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Vacation In A Country Of Windmills And Cheese

Updated on July 22, 2010
Windmills, the Netherlands
Windmills, the Netherlands

Travelers who enjoy meeting people and absorbing different ways of life should definitely consider the Netherlands for their next vacation. This small, but culturally and geographically diverse country often referred as Holland, which gave birth to Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Mata Hari, conquered the sea and championed the tulip, certainly is worth a visit. Holland has a variety of unique attributes to offer its visitors, from medieval castles and ancient towns to dense forests and scenic caves to world-class art and trendy nightclubs to traditional cheese markets and top-notch restaurants. Whether your dream vacation about, sailing or bicycling, sightseeing, partying or just relaxing on a beach – the country of windmills can make your dream come true.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Sightseeing in Holland

Amsterdam, the city of charming canals and bridges, beautiful parks and historical buildings, absolute paradise for museum and party lovers, is definitely number one city to visit in Holland. The city has more specialty museums than any other city of its size. From Rembrandt and Van Gogh to marijuana and sex, from houseboats and diamonds to tropical life and modern art, you can easily find a museum to suit your interest. If museums are not your thing, then maybe picturesque Amsterdam canals are. They are the reason why Amsterdam calls the “Venice of the North”, they are what makes the city so unique and attractive. And of course Amsterdam is famous for its intensive and diverse nightlife. There are around 1,200 bars in Amsterdam and there is no surprise that a local says “The café is my church”. Amsterdammers combat excessive drinking by eating. The city has about 900 restaurants that offer a variety of different cuisines, from traditional French and Argentinian to authentic Dutch and Indonesian. To try the rijsttafel, an exotic Indonesian fare, is a must when in Amsterdam.

Haarlem, the Netherlands
Haarlem, the Netherlands
Delft, the Netherlands
Delft, the Netherlands
Utrecht, the Netherlands
Utrecht, the Netherlands

Haarlem is an interesting historic town on the River Spaarne. Although only a 15-minute train journey from Amsterdam, Haarlem still seems very much like 17th century town with the brick-paved lanes, ancient forests, old interesting shops and antique dealers. The Grote Markt (Main Square) still look very much as it did in the 17th century townscapes of Gerrit Berckheyde in the Frans Hals Museum, the most famous museum in town and one of the best in the country. Just west of Haarlem is the popular North Sea resort of Zandvoort, where you can see what Amsterdammers get up to at the beach.

Delft, a picturesque town situated on the River Vliet, is a perfect place to visit if you are staying in The Hague or Rotterdam. This pleasant old town, the home town of Vermeer, has changed very little since Vermeer painted The View of Delft. A walk along Oude Delft, a narrow leafy canal, will take you back in time and show some of the most interesting buildings in the city.

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherland. It stands on a tributary of the Rhine and was founded in AD 47 as a Roman garrison. A walk along Oudergracht, the oldest canal in the city, will give you a great tour of the old city. But the most romantic way to see the city of Utrecht is by horse-drawn carriage. The beautiful Gelderland horses will take you around the outer canals, parks, narrow alleyways, the inner canals and most impressive buildings of Utrecht. The city is full of beautiful churches, monasteries, castles and convents dated as far as 11th century. There are plenty hotels in Utrecht for your convenience, so you can spend a few days in this beautiful old city.

Keukenhof, the Netherlands
Keukenhof, the Netherlands

Lisse, more than 800 years old small town in South Holland, is a very popular tourist destination, thanks to proximity to Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. Also known as the Garden of Europe, Keukenhof has approximately 7 million flower bulbs, which attract a lot of visitors in April and May, when all of bulbs in astonishing blooming. You can rent a bicycle and ride on the tracks in the tulip fields and make it a life time experience.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Cycle routes in Holland
Cycle routes in Holland

Cycling in Holland

The bicycle might have been invented with the Netherlands in mind. Not only is there a network of 10,000 km of cycle lanes with separate traffic lights for bikes at road intersections, but plenty of tiny roads lead into the heart of polders, farming country and forests. There are 13 million bikes in this country of 16 million people. If you’ve resisted the temptation to bicycling in Dutch cities for fear of swirling traffic, head out into the countryside. Hire a bike in town and take a train to almost anywhere you fancy, or hire a bike form the railway station at your destination, most main stations in the Netherland have hire facilities.

The most attractive cycle routes in the country are those that follow the rivers. The Lek provides an attractive route between Rotterdam and Arnhem, passing through pleasant river towns such as Schoonhoven, Culemborg and Rhenen. The dunes offer an alternative route along the west coast of the Netherlands, linking Hoek van Holland, The Hague and Haarlem.

Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe is a great park to explore by bicycle. Beyond the park, you can continue through moorland to Zwolle, where is an extensive area of lakes stretching to the attractive Frisian town of Sneek.

Or for a bigger challenge go round the IJseelmeer. Until the 1930s this big lake near Amsterdam was not a lake but a sea. Who can resist cycling round a sea? The Ijsselmeer is one of the most beautiful areas in the country and the perfect Dutch experience for a cyclist.

