Things to Do in the Netherlands: An Expert Guide
Windmills, clogs and canals...what could be better?
With the Venice of the North at its heart, and meadows of tulips and cheese-producing farms, the Netherlands is among Northern Europe’s dazzling highlights. Its diverse culture will have you meandering through quaint villages and visiting old-world towers one minute, and delving into spicy coffee shops and the Red Light District the next. It’s a place where windmills and tulips adorn the postcards and rural vistas, while excitement and debauchery paints the night orange in the city. The capital city is full of such lightness, in the form of its galleries and beer museum…as well as darkness personified in the Anne Frank House. The country plays up to its role as a contradiction to such an extent that nobody can even agree about its real name, with Holland making a challenge to the Netherlands. But one thing that will have you on steadier ground, as you search for things to do in the Netherlands, is the level of luxury of the homes here. Here at Plum Guide, we accept only the top 3% of homes in any given destination, and when you're treated to that level of scrutiny, you know you're guaranteed a stay of true quality. Of that, there is no qualm, contradiction or confusion: the homes are simply wonderful, as you would always expect them to be.
See the Anne Frank House
Before we get onto the lightness, it feels fitting to take a step into the darkness, and there are few more poignant spots on the planet than the Anne Frank House. Here, you can take an audio tour around the home in which she hid from the Nazis while writing her famous diary. It is one of the best first-hand accounts we have from somebody at the time who met a tragic end at the hands of evil. Study extracts from her writing, see where she hid to stay alive for many months, and take a look at the various belongings and artefacts that help to shed light on a terrible time in human history.
Discover the picturesque canals
Now for the light. Amsterdam is a city of extraordinary beauty, and is known as the Venice of the North due to its crisscrossing canals that resemble those of the Italian city. The best way to see these scenic waterways is by going Dutch…which in this case, means renting a bicycle. It takes some getting used to at first, because bikes are basically extensions of locals’ legs here. But soon, you’ll be joining the lanes of cyclists by the canals, which is one of the most traditional things to do in the Netherlands.
Take a trip back in time at Zaanse Schans
Away from the lights and attractions of the big city lie some of Europe’s most charming villages. Step back to a simpler time in Zaanse Schans, where many of the Netherlands’ most old-world attractions preserve. It’s only a short ride north from Amsterdam, but a world away in aesthetic and ambiance. It’s like an open-air museum, with a shipyard, a pewter factory and an array of green wooden houses. But the main attraction? It’s packed with the country’s famed windmills, which reflect and sparkle in the adjacent lake. Watch a live demo of craftsmen working on wooden clogs to feel like you’re in a Dutch dream.
Enjoy the great outdoors in Hoge Veluwe National Park
When looking for outdoor activities in the Netherlands, Hoge Veluwe National Park is never far from the top of the list. The park stands between the cities of Arnhem and Apeldoorn, and comprises a huge stretch of woodland. Here, you’ll find all sorts of wildlife, with the red and roe deer among the highlights for the photographers among you. Traipse up the heath-covered dunes, bring your binoculars to spot the birds, and wander through the impressive sculpture park.
Bring the little ones to Efteling
Like the Black Eyed Peas, we’ve got an Efteling that this is going to be a good one. And yes, we’re very sorry for what was a terrible joke. But what isn’t terrible is the amusement park here. Found in Kaatsheuvel, the park is split into different worlds and themes that are related to olden Dutch folk tales. Take a ride with your kids on the Flying Dutchman, and take to The Python as though you were John Cleese and his Monty colleagues. Attend one of the storytelling performances at night in this enchanting park to learn about the siblings that beat up a monster.
Breach the castles
We’ve covered many of the best things to do in the Netherlands, from an amusement park to the canals of Amsterdam. But what of the country’s medieval architecture? Head to the Kasteel De Haar by the city of Utrecht. The largest fortification in the Netherlands, the site has a vast set of grounds with manicured gardens and many highlights. Enter the behemoth for its array of antique textiles, furniture and paintings.