For some reason, when people think of The Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam. But it’s worth venturing out of the capital to see more of this excellent country. So, I’ve shared a few of my personal favourite places to visit in the Netherlands below.
Whether you want windmills and traditional Dutch architecture, tranquil canal-filled cities to escape the crowds of Amsterdam, or stunning countryside to explore on foot or by bike, there’s somewhere to suit every kind of traveller on the list below.
I spent a month living and housesitting near Rotterdam, and have also taken several shorter visits to the Netherlands. I’ve explored a lot of the country, but nowhere near all of it!
So as well as including all my own favourite discoveries, I asked locals and travel bloggers to share their top places to visit in the Netherlands too. The result is a pretty huge list of stunning destinations – along with a short list of the top things to see and do in each place when you get there. If you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands, I hope this helps you to get out of Amsterdam and see a bit more of the country…
- Map of Places to Visit in the Netherlands
- 21 Places to Visit in the Netherlands
- Getting Around the Netherlands
Map of Places to Visit in the Netherlands
21 Places to Visit in the Netherlands
Famous for its huge port – the largest in Europe – Rotterdam is a cool, contemporary city with so much to do. There are loads of fun things to do in Rotterdam. Lot’s of fascinating museums, as well as tons of modern architecture like the quirky Cube Houses on Overblaak Street.
There’s also some excellent shopping, especially along the brilliantly named Coolsingel street. I loved the Euromast for some incredible views of the city and beyond – although the wind in January was pretty fierce!
Top things to do in Rotterdam
- Cube Houses
- Erasmusbrug – an iconic white bridge across the Nieuwe Maas
The seat of government in the Netherlands can be found in the Hague, a city rich in history, culture, and art. The gothic-style parliament buildings, the Binnenhof, are a dramatic sight – but there’s a lot more to the Hague than politics!
As the only big city with a beach directly on the North Sea coast, the Hague is a pretty popular seaside destination. Expect beaches and beach clubs, picturesque city streets, boutique shops, and an amazing foodie scene! Check out my friend Chloe’s fab guide to a seaside city break in the Hague here.
- Binnenhof – historic government building
- Escher in Het Paleis
- Mauritshuis Museum – home to Vermeer’s famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” painting.
You can’t visit the Netherlands without seeing a few windmills! One of the best experiences can be had at Kinderdijk.
From Rotterdam, you can take a Waterbus ferry upriver to Kinderdijk for a lovely day out in the Dutch countryside. Here, you’ll find a collection of 19 windmills dating from around 1740.
Kinderdijk is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands, so it’s a fabulous place to explore.
It’s also a beautifully green and pretty area, especially in summer. Offering a bit of tranquil relief from the busy centre of nearby Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is definitely one of the best places to visit in The Netherlands.
- Explore the windmills
- Musuemmolen Nederwaard
- Bakkerswaal Lake
Keukenhof Flower Gardens, Lisse
Recommended by: Emma, Travel on a Time Budget
Without a doubt, a top place to visit in the Netherlands is the Keukenhof flower garden. Just half an hour from Amsterdam in the town of Lisse, it’s open for several weeks in the spring.
Keukenhof is not your average garden. Known as the ‘Garden as Europe’, it covers more than 30 acres. With an estimated 7 million bulbs that will bloom into swathes of stunning and vibrant colours, it’s an incredible sight. For lovers of flowers, this is the place to go.To avoid any long lines, it is recommended that you book Keukenhof tickets in advance.
- Climbing the windmill and looking out over the fantastic countryside.
- Taking a canal ride or clambering over the river’s stepping stones.
- Exploring Lisse’s beautiful 17th century Keukenhof Castle.
- Witnessing the spectacular Bloemencorso Bollenstreek parade when it reaches Lisse.
In 2021, the gardens are open from 20th March until 9th May 9th. The Bloemencorso Bollenstreek parade takes place on 17th April.
My personal favourite, Utrecht is a beautiful Dutch city with a rich history and stunning architecture. A university town, it’s popular with students, attracting a pretty young crowd and a fairly artistic vibe.
