Known just as much for its tulip-filled fields and windmills as its canals, cheeses and cannabis; the Netherlands has long been one of Europe’s most popular countries to visit. Dotted about its utterly gorgeous countryside are all kinds of atmospheric cities and towns for you to explore with plenty of excellent museums, architectural gems and attractive gardens on offer.
Located in the northwest of the continent, it lies next to the North Sea with Belgium and Germany being the only two nations it borders. Very flat and low-lying, its fertile fields and farms lie behind an ingenious system of sea barriers with a substantial percentage of its land having been reclaimed from the sea. In addition to its long and scenic coastline and all its dikes, dams, rivers and lakes, the Caribbean Islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are also included as part of its territory.
Most people’s first port of call is of course its lively capital Amsterdam, which is known not only for its beautiful canals and townhouses but its cosy coffeeshops, vibrant nightlife and raucous red light district. Besides enjoying its laid back vibe and cruising about its peaceful waters, you can also stop by world-class institutions, such as the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House.
After Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are its next two largest cities with both being home to very different yet delightful architectural styles. While the former’s bustling port is lined by cutting-edge bridges and modern buildings, the ‘judicial capital of the world’ is instead home to a myriad of stately houses and historic buildings, both boasting some great museums and nightlife.
Yet other popular draws are the charming university towns of Leiden, Maastricht and Utrecht due to their canal-filled centres and impressive historic sites with the small yet scenic Delft and Giethoorn – the ‘Venice of the North’ – also attracting lots of people.
If you want to snap splendid photos of typical Dutch villages replete with wooden houses and windmills, then Kinderdijk and the enormous outdoor Zaanse Schans museum are the places to go, while Keukenhof has gorgeous gardens full of pretty tulips to enjoy.