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The Netherlands Travel Guide
Windmills, tulips, and bicycles are just a few images that come to mind when most people think about the Netherlands. But you might be surprised at how much more this little country has to offer! Since the Netherlands is my home, I thought it’d be nice to create a short travel guide for you guys!
We’ll look at some of the stuff you need to know before traveling to the Netherlands, as well as some of the fun things you might never have discovered without the help of a local! From the basics such as when to visit and how to get here, to insider knowledge such as the best food and drink, and the most exciting adventures to be had, you’ll find it all here. Plus much, much more.
So, grab a nice hot coffee and read on for my top travel tips that you need to know before traveling to the Netherlands!
Plan your trip
Although the Netherlands is a pretty small country, there’s many different things to do and sights to see. It’s well worth taking some time planning your trip to ensure you have the best time possible! There’s a lot to think about when planning a trip to the Netherlands, and we’ll go over the essentials below.
How to get to the Netherlands
No matter where you are in the world, getting to the Netherlands is easy! The main 4 options are by plane, train, ferry or road.
1. Getting to the Netherlands by plane
There are a bunch of international airports in the Netherlands, but the vast majority of international flights land at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Flights from around the world land here daily, including direct flights from across the United States and Canada.
2. Getting to the Netherlands by train
If you’re in Europe and prefer not to fly, there are also several train services arriving throughout the Netherlands. Some of the most popular services include: Paris to Amsterdam on the high speed Thalys train(3hr 30min), Brussels to Rotterdam (1hr 45min), and Düsseldorf to Amsterdam via the ICE train (2hr 10min).
Also check out our post about Rome2Rio to get to know everything about the ultimate route planner tool you can use world wide!
3. Getting to the Netherlands by ferry
Trying to get to the Netherlands from the UK? A ferry is a great choice! There are 3 companies that offer car ferry services from England to the Netherlands; Stena Line (Harwich to the Hook of Holland), DFDS Seaways (Newcastle to IJmuiden), and P&O Ferries (Hull to the Europoort). You can choose between daytime or nighttime crossings, and prices vary widely.
4. Getting to the Netherlands by road
Getting to the Netherlands by road is easy, with many great routes to choose from. Motorhomes are more than welcome, and with many Dutch people seemingly spending half their lives in a motorhome, the Netherlands is well-equipped for road warriors. Cyclists can also enjoy easy access into the country, and you’ll love the many bike friendly routes from Belgium to the Netherlands — be sure to check out my favorite multi-day route from Antwerp (Belgium), to Amsterdam!
Do You Need a Visa to Visit the Netherlands?
As part of the Schengen Zone, visitors from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and EU states do not require a visa to enter or exit the Netherlands. However, besides citizens from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, visitors may only stay for up to 3 months within a 6-month period. So, if you want to spend longer in the Netherlands, you’ll need to apply for a Schengen Visa. Be sure to check the visa requirements for your country, it’s definitely something you need to know before traveling to the Netherlands!
When is the Best Time to Visit the Netherlands?
With a mild climate and plenty to keep you occupied, there’s no bad time to visit the Netherlands. But, I’d always recommend Spring. Between March and May there are fewer crowds than in summer, the weather is mostly pleasant, and the iconic tulips are in full bloom!
If you are a huge fan of sunshine and beaches, the chance is big that you will enjoy the Netherlands more during the summer months between July and August.
Budget Guide for the Netherlands
Being in Western Europe, the Netherlands is more expensive than other parts of the world, but no more expensive than its neighbors Germany and Belgium. The following travel tips are useful to know before traveling to the Netherlands if you want to keep your costs down.
Packing List for the Netherlands
When going to the Netherlands you are better prepared for the rain. Although it rains a lot more during the winter months, no summer has gone by without some heavy rain fall.
Below are some of the basics you shouldn’t forget to add to your packing list when preparing your trip to the Netherlands.
- Umbrella: The Netherlands isn’t only known for the amount of water that falls out of the sky each year, but also for the gusts. That for Dutch designers came up with the ‘storm umbrella‘ that keeps you dry, even when it storms!
- Wind and rain-proof jacket (heavy duty in winter or a lightweight, easy to pack one in summer).
- Wind and rain-proof pants
- Hat and neck warmer: Merino wool buffs are ideal for both during winter and summer.
- Bathing suit: for when you plan on going to the beach.
- Microfiber towel: Always handy to pack!
- Water bottle: there’s no need to buy bottled water in the Netherlands. Tap water is among the best in the world.We especially love the Camelbak Podium Chill water bottles, the dirt series to be precise. This water bottle keeps your drink cold twice as in warm circumstances and prevents it from getting frozen in cold circumstances. The dirt series also protects the drinking cap from dirt, which is very handy when cycling.
- Sunglasses: Useful whatever time of year you visit.
