The Top 10 Places Netherlands
The Top 10 Places Netherlands
These are our top ten places you really should be visiting during your time in the Netherlands:
Up in the province of North Holland, the city of Naarden is one of the more interesting places you will visit in the Netherlands. It is one of the best remaining examples of the so-called “Star Fort” design, which was implemented across Europe as defence against cannons and artillery. A moat surrounds the star forts, with points extending out into the water making quite a picturesque image (the medieval designers probably didn’t intend this though). As well as Naarden, Fort Bourtange (in the west of the country) is equally as stunning and interesting, although not quite as interesting. The actual city within the walls is also worth wandering around — it was a major municipality and strategic location for the Dutch military in years gone by. Allied bombers even used to use the city as a rallying point after raids on Germany during the Second World War. Naarden is reachable in 45 minutes from our Amsterdam community, and from The Hague or Rotterdam the train takes around 90 minutes.
If you carry on past Naarden westwards, you’ll reach the Dutch province of Overijssel and the gorgeously unique town of Giethoorn. Until very recently, motorized vehicles were banned from the town, with the locals instead using the network of canals which crisscross the small town. It truly is a magical place — a reminder of how life was in times gone by. Rent a so-called “whisper boat” (it has a silent electrical motor) and while away the hours relaxing on the water and admiring the impeccably kept gardens and cottages. Again, it’s a unique place in the Netherlands and is yet unspoiled by masses of tourists. It is a two-hour journey from most of our communities in the Netherlands, but whether you go in a day or stay overnight, you will be enchanted by this charming Dutch town.
On the opposite side of the Netherlands, right on the Belgian border, is the town of Baarle-Nassau where you will find, quite frankly, the most ludicrous stretch of border in the world. It has to be seen to be believed, but essentially both the Belgian and Dutch authorities had to create special legislation for the town: whatever country a building’s front door opens into is the country it is situated in. A bizarre set of enclaves mean that the town is covered in small white crosses on the streets, marking the Dutch/Belgian border. You can quite easily buy a sandwich in the Netherlands, eat it on a bench in Belgium, then go back for a drink in the Netherlands. This is the result of centuries of medieval treaties and land-swaps between the Lords of Breda and the Dukes of Brabant. It is located about an hour from Rotterdam and The Hague — perfect for an interesting daytrip.
The Dutch answer to Alcatraz, Pampus is an artificial island created in the late 1800s. Used as a fort to protect Amsterdam Harbor, it makes up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the “Defense Line of Amsterdam”. Its long history has included a German occupation (when it was used for dive-bombing practice), but it has been renovated and is now open to the public. The ferry from Amsterdam is included in the entry price for the island and takes around 20 minutes. You can learn more about the island’s fascinating history and discover why it’s at the center of a well-known Dutch idiom — “laying at Pampus” means to be knocked out as ships would wait for high tide at the fort before entering Amsterdam.
5. Wadden Sea
The Netherlands is essentially facing an eternal battle with the sea (which at the moment they are winning). The North Sea encroaches on Dutch land year on year, which creates unique land masses and formations. One of these is the Wadden Sea — an intertidal zone created by lots of islands and reefs, which in turn has formed some spectacular (if cold) beaches. You can even see seals and even some dolphins in certain months, and the whole area is a crucial habitat for wildlife in the Netherlands with most of the region protected. It’s a bit more of journey up to the sea’s shores, but the wildlife and natural beauty will no doubt make up for it.
6. Deltapark Neeltje Jans
This is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about the Netherlands’ unending battle with the North Sea. This education center/theme park includes sea lion displays, aquariums, and visits to storm surge barriers. A boat trip is offered which showcases the area’s natural habitats and the nearby national park. It is the educational aspect which will really interest you though, as you learn of a country which has been battered by and (for now) mastered nature’s greatest weapon. Learn about the 1953 North Sea Flood with images and special effects, as well seeing one of the Netherland’s crucial storm surge barriers — feats of engineering which protect the 17 million or so inhabitants of the modern-day Kingdom of the Low Countries.
Rotterdam is one of the Netherlands’ biggest and culturally diverse cities, but just outside the center is the city of Schiedam, which is perhaps a too often overlooked place to visit. As with almost all of the northern part of the country, water dominates Schiedam. The canals which flow through the town make for a postcard-perfect scene but are also crucial to the city’s history. Schiedam’s main industry is that of jenever, or gin. Trade with France and Britain flourished in the 18th Century as boats came through to dock in the mammoth port of Rotterdam downstream — you can learn all about Schiedam’s so called “golden age” at the National Jenever Museum, which sits right on top of a canal. Other attractions include the world’s tallest windmill — if that doesn’t draw you in, nothing will.
8. The Caves of Mount St. Peter
There is a reason that the Netherlands is known as one of the three “low countries”. Mount Saint Peter, at just 171 meters high Mount Saint Peter (just outside Maastricht) is one of the country’s highest points. The interesting part about Mount Saint Peter is not above ground though, but rather below it. Manmade tunnel systems run for over 80 km underneath the hill, originally built for the defense of the city and used extensively during the Second World War as a makeshift air-raid shelter. Today you can take a tour of the tunnels and learn all about their fascinating history — it’s certainly a unique experience in a country whose territory mostly lies below sea level!
9. Nederlands Openlucht Museum
Museums are not first on everybody’s day-out list — some of them can be overwhelming and a little tedious. The Nederlands Openlucht Museum (The Open-Air Museum in English) is unique and well worth a visit, though. Old buildings and objects have been meticulously collected to create several sections designed to show what life was like in the Netherlands in the past. Highlights include a blacksmith display and the telling of an old folk story in an enchanted forest, but there is lots to explore on the vast site, including an old Dutch tram to ferry you around. The museum is located in Arnhem in the southern province of Gelderland, around an hour away from our communities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam — this is one attraction which might not be shouted about much but it is certainly an interesting day out.
This one is probably more known than some of the other places on this list, but (one of) Van Gogh’s home villages is your archetypal Dutch town. Windmills and small lakes are dotted around the settlement, with postcard-perfect cottages lining the small and narrow lanes. Of course, there is an interesting exhibition dedicated to the great artist (cleverly dubbed the “Vincentre”), but perhaps of more interest is the cycle path between the town and nearby Eindhoven, which, thanks to specially painted stone, lights up as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” when it gets dark. There’s also a different side of history to be discovered at Nuenen — the town was at the heart of a crucial Second World War battle called “Operation Market Garden”, and you can learn about the ins and outs on a battlefield tour. All in all, this makes Nuenen a decent day-trip from our community in Eindhoven — just a half hour bike ride away.