About the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a perfect blend of traditional and innovative; the result is a country with centuries-old wind-mills, artistic masterpieces, romantic cafes, tulip fields co-existing with cutting edge design, futurist architecture and unparalleled nightlife.
The country has an interesting history and a wonderfully relaxed, forward-thinking culture when it comes to sex and drugs. The Netherlands museums are a haven for art lovers as they are loaded with works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and many other prominent names from the 17th century. For lovers of the outdoors, there are several bike trails, parks and other natural areas providing endless opportunities to explore nature. The Netherlands is famous for being flat and there is no better way to explore the tremendous Dutch outdoors than by riding a bike!
Netherlands Travel Info
Language: The official languages of the Netherlands are Dutch, Papiamento, English, and Frisian. About 90% of the population is fluent in English, and you will have absolutely no problem communicating with the locals.
Visa: The Netherlands is a member of the Schengen Agreement, which provides a free visa to travel to any EU country as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand, and Australia for a period of 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia and Russia, need to apply for Schengen Visa before traveling to the Netherlands.
Electricity: Netherlands operates on 230 V electricity supply with a frequency of 50 Hz. The power sockets are usually two-pronged and round. Power sockets are of type C, and F. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Netherlands Festivals & Celebrations
Mardi Gras, Maastricht: The town of Maastricht is where one of the liveliest and the biggest carnivals in Europe takes place. From 10th to 13th February every year the ‘Prince off fools’ and his group lead the celebrations. Several Dutch cities host the carnival where you can witness parades and an array of colorful events.
King’s Day, Amsterdam: The festival is celebrated to honor King Willem Alexander who took the throne on April 13th, 2013. A large number of tourists and locals gather in Amsterdam to enjoy one of the grandest parties in the Netherlands. A one-day street carnival also takes place where a huge variety of goods are sold by locals.
Remembrance Day: This day is celebrated to remember all of the people who lost their lives in the War of Peace-keeping Mission post-outbreak of WWII. The significant events take place at the Dam Square in Amsterdam and are attended by the government and members of the Royal Family.
Safety In The Netherlands
Just like all European countries, the Netherlands is a safe place to travel. Bag snatching and scams are always prevalent in big cities so be mindful. Major cities like Amsterdam are under the constant threat of a terror attack, as are all major cities in Europe, but security measures are in place so don’t let this affect your travel plans. Based on my own travel experiences in Europe I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit the Netherlands.
Top Things To Do In The Netherlands
Explore the Canals of Amsterdam
Just like many other cities that are situated on the water, Amsterdam also has a wonderful canal system. These beautiful waterways are a much loved tourist attraction, and the tranquil routes can be best explored through a water taxi or a boat tour which will take you to all the places of worth. If you are not interested in a water tour, you can just wander along the banks and enjoy the sights by foot or by bike.
Visit Zaanse Schans
The ones who are interested in traveling back in time and visiting the Netherlands of the 17th and 18th century, this is the right place for you. Zaanse Schans is located in the north of Amsterdam around 15 kilometers from the main city, and it is constructed as an open-air museum where you can get the feel of a traditional village. The sights include a grocery store, a shipyard, a pewter factory, and several wooden houses. You will also see the iconic windmills here, and out of the 600 windmills, only five are left now.
Admire the beauty of Grote Kerk
Grote Kerk is a large red brick church built in Gothic Style. The original building is believed to be built in the 13th century but later it was demolished, and the present building was constructed in its place. Many people from the Dutch Royal family were baptized here, and King Willem-Alexander was even christened here. The highlights of the church are the famous bell tower, the highest in Holland, and it has 51 bells and the pipe organ that is huge.
Wander the Hoge Veluwe National Park
The Netherlands has a few amazing national parks, and among them, the largest is Hoge Veluwe. It is located between Arnhem and Apeldoorn. The park is spread across an area of 13,800 acres and is covered in woodland. It also has certain other features like a Sculpture Park, and you will find roe and red deer in abundance. There are some graceful dunes too, and the park is an excellent spot for bird-watching with a large range of birds frequenting the place.
