Most of our guests are coming to the Netherlands to visit Amsterdam. The city is amazing, but has become extremely expensive and touristic. Since the Netherlands is not a large country, it’s easy to travel around and stay in another city close to Amsterdam. From here visit the capital and discover other beautiful small Dutch towns and large cities that are full of memorable architecture and history.
Here are some of the very best towns and cities in the Netherlands, according to the team of GO Experience!
1 Broek in Waterland
Giethoorn, located in National Park Weerribben-Wieden, is an idyllic village in Overijssel where countless thatched farms have been built on small peat islands connected by over 170 small wooden bridges.
In Giethoorn you can perfectly see how the Dutch love to live with and on the water. In an environment full of lakes, reed beds and forests lies this picturesque village with its many handsome farms with thatched roofs and characteristic wooden bridges.
The fairytale town was established as a settlement of peat harvesters. Peat cutting created ponds and lakes, and people built houses on the islands between them. As a result, access was only possible by bridge or using traditional Giethoorn boats, so-called punters – narrow boats pushed along using a long pole by a punteraar.
Fortunately, little has changed in Giethoorn. The tall wooden bridges are still there, and you can still travel the waters on a punter, as well as on an electric boat or a tour boat. A 1 or 2-hour boat tour takes you past the gorgeous 18th and 19th-century farmhouses and under the bridges.
During high season Giethoorn can be really busy. If you want a guide and or boat rental, do it well in advance!
What to do in Giethoorn?
There are a few things to do in this tiny place. One of these is of course boating (private boat or tour boat). You can also walk around the area on foot. There is also a few little museums around.
Delft is a beautiful little Dutch town located between Rotterdam and Den Haag. It’s your typical Dutch town, with beautiful architecture and lots of little independent cafes and shops. It’s the perfect place if you want to spend the afternoon somewhere truly Dutch and sit on the terrace with a coffee or beer. Or… if it’s too cold and it’s snowing instead, then just walking around is more than sufficient, it’s beautiful coated in snow.
What to do in Delft?
Delft has little markets on the weekends, plenty of little independent shops and lots of places to get a bite to eat or have a coffee. This is THE place to buy Delft blue too (of course). You can explore Nieuwe Kerk (church), go to a botanical garden or walk around the parks.
Johannes Vermeer Centrum
Old & New Church
Royal Delft Porcelain Factory
4 The Hague
Underrated and often missed in favour of more popular Dutch attractions, The Hague is home to the city and the beach. And in a country like the Netherlands, this is the kind of fact that shouldn’t be easily overlooked! Of all the cities near Amsterdam, the Hague is one of the easiest to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam, or as a weekend escape in its own right.
After all, the endless stretch of sand at Scheveningen is breathtakingly beautiful and the boardwalk there is filled with eateries in the summer months. Nearby, old-town Scheveningen was once a historic town in its own right though it’s been since absorbed into the fabric of The Hague. Nevertheless, the suburb retains its own vibe and it’s here where you can taste pickled herring, a local speciality.
With a population of just over seventy thousand residents, Hoorn is not the largest of the Dutch cities, and nor is it the smallest. Located in North Holland, some of the best things to do in this off the beaten path city include the Museum of the 20th-century and the Halve Maen Museum.
What to do in Hoorn?
Valkenburg in Limburg is a place rich in history. It’s home to Valkenburg castle, which are beautiful ruins that you can go and explore once arriving here. Walking around the centre, in general, is also beautiful. It’s definitely one of those forgotten places to visit and I highly recommend you go!
What to do in Valkenburg?
Apart from wandering around looking at all of the beautiful architecture (check the train station out!), then is also the ruins of Valkenburg castle, a variety of different museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. Christmas is especially good as they have a Christmas market in Valkenburg caves! It’s a very unique experience.
Not only is the place great in every way, because of its small quaint streets and lots of canals, but it’s also the home of DutchReview! Trying not to be biased here, but Leiden is actually a beautiful place. It actually has the most canals in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. It’s also home to a variety of great museums (which beat Amsterdam any day!) It’s also a great biking city.
This charming university town only thirty minutes from Amsterdam is full of charm, stunning canals, beautiful Dutch canal houses, and so few crowds that you’ll be wondering where everyone is. Leiden can be mistaken for Amsterdam if you show the right photo although once you visit the historic Pieterskwartier, you won’t want to return to the crowds in the Red Light District.
If you’re looking for Holland off-the-beaten-path, then Leiden offers a plethora of hidden gems. Full of cosy cafés, bagel bars, and plenty of secret spots, indeed no visit to the Netherlands would be complete without a trip to the university city of Leiden.
What to do in Leiden?
You can visit the Leiden markets, visit a variety of different museums (such as The Museum for Antiquities and the Museum of Ethnology), take a boat trip, or hire one yourself, shop and sit on the terraces with a beer. There is so much to do in Leiden
Maastricht is often forgotten, seeing as it is so far away from the capital. It shouldn’t be though! Maastricht is a beautiful place, with lots of medieval-era architecture and lots to do. It’s especially popular with students and is so close to Belgium and Germany, that it’s the perfect place to go if you’re wanting to just hop over the border and try somewhere new.
