The Netherlands as a whole
The Netherlands is one of four countries that makeup the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a flat country located in Northwestern Europe on the coast of the North Sea. It is boarded by Germany to the East, and Belgium to the South. Contrary to popular faux pas, the only official name of the country is ‘The Netherlands’ – Not ‘Holland.’ Even though plenty of famous travel blogs try to use the catchy slogans of “Travel Tips for Holland” or “Holland Itinerary,” don’t be fooled – make sure to use the right name to impress the locals, they’re pretty picky about it!
The Netherlands is an EU country, and it is well known for its flat landscape. The flat land is complemented by picturesque canals, boats, fields of tulips and windmills; populated by hardened cyclists; and enhanced with the scents and flavours of the country’s famous cheeses and delectable pub menus. The streets are full of small shops and boutiques, and there is no shortage of markets stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. The local language, Dutch, sounds similar to German, but slightly tainted with hints of English tones and intriguing harsher sounds.
What to See and Do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city well admired for its Dutch-Renaissnce architecture. A history buff or admirer of architecture will feel right at home in this city, and will find plenty of sights to marvel at. The houses are crowded quite tightly here and interspersed with quaint, cobbled streets. There are not many cars in the city, but it is packed with cyclists
Stay out of their way! These serious cyclists aren’t afraid to run you down if you step in their path…).
It rains often in Amsterdam, but when the sun is out the atmosphere is perfect. The canals are full of boats floating lazily down the channels, full of cheerful passengers in shorts (regardless of the temperature) with a Heineken in one hand and gouda in the other.
Amsterdam is the city of museums, Van Gough, and the mindset of “wellbeing.” A typical daily itinerary might include a nice morning coffee (I recommend the Koffie Place Cafe), followed by some fresh waffles at a farmer’s market, lunch at a Moroccan stall, and then finishing off the evening hitting up a dive bar for some beers with friends.
What Else to See in the Netherlands
Amsterdam is not the only place worth visiting on your trip to the Netherlands. First, there are the charming Nordic beaches – easily accessible from the city. Pack a pair of walking shoes and take a peaceful stroll to take in the sandy sea beauty.
Next, Rotterdam is worth a trip! This city is the complete opposite of Amsterdam – It is industrial, with modern innovative architecture.
Another sight is Zaandam, in which you can view some of the country’s famous windmills, and enjoy some cheesy delicacies unique to the Netherlands (like gouda with lavender, for example). Most importantly, you can easily bike to this quaint spot from Amsterdam – no car rental needed!
A couple of other towns to check out include Utrecht and Hague. Utrecht is a student town, and a mini copy of Amsterdam. Hague is home to the Dutch government and the UN’s International Court of Justice.
Finally, there are the seasonal activities. If you visit the Netherlands in April/May you are in for a treat – it is tulip season! After the spring tulips fade and the seasons transition into summer the country comes alive with festival season (techno/house music vibes – there are options for all ages from 15 to 99!). When winter grips the country after the summer heat fades, the canals freeze over. This is the cue to grab your skates and hit the ice for some chilly winter fun (maybe that is why the Dutch excel at speed skating…)!
Fun (Fancy) Fact #1: For me, the Netherlands has an incredible taste for interior decor and design in general. As for their style of dress – think something between Brooklyn hipster and high fashion.
Fun (Blonde) Fact #2: Blonde models basically line the streets here. Ok, so maybe not the best for our self confidence but… talk about eye candy!
So – Have the picturesque houses, tulips, windmills, aromatic cheeses, Dutch design, Nordic beaches, and beautiful landscapes called to you? Throw hesitation to the wind and set off to explore the Netherlands! And don’t forget to give me a shout !