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Without a doubt, there is much more to the Netherlands than its capital city, Amsterdam. Given the fact that the Netherlands has a very well-connected rail system, it’s not hard to find alternative places to visit in the land of tulips and windmills. I’ve asked around to some fellow travel bloggers to see what they have to say – these are the most beautiful cities to visit in the Netherlands.
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Table of contents
Photo & Contribution: Bruna, Maps ‘N Bags
After staying in Amsterdam and enjoying everything the Dutch capital has to offer, head over to Amersfoort.
Amersfoort is situated in the province of Utrecht, right in the middle of the country and is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the Netherlands.
The city center looks straight out of a medieval book filled with century-old houses and monuments.
Although compact, Amersfoort city center draws millions of tourists every year thanks to its well-maintained streets, historic constructions, and cozy cafe-scene.
The city has lots of attractions to keep you busy for a few days. Still, if you are short on time, you might want to visit the main spots first.
For instance, you could visit the Onze Lieve Vrouw church tower, the Mondriaan House (where the famous Dutch painter grew up), and De Drie Ringen (the city brewery) to enjoy a beer (or two).
Oh, and the Koppelpoort is also something not to be missed! This medieval landmark was built in the 15th century and was one of the city’s former gates.
To get to Amersfoort, take a direct train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Amersfoort Centraal Station. The trip takes about 35 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs about 10 euros.
The train station is a short 15-minute walk from the city center. The street signs will lead you there; there’s no way to get lost – though you might want to, since Amersfoort is a delightful city.
Photo & Contribution: Me! Jade, The Migrant Yogi
No list of cities to visit in the Netherlands would be complete without including Amsterdam! While the capital city is undoubtedly a tourist hot-spot, there are so many things that make a visit worth the crowds.
For history buffs, a self-guided walking tour of the Dutch Resistance will be highly educating and enlightening – including a stop at the Anne Frank House.
Nature lovers can enjoy the open-air theatre at Vondelpark.
If museums are your thing, Amsterdam will not disappoint, particularly for art lovers. Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt Museum are top tourist attractions.
For hip restaurants and market shopping, hit up the district of Jordaan.
And of course, the infamous Red Light District and plethora of ‘coffeeshops’ will satisfy the sinner in all of us. That being said, if you are taking a family trip, it’s totally doable to spend a day in Amsterdam with kids!
There is so much to do in this city, you’ll need to create an Amsterdam bucket list to ensure you see it all!
Amsterdam is nice all year long, but particularly good in the spring when the tulips are popping up all over the city.
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”John Green
Contribution: Leslie, Backpackers Thailand
The city of Breda is a cultural hub in the Netherlands. With the population of 170,000 inhabitants, it has more than a hundred bars, eleven museums, numerous educational institutions, and uncountable shops. Breda’s city center boasts of many historical buildings and moats.
The top attractions driving backpackers and tourists here are the Ginneken Market (Ginnekenmarkt), Grote Kerk, Breda Castle, Saint Anthony’s Cathedral, and The Begijnhof district.
Breda lies in between the rivers Aa and Mark, not far from the Belgium border, in the province of North Brabant. It’s easily accessible by bus and train from Amsterdam (80 km, 1 hr ride), and Rotterdam (50 km, 25 min ride).
The history of the city dates back to the late 11th century when it became a fief of the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1534, Breda became a fortified city and played an important role in the Netherland history, during wars with France. Many of its fortifications are still intact and can be observed on “The Historical Kilometer” tour.
Besides, Breda’s city center is located inside an extensive water canal network. What a better way to enjoy the city than hop on a relaxed boat tour? Tours depart from the city port (Haven) and last around an hour, going through the beautiful sightseeing landmarks.
Contribution: Lara, Both Feet on the Road
Delft is a charming, old, traditional Dutch town in South Holland (it has been around since around 1075). It’s located about an hour from Amsterdam, 15 minutes from Rotterdam, and 10 minutes from The Hague (all by train).
Anyone who’s looking for the real Dutch experience of cute cobbled streets, medieval houses, small cozy cafes, and beautiful canals with old bridges, but without the crowds, should add Delft to their list!
Delft is very small, which makes it a perfectly walkable city (or if you want to go real Dutch, you could always rent a bike and explore around).
You could visit the Johannes Vermeer Museum (a famous Dutch painter from Delft), walk up the stairs in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) for a stunning view over the city. Or shop at the Saturday flea market.