Don’t miss the Dom Tower, a 600-year-old Gothic cathedral tower that was cut off from the Domkerk by a devastating tornado in 1674. Views from the top of the tower are amazing. On a clear day, you can see as far as Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
- Climb the Dom Tower and visit the underground ruins at DOMunder
- Museum Speelklok
- Oudegracht Canal
RELATED POST: Exploring the “real” Netherlands in Utrecht
Recommended by: Iris, Mind of a Hitchhiker
This small city is the second oldest one in the Netherlands. Due to its long history starting with the Romans, Maastricht is chock-full of heritage buildings such as ancient churches, fortifications, narrow alleyways, and an old bridge crossing the Meuse river. Today, the student population keeps it a lively city.
Maastricht’s culture is different from the rest of the Netherlands due to its isolation at the southern terminus of the country. Its people have a distinct identity with a dialect to match. Geographically speaking, a trip to Maastricht sometimes fits better with an itinerary combining Belgium and Germany than a Netherlands-only tour. Make sure to enjoy some wholesome activities in Maastricht:
- Enjoying the serenity of the Dominicanen bookstore
- Strolling past the Meuse River
- Going up the Sint Janskerk church tower vantage point
- Doing a guided tour of the North Caves or the Casemates
- Visiting the decommissioned ENCI quarry
For a taste of ordinary Dutch life, head to Haarlem. Just a few minutes from Amsterdam by train, this pretty town has a canal lined with picturesque Dutch architecture, but it’s much quieter than its popular neighbour. So it’s a great place to unwind.
Like the rest of The Netherlands, it’s a pretty quirky city. Don’t miss the chemist at number 3 Gierstraat, which dates from 1849 and is one of the oldest shops in Haarlem. I also loved the Jopenkerk Bar, a brewery and beer hall housed in a converted church – great for live music, good beer, and stunningly atmospheric.
- Windmill de Adriaan
- Teylers Museum
- Zuid-Kennemerland National Park – a nearby coastal national park edged by sand-dunes.
Zaandijk and Zaanse Schanz
Recommended by: Sam at My Flying Leap
Take a short train ride north of Amsterdam to visit Zaandijk, a picturesque village in the Dutch countryside. Zaandijk is known for its speciality museums including Zaanse Schanz.
This is a recreated Dutch village with brightly painted wooden homes and picturesque windmills dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Step back in time visiting Zaanse Schanz to tour the windmills and learn how to make the famous Dutch wooden shoes. Tour a bakery and cheese shop, and try a freshly-made stroopwafel with a coffee. When you taste the melted caramel, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them! Zaandijk proudly showcases Dutch heritage and it’s a must-see when you visit Amsterdam.
- Visit the charming Zaanse Schanz Dutch village
- Go on a Zaandijk canal cruise to enjoy this beautiful area
- Try a stroopwafel and learn how to make one
Recommended by: Allen, Live Less Ordinary
In the south of the Netherlands, Eindhoven was once known as an ‘ugly’ industrial city. But these days it’s famous for its rather inspired and innovative artistic designs.
Among these are the flying-saucer-shaped Evoluon building, as well as “The Blob”, a futuristic glass and steel structure located in the old quarter of the city. So a visit to Eindhoven these days must include a visit to at least one of its many museums and parks.
- Van Abbemuseum: a massive modern and contemporary art museum.
- Stadswandelpark, aka City Walking Park – a bit like an outdoor art gallery with modern sculptures.
Recommended by: Bilyana, Owl Over the World
Delft is truly one of the most beautiful places that you should visit in The Netherlands! It’s a small town located only 25 minutes train ride away from The Hague, so is a popular day-trip destination.
The town of Delft is known for its historic centre, and – of course – for the famous blue pottery. And while just wandering around this lovely town is among the best things to do in Delft, here’s what else you shouldn’t miss:
- Check out The Markt – Delft’s main square, home to Delft City Hall and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
- The Girl with the Pearl Earrings – The original is kept in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, but you can find the “Girl with the Pearl Earrings” everywhere in Delft.
- Explore the historic city centre.
- Shopping – especially for pottery!
Recommended by: Rachel, Rachel’s Ruminations
A small city in the northeast of the Netherlands, Leeuwarden is the capital of the province of Friesland. Many of its residents speak both Dutch and Frisian fluently, as well as the English they learn in school.
With an almost completely intact city centre, Leeuwarden’s narrow streets are lined with lovely old brick buildings, many of which date to the 1600s. They lean picturesquely along the cobbled streets.
The several compact blocks of the centre are filled with attractive cafes and shops. This part of the city is usually free of cars, but watch out for bikes!
- Oldehove: a leaning 16th-century church tower, unfinished but still well-loved.
