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Netherlands Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Bollenstreek (Bulb Region)
Bollenstreek (Bulb Region)

Netherlands is an attractive mixture of tradition, which can be seen in the windmills and the tulips, and the fast pace of the modern European life. A long time ago, the country consisted only in a few islands, separated by a few sand dunes from the NordicSea. Along the centuries, these islands were tied to one another, with help from the typical Dutch resourcefulness and talent. The result is an almost flat territory, green and silver, with almost half of its territory and 16 million inhabitants under the sea level. Perhaps no other country has such a strong connection with the sea, after 2000 years of defending against this threat. Netherlands without water is a hard to imagine as Arabia without the sand.

The proper designation of the territory is Netherlands. The name “Holland” refers only to the two provinces, Noord-Holland (Northern Holland) and Zuid-Holland (Southern Holland). The Dutch call their country Nederland, but they also admit the designations “Dutch” and “Holland” as being popular. The English term “Dutch” for the Dutchmen is the result of a misunderstanding from the 15th century, when the British could not distinguish between the inhabitants of the Netherlands and those of Germany – “Dutch” comes from “Deutsch” (German).

Netherlands' Tourist Attractions

Wander through the Amsterdam city center, along the canals’ bank lined with old building. Among them you’ll find the Anne Frank House, the house of the young Jewish girl, on the Prinsengracht canal.

Visit the diamond merchants in Amsterdam. The most renowned one is Gassan, in Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat, where you can pick the precious gems, which are then mounted on site.

The galleries and the museums in Amsterdam contain some of the greatest works of art, including works signed by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Vermeer.

Take a trip to Arnhem in the south-east of Holland, where the Market Garden Operation took place during the Second World War and where the crossing of the RhineRiver proved to be too difficult for the Allied troops.

Take a tour of the architectural heritage visiting the governmental buildings in Hague, the government and the Dutch royalty headquarters and the forth most important city of the United Nations.

Admire the Netherlands in miniature at Madurodam, which offers a dummy of the country’s regions, in a 1/25 scale.

Wake up early to participate in the Aalsmeer Flour Auction (Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer), the biggest commercial building in the world, located close to Amsterdam.

Go towards the southernmost corner of the country to see the medieval architecture in Maastricht, the oldest walled city in Netherlands. The main attractions include the Virgin Mary and St. Servatius churches.

Don’t miss the spectacular cathedral tower and the historical center in Utrecht, a city that brags with a brand new museum, dedicated to Dick Bruna’s work, the creator of Miffy.

Admire Netherlands’ tulips. The most spectacular ones can be found in Haarlem, 20km west of Amsterdam. In the countryside you can admire flowers from March to mid-May.

Enjoy the show in the cheese markets. The best ones are Waagplein in Alkmaar, opened in every Friday from April to September and Gouda, 20km south-east of Rotterdam.

Observe the porcelain craftsmen’s talent at the royal pottery workshop in Delft, a city where you can also find a center dedicated to the artist Johannes Vermeer.

Rent a bicycle and join the Dutch in the most common means of transport. There are approximately 17.000km of tracks for cyclists in Netherlands, a perfect country for this sport, due to its mostly flat terrain.

Wander with a glass-bottomed boat through the Amsterdam’s canals and port. It’s an excellent way to see the most interesting areas in the city. Another option is the Museum Boat, which includes most of the cultural attractions.

You can see the interior components and the health condition of the human body at Corpus, located near Leiden. Here you can also find a center of medical information, with temporary expositions.

Take a trip to the national park Hoge Veluwe near Arnhem. The attractions include an underground museum dedicated to the underground life and the Kroller-MullerMuseum which contains 280 works belonging to Van Gogh, as well as countless other paintings.

Drive on Afsluitdijk, a 30km dam built in the 1930s to separate Zuidersee from the NorthernSea.

Take the Eurosmast high speed elevator and dine at an altitude of 100meter.

In the village of Zaanse Schans you can take a trip to the past, to see traditional houses, functional windmills, a sabot factory, a cheese farm, boat constructers and some museums.

The WadenIslands are o popular destination. You can make your way through them by ferry.

Wander through the historical city of Gouda, following the Cheese Map that will take you to diverse attractions.

Netherlands' History

Julius Caesar established the Dutch Low Lands (Netherlands) inhabited by the German tribes – Frisians, Batavians. The Batavians, located near the Roman border, didn’t obey Rome until 13 BC and then they did it only as allies. The Francs controlled the region during the 4th and 8th centuries and then the area was part of the Charlemagne’s kingdom, in the 8th and 9th centuries. Later on the region fell under the control of Burgundy and the Austrian Habsburgs, finally ending under the Spain’s control, in the 16th century. When the Spanish king Philip II tried to repress the political freedoms and the Dutch Protestant movement, in 1568 a riot erupted, which was lead by William of Orania. With the Ultrecht Union occasion, in 1579, the seven north provinces became the Holland United Provinces. The war between the UnitedProvinces and Spain continued in the 17th century, until 1648, when Spain finally recognized Netherlands’ independence.

The nation’s complete independence wasn’t established until the end of the 30 Years War, when the country had already become a powerful commercial and marine power. In 1688 the British Parliament invited Wilhelm of Orania and his wife, Maria Stuart, to lead England as William III and Mary II. With the combined powers of the both countries, Wilhelm conquered France and incorporated the three nations in a single kingdom. In 1830 though, the southern provinces separated to form the kingdom of Belgium. Netherlands adopted a liberal constitution in 1948.

Even though it managed to remain neutral in the First World War, Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis in 1940, being eliminated in 1945. In 1948, after 50 years of leadership, the queen Wilhelmina abdicated in favor of her daughter, Juliana. After a four years war, in 1949, Netherlands freed the Eastern Dutch Indies, with became the Republic of Indonesia. In the same year Netherlands joined NATO, and in 1958 it became a member of the European Community (the present European Union).

In 1963 Netherlands gave the eastern half of New Guinea to Indonesia, thus ending the 300 years of Dutch presence in Asia. In 1975 Surinam became independent, the Dutch Antilles and Aruba remaining the only Netherlands’ overseas territories.


What You Should Know

The Dutch are one of the most relaxed and informal nations in Europe, having few social taboos. The Dutch have suffered a lot during the Nazi occupation and for this reason, especially for the older inhabitants, you will see an animosity against Germans. Also avoid making associations between the Dutch language and the German one. Another topic that you should avoid is asking the Dutch why they use such old bicycles.

Dutch Food

The traditional Dutch food is rather thick and consistent, than elegant. However, the bigger cities have a large range of restaurants that offer you international dishes. The Indonesian food, a spicy heritage from the Eastern Indies colonization, it’s particularly good in Netherlands. A Dutch breakfast generally consists of fresh bread, cheese, cooked meat or sausages, butter, a boiled egg and jam of honey.

The lunch is similar. The sandwiches (broodjes) are a common snack and there are special bars that serve them. During tea time the pancakes (poffertjes) are preferred, with butter and sugar. Matjes is salty herring and it can be found at street stands, as well as the smoked eel, another marine specialty. Netherlands is a famous country for the cheese assortments – Goudse, Edammer and Leidse, which can have a caraway flavor.

At breakfast fruit juice, coffee or tea is being drunk. The local spirit is called jenever and it’s available in several flavors. The most popular beer brands are Amsel and Heineken.



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