Another reason why Delft is famous in the Netherlands is because the traditional Dutch blue and white pottery (porcelain) is from Delft and therefore named “Delfts Blue”.
For those looking for a real Dutch experience, there’s also a windmill to visit for free in Delft, and a statue of a cow at one of the squares. Can it get any more Dutch than that?
Finally, to try some traditional Dutch food in Delft, such as Snert or stamppot, head to Thuis by Ladera for some real Dutch flavor!
Photo & Contribution: Ilse, Digital Travel Couple
Giethoorn is a beautiful, idyllic town in the Dutch province of Overijssel with many waterways. It is known for being mostly car-free and is therefore also being named as ‘Venice of the Netherlands’.
The name ‘Giethoorn’ originated in the 13th century when the original farmers discovered horns of wild goats that had died during the Flood of 1170. “Goat horn,” or “Geytenhoren,” was later transformed to Giethoorn how we know it nowadays.
There are several options to get to Giethoorn, but the easiest way is when you have a car. Giethoorn doesn’t have its own train station, so the closest you can get is still a 9 kilometre walk away from Giethoorn.
When exploring Giethoorn, the best and only way is with a boat! You can rent different sizes of boats and canoes at several places. Most of the boats have a silent electric motor that is powered which is necessary because you pass the homes of many people living in Giethoorn.
During sight seeing through Giethoorn, you will see the beautiful authentic Dutch homes with thatched roofs, many bridges and depending on the route you choose, you will also visit the beautiful national park of Weerribben Wieden.
You can dock your boat at cafes and restaurants along the canal to take a break and have lunch or a coffee. Enough ingredients for a lovely day exploring an idyllic Dutch village!
Photo & Contribution: Kacie, The Rare Welsh Bit
Located just under an hour away from Amsterdam by train, the tiny city of Gouda in south Holland is well worth a visit if you’ll be spending some time in the Netherlands.
It’s no secret that Gouda is famous for its cheese and the best day to visit is on Thursdays, when the Cheese Market is held from 10am onwards in front of the 15th Century Stadhuis (the old Town Hall). Here, you can buy hundreds of different cheeses, including everything from traditional Gouda cheese to cherry liqueur and Heineken beer cheese! For an even wider selection, visit the various cheesemongers dotted around the city (although the prices are often more reasonable at the market).
There are lots of things to do in Gouda besides consuming copious amounts of cheese, however. Gouda is also famous for its stroopwafels (or syrup waffles) and long-burning wax candles.
The city centre still houses a number of historical landmarks including Museum Gouda, Sint Janskerk (St. John’s Church) – the longest church in the Netherlands at 123m – and the 17th Century Goudse Waag. The church was once used as a weighing house for the Cheese Market. Today, it is home to a cheese-making museum – alongside the aforementioned Stadhuis.
Contribution: Reshma Narasing, The Solo Globetrotter
Haarlem is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. The medieval old town, waterways surrounded by pretty, colourful ancient buildings on cobbled streets and cute bridges make it one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands. It looks like a mini-version of Amsterdam, without the crowds, more cleaner and compact.
You can reach Haarlem easily by train from Amsterdam Central Station in 15 minutes, making it an excellent option for a short city break.
Among the top things to do in Haarlem include a visit to Grote Markt, the lovely old-town square, at the centre of which is the towering Grote Kerk, the main medieval cathedral of Haarlem. Get in this iconic, 14th-century church and admire the architecture.
Take a walk along the cobbled streets around Grote Markt, which consists of many pretty ancient buildings, some of which are now cafes and restaurants. Visit Frans Hals Museum, dedicated to the famous medieval painter and Haarlem-born Frans Hals, where you can check out his hundreds of beautiful works of art.
Head to the 18th-century traditional wooden windmill, Molen de Adriaan, outside the square. You can climb the windmill for splendid views of the town. You can also take a canal cruise in the Spaarne river. Also, check out Netherland’s oldest Teylers Museum of Science and Arts, which have extensive collections of fossils.
Contribution: Jasmine, The Travel Quandary
The Hague is a city located on the west coast of the Netherlands. It is known as the “International City of Peace and Justice”, being the home of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. The International Criminal Court is also located here.
