Once a significant naval power, the famously friendly and progressive European country is now one of the most densely populated nations on earth, with over 15 million people calling this relatively small country home. Almost half of its pancake-flat land was once underwater and today still most of the country lies at or below sea level. It’s often overlooked as a scenic travel destination but there are many pockets of real beauty, you just have to know where to find them. From unique cities crisscrossed with canals and to national parks filled with dark green forests and from my time spent living in this wonderful country, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands (Holland)…
1. Hoge Veluwe National Park – one of the most stunning natural spaces to explore in the Netherlands
The Hoge Veluwe National Park is the largest national park in the Netherlands and is home to some of the most naturally beautiful landscapes in the country.
Dotted with deer, wild boar, and thick areas of forest, the park is both tranquil and an excellent area for wildlife watching. Here you can walk along the heath fields or in true Dutch style take the free bikes available to cycle over the meandering trails.
2. Jordaan District, Amsterdam – the beautiful capital and easily one of the best places to go in the Netherlands
Although the country’s carefree capital city is arguably most famous for its coffee shops, the city has another side. To find Amsterdam’s real beauty head for the peaceful Jordaan district. Once a working-class district the area has risen through the ranks to become one of the most exclusive areas of the city.
Expect maze-like streets lined with bohemian cafes, art galleries, and design stores boutique stores selling the latest trends. Although the real draw of this part of town is the narrow canals that are gorgeously flanked by the tall and colourful traditional gabled houses. Don’t forget to explore further afield thought in this incredible city and squeeze in all the must-sees like the Anne Frank Museum, the Flower Market, the Van Gogh Museum, see the Old Masters at the National Museum.
The capital city is chock full of art museums but ff you want to see one of the most famous Dutch paintings, the Girl With a Pearl Earring it’s housed at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague. Need a unique place to stay in Amsterdam? Here are our Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Amsterdam.
3. Utrecht – a gorgeous city to explore in the Netherlands
Utrecht is the oldest and one of the best cities in the Netherlands; it’s also one of their most attractive and welcoming cities. With a beautiful medieval quarter and a profusion of gothic elements adding an artistic touch to the city roundabouts and tourist sites, this city was always going to makes the list.
Make sure you include a visit to The Domtoren (the highest tower-like gothic church in the Netherlands) and its adjoining attractive Cloister gardens.
4. Keukenhof Gardens – a popular beauty spot in Holland
No visitor should leave the Netherlands without seeing a tulip – it’s one of the best things to experience while you’re here. If you time your visit around springtime you’ll get to see some of the country’s best blooms at Keukenhof Gardens, located near the town of Lisse (the bulb region of the Netherlands).
Also known as the Garden of Europe, it’s the world’s largest flower garden and definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands. Expect wavy rivers of violet and yellow flowers and banks of red tulips, making every photo look pretty spectacular!
5. Leiden – one of the prettiest cities to visit in the Netherlands
Located around 25 miles from Amsterdam, this small but beautiful city is famous for having the oldest university in the country and being the birthplace of Rembrandt.
The large student population gives the place a youthful vibe but the scenery here is still very traditional – expect peaceful canals, important museums and a beautiful old town filled with centuries-old architecture.
6. Kinderdijk – a gorgeous Unesco world heritage site
Only 16 km from Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is the village where you’ll find nineteen windmills dating back from the late Medieval Age and onwards. It’s an enchanting place and one of the best and most important Dutch tourist sites – in 1997 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Time your visit around 2-7th September to coincide with “Mills in Floodlight” a popular and free event where the windmills are spectacularly illuminated at night.
7. Biesbosch National Park – one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands showing off the best countryside you can find
The Netherlands’ answer to the Everglades, Biesbosch National Park is last remaining freshwater tidal area in Europe. It is the result of several rivers meeting and shaping an interesting delta, where unique fauna and flora thrive.
A picturesque network of narrow and wide creeks, it’s the place where you can do practically everything, from hiking and biking to horse riding and canoeing, and everything else in between!
8. Ijsselmeer – one of the best things to do in The Netherlands
This vast, shallow freshwater lake, formed by the building of a dam is the largest lake in the country. It’s an atmospheric place with a haunting beauty, especially on cold and misty days.
The natural reserve has plenty of activities to offer including surfing, swimming and of course sailing, Expect to see catamarans, clippers and even a handful of historic sailing vessels, which will take you back to a different era.
9. Delft – a picturesque and unmissable city when visiting the Netherlands
Delft is a small picturesque city located on the south feet of the Netherlands. It’s one of the country’s most well-preserved historic towns where you can wander through tranquil walkways and past beautiful canals, giving you a taste of ‘Old Holland’.
You should definitely include a visit to the Old Church (Oude Kerk) and art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the impressive Dutch decorative art collection residing in the excellent Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof.
10. Frisian Islands – perfect for a vacation or beautiful day trip
The Frisian Islands are a chain of islands that stretch all the way from the Netherlands to Denmark and in 2009 they finally made the UNESCO World Heritage List. With villages steeped in history and clusters of a dune-swept inland, the islands are truly beautiful.
Island highlights include fine sandy beaches and acres of lush green scenery dotted with black and white cattle. People visit the islands to walk, cycle, or just kick back and enjoy the beautiful unspoiled landscapes.