Things to see and do in the Netherlands
There sure are a lot of great things to see and do in the Netherlands, so it’s great that it’s small enough to explore easily! Here are some of my top picks for things to see and do in the Netherlands.
Discover vibrant cities
For a small country, the Netherlands is home to several buzzing cities, each with their own unique charm and character. Check out some of my favorites below!
No visit to the Netherlands is complete without checking out the capital city, Amsterdam. Famed for canals, coffee shops, museums, and the iconic red light district, there’s a lot to pack in to your visit. A day is nowhere near long enough, while a week may seem too long for those with itchy feet. For the best experience, you purchase the Amsterdam City Card which gives you plenty of discounts and free entrance to selected sights and places in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a fantastic base from which to explore a whole array of nearby attractions, such as the neighboring fishing village of Volendam, a veritable treasure trove of traditional Dutch delights, such as wooden clogs, fishing boats, wooden houses.
For more exploring from Amsterdam, check out these 9 incredible day trips by train.
Having lived in Rotterdam for almost 3-years, it will always hold a special place in my heart. So while I may seem biased, rest assured that it’s well worth a visit even without the associated nostalgia! Young and dynamic, this iconic port town feels a little more ‘real’ than the more touristy Amsterdam.
It’s famed for innovation, which is reflected in both its eclectic mix of architecture, as well as an experimental attitude. It’s a city of rooftop city farms, festivals, art, and a thriving pub and restaurant scene.
Check out our guide for an incredible day in Rotterdam.
Utrecht is a wonderfully olde worlde city, bustling with life and hiding a trove of delights within its various nooks and crannies. This ancient university town spills out around the impressive Dom Church, a gothic cathedral that features such stunning stonework that it’s worth visiting the town just to see it!
However, there’s so much more to this hidden gem. Old wharf cellars have been transformed into snug pubs and cafes, ancient castles are transformed into shops and hotels, and beautiful houses line the canals. Bustling with life, and stunning to behold, it’s well worth a visit.
Den Bosch is another not-to-be-missed medieval gem. Its cobblestone streets and old squares are surrounded by houses and shops with the most stunning facades, hearken to a time gone by. A cheerful cafe culture and vibrant pub scene keep things exciting, while culture vultures will enjoy more than 7-museums dotted among the historic buildings and shops.
While you’re there, be sure to tuck into the town’s most famous pastry, Bossche Bol, a decadently rich treat with whipped cream and dark chocolate, ideal with a cup of coffee!
Known as the crossroads where north meets south, and old meets new, Maastricht is split into several districts, each with its own unique charm. From the hustle and bustle of the charming Wyck quarter with its historic buildings, cozy cafes, and local shops, to the dynamic Céramique district, showcasing outstanding architecture, theaters, and riverside walks.
Almost daily live music rings out on the streets of the Jeker quarter, while just outside of town, you’ll find yourself immersed in the calm countryside.
The Hague & Delft
Historically linked, these two cities are now closer than ever before, with a new tram line making travel between the two effortless. Often missed by most tourists, there’s plenty to enjoy, especially for lovers of art. It’s easiest getting around by public transport. You can purchase a day pass for only €8.
Indeed, the area is often called the home of Dutch art and artisans, and a visit to the iconic Mauritshuis is a must, featuring masterpieces such as the Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Delft is also home to the iconic blue-on-white Royal Delft pottery, while the entire area is dotted with historic buildings and pretty canals to stroll along.
Why not try to do it yourself during a workshop tile painting?
Explore the culture
The Netherlands is a superb place for culture vultures and history buffs. Indeed, you’ll find endless galleries, theaters, museums, and much more to explore!
The best thing is you can purchase a MuseumKaart, or museum card, which grants you free access to almost all of them. A card costs €64,90 for adults and €32,45 for kids. This pays for itself once you’ve visited a good selection of museums.
Have an adventure
Take a road trip in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a country that is full of contradiction. In an afternoon, you can stroll through medieval streets, gaze upon historic gothic churches, pass cutting-edge modern architecture, snack on greasy street food, and finish up with a world-class beer. You can enjoy peace and solitude in the countryside, embrace the salt and brine at the beach, and lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of hedonistic Amsterdam.
So, what better way to explore the Netherlands than by hitting the road and taking it all in in your own time? By driving a car, riding a motorbike, or hitting the road in a motorhome, you can experience everything the Netherlands has to offer. There really is no other way to stumble upon the quaint fishing and farming villages that you won’t find in most guides, and that should only be stumbled upon by chance to be fully enjoyed.
The best way to getting around
The cheapest and best way to travel in the Netherlands has got to be by cycling. The Dutch are obsessed with cycling, making the Netherlands one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world. In fact, 36% of the population list their bicycle as their most common mode of transport. There’s a wealth of cycle networks and special bike lanes throughout both the towns and the countryside, making it both safe and enjoyable.
