Since its ‘Golden Age’ in 17th century, Netherlands is a country that fascinates Europe and the world. Netherlands’ contribution to global art heritage through works of grandmasters such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer (to name just a few out of dozens of art geniuses) is immense, diverse and rich.
Typically, Netherlands is known for its flatlands intersected with canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling paths, but there is much more to discover in this tiny country. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to many museums, notable few are Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum; Rotterdam, famous major port city that hosts Pilgrim Fathers Church; the university town of Utrecht, with lively canalside cafes; Maastricht with a lively culinary scene and medieval city walls; The Hague, administrative capital and home of major international justice institutions, and many more.
1. Quick facts
- Official name: The Kingdom of the Netherlands
- Capital: Amsterdam; seat of government: The Hague
- Population: 17 million
- Area: 41,864 sq km (16,164 sq miles)
- Major language: Dutch
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 80 years (men), 84 years (women)
- Currency: Euro
2. Where is it?
Netherlands is located in the Northwest Europe, on the shores of North Sea and it is bordering with Belgium and Germany. It’s a small country, it is ranked by size as 135th country in the world and 32nd in Europe. Actual Kingdom of Netherlands is comprised out of Netherlands, special municipalities in Caribbean: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, and Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete visit to Netherlands, so you are advised to plan ahead. Netherlands is part of Schengen agreement and visa for any of the countries from the Schengen group is also valid for Austria. Valid Schengen visa holders can use it to enter Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten as well.
More info about visa requirements for Schengen countries can be found here.
4. Getting there
Getting to Netherlands is the best via Schiphol Airport (AMS), by train, bus or car from neighbouring countries, or via boat to Hoek van Holland port, which is 1h 20 min from Amsterdam.
5. Where to stay in Netherlands?
Apart from standard AirBnB deals and hotels, there are many other options for accommodation in Netherlands, and some of them are unique, such as windmills, boats, campers or even a treehouse!
In the end, everything is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from in Netherlands
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6. Moving around
Netherlands has very efficient and reliable public transport. All major transport modes, such as metro, bus and tram are integrated, and have single payment method via smart swipe card (OV-chipkaart), which is very practical for tourists and easy to use between different transportations.
You can also rent a bicycle to ride around cities along designated paths and Netherland is known to be very bicycle friendly country, or you can rent a car if you prefer to move around faster (although, parking in cities can be quite expensive).
For moving between cities and from and to the Airport, we recommend train as most efficient and cheapest option.
7. Food in Netherlands
Traditional Dutch food is not very known outside of Netherlands, so you should try some of local dishes when you are there, you might like it. Here are few of them we recommend.
Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch new herring) is a raw herring served with onions and pickled gherkins. The fish is cleaned and marinated in salt. It is truly Netherlands’ specialty. Stroopwafel, pastry waffle made out of baked batter and filled with sweet syrup. Made in Netherlands since late 18th century and can be bought in every grocery shop or supermarket. Kroket, a deep fried roll in breadcrumbs, filled with beef or veal ragout. Great snack and very popular.
Bitterballen, another great snack, these deep fried meatballs are served in bars and go well with beer. Rookworst, Dutch smoked sausage, is another snack, served in a bun. Lekkerbekje and Kibbeling could be described as Dutch equivalent of famous fish and chips, but without chips, it’s a deep fried fish served with some dip. Gouda and Edam cheeses are also famously from Netherlands.
From the sweet side of Dutch menu, we have Drop, various licorice sweets, very popular among locals, Oliebollen, sweet treats popular during New Year’s Eve, similar to doughnuts, and Pannenkoeken, Dutch styled pancakes, often topped with syrup, but sometimes with bacon, cheese, apple or raisins.
How safe is Netherlands for tourists and to move around? Netherlands is quite safe; it is ranked as number 16 on the world safest country list. Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for pickpocketers is advised. More details about safety in Netherlands you can find here.
Netherlands is not costly for tourists, and you can always find great deals on accommodation, meals and attraction tickets. For detailed pricing information for various items, click here.
Prices throughout Netherlands are almost the same, with slight variation, but Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are the most expensive cities for general tourism.
Netherlands has moderate climate, with winters not too cold and summers not too hot, but weather can be unpredictable with rainfall out of nowhere, so visitors are advised to have appropriate clothes. Temperature are rarely going down to 0 C (32 F) and in summer maximum temperature rarely goes over 30 C (86 F).
11. Best time to visit Netherlands
Visiting season for Netherlands is from mid-April till mid-October, but peak season is in July and August, where majority of tourists visit. There are many events and Christmas markets in December, so this is another good time to visit.
12. Money matters
Netherlands is part of the European Union and Euro zone and official currency is Euro. You should always pay attention when paying bills if you are coming from non-Euro countries and mind the exchange rate. (Xe.com). Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for taxi ride. There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Euros with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
13. What to see in Netherlands?
There are plenty of landmarks and attractions to see in Netherlands, so we are going to list only most popular ones:
Keukenhof. Located in Lisse, South Netherlands, this is world’s largest flower garden. Opened from March to May.
Anne Frank House. Now a museum, it was a house where famous author of Diary of Anne Frank was hiding together with her family during WWII until Nazis captured them.
Rijksmuseum. A 19th century art museum, hosting European and Dutch Golden Age painting masterpieces.
Van Gogh Museum. Naturally, this museum hosts world’s largest collection of van Gogh works, including paintings, drawings and letters.
Dam Square. Large main square with Royal Palace in Amsterdam, popular gathering place since 17th century.
