Holiday Destinations - HollandEuropean Travel Advice presents holiday destinations in Holland. All the best tourist attractions and places of interest in Holland
Holland or the Netherlands
The capital city of Holland or to give it the correct name ‘Netherlands’ is Amsterdam, even though the government are located in The Hague and have been there since the 16th century.
Amsterdam has a population of approximately 3/4’s of a million and the population of the Netherlands is around 16.5 million. The largest proportion of which live in North Holland, one of the twelve provinces that make up the country. It is the most densely populated country in Europe. The first language of the Netherlands is Dutch but being bordered by several other countries many people speak second languages and a lot are fluent in English.
Holland is a country that is famous for it’s cheese, windmills, dikes, clogs and tulips, but I suppose the canals in Holland are the most famous features of all. The coastline due to the many inlets and estuaries seems to go on forever. Consequently because of this and the fact that a good proportion of the country is below sea level, water is a big feature of the Netherlands. In addition to the never ending coastline and ports the whole country is crisscrossed by beautiful historic canals and waterways; this is particularly true of the North of Holland. Like all the European countries, the Netherlands is not short of a rich history, culture and places to visit. The people are very friendly and welcome visitors to their country, often being able to greet them in their own language from a very young age.
Where to go in Holland
Amsterdam is probably the Netherlands’ best known city and is the capital of culture and canals. A beautiful city with a cafe culture to rival that of France’s most cosmopolitan cities. Plus in the Netherlands you will find a live and let live attitude to practically all aspects of life. Quirky in nature with wonderful architecture, museums full of history and canals full of barges with the world’s nations floating through the city. If you really want to see Amsterdam then taking a canal cruise is an excellent way to do it, you can get a unique perspective on many of the sights Amsterdam has to offer whether they date back to the medieval period or are bang up to date modern. If you don’t like the idea of a canal cruise then Amsterdam is relatively compact and you can actually walk around a good proportion of the main sights if you plan a route. Don’t forget to visit the museums either, there are over 40 but the three main ones are ‘Anne Frank House’, the ‘Van Gogh Museum’ and the ‘Rijksmuseum’.
Delft is the best historically preserved of the cities of the Netherlands and is famous for its blue and white pottery, canals and walkways. Visitors can go the Royal Dutch Delftware Factory for the history and process of pottery making. There are also old and new churches called Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk where William of Orange (or Willem the Silent) is buried. For a bit of artistic culture you can also visit the ‘Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenof’ where they hold a fine collection of Dutch decorative arts and you can see where Willem the Silent was assassinated in 1584. Johannes Vermeer was Delft’s most famous resident artist and there is a Vermeer trail you can follow through the city. Delft is located near to Rotterdam and the small canal built to connect Delft to the Maas River where a port was established eventually got absorbed by the Port of Rotterdam.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Hoge Veluwe National Park near Arnhem is an alternative location to the cities that offers a more natural environment consisting of marshlands, forests and sand dunes. Strangely enough it is also home to the wonderful Kroller-Muller Museum dedicated to art, many of which are by Van Gogh. If you visit, you can borrow one of their famous white bicycles to transport yourself around the park and access the facilities on offer which also includes the main visitor centre with its displays of flora and fauna. The park will appeal to the outdoors enthusiasts with around 42km of hiking trails and 3 recommended routes to help you find your way around. Of course for anyone interested in World War II history you are also only a short distance from Arnhem of ‘A Bridge Too Far’ fame. Arnhem also has the Openlucht Museum that replicates how the Dutch lived, farmed and built windmills in days gone by.
Maastricht is a little bit of a contrast to much of the Netherlands, even to the point where it has a few sloped streets and uphill climbs, downhill if you are going the other way of course. It is in the South of the country and close to the border of both Belgium and Germany, consequently the population truly are multi-lingual as mentioned previously and Maastricht is the perfect example of this. It’s landmarks include Roman and Spanish ruins and of course the River Maas which runs through the city. Sophisticated and cultured it is a highly recommended stop over if you are travelling through the Netherlands. It is very unlikely you will be disappointed by what you find in this beautiful city.
Leiden was the birthplace of Rembrandt and is a historic university town. This is another place where a canal cruise is a great way to see the town. It is also a stones throw from Keukenhof where the Spring bulb festival, which is considered to be the most beautiful spring garden in the world, is held. The Spring garden can only be visited from mid March to mid May however, so you have to get your timing right.
Haarlem is only a short distance from Amsterdam and can be easily accessed by train for anyone staying in Amsterdam that fancies a change of scenery. The architecture of Haarlem makes it worth visiting besides the city’s museums and its marvelous St Bravo’s Cathedral. The cathedral has had some pretty famous composers utilise the Muller organ that is housed there, namely Mozart and Handel. Quintessentially Dutch, Haarlem offers cosy bars, great restaurants and shops with quaint cobbled streets for access. You will also find the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem whose art collection focuses on Dutch mannerist art.
The Hague home to the Dutch government and the Dutch royal family has a number of interesting museums including the Municipal Museum that houses a large collection of paintings by Piet Mondrian in addition to offerings from Vermeer, Rembrandt and a few other of the Dutch Masters. Not as dynamic as say Amsterdam it is perhaps a destination for someone looking for a more peaceful and calm city location with its wide tree lined avenues, castles and boutiques. Plus of course it is close to the coast and offers some nice beaches to the North Sea for a spot of sunbathing.
Utrecht has an old medieval sector to visit, canals and interesting antique stores in which to browse. It is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands with a Roman history going back to the 1st century. The city is overshadowed by its famous tower the Dom, which protrudes a 100m into the sky and is from where you can get fabulous views of the city, providing you are fit enough to climb the 400 steps to the top. It perhaps lacks the prestige of the Netherland’s capital but has a lot of traditional Dutch attractions and offers an alternative view of the Netherlands to the capital city.
Beware the small print
Watch out for the drugs laws in Holland, they may have a reputation for leniency, especially with respect to soft drugs, but that is only in designated areas and if you are caught in possession of prohibited substances you could be arrested and even imprisoned. See the FCO check list