Hi everybody! I’ve been loving writing about all things Europe lately, and I realized I’ve never devoted an entire article to the incredible things to do in the Netherlands! We all know about the kinds of shenanigans you can get up to in Amsterdam, but that isn’t the only tourist treasure in this country.
The Netherlands, sometimes mistakenly called Holland (this only refers to 2 provinces within the country), is full of stone castles, sparkling canals, pastel tulips, dazzling works of art, and great food. I figure, of course, that any first-time visitors are going to stay a few days in Amsterdam, but here are some great ideas to extend your trip and get more out of the country than the red light district.
So let’s get started: here are 10 things to do in the Netherlands, Amsterdam not included!
1. A Day Trip To Zaanse Schans
First stop: windmills! This quaint Dutch town is just a 20-minute drive north of Amsterdam, serving as a preserved representation of the 18th and 19th centuries. In Zaanse Schans you can meander around the bakery museum, peep clogs being made in a warehouse, and of course, marvel at the beautiful windmills dotting the town. The little wooden houses, cheese and pewter factories, barns, and workshops are sure to make a peaceful and educational outing out of a day in the Netherlands.
2. The Windmills of Kinderdijk
While Zaanse Schans is home to a handful of windmills preserved in a small, historical town, Kinderdijk boasts 19 of the majestic machines, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each of these mills has been standing since the 1700s, along the River Noord between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. You’ll need to get a ticket in advance, and the mills are open for a visit between the months of April and October, with special Mill Days here and there when the windmills are set in motion.
3. Tower Over The Madurodam
Located in The Hague is a complete 1:25 scale model of Amsterdam called the Madurodam. This adorable attraction includes bite-sized versions of all of Amsterdam’s popular spots: the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Peace Palace, Van Gogh Museum, and plenty more. You can even take a peek through the tiny windows and see artwork and other details inside the mini buildings! This would be an ideal spot for kids, with interactive exhibits and playgrounds included.
4. Find Tulips Everywhere!
Located in Lisse, the Keukenhof Garden, also known as the Garden of Europe, is the most popular option for tulip exploration, with 70 acres of tulips, restaurants, and plenty of other flowers as well. However, it’s not the only one! Check out Noordoostpolder for bike-friendly fields and an annual Tulip Festival, or the smaller municipality of Noordwijk right along the coast.
5. A Tasty Trip To Gouda
That’s right everybody, Amanda Bynes’s favorite cheese has its very own town! The city of Gouda is located about a half hour’s drive from Rotterdam and is of course home to a Gouda Museum and a cheese market. Still, believe it or not, there’s more to this town than cheese! There’s also a gorgeous Town Hall building, a 17th-century tapestry, a beautiful stained-glass church, and more. If you just can’t get enough of the stuff, add a stop in Edam to your itinerary, and don’t forget the lactose pills!
6. The Majestic Kasteel De Haar
The largest fortification in the Netherlands, Kasteel De Haar, is located just outside the canal-filled city of Utrecht (well worth its own visit!). The original castle was built in the 1300s, with the more recent construction, moat and all, dating back to the 1800s. It’s on a lush 250-acre park, perfect for a long stroll after you’ve toured the lavish interior of antiques, artwork, tapestries, furniture, and more.
7. Explore the De Hoge Veluwe National Park
While the Kasteel De Haar is sitting pretty on a 250-acre park, the expansive Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe covers nearly 14,000 acres. In this park, you can see anything from forests to sand dunes, with incredible wildlife like wild boar and mouflon. The Kröller-Müller Museum and Sculpture Garden is also here, where you can lay your eyes on even more of Van Gogh’s portfolio. Explore the museum-mansion Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, cycle along one of the bike trails, camp overnight, or even go on a safari! (Though, of course, your best bet for a good safari is to take a trip to Africa!).
8. Visit the Vermeer Center
I’m sure you’re familiar with Amsterdam’s lineup of art museums, from Van Gogh to Rembrandt, but how about a little love for Vermeer? Take a day trip to the city of Delft and buy a ticket to the Vermeer Center for an exploration of this 17th-century painter. There are exhibits about his life, chronological reproductions of his original paintings, and even secret love messages! After you’ve taken some time in the museum, I’d highly recommend exploring Delft itself, home to a beautiful botanical garden, canals, lovely old buildings, and fascinating preserved pottery factory.
9. Take The Kids To Efteling
After the little ones get to feel like giants at the Madurodam, bring them to the Efteling theme park for a thrilling time. Truly a fantastical amusement park, the Efteling is built to represent different myths and folklore, with fairytale forests, dark rides, a haunted house, and stomach-dropping roller coasters. No kids? No problem—grown-ups are welcome to explore the park all on their own as well!
10. Stroll Around Haarlem
Located up north in the province of Noord-Holland, Haarlem is another great option for a day trip. Visit the Frans Hals Museum to explore one of the Netherland’s premier art galleries, the picturesque Old City Hall, the St Bavo Cathedral, the baroque tomb of William of Orange, and more. Beyond its many attractions, you’ll also enjoy strolling around the narrow streets, taking a seat in one of the cafés, and having a relaxing time.
There you have it! 10 exciting things to do around the Netherlands, and not one of them based in Amsterdam. Obviously, Amsterdam is a great city to visit, but we’ve got to give the rest of this country a little love as well!