven, Breda, Helmond, Tilburg, Maastricht
  • Main attractions: Van GoghHuis in Veenoord, Noordbrabants Museum aa s-Hertogenbosch, De Biesbosch and Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park, muZEEum in Flushing, Piano Delta, Deltapark Neeltje Jans in Oosterschelde, Oosterscheldekering dam, Zeeuws museum in Middelburg, Fort Sint Peter in Maastricht, De Groote Peel National Park, De Meinweg National Park
  • Best time: from the second half of spring to the end of summer. The temperatures are pleasant and the weather fairly stable. Little chance of rain
  • Getting around: From Amsterdam and Schiphol, trains leave every half hour to Maastricht. Trains are also available for the Eindhoven-Maastricht, Maastricht-Roermond and Roermond-Nijmegen routes. Direct trains run from Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam to locations such as Goes, Yerseke, Middelburg and Vlissingen. The towns are then connected by bus. There are also several ferry lines to the various islands. The car remains the option that grants greater freedom and autonomy

Major cities of the Netherlands

  1. Amsterdam: "the Venice of the North" where the protagonist is the water that flows in the countless canals. One of the most beautiful European capitals that offers art, history, but also modernity and traditions. Here is the main airport
  2. Rotterdam: port city in South Holland characterized by contemporary architecture. Its port is the largest in Europe and the third in the world (after Singapore and Shanghai). There is also a convenient airport here
  3. The Hague: the second most important capital of the country. Royal city, rich in art and history, it has been the center of the country's political life since the th century. This is where the International Court of Justice of the Peace Palace is located
  4. Delft: "the little Amsterdam", is surrounded by canals overlooked by ancient Baroque buildings. It is one of the oldest cities in the country closely linked to the history of the Royal Family. Prince William of Orange made his home here
  5. Maastricht: university city that stands out for its medieval architecture and lively cultural scene. Here too is the airport
  6. Eindhoven: famous as a technology and design center, it is the home of Philips. Many low-cost flights land at its airport
  7. Utrecht: always a religious center, it is a city characterized by an ancient medieval part, canals, Christian monuments and a historical university. Its symbol is the famous Torre del Duomo, a bell tower of the fourteenth century

10 things to see: the most important sights in the Netherlands

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  1. The museums of Amsterdam: the Van Gogh Museum, Flemish art at Riksmusem, contemporary art at the Stedelijk Museum and science at NEMO. We recommend purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card to save on admissions
  2. The countries linked to cheese: Edam (with the cheese history museum), Gouda, Marken, Alkmaar, where historical reenactments are often held on the cheese auction.
  3. Windmills: by Kinderdijk, Museummolen Nederwaard, Museummolen Blokweer and Zaanse Schanse. Villages and windmills tour from Amsterdam recommended
  4. Canals and bridges to see, walk along, cross and admire everywhere, from big cities like Amsterdam to smaller and more characteristic ones. Amsterdam canal cruise recommended
  5. Historical and royal residences: De Haar Castle, Palais Het Loo, Muiderslot, Koninklijk Paleis
  6. Parks and nature reserves: De Hoge Veluwe, De Biesbosch National Park, Zuid-Kennemerland, Weerribben Wieden, De Loonse and En Drunense Duinen
  7. The extravagant architecture of Rotterdam: the Cubic Houses of Piet Blom and the Erasmusbrug, the famous bridge "The Swan".
  8. flowers: at Flora Holland, at the Bloemenmarkt in Amsterdam, the only floating flower market and, during the flowering period, the Keukenohof tulip garden (from Amsterdam entrance to Keukenhof with transfer)
  9. amusement parks: Madurodam (Holland in miniature), Efteling (one of the oldest amusement parks in the world with a fairy-tale theme), Toverlan (magic theme), Diergaarde Blijdorp (zoo, aquarium and playground). Do not miss the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam
  10. Ancient churches: Oude Kerke and Westerkerk in Amsterdam, Grote of Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem, Sint-Servaasbasiliek, the major Catholic church of Maastricht, Utrecht Cathedral

The main routes in the Netherlands

With a rough breakdown, in the Netherlands we can distinguish between large cities and small villages. The complete tour obviously includes both, otherwise you can opt for itineraries, more or less long, which touch the most important cities, rather than smaller and bucolic realities, still firmly linked to the traditions of the country itself.

In the first case, in addition to the capital, Amsterdam, it is possible choose among the most important cities from the historical-artistic point of view, rather than cities linked more to contemporaneity and the economy. In the case of characteristic and traditional realities, the themes to choose from (and possibly bring together) are: windmills, cheese, flowers, the sea and fishing.

Here we propose some ideas from which you can draw inspiration:

  1. Canals, cities of art and windmills: itinerary that touches the main most symbolic cities of the country. Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Amsterdam
  2. Classic Holland: itinerary designed to visit the most important cities. Amsterdam, Maastricht, Texel Island, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam
  3. Northern Netherlands, between mills and cheese: a cultural-folkloristic itinerary that touches, more than the big cities, the traditional villages. Zaanse Schans, Alkmaar, Enkhuizen, Workum, Hindeloopen, Stavoren, Gieethorn,
  4. Holland of traditions: itinerary that goes to discover and recall the native traditions of the country, mainly touching fishing villages and villages linked to cheese. Alkmaar, Enkhuizen, Zaanse Schans, Marken, Volendam, Edam, Gouda

Where it is

The Netherlands are a state in northern Europe. It borders to the south with Belgium and to the east with Germany; while to the north and west it is washed by the North Sea. The capital is Amsterdam, although the residence of the sovereign, the seat of Parliament and the seat of government are located in The Hague.

Travel informed: useful information

  • Inhabitants: 7.000.000
  • Capital: Amsterdam
  • Languages: Dutch
  • Local currency: euro (€)
  • Weather: cool, cloudy and humid most of the year. Precipitation is not very abundant but frequent all year round (750 - 850 mm per year). There is often wind especially in autumn and winter. Average temperature 3 ° in winter, 20 ° in summer
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    What to do in the Netherlands Holland: activities, excursions and tours

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