Its Dutch name, Den Haag, comes from the medieval name “Des Graven Hage”. This translates to “the counts’ hedge”, referring to the Dutch noblemen who used the land for hunting.
Nowadays, the only thing you’ll be hunting in the Hague is masterpieces by Dutch and Flemish masters at renowned art museum Mauritshuis, a gastronomic experience at a Michelin star restaurant and a piece of treasure to take home from Europe’s biggest outdoor market, the Hague Market (Haagse Mart).
For a more trendy shopping experience, take a stroll through the Passage (the Queen of Holland shops here too!). Enjoy a well-earned coffee break at Filtro Specialty Coffee Bar or Kaafi Specialty Coffee and Brunch Bar.
History buffs may be interested in a tour of the Gothic-style Binnenhof, home to the Dutch parliament. Families will enjoy the miniature models of Dutch life at theme park, Madurodam. If the weather is nice, take a walk out along the pier on Scheveningen Beach.
The Hague is an easy day trip from Amsterdam being 1 hour on the train. Be sure to include a stop here, as it is one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
Photo & Contribution: Anne & Clemens, Travellers Archive
Imagine a life beyond the canals of Amsterdam. Imagine empty streets where you can actually cycle. And imagine a little alley along the canal which is full of bars and restaurants with terraces facing the water. Well, you might have just arrived in the cute little town Helmond, which is located in the region Brabant, just a quick drive from Eindhoven.
Helmond has once been an industrial city with lots of factories and big businesses exporting goods to the entire world. Today, one of the former factories has been reformed into an amazing building with art galleries, a cinema and a cozy restaurant – and this is exactly how you can imagine Helmond.
It is small, it is romantic and it is full of little surprises that you might have not expected. In the centre of the city, you’ll find a city castle which is not only perfect for kids as it is super interactive, but also great to hear a little about the history of this area of the Netherlands.
The day here can be best spent on the bike. Cycle along the canals, have some ice cream and explore the surrounding park. Also, you can visit the neighboring town Brandevoort which looks a little as if it was taken out of the Truman Show.
Above all, Helmond and its surrounding areas are a great place to get a glimpse of Dutch daily life off the known cities, such as Amsterdam.
Photo & Contribution: Bridget, The Flashpacker
Oozing history and charm, Leiden is an often overlooked destination and one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
An easy day trip by train from either Amsterdam or Rotterdam, Rembrandt’s birthplace has all the charm of Amsterdam minus its crowds. As home to one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, Leiden has a lively student vibe and ivy-clad university buildings.
Seek out the best that the city has to offer by taking a self-guided walking tour of Leiden.
Stroll alongside the picture-perfect canals that weave through its Leiden’s 17th Century historic centre with its monumental buildings and world class museums.
Fleeing religious persecution in England, the Pilgrim Fathers settled in Leiden in the area around St. Peter’s Church. If you want to learn more about the lifestyle of a 17th Century Leiden inhabitant, visit the American Pilgrim Museum.
Discover more about a working windmill by stopping by Leiden’s Windmill Museum.
If gardens are more to your taste, the city is home to Hortus Botanicus Leiden, one the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
For a truly memorable museum experience, visit the excellent Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, which celebrates world cultures.
Photo & Contribution: Me! Jade, The Migrant Yogi
Lisse is a town in the Netherlands just south of Amsterdam. Its biggest claim to fame is the location of the world-renowned Keukenhof gardens.
Keukenhof boasts millions of springtime tulips and other flowers, making it one of the most beautiful spring events around the world! Each year during the months of April and May, Lisse is bustling with tourists to see the flowers come into bloom and the iconic tulip fields of the Netherlands.
In addition to the gardens at Keukenhof, Lisse is also home to Castle Keukenhof and the Black Tulip Museum.
If you want to see the flower fields (and of course, some windmills), rent a bicycle and head down the Stationsweg Route.
Lisse is easily accessible from Amsterdam, taking only about 30 minutes. If you are going just for Keukenhof, there is a €30 ticket to the gardens that also include transport from the capital city. It is easier than navigating Dutch public transportation websites.
Photo & Contribution: Cosette, KarsTravels
Maastricht is one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands. It has lots of history, shops, terraces, museums, liveliness and good restaurants. There’s something for everyone in this city with a Burgundian atmosphere mixed with a chic feeling.
Maastricht is reachable by train from many points in The Netherlands. By car, arrive on highway A2, take exit Maastricht.
