Discover the many secrets of this gently beautiful country and its masterpieces, canal towns and windmills. Revel in the welcoming yet wry culture at a cafe, then bike past fields of tulips.
Art & Icons
In the world of art the Netherlands has given us Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Sure, there's also Frans Hals, Hieronymus Bosch and Piet Mondrian – but when you've got the first two, why mention the rest? (OK that Vermeer guy, he's big…).
Then there are icons: classic windmills, the ultimate green machines that are back in vogue a century after the Dutch used these twirling beasties to pump the country dry. Clogs? Renewable. Affordable. Floatable (if the dykes break). Tulips? The Dutch have made a fortune from little bulbs that go in the ground, then burst forth with beauty that is universally loved.
Big in Size & Spirit
The Dutch themselves seem oversized (actually they are statistically the tallest nationality on the planet.) Gregariousness, thrift, good sense, and wry humour are all national traits, as is no-holds-barred honesty. This is not the country for the neurotic to ask: 'Do you think I look fat in this?' (Not that this can be much of a worry in the best place to ride a bike on the planet.)
For Amsterdam – the entire city is also a Dutch icon – current upheavals will merely create more ripples in a city used to waves of change. Misunderstood by many, the virtual heart of the Netherlands is not what many people expect on their first visit. The sex and drugs are mostly kept to one 'hood (convenient to the train station) while the rest of the city keeps to its own beauty along the murky canals.
And the Rest
Other places as old as Amsterdam have evocative beauty and come in a variety of sizes: Edam, Haarlem, Delft and Deventer to name just some of the smaller delights. Moving up the league tables in size, there's the canal towns of Leiden, Haarlem and Utrecht. And Rotterdam is a modernist feast all its own.
Perhaps the best way to get to the heart of the Netherlands is to do as the Dutch do. Join them in the city centres of classic towns as far flung as Groningen, Maastricht and Den Bosch, lively places filled with cafes that heave with happy Dutch socialising on a sunny day. Or join them on the thousands of kilometres of bike routes as they add not a molecule of carbon to the atmosphere while riding through the lush countryside and past sweeping watery vistas at sea (or is it see?) level. You don't have to travel far to find a lot.
Best places to stay in the Netherlands
The Netherlands travel guide
Its coast is battered by the sea and its pancakeflat interior is scored by canals and packed with masterpieces. You can cycle past tulip fields, sip beer in a brown cafe or roam Amsterdam's museums in this richly enjoyable corner of Europe.
Amsterdam's most unique bars
While Amsterdam's pulsating Red Light District and party hubs like Leidseplein need no introduction, the Dutch capital has some wonderfully diverse bars away from the raucous stag parties and tourist crowds. Many offer dining too, although just stopping by for a drink is fine...
The Netherlands - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to The Netherlands starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on Amsterdam’s museums
Art, canal-side cycling and an open vibe make this iconic European city a must visit
20 free things to do in Amsterdam
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I amsterdam Card - City Pass for Amsterdam
Simplify your trip to Amsterdam with the I Amsterdam City Card, a pass that gives you free admission to museums and public transport throughout the city. Gain free entry to 38 museums including the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandthuis Museum and Hermitage Amsterdam. Enjoy unlimited free public transport, a free canal cruise and discounts on attractions and restaurants.
Amsterdam Canals Candlelight Cruise
Take a night cruise of Amsterdam's Canal Belt while enjoying unlimited wine and cheese. In the glow of candlelight, snuggle up with someone special on a luxury boat for your 2-hour tour of Amsterdam’s famous canals, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
King's Day: a guide to the Netherlands' royal party
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The Netherlands - Understand the Netherlands & Survival Guide (Chapter)
All the info you need on everything from history to art and architecture to flights, public transport, climate, money, the internet...you name it. Get hints on the gay and lesbian scene and tips for women travellers, travelling with kids and...