Travel information for your next visit to THE NETHERLANDS
The Netherlands may generally not be regarded as the most touristic of European countries; however, some unique, interesting and sometimes overwhelming sights and experiences await those who include it in their itineraries:
uristic of European countries; however, some unique, interesting and sometimes overwhelming sights and experiences await those who include it in their itineraries:
- A symbiosis between land and water, nowhere else to be found in any country, with canals winding through a green, flat landscape, dotted with black and white cows.
- One of the world’s most densely populated countries
- Astounding medieval city centers and villages, windmills, wooden shoes and tulips.
- Some of the world’s most prestigious international museums, with world acclaimed masterpieces
- The world’s largest and most beautiful spring garden.
INTRODUCTION to the Netherlands
This relatively small country, generally known as the “Netherlands”, a constitutional monarchy officially named the “Kingdom of the Netherlands”, and sometimes called “Holland”, has a unique physical characteristic, namely that more than 25% of its land lies under sea level, reclaimed from the sea, protected by dikes, seawalls and dunes.
The official language is Dutch, but in the most northerly part of the country, called Friesland, Frisian is also officially recognized. However, English is widely spoken, whilst many of the Dutch are also fluent in German and French.
ACCESSIBILITY to the Netherlands
- By air: The main international airport is Schiphol, at Amsterdam. Other international airports are at Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen and Maastricht.
- By train: High speed international trains commute to Amsterdam and Utrecht Central Stations regularly, from where local trains speedily transport you to a final destination.
- By car: Holland can easily be reached by car by way of Europe’s well-maintained road network.
- By ferry, liners or river cruisers: Since Holland is situated on the North Sea, direct ferry services and cruise liners dock at Dutch harbors. Amsterdam is also the starting or destination port of river cruises on the Rhine.
WHEN TO GO to the Netherlands
Since Holland is directly exposed to the North Sea, it has a moderate marine climate:
- Spring: Colourful blossoms and flowers on trees and fields, nowhere else to be found in the world. The Dutch people are drawn outside again – to the terraces in the cities and villages, to the beaches, on their bicycles and boats, in their cars, peddling, sailing or driving around.
- Summer: These outdoor activities reach their zenith during the summer months (June, July, August), with the Dutch spending as much time outside as possible, sometimes until the wee hours of the night.
- Autumn: Also a colourful season, with forests and parks ablaze in nature’s browns, reds, yellows and greens. The days become shorter, evenings chillier, rainfall increases, with sometimes storms driving people inside.
- Winter: The season for activities like skating on the frozen canals in a snowy landscape, or enjoying typical hearty winter Dutch dishes.
GETTING AROUND in the Netherlands
Holland has an extensive, excellent and safe public transport system ensuring speedy transport to almost any destination within the country.
- Trains: Regular intercity trains connect larger cities, local trains the intermediate stations.
- Busses: Several regular bus services operate between cities,towns and main sights.
- Car: Traveling by car on the well-maintained and clearly signposted roads is easy. Most cities can be reached from Amsterdam within an hour or two.
- Water: Ferries, water taxis and canal boats abound in and between the cities, transporting cars, bicycles or people.
- Bicycle: A vast network of bicycle routes enable visitors to explore the country at leisure on their own, or by way of organized tours.
TOP 5 – DON’T MISS these sights
- The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: Closed to the public for a number of years due to renovations, is again displaying its masterworks
- The canals of Amsterdam: Trips on the 17th century canal rings is unique, with views of the magnificent canal houses, the interesting bridges, and historic sights, like the Anne Frank House
- The Zaanse Schans: Near Amsterdam situated on a peat meadow landscape a stunning display of a working Dutch community from the 18th century can be seen, complete with different windmills, houses, museums, barns and traditional crafts, like cheese- and clogmaking, restaurants and boutiques.
- Giethoorn: This unique village, sometimes called the Venice of Holland, came to being on green meadows in between small lakes and connecting canals. Wooden bridges connect the spacious gardens around typical Dutch wooden houses of previous centuries. No cars are allowed. Visitors have to discover it on foot, or by renting either a so-called “fluister boot” (whisper boat), small rowing boats, or even gondolas, pushed along with a pole reaching to the bottom of the canals.
- Keukenhof: Undoubtedly the world’s largest and most beautiful spring garden (32 hectares), situated near Lisse, south of Amsterdam, within the so-called “bollentreek” (bulb region).
TOP SLEEP & EAT SECRETS like the dutch do
Accommodation: Different types can be considered:
- Holiday homes are to be found all over The Netherlands. Some of them are situated in so-called holiday parks, in or near tourist attractions or areas of scenic beauty, such as at the Landgoed Het Timmerholt in the Drenthe region.
- B&B’s and guesthouses: The opportunity of experiencing personalised service by the owners themselves, including typical Dutch cuisine; also contact with hosts, like at The Pearl of the Jordaan, located in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, near to the city centre.
- Hotels: All types of hotels are to be found almost everywhere, from budget hotels of the Bastion Hotel Group, offering less expensive, but comfortable and good facilities, such as near the Schiphol Airport, to luxury hotels, such as the Kruisheren Hotel in Maastricht, or the boutique The Paleis Hotel in The Hague.
Cuisine: Holland boasts countless restaurants and cafés. Many serve traditional Dutch dishes, such as asparagus on the Limburg asparagus route, or the delicious Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch New), raw herring caught at the beginning of summer, and served with raw union. No visitor should leave Holland without tasting some of the world-famous cheeses. Restaurants in Amsterdam serving local dishes are the De Roode Leeu at the Damrak, or the De Blauwe Hollander in the Leidsekruisstraat.
MEETING THE REAL PEOPLE
Festivals, fairs, sporting and cultural events are the activities by which a visitor gains insight into what dwells in the hearts of the inhabitants of a country. The following few should be considered:
- King’s Day (Koningsdag), formerly called Queen’s Day (Koninginne Dag) is Holland’s biggest national festival, celebrating the birthday of the reigning king or queen throughout the country. The festivities in Amsterdam are unsurpassed, with street parties, performances and shows. As from 2014 this festival takes place on 30 April.
- The three days long lively Carnival (Mardi Grass) during February in Maastricht is one of Europes biggest, with floats and participants dressed in colourful costumes.
- During May and June a huge multi-disciplinary art festival of a great variety of more than 200 events in The Hague is attended by thousands of spectators.
- The traditional Feast of Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas on the 5th of December, celebrated especially by families, is even more popular than the activities on Christmas eve in other countries.