What makes The Netherlands so special? Let me tell you, it’s not just about bikes and windmills. After four visits to The Netherlands, this country continues to be one of my favorite places to visit. Read on to learn why it’s so easy to love The Netherlands.
While I’ve been incredibly lucky and have acquired an abnormal amount of Dutch friends, I will say the people of The Netherlands are pretty great. Generally speaking, their business sense, kindness, intelligence, and overall lifestyle is something to be admired. And because most people in The Netherlands speak English, it’s really easy to connect with them which takes me to my next item.
While you’ll hear Dutch widely spoken throughout the country, I’ve found that it’s completely fine and normal to speak English during your travels here. In other countries you’ll need to be prepared with some language skills (ahem, France), but in The Netherlands feel free to speak English. It makes travel much easier and more enjoyable, compared to when you’re trying to navigate your trip and speak a foreign language at the same time. I do recommend trying to learn a bit of Dutch for fun, the locals will most likely get a kick out of it.
The cities (beyond Amsterdam)
While Amsterdam is an obvious starting point, be sure to travel around to other cities in The Netherlands. My favorites? Rotterdam, Leeuwarden, Haarlem, and The Hague. Rotterdam is modern, Leeuwarden gives you an excuse to head up north, Haarlem is charming, and The Hague’s political roots are interesting to explore.
If possible, try and make time to explore a few different cities and smaller villages during your trip. While Amsterdam surely has a lot to offer, I suggest making time for more to see beyond the typical tourist track.
The Netherlands has world class museums. With The Rijks Museum and The Van Gogh Museum within walking distance of each other in Amsterdam, it’s easy to find incredible art to admire. The Netherlands tends to boast an interesting museums you might not expect, such as The Museum of Bags & Purses. Other notable museums to visit in The Netherlands? The Frans Hal Museum in Haarlem and Mauritshuis in The Hague.
From riding bikes to liberal laws, I love the culture in Holland. I find that it has a unique sophistication that’s hard to match. Find yourself a lovely cafe and a cup of coffee and watch the world go round in The Netherlands. It makes for a wonderful place to people watch. Parents riding bikes with two and three kids in tow always makes me smile.
The public transportation
The Netherlands is super easy to travel around. Flying into Schiphol in Amsterdam is a dream, as you’re just a quick train ride from the city center. Between the trains, busses, and trams in The Netherlands, traveling to and from places is easy. I also find that taking public transit is great because you’ll arrive right into city center and it gives you a look into the daily lives of how the locals live. Get an OV-chipkaart which allows you pre-load money onto a transport card and skip the ticket lines.
The hagelslag (and other Dutch foods)
Take a piece of toast, put butter on it, then sprinkle some sprinkles on it. That’s hagelslag. Any country that encourages sprinkle consumption (for all ages) before noon gets an A+ in my book.
Another Dutch food that I love is “stamppot” which is typically served during the winter months. It’s mashed potatoes mixed with some type of vegetable and served with a meat of some type. I find that is a really easy recipe to make vegan so that it’s much healthier and kinder to the earth and animals compared to the carnivore version.
Other tasty treats include stroopwaffles, pancakes, poffertjes, and beautiful brown breads from the bakery. Be sure to visit a local grocery store and stroll the aisles to learn more about Dutch food products as well. If you’d like a few more ideas here are 15 Dutch foods to try in Amsterdam.
The first time I was visiting The Netherlands I nearly yelped when I saw a windmill during my train ride. As someone who grew up in Oregon, I’m used to a completely different landscape that is found here in The Netherlands. The flat landscape makes biking a dream and really feels like a different world here. One of my bucket list or “life list” items is to visit The Netherlands during tulip season, which is supposed to be awe inspiring.
Isn’t The Netherlands grand? I sure love it here. To see more, check out my Dutch photoessay from my visit last summer. I’ll be posting more photos from this beautiful country very soon!
Written in: The Hague, The Netherlands