The Netherlands, or “Holland”, is one of the best destinations for travel during any season of the year. Most famous for its dutch city canals, gothic architecture, and artists, the Netherlands has become one of the most charming and increasingly popular destinations for people in search of the perfect trip to Europe.
The best thing about the Netherlands is that it has something for everyone. The first dutch city that probably comes to mind is Amsterdam, but there is so much more the Netherlands has to offer visitors. If you are looking for exquisite canal-lined streets, old architecture, rich history, and lots of waffles… then the Netherlands should scootch its way to the very top of your European travel bucket list.
The Netherlands is a sprawling metropolis of spectacular Dutch cities, each filled with its own lush culture, picturesque scenery, and delicious food. It’s time to take a Dutch adventure through the best cities in the Netherlands!
Holland versus The Netherlands
Let’s start off by debunking a common misconception. Many visitors and people across the world commonly refer to the Netherlands as “Holland”. The official name of the country is the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but Holland represents a portion of the nation. Similar to how Great Britain is a part of the United Kingdom, Holland is a part of the Netherlands.
There are twelve provinces that make up the Netherlands, and Holland refers to the provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland together. However, the term Holland is often used even when talking about the rest of the Netherlands.
Start Your Dutch Adventure Across the Netherlands!
If you are searching for one country to completely immerse yourself in and thoroughly explore, then the Netherlands is the perfect destination. With so many charming cities to discover and a distinct culture to delve into, it is the perfect place to get lost in and enjoy.
Starting Point: The Dutch Capital of Amsterdam
Everyone is familiar with the allure of Amsterdam. Full of picturesque canals and famous art museums, Amsterdam is one of the most popular European city destinations for obvious reasons. It is the official capital of the Netherlands, though the Hague is home to the States General and Executive Branch.
Amsterdam is located near the west coast of the Netherlands, about midway between the northern and southern regions of the country. Since most flights go through Amsterdam, it is a great place to start your Dutch adventure.
First Stop: The Ancient Town of Utrecht
Utrecht was once considered the most important city in the Netherlands. After the Dutch Golden Age, it was quickly surpassed by Amsterdam. Although it isn’t the biggest, most populous Dutch city anymore, Utrecht is still the lively, beating heart of the Netherlands!
Traveling by train is the simplest way to go from Amsterdam to Utrecht, and it’s typically a short 30-minute ride! But you may wish it was longer once you see the beautiful Dutch countryside along your journey. Rail Europe has trains every day traveling from Amsterdam to Utrecht, so your travel plans can easily be flexible.
About the City:
The Dutch city of Utrecht is a historic university town that fully encompasses its medieval origins. It seems almost a blessing in disguise that the cultural center of the country moved north to Amsterdam, as this has allowed the city to preserve its ancient core.
Points of Interest:
- The Dom Tower
- Rising above the city at 112 meters, this gothic-styled tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. The tower was originally a part of St. Martin’s Cathedral and constructed between the years of 1321 and 1382. Dom Tower has since become the architectural King and symbol of the city, looming over canals and gothic buildings, with the unwritten rule that no newly constructed buildings can surpass its height.
- Rietveld Schröder House
- The Rietveld Schröder House is a unique home that was constructed in 1924, and is considered an architectural masterpiece. Its ingenious design landed the house a spot on UNESCO’s list of monuments.
- De Haar Castle
- De Haar Castle is the largest in the Netherlands and widely regarded as one of the most luxurious castles in all of Europe. You will find everything you expect from a castle… grand towers, turrets, moats, gates, and suspension bridges. De Haar looks like it was pulled straight out of a fairytale!
Gouda: The Dutch City of Cheese
Surely you have heard of gouda cheese? Welcome to its birthplace! The Dutch city of Gouda is world famous for its delectable namesake and a highlight for traveling foodies.
The best way to travel from Utrecht to Gouda is by train, with a short 20-minute ride! It is a popular route, so there are plenty of departure times and direct rides from Utrecht Central. Although the journey is short, it will still give you a pleasant view of the Netherlands as you travel along the route. Trainline offers timetables and prices so you can easily plan ahead!
Points of Interest:
- Seasonal cheese market
- This famous market beckons food-loving travelers and visitors to its stalls, which are regularly set up in the medieval Market Square. Along with its famous cheese market, the square itself is renowned for its breathtaking architecture at every turn.
- Dutch Waffles
- If you are a food lover searching for the best place to dive into a heaping plate of Dutch waffles, also known as authentic stroopwafel, then Gouda should top your list. Check out the Van Den Berg for this traditional Dutch treat!
- Sint Janskerk
- Sint Janskerk is a large Gothic church dedicated to John the Baptist, and most famous for its stained-glass windows. Its history and beauty garnered it a well-deserved spot on the UNESCO list of Dutch monuments.
- Gouda Cheese Museum
- Nestled right beside the town hall and the cheese market is the 17th-century Goudse Waag. It once served as a cheese-weighing station, but is now home to the Gouda Cheese Museum. This gives you the prime opportunity to stop in the museum, learn all about the history of cheese and its connection to the city, and then browse the market for a tasty souvenir and snack.
Rotterdam: The Dutch Port City
The next stop is Rotterdam, rightfully nicknamed the “Gateway of the World”. Not only is it the largest port city in the Netherlands, but Rotterdam also the largest port city in all of Europe! It is located in the province of South Holland at the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas channel.
Gouda is located just northeast of Rotterdam, which makes for a quick and easy journey between the two Dutch cities. Traveling by train is ideal, with trips varying from 18 to 23 minutes, depending on which departure time you select. The Dutch Railways train from Goude to Rotterdam runs as frequently as every 15 minutes, so you can check out train times well in advance or at a short notice.