Other ways of getting around
Public transport in the Netherlands is extremely reliable, affordable, and easy to use, so avoid expensive taxis. Train travel in the Netherlands is the best way to carry out longer distance journeys, from city to city for example. With the busiest rail network in the world, you can be sure to find your destination effortlessly.
Within towns and cities, metro, tram, and light rail services are all very cheap and easy to use, but if you’re struggling, just ask a local. If you plan to use public transport a lot during your stay, it might be worth purchasing a day pass, which entitles you to unlimited fares on a all public transport means in the whole country.
Where to stay in the Netherlands
Rather than staying ultra central, try looking for hotels in the suburbs of cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. These are generally just as good, but much cheaper than their more central counterparts. Hostels also offer more value for money, or check out some of the many Airbnb listings that are cropping up across the country.
Hotels and Guesthouses
Hotels are generally the most expensive type of accommodation in the Netherlands, while guesthouses and B&Bs are normally a little cheaper. The majority of the most expensive hotels are located in the bigger cities, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, with luxury suites costing upwards of a thousand US dollars and regular rooms normally starting at around US$100 per night.
In all of the country you can aslo find guesthouses and B&Bs. There’s no shortage of options, with prices typically around US$55 per night. You might find cheaper options with more basic facilities.
Get a full overview of all available accommodations in the Netherlands on booking.com.
There are many options when it comes to hostels. You can find them in the bigger cities as well as in smaller towns. Most offer beds in dorm rooms as well as private rooms. On average you will pay around US$15 for a bed in a dorm room. Private rooms can easily be rented out for the same price as a BnB or hotel.
The Airbnb network is available in the Netherlands as well, with a variety of different types of accommodation on offer. From a room in someone’s house, to a basic hut in the woods, to cottages, and even camping pods and domes, there’s something for everyone. Prices are often similar to guest houses, but if you’re lucky you can grab a real bargain.
Sign up now for Airbnb and get €25 discount on your first booking + get €9 on any experience you book (with a value of over €43).
Typical Dutch Food
Dutch cuisine might not be world-famous like French or Italian food, but there are tons of great eats that are worth knowing about before traveling to the Netherlands!
Did you know the nickname for Dutch people is ‘kaaskop’ which can be translated to ‘head of cheese’?
The Netherlands has a long history of cheese making, and produces some world-renowned varieties. Gouda is perhaps the most famous. The best place to try it is of course its home town, also called Gouda, and situated about 25km from Rotterdam and The Hague. The beautiful old town features a huge cheese market, a cheese museum, and the Gouda experience. Gouda is also home of the iconic Dutch Syrup Waffles, ‘stroopwafel’, so be sure to sink your teeth into some while you’re there!
Most of you will have seen Edam cheese, famed for its waxy red rind and round shape. But did you know the village it’s made in is also called Edam? There are loads of cheesy things to do in the village, from sampling cheese at the local market, to checking out the famous cheese weighing hall!
Delicious street food
You don’t have to eat your dinner in a fancy restaurant to enjoy great food in the Netherlands. Almost every town and city you visit will be serving up an array of tasty snacks, sold by street vendors, or in pubs and cafes. Here are some of my top picks!
- Kroket and bitterballen: these crunchy, deep-fried meatballs are typically enjoyed dunked in mustard and eaten alongside a cold beer. The recipe is the same, but the sausage-shaped kroket is typically larger than bitterballen.
- Stroopwafels: dangerously sweet and delicious, these syrup waffles are a Dutch delicacy.
- Pannenkoeken en poffertjes (Dutch pancakes): small, round, and puffy, these buckwheat and yeast pancakes are served warm at most events, as well as by street vendors in most cities.
- Broodje Haring: this delicious Dutch sandwich is made with raw, salt-cured herring, garnished with pickles and onions and served in a crusty white bread roll. Served cold and fresh, it’s absolutely stunning, and healthy!
When you think of Dutch beer, one name probably springs to mind; Heineken. Head to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam to see how this local beer became a worldwide behemoth, and discover a little bit about the brewing process and the power of marketing. Located in an old Heineken brewery, the atmospheric tour is tinged with nostalgia, and a pint or 2 in the tasting room is a great way to end it.
Besides Heineken, the Netherlands is fast becoming a craft beer hub, with several notable names to look out for:
- Brouwerij de Molen: situated within an old windmill, this world-class Dutch craft brewery produces some of the finest beers on the planet (according to online ratings). From barrel-aged imperial stouts to refreshing pale ales, you’ll surely find something you love.
- De Kaapse Brouwers: based in Rotterdam, this brewpub and tap room is a great place to grab a fresh pint of locally produced beer.
- Oersoep Brouwerij: fusing art and beer, the brewers at Oersoep are keen to show off the beauty of mother nature. They brew a range of familiar, easy-drinking lagers, as well as a variety of more experimental ales, including tart sour beers that are ideal to sip on as you sit by the canal on a hot day.
Don’t always be tempted to just head for the most convenient restaurant in the center of town. These are often the most expensive. If you plan to eat out, try to do some research in advance and avoid the money traps! Or, simply ask the locals!
Of course, you don’t have to eat out all the time, and by preparing your own meals and shopping at the local store, you’ll still discover local tastes. For breakfast, try freshly baked bread, buttered and topped with a wide array of ingredients. From local cold cuts and cheese, to the more unusual hagelslag (similar to the chocolate sprinkles you find on some cakes), there’s something for everyone!
Must know before you go
Let’s now tackle the Holland issue! Often, Holland and the Netherlands are used interchangeably, but the name of this small country is indeed the Netherlands. The name Holland actually refers to two provinces of the Netherlands; North-Holland and South-Holland. However, even Dutch people sometimes say Holland to refer to the country…
When we cheer on the national Dutch football team, we’ll shout “Hup Holland, hup!”, which translates to “Go Holland, Go!”.
Confusing I know, but with that out of the way let’s look at some basics that you need to know before traveling to the Netherlands!
What not to do in the Netherlands
As you can see, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do in the Netherlands. But before we end, it’s a good idea to go over what not to do in the Netherlands in order to make the most out of your trip.
- Don’t get wasted! Many visitors are curious about checking out the famous coffee shops. But care should always be taken with drugs and alcohol. It’s always a shame to see tourists who have gone too far and start making trouble.
- Don’t think all drugs are legal: Not all drugs are legal in the Netherlands, only soft ones like marijuana and hash. And, these are only allowed to be sold by coffee shops, which must comply with strict rules. Also, trying to sell drugs on the street is a huge no no.
- Don’t walk in the bike lanes: As I said before, we take cycling seriously in the Netherlands. I know it can be strange for some visitors who don’t have bike lanes in their countries, but here it’s a huge faux pas to wander into the lanes. Instead, treat them like a normal road and you’ll be okay!
- Don’t bite into street food without cooling it down! Dutch people love their food hot, especially fried goodies like ‘kroketten’ and ‘bitterballen’ (Dutch meatballs). So, before you take a big bite, be sure to cool it down a bit first!
- Don’t think that Amsterdam is the only place to see: Amsterdam is a great city, but there’s so much more to see and do in the Netherlands. Enjoy the countryside, small villages, and other great towns like Rotterdam or Utrecht.
Location & Geography
The Netherlands is located on the west coast of mainland Europe, bordering Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. The North Sea lies to the north and west, with England about 200 km (130 miles) away. Split into 12 provinces, the capital city of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, and the time-zone is CET (Central European Time).
We use Euros in the Netherlands and if you need to exchange your money, you can find exchange offices or banks at most major transport hubs, as well as throughout towns and cities. Want to go cashless? Tourist areas will generally accept the majority of major credit and debit cards, such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
But beware! Local stores, restaurants, bars, etc. might not. Instead of credit cards, Dutch people generally pay with a type of chip and pin debit card called a Maestro card. In some places, if you don’t have a Maestro card, your only other alternative might be cash, so be sure to carry some with you just in case.
Fun fact: “Schuld” the Dutch word for debt, also means guilt, highlighting the fact that the Dutch are extremely debt-averse!
What’s the Language in the Netherlands?
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. English is also widely spoken, with Dutch people ranked as the most proficient English speakers in the world outside of the Anglosphere. So, if you’re reading this, you’ll have no trouble communicating! However, if you want to impress the locals, here are some useful phrases!
- Hello: Hallo (hah-loh)
- Goodbye: Tot ziens (toht zeens)
- Thank you: Dank u wel (dahnk-ew-vehl)
- Please: Alstublieft (ahlst-ew-bleeft)
- Sorry: Sorry (saw-ree)
- Pardon me: Pardon (pahr-dohn)
- Yes: Ja (yah)
- No: Nee (nay)
What Kind of Adaptor Do I Need for the Netherlands?
We use the EU standard type C and F plugs in the Netherlands. These are double pronged, with a standard voltage of 220 V and standard frequency of 50 Hz. Visitors from the US, UK, and Australia will typically need an adaptor.
What is the Dialing Code for the Netherlands?
When trying to contact someone who is based in the Netherlands, you’ll need to dial +31. Mobile phone numbers start with 06.
What Is the Emergency Number in the Netherlands?
If you need to call the police, ambulance, or fire service in an emergency, dial 112. This can be called from any mobile, fixed or paid phone and is free of charge.
Can You Drink the Water in the Netherlands?
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