Best Places to Visit in the Netherlands


If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent hours wandering Amsterdam’s charming canals, but I’ve discovered that there’s so much more to the Netherlands than its capital city. Beyond the tourist-thronged canal belt, I’ve found villages plucked straight out of a classic painting by one of the Old Masters – windmills, tulips, swirling waterways, and all. And with the national train network reaching all corners of the country, even the most far-flung places are within a day-trip distance from Amsterdam. So, come along with me as I explore the best places to visit in the Netherlands that aren’t Amsterdam – from frozen-in-time villages to museum-packed cities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore beyond Amsterdam: The Netherlands has plenty of charming villages, cities, and national parks to discover, each with its own unique character and attractions.
  • Use the national train network: The train network connects all corners of the country, making it easy to visit even the most far-flung places within a day-trip distance from Amsterdam.
  • Visit a mix of urban and rural destinations: From historic cities like Groningen and Maastricht to picturesque villages like Giethoorn and Volendam, and national parks like Kinderdijk, the Netherlands offers a diverse range of experiences.


While Amsterdam may be the Netherlands’ most famous city, Zaandam is a charming alternative that’s just a short train ride away. Wrapped in the Dutch countryside, Zaandam once stood at the heart of the Dutch milling industry, and remnants of these glory days can still be seen today.

Windmills and Wooden Shoes

Sole-ful travelers will love Zaandam’s clog-making heritage, which dates back to the 17th century. You can still see traditional wooden shoes being made at various workshops throughout the town, and even try on a pair for yourself.

Exploring the Charming Streets of Zaandam

Exploring Zaandam’s streets is like stepping into a real-life version of an Old Masters painting. The town’s jumble of windmills, clapboard houses, and quaint canals creates a picturesque atmosphere that’s hard to resist.

This charming atmosphere is especially evident in the town’s historic center, where you can wander along the Zaan River and admire the colorful buildings that line its banks. Be sure to stop by the iconic Inntel Hotel, which features an Escher-esque mash-up of traditional Zaanse houses, and the Zaandam City Hall, which reinterprets the shapes of Zaanse houses into minimalist masterpieces.


Assuming you’re willing to venture a bit further north, you’ll be rewarded with a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty in Groningen. As one of the Netherlands’ main university towns, Groningen has a surprisingly forward-thinking vibe, but it’s also packed with monumental churches, Renaissance-era gardens, and warehouses dating back to the 16th century. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Best Places to Visit in The Netherlands in 2024 for more ideas.

Discovering the Northern Gem

On the surface, Groningen may seem like a quiet, unassuming city, but scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll find a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty waiting to be explored. From the picturesque canals to the vibrant nightlife scene, Groningen is a city that will surprise and delight you at every turn.

Groningen’s Vibrant Cultural Scene

Cultural attractions abound in Groningen, with a plethora of museums, galleries, and performance venues to choose from. The city is home to the Groninger Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum, which showcases the region’s rich maritime history.

It’s worth noting that Groningen’s cultural scene is also heavily influenced by its student population, which brings a fresh, youthful energy to the city’s arts and entertainment scene. From live music venues to independent theaters, there’s always something new and exciting to discover in Groningen.


To explore the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam, I headed to Maastricht, the country’s southernmost major city, which offers a unique blend of Roman ruins, medieval charm, and delicious cuisine.

Roman Ruins and Medieval Charm

Ruins of ancient civilizations await discovery in Maastricht, where you can walk through centuries of history in its cathedrals and limestone mines. As I strolled through the city, I felt like I was stepping back in time, surrounded by the remnants of a rich past.

Savoring the Flavors of Maastricht’s Cuisine

With its proximity to Belgium and Germany, Maastricht’s cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors and influences. From traditional Limburg dishes like zuurvlees (a sweet and sour beef stew) to modern twists on classic recipes, every bite is a culinary journey.