If you’re looking for rolling hills and all the history, then Maastricht simply must be on your list for places to visit in the Netherlands. After all, it was here that the real-life d’Artagnan was killed and it’s also here where you’ll find one of the coolest bookstores in Europe, a shop housed within a former Dominican church.
Close to the border with both Germany and Belgium, highlights of Maastricht include exploring the historic city centre, visiting one of the city’s many museums, and even staying in a former church if you feel so inclined. If you have a little time while in the city, be sure to make the bicycle trip out to Chateau St. Gerlach for afternoon tea, a lavish country house where you can even book to stay!
What to do in Maastricht?
You can take a walk around (the architecture is gorgeous), visit the flea markets, go to the market square, shop, visit some museums, drink on the terraces… there are plenty of things to do in Maastricht.
The capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden, was named the 2018 European Capital of Culture and you can discover its rich history while walking around the city center.
Fryslân (Friesland) as a region has a unique culture and language (Frisian). The unfinished church is one of Leeuwarden’s most famous landmarks although you’ll also find beautiful parks. Leeuwarden is one of Fryslân’s eleven historic cities with beautiful architecture and a rich history.
Known locally as Liwwadden in Stadfries and Ljouwert in West Frisian, the town of Leeuwarden has a population of around 120,000 residents. The provincial capital of Friesland, this city is to be found in the North of the Netherlands. Some of the best things to do there include the Oldehove unfinished and leaning church, as well as the Frisian Museum, which features displays on local history.
What to do in Leeuwarden?
Haarlem is often overlooked due to its close proximity to Amsterdam. People assume because they’ve visited Amsterdam that there’s nothing of worth in Haarlem, however Haarlem is older than Amsterdam. (Similarly, you can easily find cheap accommodations in Haarlem and take the train to Amsterdam.)
Haarlem’s town center is dominated by the imposing St. Bavokerk (also known as Grote Kerk, Big Church). Built on the spot of a burned down 12th century church, it became an official cathedral in 1557. It’s beautiful inside and out, with stunning stained glass windows and an organ on which a young Mozart—among other musicians of yore—played many a tune.
Beyond the cathedral, Haarlem has some great museums such as the eccentric Teyler’s Museum and De Hallen, a tiny contemporary art museum. If relaxation is in order, check out the Jopenkerk, a hip craft beer bar and restaurant in a converted church, and be sure to follow up with the city’s best fries (and mayonnaise) at De Friethoes.
In short, Haarlem is a great day trip from Amsterdam for people who want to escape the hustle and bustle (and the tourist traps!) for a day.
Located under half an hour from Amsterdam, Haarlem is a pretty city characterised by its brick façades and wealth of canals. Easily one of the best day trips you can take from the Dutch capital city, Haarlem can be explored over the course of a day, or longer if you have a little more time. Top attractions in the Dutch city include the Teylers Museum of Cultural History and soaking up the atmosphere of the Grote Markt.
What to do in Haarlem?
Easy to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam, one of the prettiest cities in the Netherlands is that of Utrecht, a town with attractions such as a medieval heart, countless historic churches, and the endless canals that are so synonymous with Holland. Other things to do in the city include the Gothic St Martin’s Cathedral and the Centraal Museum, which is dedicated to local history and art.
What to do in Utrecht?
Futuristic architecture, plenty of bridges, and a fantastic foodie scene: there is no city in the Netherlands, nor indeed in Europe, quite like Rotterdam. And that’s a great thing! Following WWII, the city was near flattened, leaving behind a blank space on which a multitude of fascinating architectural structures have since been constructed.
Highlights of Rotterdam include several impressive bridges (most notably the Erasmus Bridge), some pretty out-of-this-world-architecture (make sure to check out the Cube House Rotterdam), and a culinary scene to rival any capital city in Europe (the Markthal is a feat of architecture and has dozens of eateries).
Did someone say cheese? No doubt you’ve heard of Gouda before, thanks to its namesake cheese. But what you may well not know is that Gouda is so much more than its namesake cheese. From pretty canals to churches disguised as houses, this city has a plethora of activities worth discovering and is well worth exploring over the course of a long weekend.
Highlights of Gouda include the De Goudse Waag (a historic cheese weighing house), the city’s standalone town hall with its mechanical clock, and a windmill that still sells its own freshly ground flour in the shop next door. Head to Gouda on a Thursday from the beginning of April until the end of August and you can expect to find the traditional cheese market in full swing!
One of the most famous and historic places in Holland is the magical village of Bourtange. You will hardly believe your eyes when you see the red drawbridges in this fortified town: People in historic dress line the streets between the old houses. And suddenly cannon fire rings out… a visit to the fortified village of Bourtange is an experience for young and old alike!
In the north of Holland, near the German border, lies the fortress Bourtange. This perfectly restored small fortress town east of the city of Groningen dates back to 1580. Bourtange is built up in a star shape which was typical for these fortress towns.
What to do in Bourtagne?
Go back in time and see the medieval architecture, canals and dykes. The town has four museums, several restaurants, historical shops and a hotel in the former soldier barracks. Be sure not to miss out the re-enactments of battles that took place in the Eighty Years War against Spain.