- De Waag: a weighing house from 1590, now a pleasant café on a canal.
- The Fries Museum: This museum always has interesting special exhibitions.
Recommended by: Sarah, CosmopoliClan
Every Thursday from April to August, Gouda hosts one of the country’s most popular cheese markets, a tradition that dates back to the 14th century. In the shadow of Gouda’s picturesque town hall, you can see the farmers arrive by carriage, unload their cheese wheels and negotiate with traders by clapping hands.
Nowadays, the Gouda cheese market is becoming more of a tourist attraction but still, it’s quite the spectacle. Next, the cheese is weighed in the Goudse Waag building. There’s a small food market next to the trading zone, where you can purchase dozens of Gouda cheese variations. For dessert, indulge in Holland’s typical caramel waffle called stroopwafel, another local speciality.
But there’s more to Gouda than food for the soul. Visit the St Jan’s church, renowned for its stained-glass windows, or walk the medieval streets and admire the enchanting canals of this inviting and compact little town.
- Experience the Gouda cheese market.
- Visit the city’s idyllic town hall.
- Admire the stained-glass windows of the St Jan’s church.
- Sink your teeth in a stroopwafel, the Dutch delicacy that was created in Gouda.
Recommended by: Alina, World of Lina
Another one of the best places to visit in The Netherlands is Alkmaar – the Dutch city of cheese. Cheese? Yes, you heard right!
Around 30 minutes north of Amsterdam lies the small city Alkmaar with pretty canals, lovely windmills and, of course, its famous cheese market. This market can be visited every Friday from 10am-1pm at the Waagplein square in front of the Waag building.
It’s the perfect place for every cheese lover, as well as for people who want to learn more about the history of cheese trading in The Netherlands.
- The Dutch Cheese Museum (Kaasmuseum)
- The Beatles Museum
- The Stedelijk Museum (history & art museum)
- De Groot (historical landmark with windmills)
Recommended by: Bridget at The Flashpacker
Oozing character and history, lovely Leiden is one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands.
Possessing the charm of Amsterdam minus its crowds, Rembrandt’s birthplace has a lively student vibe and ivy-clad university buildings. Leiden is also the best base from which to visit the Keukenhof Gardens and the Dutch tulip fields.
To make the most of a day in Leiden, here is the pick of the best things to do and see:
- Stroll, eat and drink along the banks of the picture-perfect canals.
- Hortus Botanicus Leiden – one the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
- American Pilgrim Museum.
- Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde – a museum which celebrates world cultures.
Veluwe National Park
Recommended by: Maartje & Sebastiaan from The Orange Backpack
The Veluwe National Park is one of the best places in the Netherlands to visit for outdoor and art lovers. Outdoor and art might sound like a strange combination, but the Veluwe national park combines both.
The Veluwe is located in the center of the country. It’s not close to the popular tourist spots like Amsterdam, but it’s only a short drive – like everything in this small European country.
The Veluwe is known as the best nature reserve in the country. You have to buy a ticket to enter it, offering you the chance to visit the park and use the free white bikes you can find at the bicycle parking stations. The Veluwe is a great place for hiking too.
Make sure to have a stop at the Kröller Möller Museum to see its famous collection of modern art. It’s the second-largest Van Gogh Museum after the one in Amsterdam. It started as a private collection of the Kröller Möller couple, who built their own small chateau in the park which you can also visit.
Recommended by: Lotte from Eschbach Consulting
As someone who has lived in Groningen for seven years, I’m speaking from experience when I say Groningen is the most fun city in the Netherlands. No matter if you are visiting Groningen as a family, a couple, with friends or by yourself, Groningen has something to offer all types of travelers.
25% of the population of Groningen is made up of students which give the city its unique and upbeat vibe. The city centre has many historic buildings and beautiful canals, an abundance of restaurants and bars (without closing time) and there are lots of fun things to do such as:
- Ice-skating on ‘de Grote Markt’ (when visiting Groningen in winter)
- Go for a swim at the Stadsstrand (city beach)
- Climb the 97-meter-tall Martini Tower
- Admire the colorful houses in the Reitdiephaven
- Visit the Groninger Museum
Recommended by: Daneila, Exploring the Netherlands
Texel is the perfect destination for those who want to escape the hectic of the big city. Surprisingly large white-sand beaches, breath-taking sunsets and great food are just a few of the reasons why you should visit this small Dutch island. According to the locals, Texel is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands and a preferred summer staycation destination.
