Looking for a travel guide to The Netherlands – land of tulips, wooden shoes, and canals? I brought in a local to share her best Dutch travel tips: where to go, what to do, and how to do it all cheaply!
Must go in the Netherlands
Amsterdam is basically the perfect city – small enough to explore by bike – worldly enough to never feel small. There’s the popular opinion that Amsterdam is all about Marijuana and the Red Light District, but there really is so much more to see and do.
Make sure you visit Anne Frank House, eat a stroopwaffel in the historic Jordaan, party with the super-cool locals in Paradiso (a club/bar in a converted church), shop for bargain vintage at Nieuwmarkt, spend some cash at the boutiques in the 9 Streets area, and enjoy an ice-cold Heineken in Vondelpark.
One of the oldest Dutch cities, Utrecht is paradise for history buffs. The city boasts a moat and abounds with medieval castles and structures from the middle. The 600- year old Dom church is an awe-inspiring sight, and once you’ve taken in enough history, there’s some great cafes and shopping by the canals.
Situated in the South, Maastricht is quite different from the rest of the Netherlands. Boasting world-class cuisine and stunning hilly vistas, Maastricht has more of a cosmopolitan feel, influenced by its French and Belgian neighbours. It’s also home to the most beautiful bookstore in the world, Selexyz Dominicanen, which is a converted 13th century gothic church!
Must do in the Netherlands
Get on your bike
The Netherlands is a cyclist’s paradise. With miles and miles of dedicated bike lanes and vehicle drivers that are patient and respectful to cyclists, you’d be remiss not to see the main cities from your bike. There’s nothing nicer than coasting down the canal streets and stopping at whatever café or shop takes your fancy.
Visit the Keukenhof
Literally translated as the ‘Kitchen Garden’, the Keukenhof is a must if you’re in The Netherlands from March 21 until May 20. Situated in Lisse – about 40 minutes outside of Amsterdam, it’s 32 hectares of stunning flower exhibitions inspired by a European country. You can even bike around the perimeter of the gardens to get a wide view of the vibrant tulip fields! Try to go earlier in the season, rather than later as that’s when the flowers are the most fresh.
Must eat in the Netherlands
By far the Dutch stand-out dessert offering, stroopwaffels are a must for the sweet toothed! They’re two round, thin waffles held together by a layer of sticky caramel, and are perfect served with a generous serving of ‘slagroom’ (whipped cream). Just try and stop at one.
You’ve probably already enjoyed a Heineken in your home town, but apparently it tastes better in The Netherlands. Enjoy one glass or many at your friendly neighborhood bruin café.
Cultural tips for traveling in the Netherlands
By their nature the Dutch are quite reserved, so bombarding a new Dutch friend with personal questions may not go down so well. When you’re out at the bars, simply mirror their behavior and you’ll do well. They’re very friendly once they know you.
Don’t expect the Red Light Districts to be full of drunk/high Dutch people – they’re generally full of tourists on Bachelor Parties and the Dutch tend to avoid those areas.
Cheap travel tips for The Netherlands
Renting a bike will save you lots of money if you plan on traveling to lots of attractions. If you’re a real culture vulture and you’re there for a while, you might want to purchase a Museum Card.
At €50 per card, it’s valid for one year and allows entry to over 400 museums in The Netherlands! For food, the supermarkets are really well stocked with healthy and cheap ready-to-eat meals, like salads and sandwiches, which you can eat in the parks or sitting canal-side.
You’ll get more for your money booking lodging through Airbnb than a hotel. Here’s a stylish private room for $50 a night and here’s a whole apartment for $82! If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking.
Thanks so much, Cassey! Do you guys have any Dutch travel tips to share?