11. Groningen – a famously beautiful city and popular tourist hotspot
Groningen is a large city and in fact, the Groningen-Assen metropolitan area has roughly 500,000 residents. It is located in the northern part of The Netherlands and is a very old city – roughly 950 years old, to be exact.
Like most large modern cities, this one offers something for everyone, which includes lots of museums, restaurants, places to shop, sports activities, theaters, and amazing nightlife. Regardless of what month you’re there, you’ll find plenty of things to do, making this one trip you’ll never forget!
12. Veluwezoom National Park – an interesting and beautiful spot to explore
This is a private national park and the oldest park in The Netherlands. It has an elevation of roughly 360 feet above sea level, and its landscape includes forests and heathland that are home to animals such as cattle, wild boars, and badgers, among others and is one of the best places to explore in the country.
Although it only covers around 19 square miles, it is filled with different animals and vegetation, so whether you’re there to take a look at the sand drifts or the red deer, or anything else it offers, this park should be on your to-do list if you’re a nature-lover.
13. Rotterdam – one of the best cities to explore in The Netherlands
When you’re visiting the Netherlands don’t forget to include Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a big and fun city with more than 650,000 residents, making it the second-largest city in The Netherlands. It houses a magnificent university and boasts skyscrapers, a riverside setting, and second-to-none cultural offerings.
The city was destroyed during World War II but is now home to some extraordinary architecture, making it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Holland. You can enjoy tons of sporting activities, shopping, museums, and hundreds of buildings with both historical and architectural significance.
14. De Haar Castle – a famous historic attraction
This magnificent castle has been around since 1391 and makes a fantastic day trip. You’ll be amazed at everything it has to offer because its architecture and overall design are nothing short of spectacular. If you love old castles, this is one you won’t want to miss.
It has been destroyed and renovated numerous times throughout the centuries, and right now it consists of a park and beautiful garden area. Inside, you’ll find very ornate carvings, tapestries and paintings, and beautiful old porcelain that you won’t soon forget. It is also home to one of only two carrier coaches of the wife of a Japanese shogun, the other one being in Tokyo. When visiting Holland, this is an attraction you shouldn’t miss.
15. Scheveningen – a great destination if you’re looking to go on a Netherlands vacation
One of the eight districts of The Hague, Scheveningen is a modern seaside resort that includes a beautiful beach, an esplanade, a lighthouse, and a pier, and whether you’re there for windsurfing, kiteboarding, or just walking through the area looking at its beautiful sights.
A few of the activities that make the city special include a New Year’s Day winter swim, fireworks displays all throughout the summer months, and a flags day in spring when the first new herring of the year is auctioned. You can also enjoy beaches, museums, and old churches while you’re there.
Located in the southwestern part of The Netherlands, Middelburg is home to sports teams, theaters, concert halls, and lots of sightseeing opportunities. The former city hall is definitely a building you’ll want to take a look at, and other attractions include buildings and churches with religious and architectural significance.
Middelburg has also been home to dozens of painters, musicians, writers, and actors, and actresses throughout the ages, going back to the year 1575. If you love history and natural beauty, this is one city you should visit before leaving Holland.
17. Binnenhof Palace, Hague – a famous place to explore in Holland
The Binnenhof in Hague is actually a complex of buildings located right in the middle of The Hague. The history of the buildings is not well-known, but we do know that the main building was built as a ballroom in the beginning.
The building has a huge courtyard in the front, a Gothic fountain, and a few statues, including one of King William II. The House of Representatives and Senate hold their sessions in one area of the building, and it is absolutely exquisite both on the inside and on the exterior of the building, making it a perfect sight to see for anyone who loves history or architecture.
18. Dunes of Texel National Park – one of the best places to see in the Netherlands
This extraordinary park is located on the island of Texel in the western part of Holland and is quite large, boasting several different areas for you to look at and enjoy.
Some of its many attractions include birds such as godwits, pheasants, spoonbills, geese, gulls, and terns, among many others; as well as rabbits, hedgehogs, hares, and water mammals that include porpoises and seals. If you’re an animal lover, this is one spot you won’t want to miss, and it is roughly 17 square miles in size – enough to offer something for everyone.
19. Ommen – one of the best Netherland’s tourist attractions
Located in Eastern Holland, this town has been around since 1248 and is therefore very old. It has roughly 18,000 residents and has quite a few hamlets and villages located within. You can enjoy lots of different markets and fairs during the warmer months, as well as concerts, ceremonies, and numerous other activities throughout the year.
If you decide to visit the area, make sure you visit them online first so that you can plan your trip for the activity that interests you most, which could include everything from old churches and windmills to museums and hiking trails, and everything in between.
20. Zaanse Schans – for incredible sightseeing in Holland
Zaanse Schans is a small neighborhood located in Zaandam, and they are famous mostly because they have tons of historic windmills and houses that are old but very well-preserved – almost like a beautiful open air museum.
In fact, the entire neighborhood is a very popular tourist attraction and is home to seven museums and roughly eight windmills, some of which date back to the mid-1500s. Some of these include sawmills, oil mills, a mustard mill, and a dye mill. In fact, it is such a popular area that the locals have been debating things they can do to decrease overcrowding there, which is a testament to how well-loved they are.