The Netherlands can count on a growing number of visiting tourists each year. They come for our famous artworks, unique architecture and historic cities and canals. But the Dutch themselves prefer to skip those typical tourist destinations and fly off to more exotic places. Such a shame! We love to travel to these exotic places ourselves as well, but we are just as happy exploring our own beautiful country. We love being a tourist in our home country and that’s why we can tell you all about the 10 must-visit top destinations in the Netherlands.
# 1 A city trip to Amsterdam and Rotterdam
It is no secret that the historic city center of Amsterdam is overrun by tourists and that Rotterdam is internationally renowned for its modern architecture. We live in Rotterdam and go out every week to discover nice restaurants and to visit museums. Amsterdam was once home to Sebastiaan and remains our favorite for a day of cultural bites in the most beautiful museums in the country.
# 2 The Dutch tulip fields
In April and May it is that time again: the colorful tulip fields are in bloom! This Dutch highlight can count on millions of visitors every year. Keukenhof staff work overtime during this period. But do you want to admire this Dutch glory away from the tourist crowds and without an expensive ticket? Near Rotterdam you will find these beautiful tulip fields (and you can visit them for free).
# 3 The Dutch masters
The artworks of the Dutch masters are known all over the world. Have you ever seen the famous Night Watch yourself? Or Vermeer’s Milkmaid? Time to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam or the Mauritshuis in The Hague. But don’t forget that more recent great master of Dutch history. Both the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Muller in the Veluwe are dedicated to the world-famous Vincent van Gogh.
# 4 The windmills of Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans
There is not a picture more Dutch than that of windmills in a polder landscape. Now that is not what most of the Netherlands still looks like today, but it is a wonderful historical sight. Kinderdijk and Zaansche Schans can welcome millions of visitors every year for this photogenic view. You can visit both places for free; you only pay for the museums and other sights.
# 5 Smaller authentic cities such as Haarlem, Gouda, Leiden, Utrecht and Delft
Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands with an idyllic canal belt. Haarlem, Gouda, Leiden, Utrecht and Delft are also typical Dutch cities with historic brick houses, canals and bridges. You do not have to walk between the souvenir shops and foreign tourists, but you do have that typical historical and Dutch picture. We described all these cities in our extensive blog about the 10 best city trips in the Netherlands, including a restaurant guide for each destination.
# 6 The cheese markets of Gouda, Edam and Alkmaar
In the summer months you can visit a cheese market every week. Includes girls in national costumes and huge towers of round cheeses. It may be a bit old-fashioned and touristy, but it is also an entertaining look at the old Netherlands. The cheese market in Alkmaar is perhaps the most visited, but the farmers in Gouda still trade. The market in Edam may be a bit smaller, but it is the one where the world-famous Edam cheese comes from.
# 7 The Veluwe
Almost all travel guides about the Netherlands praise the Dutch nature of De Hoge Veluwe National Park. The Veluwe is without doubt the most beautiful nature reserve in the Netherlands. The cities and villages, museums, castles and nature make the Veluwe a place where you want to keep going. We love it! Spending a few days in the east of the country is really a must-do, not only for tourists but also for Dutchies. Earlier we wrote an extensive blog with the highlights of the Veluwe. From the works of Van Gogh in the Kröller-Müller to our favorite restaurants in Arnhem and from our favorite castles to must-visit museums.
# 8 The Wadden Islands
The Wadden Islands of the Netherlands offer a unique piece of nature and are even recommended by the Lonely Planet. I already spent some lovely weekends on the largest Wadden island of Texel. I love the diverse landscape with high dunes, meadow vistas over fields and beautiful forests.
Reading tip: after a long weekend on the largest Wadden Island, I collected the 10 must-do’s on Texel for you!
# 9 Maastricht
The southernmost tip of the Netherlands is closer to neighboring countries Belgium and Germany than to the rest of the country. A visit to the Limburg capital quickly feels like a mini holiday. It may be a bit of a trip, but we continue to find a trip to Maastricht worthwhile. From a tour through the immense cave system to the best hotspots and from the most beautiful bookshop in the world to the cozy neighborhood of Wyck. We understand why tourists find Maastricht such a must-visit!
Reading tip: of course we also wrote a blog for your city trip to Maastricht with the 10 reasons to visit this southern city.
# 10 Traditional fishing villages
Touristy? Very much so! But you can’t live in the Netherlands all your life without visiting a traditional fishing village? In Volendam you can go and smoke eels – yes, done that – or choose something less cliché for Marken, Urk or Monnickendam, for example. To complete the old Dutch picture, the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen is recommended. Children can dress up there with traditional costumes. And yes, I’ve done that as well as a child. Of course, my girl photo now boasts in hundreds of photo albums of Asian tourists, because that type of dress draws a lot of attention.