About the City:
Rotterdam dates all the way back to 1270 when a dam was constructed in the Rotte. People began to settle in the area, and the Count of Holland officially granted Rotterdam city rights in 1340. Through the years, Rotterdam has evolved into a city of exquisite modern architecture that stimulates innovation and imagination.
Points of Interest:
- The Cube Houses
- These unusual homes were designed and constructed by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1970s. Painted a bright, cheerful yellow, the cube houses bring modern art to life in the streets of the historic port city. According to Blom, the triangular top of each individual house represents an abstract tree. With all of the houses connected, it creates a sea of “trees” in the streets.
- The Market Hall
- The “Markthal” is a large horseshoe-shaped arched building that features a large market hall, apartments, and offices. It was officially opened in 2014 by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, and has since become a beacon for bustling excitement and Dutch culture in Rotterdam. The inside of the building is adorned with a famous mural depicting giant pieces of fruit, vegetables, seeds, fish, and flowers.
The Colorful Allure of Delft
Have you heard of the shade of blue called “delft” or maybe you have seen some of the world-famous hand-painted blue and white pottery? Delft, Netherlands is the city that started it all! The city of Delft is just as charming as you would imagine the birthplace of ornate pottery would be. Like most cities in the Netherlands, the city is webbed with canals and lined with gothic architecture.
Like most of the other destinations along this route, Delft is just a short train ride away from Rotterdam! Traveling by train will take you on a journey varying from 10 to 15 minutes northwest and closer to the west shores of the Netherlands. This will be one of the cheapest legs of your Dutch adventure, as most tickets are priced as low as $5.
About the City:
The city of Delft started out as a simple village in the early Middle Ages. By the 13th century, it had developed into a small, growing city of culture and life. The city soon developed close ties with the House of Orange when William of Orange, also known as William the Silent, took up residence in 1572. For a while, Delft was known as the “de facto capital” of the newly independent nation of the Netherlands and served as the official seat of the Royal House of Orange.
Points of Interest:
- New Church and the
- Although Delft is no longer considered the capital or the seat of the reigning royal family, it is still home to their burial vault at Nieuwe Kerk.
- The royal crypt includes an old vault and a new vault. It is currently the final resting place of 46 royals from the House of Orange, spanning from 1584 to 2004.
- Aside from its famous burials, Nieuwe Kerk is remarkably built with a large tower, chiming bells, and a monument of the first royal resident.
- Old Church
- The royal family of Orange aren’t the only famous residents of Delft either… Dutch Master painter and Master of Light, Johannes Vermeer, was born in Delft and is buried at Oude Kerk.
- Johannes Vermeer
- Delft Pottery
- Perhaps the most famous mark the city of Delft has on the world is its hand-painted pottery. Delft pottery is an emblem of the old world and Dutch craftsmanship that is still collected and marveled today. Although you can find Delft pottery and ceramics all across the world, the very best, handcrafted work comes from its namesake city and birthplace.
The Royal City of The Hague
If you are searching for a Dutch city with the most attractions, history, and breathtaking sites… then The Hague should be at the top of your bucket list! Situated along the coastline of the North Sea, this royal city holds a leading position for culture not only in the Netherlands, but through all of Europe.
Getting There and Returning:
Traveling from the blue city of Delft to the royal city of The Hague is just a short 20-minute train ride north and even closer to the shores of the Netherlands. Due to its close proximity and popularity, there are tons of trains traveling between the Dutch cities all day and every day. Most people simply check train times the day before and pick up their ticket directly at the station. Make sure you are looking for trains that go to Den Haag Centraal, as it is the closest station to the best attractions.
Returning to Amsterdam after your stay in the Hague is just as easy! As they are the two most popular cities in the country, there are plenty of train rides and times available. Although it is a slightly longer trip varying from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, you will make your final journey through the wondrous countryside and have time to reminisce your fantastic trip through the Netherlands.
As the home of Dutch royalty, The Hague is full of beautiful buildings and grand palaces, all within the city bounds.
Points of Interest:
- Binnenhof complex
- This Gothic-style complex of buildings serves as the seat of the Dutch parliament, and is just one of many amazing architectural charms within the city.
- Mauritshuis Art Museum
- After learning all about Vermeer in Delft, take a look at The Girl with the Pearl Earring in person at the Mauritshuis. Then stroll through the halls admiring paintings by other famous Dutch artists, Rembrandt and Fabritius.
- Noordeinde Palace
- The 16th-century Noordeinde Palace is one of The Hague’s most famous palaces. It currently serves as King Willem-Alexander’s workplace, and is one of three official royal palaces for the Dutch monarchy. Aside from its grand architecture, the most interesting aspect is its humble origins. The palace started out as a medieval farmhouse and was slowly converted into a luxurious residence fit for a King. The original cellars from the farmhouse can still be seen in the palace basement today.
- The Peace Palace serves as headquarters to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, and is affectionately dubbed the “temple of peace and justice.” Although it serves as an international administrative building, it is still a place of enchanting architecture, art, and history.
- The Hague isn’t only a beacon for royal history and architecture, it also features the lovely seaside district of Scheveningen. The area is a seaside resort with sandy beaches, a lighthouse that dates back to the 1800s, a charming pier, and tons of opportunities to enjoy your favorite watersports.
Time For Your Dutch Adventure!
So do you know which Dutch city is perfect for you? Or perhaps you have your heart set on multiple cities for an adventure across the Netherlands? Now all you have to do is start planning which museums, palaces, cathedrals, and markets are on the top of your Netherlands bucket list!
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