Maastricht has lots of cool neighborhoods, among them Wyck. Wyck runs from the train station to the Maas, full of cute cafes and shops. More shops can be found on the other side of the river Maas. For fashion lovers, Maastricht boasts both the shops from fashion houses as well as small shops.
For something unique, go to boekhandel Dominicanen, a bookshop in a church. Besides shops, Maastricht has excellent museums like Bonnefantenmuseum, the St. Servaasbasilica and Maastricht Underground.
Not to be missed is a piece of kruisbessenschuim (gooseberry pie). It’s a local delicacy. A perfect place for this is Buvette ’t Piepenhoes. Two squares with restaurants and terraces to sit down on, are Vrijthof and Markt. Liveliness until late at night.
Maastricht is a city with lots of history. It has a historical innercity with vestingwerken (fortifications), the oldest city gate and the oldest bridge, St. Servaasbrug, in the Netherlands. Settlement of the area has been found as far back as 2000 years ago. Maastricht gained city rights somewhere before 1204.
Tour the city on a self-guided tour or with a guide.
Contribution: Umang, Travel Max
Located at a distance of 25 KMs from Amsterdam, Marken is a fishing town representing Netherlands’s country side.
The quaint houses and cafes present a very peaceful set up. Close to the town lanes, you can consider visiting the Shoe & Cheese factories, which play an important role in the local livelihood.
Reaching Marken is very convenient, just a bus ride away from Amsterdam with good frequency.
Once you reach Marken, you can relax at the dockside where there are many cafes. Later in the day, you can consider visiting the lighthouse. From the lighthouse, you can see a panoramic view of the azure ocean. Unfortunately, you cannot visit the top of the lighthouse. But it’s a good place to just relax on the roadside benches and admire the ocean waves around.
From the lighthouse, you can continue the hike around the town. Take a detour and visit Marker Landtong. This is a hike which is not really on the tourist circuit. But the sunset view from this hike is truly worth venturing in the unknown. The hike is not in a mountainous area, but it’s rather just a walk in the wilderness with the ocean on either side.
Overall, Marken is definitely worth considering if you are looking to visit a countryside town.
Photo & Contribution: Aurelia, Daily Travel Pill
The beautiful town of Muiden is just a short trip away from Amsterdam. You can get there by car or bicycle. Not many tourists choose Muiden as a travel destination and that’s a shame.
The centerpiece of this little town is the stunning Muiden Castle, also known as Muiderslot. The castle is rather small but its history is fascinating.
It was first built in 1280, by the year 1300 it was demolished and after another 100 years it was rebuilt after the original plans. Muiderslot had many owners over time but nowadays it’s a museum, open to the public.
Plan an hour and a half to visit the castle and after that, you can enjoy the peaceful Muiden town. There are several cozy restaurants, serving delicious Dutch dishes. If you’d like a snack, make sure to try bitterballen.
If you have ample time, there is a small beach right near Muiden called Krijgsman Beach. On a sunny day it can be pretty charming.
Muiden is a wonderful place, perfect for a half-day trip from Amsterdam. There’s a lot to see and the best part is that this town is not inundated with tourists.
Photo & Contribution: Laura, LaureWanders
Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second largest city, is modern with some impressive architecture. The city was bombed during the second World War and had to be completely rebuilt.
Places like the yellow cube houses, the beautiful Martkhal and the Erasmus bridge are just a few examples of what this city has to offer in terms of architecture alone.
As you might have guessed, Rotterdam is not your typical Dutch city. It’s quite different from the rest of the Netherlands and it’s the industrial heart of the country.
It’s a hip and unique city that offers a nice contrast to the historic streets of its big sister Amsterdam. Make sure to pay a visit to the old harbor, the Euromast, and one (or more) of its many museums while you’re there.
Another great thing about Rotterdam is that it’s easily accessible by train and just a 40 minute ride from Amsterdam. It’s easy to visit all year round as it has an extensive public transport system including the bus tram and metro. Its accessibility, among other things, make Rotterdam one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.
As in the rest of the Netherlands, walking and cycling are popular ways to get around the city.
Contribution: Maartje & Sebastian, The Orange Backpack
The Dutch island of Texel is one of the most unique places in the Netherlands! It’s part of the Frisian Islands in the north of the country; each island has its own unique nature reserves.
