The Netherlands is a country where I have been living for 4 years, and I love this country very much. It was a conscious choice, not the will of chance. We moved here from Antwerp, this is the Flemish side of Belgium and in fact there are almost no differences. It is very comfortable to live here. But in fact, even we, the Netherlands people, can envy those who travel to the Netherlands as a tourist. Because the Netherlands is really great! There are many things that you will not find in any other country in the world, and travel to the Netherlands will be one of the most memorable trips of your life. Why? You will find out now.
Where is the Netherlands?
Find the Netherlands on the map. See? This is the North-West of Europe, a small country on the cold North sea. Schiphol airport is one of the largest in Europe and the main air hub of the country.
The Netherlands and Holland are not the same. The Netherlands is the “United States”. The country consists of 12 provinces, including 2 Netherlands, North and South. But in order not to offend either Brabant, Limburg,or Flevoland, since last year the name Netherlands has been officially assigned to the country, and old-fashioned Holland will remain only in speech and fiction.
1. Netherlands people are special
You have probably heard of such a concept as Liberte-freedom. Europe differs from the rest of the world in its special attitude to the individual. In Europe, the right of everyone to live as they want is at the forefront, provided that their wishes do not cripple the lives of other Netherlands people (the so-called principle of social ecology). This focus is not obtained by everyone, because often the desires of some people contradict the desires of others. The Dutch did it.This is not a political slogan, but the real truth of life. Freedom of choice is so deeply embedded in all areas of social life that the Dutch do not even realize how lucky they really are. It is natural for them to have no borders.
Do you think which country has become the flagship of this approach, the cradle of the idea of Liberte? Netherlands! Once tiny Flanders literally tore apart the huge Spanish Empire in the war of independence. Find the Netherlands on the map again and imagine: Middle ages, Tiny Flanders, Spanish empire.
Spain at that time was a superpower with a colossal Navy, a powerful army, gigantic rich colonies and advanced technology.
God only knows how the Flemings did it, but we can assume that the reason is the fantastic will to win, fearlessness and indomitable will of the Flemings. They were like that, and they still are. In peaceful life, they are wonderful, beautiful, friendly, funny and curious people. But when the “x-hour” happens, it’s best not to mess with them. They proved this thesis again in the Boer war by breaking up the British Empire. The British still do not understand how it happened that they – a huge, colossal, fabulously rich and really powerful Empire – could lose a local Anglo-Boer conflict. But the fact remains.
Since then, no one has been at war with the Netherlands. First, they are very smart and are able to solve conflicts deftly and bloodlessly. And secondly, history has shown that it is useless to fight with him.
2. The Netherlands is the country of colors
And not only. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level. Water, water, and water again. At the same time, the agricultural complex of the Netherlands feeds half of Europe, and they sell agricultural technologies to the whole world. This is the rare case when people themselves created a Paradise on earth and live in it. They are massively obsessed with alternative energy sources, ecology, and agriculture.
Fields of tulips. Fields of peonies. Cherry blossoms. Tulip trees (grow right in the yards). Blooming decorative almonds-it is planted in alleys, like poplars and Linden trees, it blooms very beautifully from February to the end of April.
The flower season starts in early February and ends… I think it doesn’t end, they just take a short break at Christmas, because the Christmas trees, illuminations and Christmas markets in the Netherlands are also loved. Huge farms with roses, azaleas, orchids and lilies of the valley bloom all year round. With lotuses! Guys, this is the North! But if a farmer likes lotuses, then he grows lotuses. And if the Netherlands weather doesn’t allow it, he invents a method and still grows lotuses. Because he wants to. Truly, amazing Netherlands people.
When you are in the Netherlands, be sure to visit the flower market. the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, and the most famous flower market, of course, is located there, but in General they are in every city. You will see flowers that you have never seen and did not even know that there are such flowers.
3. Amazing landscapes
It would seem that there is nothing special, the country is flat! This idea can only occur to someone who has not seen the Netherlands.