When on Texel, make sure you visit at least one of its cute villages: Den Burg, Den Hoorn, Oudeschild, or Oosterend.
To get to Texel, you need first to get to Den Helder (it’s about 1 hr 20 min from Amsterdam by train/car), then take the ferry to the island. Some of the best things to see and do on Texel include:
- Climbing the Texel Lighthouse in Cocksdorp
- Visiting the seal shelter at Ecomare
- Hiking in the Dunes of Texel National Park
- Trying the local Texels beer.
Recommended by: Jamie, Travel-Addict
Efteling is a Fairy Tale based theme park located in the south of the Netherlands. It’s the largest theme park in the country, and one of the oldest in the world.
The theme park spans across a beautiful forest themed location and features numerous rides and storytelling exhibits. The fairytales featured throughout the park are those of Brothers Grimm, the true traditional ones.
It was opened in 1952 and has expanded over time, and features 5 “realms” as the different regions of the park. The park serves great local Dutch food, which we thoroughly enjoyed, at surprisingly reasonable prices.
- Flying Dutchman Rollercoaster
- Fairytale Forest
- Baron 1898 Rollercoaster
- Water Fountain show at Aquanura
Top Tip: If you arrive at opening the staff choose a child to help “open” the park in a small ceremony, which can make it that extra bit special.
Recommended by: Dymphe, Dymabroad
Zwolle is the capital of the Overijssel province. It’s a small city which is not visited often by tourists. Here you can experience what local life in a city in the Netherlands is like, which is great to experience!
Also, the city looks beautiful. There’s a small historic centre and buildings made in a fascinating architectural style. Furthermore, the history of the city stretches back to the 8th century and is very interesting to learn about. There are also many restaurants with delicious food in Zwolle. The best sights in Zwolle include:
- Museum de Fundatie
- Grote Kerk
- The Sassenpoort gatehouse
Recommended by: Sean, LivingOutLau
Giethoorn is a small idyllic town in the province of Overijssel, approximately 1.5 hours from Amsterdam by car. Known as the town with no roads, the only means of transportation is by boat via the canals or the occasion footbridges. With less than 3,000 residents (in 2020), this peaceful town really has no need for any roads.
Giethoorn is the perfect day trip from Amsterdam for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Come for a day of relaxation as you float down the tranquil canal and admire the quaint thatched-roof farmhouses around town. As one of the lushest areas in Amsterdam, Giethoorn is the ideal escape into nature!
- Join a canal cruise
- Rent a canoe and explore the canal and its surroundings
- Visit the Schreur Shipyard
- Discover the “Het Olde Maat Uus” Museum
Recommended by: Shobha, Just Go Places
A small city in the Netherlands, Arnhem is close to the German border. Arnhem is famous for the failed World War II attempt by the British to capture a bridge over the river Rhine. The British were thwarted by the Nazis who put up a massive resistance because they did not want Allied troops so close to their border.
There are a couple of WWII museums in the town, as well as the famous bridge itself. This is now named the John Frost Bridge after the leader of the British paratroopers. Arnhem suffered massive bombing during the war, so many of its medieval buildings are gone.
The Eusubius Church in the center of town survived though. From the top of its spire there are fabulous views over the countryside. The main train station in town has won architectural praise for its innovative modern design. Arnhem is easy to visit from Amsterdam with direct train links from the capital.
- John Frost Bridge
- Netherlands Open Air Museum
- Visit the nearby National Parks at Hoge Veluwe and Veluwezoom
Getting Around the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a relatively small country, so getting around is pretty easy. The best way is probably to rent a car so that you can explore at your own pace. If you’re staying in Amsterdam as a base, many of the places on this list are within an hour or two’s drive, so you can easily take a series of day trips.
However, if you don’t want to drive, don’t fear! The public transport systems in the Netherlands are excellent, especially the trains. They are also generally quite reasonably priced. So you can get to most places very easily by train, bus, or ferry.
I spent a month living in Dordrecht, just outside of Rotterdam, and never once experienced a delayed train. Even the buses were always right on schedule! Use Google Maps to plot your route – and if you get stuck there’s usually very good information on the tourist board’s website.
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If you have a great recommendation to add to this list of the best places to visit in the Netherlands – please leave a comment!