Vondelpark. Massive park in Amsterdam with an open-air theatre, playground and ponds.
Heineken Experience. For beer lovers – an interactive beer museum in Amsterdam with guided tour to learn about this beer producer and enjoy some beer in the end.
Jordaan. Central city district in Amsterdam, famous for hip restaurants and pubs and trendy shopping.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam. One of the three royal palaces in Netherlands. Built in 17th century, now place of royal receptions with guided tours and exhibitions when not in use.
Efteling. Fairytale-themed amusement park located in village of Kaatsheuvel. Offers fairytale-themed rides, wooden roller coasters, water fountain and a light show.
Madurodam. A miniature scale models of a Dutch city with buildings and famous landmarks, located in Scheveningen in The Hague area.
Ijsselmeer. A closed off inland bay in the central Netherlands, famous for sailing, cycling and hikes.
Leidseplein. Bustling square and nightlife center in south Amsterdam, with high end shopping and dining.
Hoge Veluwe National Park. Nature reserve covering about 55 sq km in central Holland near city of Arnhem. Home of red deer and wild boar, offering cycling and walking trails.
Madame Tussauds Amsterdam. Wax museum featuring many local and international celebrities in themed galleries.
Oude Kerk, Amsterdam. Cultural center in 13-th century built church, the oldest city building, hosting religious and cultural activities including concerts.
Rembrandt House Museum. Restored home of famous painter, located in Amsterdam, where he lived between 1639 and 1656.
Science Center NEMO. Waterfront, boat shaped, science museum in Amsterdam with interactive science exhibits and experiments.
Natura Artis Magistra. Amsterdam Zoo with aquarium and planetarium. Founded in 19th century, one of the oldest zoos in Europe.
Stedelijk Museum. Museum of international and local contemporary art and design in Amsterdam.
Cube houses. Set of cube shaped houses built in Rotterdam and Helmond designed by architect Piet Blom.
Bloemenmarkt. World’s unique floating flower market, dating from 19th century, located in south Amsterdam.
Singel. The main canal in Amsterdam, which encircles the city. It served as a moat around the city until 16th century, when Amsterdam expanded further.
Nieuwe Kerk. A 15th century church on a Dam Square in Amsterdam, next to the Royal Palace. Hosts exhibitions, royal weddings and organ recitals.
Amsterdam Museum. Former orphanage, now hosting a museum about city’s history with various artifacts and interactive exhibitions.
Euromast. A TV tower with restaurant and luxury rooms located in Rotterdam. Offering great, 360 degree views, abseiling and zipline.
Mauritshuis. Museum of Dutch Golden Age paintings in The Hague. It’s a government collection of art works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Holbein the Younger.
Albert Cuyp Market. Large, open air market in Amsterdam, existing since early 20th century, where items like food, souvenirs, accessories, and flowers are sold.
Westerkerk. A 17th century Dutch Protestant church in central Amsterdam with iconic 85m tall spire. Famous as burial place of Rembrandt.
Nieuwmarkt. A square in central Amsterdam. Lined with shops and restaurant, popular with tourists.
IJ. Waterfront in North Amsterdam. Lined with restaurants and cafes, offer great views of passing boats and ships.
De Pijp. Bohemian Neighborhood in Amsterdam, famous for ethnic restaurants with sidewalk terraces, cafes and pubs.
Kröller-Müller Museum. Dutch national art museum and sculpture garden, located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo, hosting 19th and 20th century art and sculptures and Vincent Van Gogh collection.
The National Maritime Museum. Interactive maritime history exhibits with 18th century replica ship, located in Amsterdam.
Binnenhof. Building complex in The Hague, hosting parliament and the Prime Minister. Guided site tours offered through visitor center.
EYE Film Institute Netherlands. Large collection of Dutch and foreign movies with film posters in a modern culture center in Amsterdam.
Biesbosch National Park. Located Southeast from Rotterdam, this park consists of a large network of rivers and smaller and larger creeks with islands. Offers trail for hiking, boat rides and bird watching.
Spui. A square in central Amsterdam, popular with open markets, art exhibitions and seafood.
Erasmusbrug. Modern, iconic white bridge connecting north and south of Rotterdam, nicknamed ‘The Swan’.
Museumplein. Public space in Museumkwartier neighborhood in Amsterdam with art exhibitions and high end shopping.
Magere Brug. Narrow, historic bridge over river Amstel in Amsterdam. Opened for pedestrians and cyclists and nicknamed ‘Skinny Bridge”, it is illuminated at night.
Hermitage Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s branch of famous St. Petersburg’s art and culture museum with regularly changing temporary exhibitions and permanent exhibition depicting Netherlands and Russia relations.
Dom Tower. Gothic bell tower with 465 steps and tallest in Netherlands, this church is located in Utrecht. Offers panoramic views for persistent climbers.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder. A unique, 17th century house with a hidden church on the top floor, located in central Amsterdam. Guided and audio tours available.
De Haar Castle. Rebuilt medieval-style castle and gardens in Utrecht. Offers tours with art exhibitions and hosts events and weddings.
Peace Palace. Internationally famous ornate center of justice hosts may law related institutions: International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library. Weekend tours available.
Amsterdam Dungeon. Franchised theatrical gruesome history interactive show. Featuring elements from Dutch history.
14. Interesting facts about Netherlands
- More than 25% of Netherlands is located under the sea level.
- Famous Dutch tulips, an unofficial trade mark of Netherlands, actually originated from Turkey.
- Netherlands is the largest exporter of beer in the world.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Netherlands!