Here, for example, is Alkmaar and the surrounding area. This is an area of the Netherlands with the best ecology and zero light pollution. Do you know what it is? This is when the night sky is illuminated by artificial light sources and becomes not velvety black, but acquires an indeterminate yellowish or grayish glow. Light pollution affects the functioning of the Netherlands ecosystem, and it interferes with people, for example, to fully relax at night. And, of course, look at the stars. In megacities, they are simply not visible.
Come to Alkmaar. Just 30 minutes and the capital of the Netherlands, cosmopolitan Amsterdam, which never sleeps, is left behind and you are in the Dutch province. All around are fields, mills, canals, peace, storks, swans, deer and an incredible starry sky. And beautiful “gingerbread” houses in the traditional North Dutch style.
If the Dutch province is canals, green fields, obscenely symmetrical, swans and storks, then the cities of the Netherlands are divided into 2 types. In the first case, it is a medieval Northern classic-houses along the canals, standing close to each other. In the second case, these are cutting-edge architectural experiments. Both approaches are United by one principle: houses are built in such a way that living in them is as comfortable as possible. Comfort and ergonomics are the basic principles of Dutch architecture.
Many families live in their homes for 500, 600, 700 years, updating their “equipment” and trying to preserve authenticity. Careful attitude and respect for history is another feature of the Dutch. As a result of this attitude, many old Netherlands cities have more monuments and interesting places than pages in any guidebook. This makes walking through the cities and territories of the country something similar to the quest “in search of treasures”. This is very interesting!
4. Flaming Gothic
As we remember, the Netherlands is the North. And the medieval traditions of building cathedrals, monasteries and temples are Gothic.
The Dutch instinctively try to preserve absolutely all authentic and traditional buildings. And monasteries, cathedrals, churches, chapels are everywhere. Famous and not so famous, 13th and 16th centuries, with frescoes and stained glass Windows, built by famous architects and unknown rural builders. However, unknown builders – this is not about the Netherlands. Many people live in their homes for 500 years. They remember who built this Church 400 years ago and who helped them. This is a surprisingly touching attitude to the past in the Netherlands everywhere. But to notice, you need at least a little understanding of Flemish. Bragging in the North is not accepted and vanity is not in the price.
For those who like the flame of faith set in stone, and this is the true meaning of this architectural style, you are in the Netherlands.
5. Netherlands canals
The Netherlands canals are one of the country’s most famous Netherlands tourists attractions. In the middle ages, these were the main transport arteries of the country. In the summer, they swam on them, and in the winter they went skating and sailing sledges with runners.
Only in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, several hundred kilometers of channels, and probably no one counted, how many of them in the country.
The canal, the antique bridge, the gingerbread houses along the canal and the Gothic Cathedral are the traditional urban landscape of the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, they like to live with a view of the water.
6. Yachts and boats
The Netherlands is a country of boats. Everyone has them. Perhaps there are even more boats than cars. At least the phrase “I bought a boat” sounds the same as the phrase “I bought a car”. Boat – a small skiff to sail to the other side of the canal somewhere near Groningen. The boat is a sixty-foot ocean yacht equipped with the latest technology. All these are boats.
They live on boats, they are rented out as “floating hotels”, they go to the neighboring village and around the world. On the boat celebrate a Birthday or a meeting of friends.
The most fun and fearless captains of European yacht clubs are Dutch and French. These guys are not weak to go alone from Amsterdam to Bali.
In the capital of the Netherlands, there is even the world-famous cat shelter “Cat ship” – of course, on a boat moored on one of the canals of Amsterdam.
A boat tour along the canals of Amsterdam is a must do for all tourists who come to this city. But if you have the opportunity to go a little further and spend at least a couple of days on a yacht cruise, then part of your heart will always remain where the sea, the sail and the special, unforgettable feeling of an evening dinner in the cabin and an overnight stay on a yacht at sea.
7. SAIL Parade in Amsterdam
In the development of the theme of boats. In the Netherlands, there are many events related to yachts in one way or another. But a truly Grand event is the SAIL Parade, which takes place in Amsterdam once every 5 years. This is the largest Maritime festival in the world, if you count the number of ships taking part in it.
