Think Netherlands, and vivid images come to one’s mind – of water, wind, boats, cheese, windmills, tulips, bicycles – the Netherlands is all of this and much, much more. Who has not heard of its famous cities – of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Delft and Den Haag? If the Netherlands is your stop for a holiday this year, consider the following list that I’ve thrown together.
photo by Nat Shukova
The best thing about the Netherlands is that you can explore it on a bicycle – the country has bicycle tracks and bikes for hire at very reasonable rates so you can hop from city to city and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this land. So here we go.
If you are in the Netherlands at the time of spring, you cannot afford to miss Keukenhof (www.keukenhof.nl), said to be the most beautiful spring garden in the world. Keukenhof season usually runs from mid-March to mid-May, so plan accordingly if you want to make it to this breathtaking display of colour and fragrance that is not to be seen anywhere else.
One of the best-preserved old towns in the Netherlands, Delft is famous the world over for its blue pottery. Along the streets of Delft you can pass a number of factories, most notably the Royal Dutch Delftware factory. Take a tour of the factory and experience first-hand how Delft pottery is made. Also on the must-visit list in Delft are the Oud Kerk (old church) and Nieuwe Kerk (new church) with the tomb of William of Orange. A word of warning: beware of imitations when you buy Delft pottery as these are common in the marketplace.
If medieval castles and old world structures fascinate you, then Utrecht is a must-see. With a moat ringing the city that stands to this day, the city retains some of its buildings from the Early Middle Ages and has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the eighth century. Marvel at the famous 600-year old Dom church and tower. When you are done with that, take a long, leisurely cruise down the canals of Utrecht, stopping for a meal at one of the many eateries that line the canal.
The Hague is the royalty of Netherlands as the royal family lives here. Among the many places to see in this beautifully preserved city is Mauritshuis, the royal picture gallery that houses masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Masters. Another interesting place, especially for the children, is Madurodam, a miniature city containing hundreds of scale-models of Dutch landmarks in a typically Dutch miniature landscape.
No trip to the Netherlands is complete without a visit to Kinderdijk, literally meaning “children’s dike”. This is a system of 19 windmills built around 1740 along a polder by the Lek and Noord rivers and has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997. You can choose to walk through the area or take a boat cruise with a guided tour of the area, or even see Kinderdijk from the air.
Netherlands is truly a country like no other, with something to see in each of its cities. To explore the Netherlands one must be prepared to set apart time, lots of it, and simply savour the experience that each place offers.
Hotel Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Average Price: €345
Average Rating: 10
Hotel Hilton The Hague
Average Price: €119
Average rating: 9.8
Grand Hotel Karel V – Utrecht
Average Price: €129
Average Rating: 9.2