There are plenty of cycling excursions from Amsterdam. For a great easy four-hour round trip from Amsterdam, cycle southwards along the banks of the River Amstel. After a half-hour you will emerge into the countryside on the way to the pretty village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.

Sailing in The Ijsselmeer
Sailing in The Ijsselmeer

Boating in Holland

Water is everywhere in Holland and there are always boats for hire and local tours. Zeeland, a province of the Netherlands located in the south-west of the country, is very popular among those who enjoy boating. Sailing schools and boat-hire companies abound, with one in every harbor. A special attraction lies in the traditional old sailing vessels of Zeeland, which can be hired with skipper.

Leiden, ‘a town on the watercourses’, offers great boat trips on the Leiden canals and to the Kagerplassen lakes, a beautiful area surrounded by windmills, weilanden with grazing animals, flower fields and full of quaint Dutch boats and buildings.

Monnickendam, just 16 km northeast of Amsterdam, an attractive little port with picturesque canals, is a great place for boating, fishing and windsurfing with vast collection of boats of every size and type.

Viewing Amsterdam from a boat gives you a different perspective on the city. Amsterdam has more than 100 canals and 1,200 bridges. The canals of Amsterdam are easy way to get around the city and perfect way to enjoy the city’s architectural jewels. But if you want truly Amsterdam experience, why not to stay in a houseboat or floating hotel in Amsterdam. There is no better way to experience the city on the water, than sleeping literally on the water! Or you can take a look into cozy world of living on a houseboat in an Amsterdam canal, visiting Houseboat Museum on Prinsengracht.

Visiting cheese country

Holland is undeniably the ‘cheese country’. Not only because of its high export figures and variety of Dutch cheeses, but also because the Dutch culture is entrenched in cheese. There are several cheese markets operating in the Netherlands. Some of them are reproductions of traditional merchant cheese markets as operated in the Middle Ages. If you are really into cheese, Edam and Alkmaar are great places to visit, taste, learn and buy some cheese.

Edam, just 22 km northeast of Amsterdam, is a cheerful interesting little place with attractive canals crossed by narrow wooden bridges. Once, Edam was an important whaling town and port. Now it is world-famous for its round cheeses, which are produced by farms on the fertile Beemster and Purmer polders. Edam cheeses, wrapped in a protective skin of red wax for export, can still be bought in the 16 th century Waag (weigh house) on Waagplein.

Alkmaar, 40 km north of Amsterdam, is a busy market town with a traditional cheese market on Friday mornings during the tourist season. The yellow-skinned cheeses are piled onto wooden sledges by porters in traditional garb, before being taken to the Waaggebouw, a 14th century chapel which was converted to a weigh house in the 16th century. Now it also contains a small museum of cheese-making techniques.

Have a fantastic time in Holland and please share with us your Dutch experience!


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, great introduction of the netherlands. I would like to add maastricht to your article. Great city, different from most other dutch cities but lots to offer. Amazing restaurants, great old citycenter and friendly people,

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      that's wonderful! it sounds great!!! i wish i could go there!my auntiewent and she said it was lovely !!!

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      Hi Mr Nice! Have a fantastic trip to Holland and feel free to ask any questions while planning your trip, I would be glad to help.

    • Mr Nice profile image

      Mr Nice 

      9 years ago from North America

      Hi Wanderlust! Thanks for sharing the wonderful country Holland or Netherland. Next year I have Holland in my Europe trip plan.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 

      9 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Great information. I am still Dutch but living in America - too long - most of my life. You have covered the basics and I am going to use this as a guide next time I go. I plan to stay in hostels and wander through Europe for a month or two, especially in Holland, always my home.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      9 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      I loved my short trip to Holland, it was so interesting to see how many people cycle there, Moms, Dads with children on board, teens with their friends, sharing, delivery boys and tourists. The bicycle park at Den Hague railway station was a sight to behold with acres of bikes stacked up. The people were so friendly and the food great. Their horses are world class too in Dressage and Jumping. Lovely country. Thanks for the very informative hub.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      That's exactly what I am going to do in a month Peggy - strolling in Keukenhof. I've been there once and trust me, since then I always wanted to go back. The garden is so beautiful and May is the best time to visit. You definitely should see it one day! Thank you for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Wish I was strolling in Keukenhof right now! You did an excellent job of introducing that country to us with all of the many details and photos that you included. I have personally only been through the Amsterdam airport in transit to other places. Will have to correct that sometime.

    • maanju profile image


      9 years ago from India

      WOW Your hub on Holland is wonderful and you really took me to the place. I really enjoyed reading your article. Excellent work.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      Great! Thank you Amsterdamize for a statistic update! It is even more impressive than I thought it was - 17,000 km of dedicated cycle paths/lanes! And if someone is not really impressed, just look at the map how small the Netherlands are!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Cycling in Holland: your statistics are not correct: there are more than 18 million bikes and over 17.000 km of dedicated cycle paths/lanes.


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