What is it? This is a marine festival that lasts for several days and includes the parade itself and the cultural program around it. Shows, competitions, concerts, songs, dances, cooking festival-be sure that if there is a way to have fun, the Dutch will not forget about it.
On this day in Amsterdam, which is already crowded, all Amsterdam hotels, guest houses and hostels are Packed to the eyeballs, so it’s better to book rooms in advance. There is an option to settle in another city and just come to the parade by train. Having fun all night is very Dutch. You will have fun until you start to fall, and then just go back.
Sailboats come from all over the world, more than 1000 ships participated in the last parade, and 8000 of them arrived in the port itself, so you are guaranteed a large, diverse and fun company.
8. Netherlands festivals and carnivals
In 2019, the Netherlands hosted more than 6,000 Netherlands festivals and carnivals. From Grand international events (such as the world-famous PRIDE) to a series of urban winter carnivals, a medieval tradition that has survived to the present day.
The Dutch know how to make carnivals happy and incredibly fun. This is their special priceless national trait. Their carnivals are somewhat similar to the carnival in Rio, when all the residents of the city go out to sing, dance and fool around, not tourists, for whom they arranged a performance, but ALL the residents of the city. It is better to get acquainted with the festival program in advance, so as not to miss the most interesting things. And in the carnival, the most interesting thing is the carnival procession itself. You can join it, and get mad, yell and sing along with everyone. And then go on a “bar tour”. This popular Dutch pastime, when a company of people moves from one place to another, podujeva and singing songs.
As in Spain, the ability to dance is very highly valued, so in the Netherlands, the ability to sing is in price. If you sing well and know some English hits, then you have a chance to quickly find a company just by going to karaoke. Such acquaintances are not obligated to anything, you can have fun all night, and then, in the morning, say goodbye with a feeling, hug and forget about each other forever. Or not forget. You can choose.
9. The King’s Birthday
The King’s Birthday is the day when all of Holland is painted bright orange, the color of the Royal family. It is celebrated on the King’s Birthday.
The Netherlands is a Kingdom ruled by a king. In Roermond there is a Royal dacha, in the Hague-the Royal Palace and the Knight’s Hall (the key the Netherlands tourists attractions) the king can decree to adopt or cancel any law, the king can be knighted for special services and a person will receive an order and hereditary knighthood. It’s like 700 years ago, without a catch. The entire country watches the Royal family and their charming daughters with awe-inspiring sympathy, pride, and touching, unobtrusive curiosity.
For almost 30 years, the country was ruled by Queen Beatrix, a person also popularly and sincerely loved, and the whole country celebrated the Queen’s Birthday.
Willem-Alexander, who succeeded her (in 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated in his favor), is no less beloved and popular.
Celebrating the King’s Birthday is a national tradition in the Netherlands. The festival begins in the Hague, on the square in front of the Royal Palace with a music festival that lasts all night. The next day, parades are held in all cities, the most grandiose of which (of course, by boat) is in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.
On this day, everyone wears something orange, and many go further and dye their hair bright orange. The streets are decorated with an incredible number of colors, and the Netherlands flags appear on the houses. King’s day is a day of National Unity.
10. Netherlands beer
There are more than 600 types of Netherlands beer. This is a national specialty. Unlike the Belgians, who experiment with flavors (cherry, raspberry, that’s all), in the Netherlands, the audience is more traditional.
But. In every small town there are at least 2-3 Breweries and 3-4 monasteries where beer has been brewed since … Roman times. In pubs, you can always ask for Netherlands beer, and there is a high chance that they have their own variety. And just local craft you will be offered several varieties to choose from. Try it! Even for those who are not a big fan of this drink, it will be clear why the Dutch love beer. And real fans will just find it hard to stop.
There are a lot of Breweries in the list of “sights of the Netherlands”, these are popular tourist places.
11. Netherlands cheese
Continues the theme of food and drink. In the Netherlands, preservatives are very rarely used (it seems that there are some restrictions at the state level) and eco-products dominate. And even though France is nearby, the Dutch have a lot to offer.
Specialized cheese shops are very widespread, where you can try different varieties, choose the one you like, or choose nothing, but just try it. It’s free. The oldest Netherlands cheese factories can be found in the list “sights of the Netherlands”.
12. Herring fish
Dutch herring is a global brand. Following the lead of the world community, the Dutch even made a herring festival. Herring is eaten all over the world, but the Dutch are famous for the fact that they invented a way to marinate it. On the other hand, in the season in those places it is caught in such quantities that the practical Dutch simply had no choice. Don’t throw it away, really!
The traditional method of cooking “Dutch virgin” (maatjes haring) is quite specific. The head of the fish caught is cut off and gutted, leaving the gall bladder. And then they freeze it. The whole point is in the left gallbladder, because the bile eats away at the herring and it turns out that very specific and refined taste.
It sounds so-so, but in fact it is a real delicacy, which can only be tasted in the Netherlands. By the way, you can not re-freeze this herring. Bought-ate.
Herring is also sold from stalls as a street food and it is very tasty.
13. Netherlands cuisine
The Netherlands will surprise you. In this country there are gastronomic tourism.
See for yourself and make your own conclusions:
- For centuries these people traveled the world in search of rarities, new flavors, exciting experiences. Hedonism is in their blood.
- In the Netherlands, there are a lot of wealthy Netherlands people – fortunes have been preserved and multiplied for centuries, there has never been lustration and there have always been colonies.
It makes sense that the luxury industry in the Netherlands is highly developed, thriving and operating at a completely different level than the average in the world, doesn’t it? This also applies to restaurants.
The Michelin guide will tell you where to find places that are worth looking at. A more democratic option is Google maps. Pay attention to places with local Netherlands cuisine and see that reviews are written by local residents. You won’t regret it.
14. Main sights of the Netherlands
In this country, where villages have been standing in their places since the 8th century, and for the reconstruction of the barn you need to find oak trees of the same size and variety that were used in the construction (and get a certificate in Meria), to talk about any “main” Netherlands tourists attractions is simply ridiculous.
However, there are tourist places where 90% of tourists take photos for Instagram. For example, these are Dam Square, Amsterdam. Until recently, it had the red letters I love Amsterdam on it, and of course you’ve seen these photos 1000 times.
The Oude Kerk, Amsterdam. old church. It is not the only 13th-century Church, but it is in Amsterdam and perhaps the most famous one. But you’ll find the same one in Delft, Utrecht, or Roermond. This is the typical architecture of the 13th century.
Delft town hall. Renaissance. Delft can be reached by train from Amsterdam in about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Dome cathedral. Utrecht. I would say all of Utrecht. This is a strikingly beautiful city. I think it consists of castles and cathedrals. And in some places, new University buildings have been built.
Museum in Groningen. Groningen is the flagship of new technologies in alternative energy, ecology, and other cutting-edge areas of science. It has a major research center and a very modern University. It’s no surprise that this Museum looks like a building from a futuristic movie. Inside is the country’s largest collection of Dutch painters.
Arnhem. Another city-attraction, an ancient resort town on the banks of the Rhine.
Giethoorn. A village where there are no streets or cars – only canals and boats.
Cube houses in Rotterdam. Pete Blom’s amazing project.
De Haar castle, near Utrecht. The largest castle in the Netherlands.
Knight’s hall in the Hague. A special place where the king holds official receptions, knighthoods, and conducts other official Royal activities.
Peace Palace in the Hague. It was built by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century for the court of arbitration building. Perhaps it was then that the architecture of modern international institutions was laid, including the International court of justice of the United Nations, which is located in this magnificent building.
The list goes on indefinitely. This is a very beautiful country that carefully preserves its historical heritage. And, as is customary in the Netherlands, here everyone chooses what they like. So when you travel to the Netherlands, you will have your own list of reasons why you will come to this country again and again.