Visit The Anne Frank Museum
This is among the highlights of Amsterdam, place where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. You might have a mixed feeling as you can feel the pain that little girl went through, and the excitement to know more about your favorite writer . She wrote a diary which was later found and became one of the most important books in the world. Anne Frank died just two months before the war ended. Her home has been restored and is open for tourists, but the hiding place remains as it is.
Admire the Village of Marken
Marken is a small village in the Netherlands that is famous for its beautiful spots; credit goes to its strategic location on Lake Ijsselmeer. This village is flocked by tourists soaking in the postcard-perfect beauty of the place and its colorful wooden houses and fishing boats. During summers some festivals take place where the locals dress in period costumes and indulge into crafts like clog making.
Rejuvenate at the Efteling
Efteling is located in Kaatsheuvel and is Netherland’s biggest amusement park. This amusement park is famous for being among the first theme based amusement parks and has been functional since 1952. It has ample thrilling rides and beautiful green gardens. The park is segregated into zones, each focusing on different legends and myths. The magical world called the Raveleijn narrates a story of five siblings and their fight and victory over an evil monster.
If you are short of time and cannot see the entire Netherlands, then Madurodam in Hague will come to your rescue. If you visit this place, you will find a mini version of Netherlands on a scale of 1:25 including all the top destinations like the landmarks, windmills, and the aesthetic feature such as bridges. The mini city also has a harbor, an airport, and the railway system.
Admire the windmills of Kinderdijk
Located between Dordrecht and Rotterdam on the river Noord lies the village of Kinderdijk. You can see the iconic windmills of the Netherlands here that dates back to the 18th century and are declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The area has 19 windmills that were constructed between 1722 to 1761. This is the most extensive collection of windmills in the Netherlands. The windmills can be seen spinning in all their glory from April to October which is the best time to visit the place.
Sample Edam Cheese
Edam cheese is popular across the world for its round shape and red-hued rind. Edam is not the name of just the cheese but also that of the place from where this cheese originates. The town of Edam is located on the water and has several cheese related sites to visit. The highlights for cheese lovers are a cheese market and an old cheese weighing hall.
Other than these top things to do in the Netherlands, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in the Netherlands that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In The Netherlands
The Netherlands although not famous for it’s cuisine, has a few culinary surprises up it’s sleeve. Many traditional Dutch snacks are drool-worthy, here’s a few of the best.
Stroopwafels: These are syrup waffles, delicious chewy cookies that were made for the first time in the city of Gouda in South Holland. In Gouda alone, you will find hundreds of bakeries selling the treat. The cookies are made of two thin layers of batter filled with sticky syrup.
Kroket: No other snack can beat a Dutch kroket which is a deep-fried roll filled with meat ragour and coated with breadcrumbs. The original recipe includes veal, but today you will find several versions of the roll that might include shrimp, chicken satay and even goulash.
Poffertjes: These are mini pancakes that are fluffed up with yeast and buckwheat flour. The delicacy is prepared using a pan that has many shallow indentations to hold the batter. Within these the tiny puffed pancakes are made which are then served up with butter and powdered sugar.
Patat: This is a Dutch version of French Fries which are a bit thicker than the regular fries. The Dutch prefer to eat their fries with a lot of toppings like mayonnaise, peanut sauce, and raw onion. The result is that patats taste way better than they look!
Bitterballen: These are the most loved Dutch snacks and can be found in every café and bar because they go great with beer. These meatballs are savory and deep fried and are served with mustard. The outer coating is crispy with a soft interior made of beef, butter, flour and spices.
Where To Stay In The Netherlands
The Netherlands can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in the Netherlands is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Netherlands hostels and dormitories make travel here more affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. The Netherlands is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in the Netherlands.
If you’re backpacking in the Netherlands or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
The Netherlands Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit The Netherlands
The best time to visit the Netherlands is between April and October, this is if you want mild, reasonably warm weather. If you want to visit the Netherlands when the weather’s hot and the sky is blue then aim to visit between June and September. Still, expect a few rainy and cloudy days.
Netherlands Travel Budget
The Netherlands can be an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to the Netherlands really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
The Netherlands Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to the Netherlands, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during Spring, Autumn and Winter.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality thermal wear and scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in the Netherlands. Prices are generally higher in shops and boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to the Netherlands include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to the Netherlands check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.