Texel is the largest of the islands as well as the easiest to reach. Just take the train from Amsterdam to Den Helder station and hop on the Texel bus from there. The bus will use the ferry to bring you all the way to the island villages.
Texel is big enough to have a number of villages. The biggest one is Den Burg, in the heart of the island. It has typical Dutch streets with red brick houses, picturesque lanes, cozy restaurants and small shops.
Visit the village De Koog, as it’s at one of the best beaches of the island. The small village of De Cocksdorp all the way up north is a must-visit as well, as it’s home to the iconic Texel lighthouse. Make sure to get yourself a ticket to go up for some amazing island views.
One of the best ways to explore the island is by (electric) bike. You can rent them at pretty much each village for your entire stay. Bike to the local Texel Brewery for a tour and beer tasting or visit museum Flora to see all the crazy things that washed ashore.
The highlight of a visit to any of the Frisian islands is a guided hike on the mudflats (‘wadlopen’ in Dutch). During low tide you can walk on the sea bed between the islands, as the sea is not quite deep in this part of the country.
Contribution: Nichola, GlobalMouse Travels
Utrecht is a fantastic city for wandering – think Amsterdam without the crowds. It has all the best elements of the capital – canals, great restaurants, thought-provoking museums, but Utrecht is calmer and more picturesque.
Favorite museum stop offs include the Speelklok Museum (packed full of mechanical instruments all in a wonderful setting), the Miffy Museum (perfect for a trip to the Netherlands with kids) and the train museum (Het Spoorwegmuseum).
If you’re feeling energetic then walk the steps to the top of the Dom Tower (a 14th century bell tower) for wonderful views across the city.
There are plenty of great snacks in Utrecht and you’ll find the Dutch staples of frites and pancakes in many of the central streets.
It’s a well connected city with a direct train link to Schipol Airport and to many of the other towns and cities across the country. Though, once there, you’ll want to stick to travelling by foot or bike.
Cars are largely banned from the centre, meaning this city is ideal for walking. The sound of bicycles whizzing past or boats chugging through the waterways are the main traffic noise.
This is somewhere to lose yourself in the backstreets with no time constraint and just find parks and streets to enjoy. Nearly every turn is a delight.
Contribution: Laura, Laura No Esta
A visit to the city of Volendam can feel like going back in time. With its cobble streets, timber houses, small canals, and the waterfront, Volendam is a picture perfect place for a day trip from Amsterdam. It’s one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands!
Mainly famous for being a fishing village, Volendam has a lot to offer. In the streets of the waterfront there are many restaurants and food trucks that offer herring, the typical dutch fish that is eaten raw with onions.
Besides having a walk through the waterfront and getting to know the harbor, Volendam offers a rich history. It’s one of the most Catholic cities in North Holland and the Catholic residents can be identified because they’re usually wearing the typical Dutch costume.
There are museums and a famous church that can be visited, but the most amazing thing to do in Volendam is to get lost in the narrow streets, surrounded by canals and bicycles.
Volendam is a perfect spot to visit in combination with Edam and Marken, two small towns that are not more than 20 kilometers away from the capital of the Netherlands.
There’s one simple way to get to Volendam and it’s to take the 312 bus in Amsterdam Centraal. Another option, especially good for groups, is to rent a car and drive from Amsterdam.
Photo & Contribution: Manouk, Groetjes uit Verweggistan
Zwolle is a charming city in the Netherlands which is (sadly) often overlooked. It is not situated in the area with big cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht. But you should absolutely not skip Zwolle!
It is very easy to reach by train, because the Netherlands has a well-connected train network.
It was given city rights in 1230 and has expanded ever since. Because it was part of the Hanseatic League, Zwolle profited a lot from trade in the 15th century. It became a rich city. You can still see the old defense system: the city center is surrounded by a canal, which you can tour if you like.
Nowadays, the charming little town still has a lot of history. You can find this by strolling around the city center and visiting historic sights like the famous Peperbus tower, the old city gate Sassenpoort and tasting sweets at the historical sweet shop Zwols Balletjeshuis.
But the city is also not afraid to incorporate the modern times. The modern museum De Fundatie is a sight not to be missed: the ‘cloud’ on top of the building makes the museum very unique. Or what about the church turned into a bookshop with a café?
Zwolle may not be as centrally located, but it is absolutely one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands.