Let’s talk about the best cities in the Netherlands, a small northern European country with tons to do and discover.
If your next trip abroad will be in the Netherlands, I’m jealous because you’re about to explore one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly countries in the world! Popularly referred to as the land of windmills, canals and tulips, The Netherlands boasts of many interesting attractions and fun destinations in spite of its small size.
To help you have the best Netherlands experience, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best cities you must visit when you arrive in the Netherlands. While there are numerous cities worthy of your attention, the ones listed below have a cultural edge over others.
Ready for this adventure? Let’s get started!
The choice of Amsterdam as the first among cities to visit in the Netherlands is no coincidence at all. Amsterdam, the Netherland’s capital city, is the most popular tourist destination for different reasons. Apart from the fact that the city is a fun place to be, it is also full of networking opportunities. Your trip to this city is incomplete if you don’t explore the cobbled streets in Jordaan where numerous picturesque canals are located.
Equally worthy of your time is Grachtengordel where you behold a beautiful sight of iconic bridges and houseboats which add to the uniqueness of Amsterdam. Don’t forget to stop at Dam Square because that is where the bulk of tourist attractions such as Rijksmeseum, the Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House are found.
There is more to Rotterdam than being the second largest city in the Netherlands. The metropolis is another fascinating European attraction with modern architectural wonders. While there are many places to visit here, the port city of Rotterdam which is rated as one of the busiest in the world should be your priority as it offers both relaxation and education. I’ll bet that you will definitely want to come back to Rotterdam after your first visit.
3. The Hague
Visiting the Hague is your best bet to learn about – and perhaps come across – the royal family. The Hague is one of the top three largest cities to visit in the Netherlands. Aside from it being the justice’s abode from around the world, the royal family lives in this beautiful city. Although you may be convinced that this city is the boring political hub of the Netherlands because the Dutch parliament sits here, it has much more to offer like world delicacies and top notch cuisine.
The city’s delicacies are probably a result of having the International Criminal Court and U.N.’s International Court of Justice present in town. The world’s top dignitaries need to be well fed after all! This international presence brings about large socio-cultural diversity. If you want to meet everyone from around the world, make sure to visit the Hague. Don’t forget to visit the Mauritshuis Museum housing the famous Girl with the Pearl Earring. If it’s summertime, the beaches at Scheveningen are not to be missed.
Next up on our list of the best cities in the Netherlands is Utrecht. Utrecht is one of the oldest and one of the largest cities in the Netherlands. As an ancient city, it is the home of classic but mesmerizing buildings such as St. Martin’s Cathedral, Museum Speelklok, Railway Museum and Centraal Museum. These historical sites offer you a rare opportunity to learn about the country’s fascinating history while you discover different artifacts there. Utrecht is the ultimate destination for northern European history buffs!
If I were to describe Delft in one word, it would be “pottery” which the city is known for. In fact, Delft owes its status as a top tourist attraction to the presence of highly decorated and elegant over 400-year old dining tables and mantle pieces. When you get to Delft, make sure you visit at least one of the dining tables and mantle pieces which continue to age like fine wine. I also recommend you spend some time visiting the Old Town where you can take some cool shots with perfect backgrounds like waterside cafes and old canals.
Despite not getting the recognition it deserves, Maastricht is a Netherlands town not to be missed. It is on the smaller side and reachable in 2 hours and 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Maastricht is very close to the borders of Belgium and Germany. This makes it easy to find both countries’ citizens roaming the historic streets of Maastricht. The culture bleeds over, too! You will feel excited walking down the streets because of its multicultural nature, a unique aspect to Europe.
Maastricht is the house to the oldest church in the Netherlands, and other noteworthy historical sites containing remains of Middle Age town walls. Whatever you do in the Netherlands, do not miss the yearly carnival. This carnival runs for a week and is known for attracting exuberant Dutchies and tourists alike throwing parties down the streets!
Haarlem is often regarded as the sister of Amsterdam. It has almost the same vibe you will find in Amsterdam, yet without the annoying tourists. If you would prefer to visit one of the lesser known, yet equally beautiful cities in the Netherlands, make sure to take a 15-minute train ride to get there. Haarlem is the best place to take a break from the crowded streets of Amsterdam.
Several times, Haarlem has been regarded as the best place to shop in the Netherlands because it is dotted with lots of small, boutique shops around the city. While you are in Haarlem, visit the Archaeological Museum in Vleeshal to learn more about the city’s past. Likewise, pay a visit to the oldest museum in the Netherlands —Teylers— and the Frans Hals Museum, celebrating the previous citizens and famous Dutch painters of the 17th century. Likewise, you will find a courtyard, Hofje van Bakenes, which looks exactly the same since about 700 years.
If you are a military history nut and you want to know why so many British tourists still visit Arnhem, make sure you visit the Arnhem War Museum. You will learn about the important role Arnhem played in the war between the British and the German military. The burnt remains of the war remains today.
When you visit the Oosterbeek War Cemetery, you will discover the number of lives lost in the war. It may be a sad visit, but the experience will forever linger to remind you of the need for world peace.
Aside from its military history, Arnhem is a place for many adventurous escapes. It is one of the places to experience the lively, traditional lifestyles of the Dutch in the Netherlands Open Air Museum.
If you want to learn a bit of German, Nijmegen is one of the cities to visit in the Netherlands to do that. It is not far from the border of Germany and it is very close to Arnhem. One of the beautiful vistas in the Netherlands is found here because of its lining along the Rhine banks. If you have not seen river traffic before, visit Nijmegen for a view of what it looks like.
Nijmegen has the distinction of being the oldest town in the Netherlands – having existed for more than 2,000 years! Its oldest buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, but they have since been reconstructed.
Nijmegen has a large student population who keep the city young. As such, the ancient city is a lively one at that! Valkhof Park is not to be missed for a peaceful and relaxing afternoon.
If you are a cheese lover, Gouda is a must for you to visit. Aside from being one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the Netherlands, it is a quaint small town that you can stroll around. The best time to visit Gouda is on a Thursday between April and August. During this period, the cheese market is full of delicious cheeses galore. You can experience the traditional Dutch market day amongst the business owners, merchants and farmers.
If you think it’s odd to clap hands while sealing a deal, visit Gouda for a taste of weird, traditional business customs! Likewise, do not forget to visit the Cheese and Crafts Museum to see and learn how cheese is produced. It also has one of the best pottery markets around!
I hope this list of the best cities in the Netherlands inspired you to visit this small northern European country. The Netherlands’ road and rail networks are excellent, which means that you can move from one city to another hassle-free! It’s just another reason to go city hopping during your trip to Holland.
Welcome to the Netherlands!