Canals, cheese, windmills, and pretty little towns with old gabled houses are typical of the Netherlands. But you can also expect modern architecture, street art, and hip districts: tips for holidays in Holland.
Does it actually mean the Netherlands or Holland? You’re probably asking yourself the same question when you’re planning your vacation in the Netherlands. And the answer is simple: Officially, the country is called the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and in 2019, the government decided to officially call itself that again. On the other hand, Holland only stands for two out of twelve provinces in the Netherlands, namely Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland. However, the name Holland is used as a synonym by many Dutch people themselves – and so you will continue to find tips for traveling to Holland and for holidays in the Netherlands.
Of course, Amsterdam should definitely be on the list of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. It is not for nothing that the capital is by far the most popular travel destination. Here you can walk along the canals, admire the pretty old gabled houses and think about which houseboat you would like to move into. Highlights such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk Museum are not only great destinations when the weather is bad. However, it can get pretty crowded here quickly. That’s why you should also find (still) insider tips like the Straat Museumplan on. The world’s largest street art museum awaits you in the middle of an old shipyard in the north of Amsterdam. And the area around it also offers an alternative to the pretty ring of canals in the center. It’s a short walk from the center to the Foodhallen in Amsterdam’s West: Stands with food from all over the world await you in an old tram hall.
The next stop is Rotterdam. However, the port city does not correspond at all to the clichés of Dutch cities, and you have to search longer here for pretty canals and old gabled houses. This is because Rotterdam was completely destroyed during the war and then rebuilt. Modern architecture and a skyline await you in South Holland today, which has given Rotterdam the nickname Manhattan on the Maas. The city’s landmark is the Erasmus Bridge, named after the philosopher Erasmus von Rotterdam, the city’s most famous son. Another architectural highlight is the yellow cube houses from the 70s. And also the market hall you should not miss Rotterdam: In the building, which is reminiscent of an airplane hangar, you will find almost 100 different markets and food stalls. Foodies are also drawn to the Fenix Food Factory in the old port area. Here you sit right on the water – a view of Rotterdam’s modern skyline included.
Whoever thinks of Holland immediately thinks of windmills. They are one of the symbols of the Netherlands, and even today, there are more than a thousand windmills across the country. 19 of them are in the small town of Kinderdijk, south of Rotterdam. The Kinderdijk windmills, built around 1740, are one of the most famous sights in the Netherlands and are part of an extensive water management system to prevent flooding. They were built to keep the low-lying areas of the Alblasserwaard dry and are considered a marvel of engineering from the 18th century. As a symbol of water management in Holland, they have also been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997. You can discover the mills on a walk or a boat tour and also visit one.
For many fans of the Netherlands, Utrecht is now considered the relaxed version of Amsterdam. And even though the student city is only half an hour’s train ride from the capital, it is still one of the insider tips in Holland. You can also walk along the canals in Utrecht, find what feels like just as many bicycles as in Amsterdam, and find cool shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafés, and bars. You can even explore Utrecht by canoe along the Oudegracht, or you can rent a bicycle – fits in Dutch – and cycle through the city. And did you know that the rabbit Miffy comes from Utrecht? The museum is a nice destination for families. Finally, especially in the evening, there is a lot going on in the squares of the university town around the cathedral and along the canals. This mix makes Utrecht one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands.
Katwijk aan Zee
For many, a holiday in the Netherlands is also a holiday by the sea. With its 451 kilometers of coastline, the country lies directly on the North Sea – and here, in addition to the West Frisian islands, you will also find some popular holiday destinations on the mainland. Katwijk aan Zee is one of the smaller bathing resorts with dunes, a long sandy beach, and a town that is much quieter than the larger neighboring town of Noordwijk. Instead of beach chairs, there are small wooden huts on the beach. And for the evening by the sea, some beach restaurants, and beach bars snuggle up directly in the dunes, including a view of the North Sea.
We continue to another beautiful city in the Netherlands. Pretty canals, numerous bridges, and historic brick houses also await you in Leiden. After Amsterdam, the city has the most canals and bridges in Holland. The market also runs along here, and you can stroll through it every Wednesday and Saturday. Or you stroll through the old town, discover the small backyards and courtyards, and shop in the oldest tea shop in the Netherlands. There are also many more pretty bookshops in Leiden than at home. Maybe that’s because Leiden University is the oldest in the Netherlands. Here already Rembrandtstudied, the most famous son of the city. An insider tip for garden fans is the botanical garden – also the oldest in the Netherlands: the first tulips in Europe were planted here. Today you can admire the tulip blossom not so far from Leiden in the flower park Keukenhof.