Medieval alleys and picturesque squares lead to cozy restaurants, cafes, and bistros, where you can indulge in local specialties and wash them down with a glass of wine or beer. Be sure to try some of the region’s famous cheeses, like the creamy Herve or the tangy Maastrichter, paired with a crusty loaf of bread and a side of fresh fruit.

As I explored Maastricht, I realized that it’s one of the 18 Places to Visit in the Netherlands That Aren’t Amsterdam, and it’s definitely worth a visit. With its unique blend of history, culture, and cuisine, Maastricht is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.


Keep your camera ready, because Giethoorn is a photographer’s dream come true. This tiny village in the country’s northeast is often referred to as the “Venice of the Netherlands,” and it’s easy to see why.

The Venice of the North

Apart from its picturesque canals, Giethoorn’s thatched-roof farmhouses and wooden arch bridges seem to have come straight out of a fairytale.

Getting Lost in Giethoorn’s Picturesque Canals

The best way to explore Giethoorn is via its network of bike lanes and canals – either by boat, or by ice skating during the frozen winter months.

To truly experience Giethoorn’s charm, take your time to wander along the canals, admiring the quaint houses and bridges. You can also rent a boat and explore the village from a different perspective. And if you’re visiting in winter, don’t miss the opportunity to ice skate through the canals – it’s a truly unique experience. With its peaceful atmosphere and stunning scenery, Giethoorn is a must-visit destination in the Netherlands.


Keep your camera batteries charged, because Volendam is a photographer’s dream come true. This picturesque fishing village is a quintimportant Dutch experience, with its colorful wooden houses, bobbing fishing boats, and seafood stalls serving up fresh catches of the day.

Fishing Villages and Traditional Dutch Culture

The charming village of Volendam is steeped in tradition, where fishermen’s wives still wear their iconic costumes and the sound of accordion music fills the air. Take a stroll along the harbor, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Volendam’s Rich Maritime History

With its strategic location on the Markermeer lake, Volendam has a rich maritime history that dates back centuries. The village was once a major hub for shipbuilding and trade, and its maritime heritage is still celebrated today.

A visit to the Volendam Museum is a must to probe deeper into the village’s fascinating history. The museum showcases a collection of artifacts, models, and exhibits that tell the story of Volendam’s evolution from a small fishing village to a thriving commercial center. You’ll learn about the village’s shipbuilding traditions, its role in the Dutch East India Company, and the lives of the sailors and fishermen who called Volendam home.


Once again, I found myself surrounded by the quintnecessary Dutch landscape – windmills, canals, and lush greenery as far as the eye can see. Kinderdijk, a small village in the Netherlands, is a treasure trove of traditional Dutch architecture and engineering.

The Iconic Windmills of Kinderdijk

One of the most striking features of Kinderdijk is, of course, its iconic windmills. The village is home to 19 monumental mills, built in the early 18th century to prevent flooding and keep the soil dry. These majestic structures have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, and it’s easy to see why.

Unraveling the Secrets of the Netherlands’ Water Management

Windmills played a crucial role in the Netherlands’ water management system, and Kinderdijk is a testament to the country’s ingenuity in this field.

For instance, the windmills at Kinderdijk were designed to pump water out of the polders, allowing the land to be reclaimed and cultivated. This innovative system not only protected the land from flooding but also enabled the Dutch to create new agricultural areas and settlements. As I explored the mills and learned more about their history, I gained a deeper appreciation for the Netherlands’ remarkable water management skills.


Many travelers flock to Alkmaar, a charming city in the Netherlands, to experience its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture. Located just 30 minutes north of Amsterdam, Alkmaar is easily accessible by train, making it an ideal day-trip destination.

With its picturesque canals, medieval buildings, and bustling cheese markets, Alkmaar is a treasure trove of Dutch heritage.

Cheese Markets and Medieval Architecture

With its origins dating back to the 14th century, Alkmaar’s cheese market is a must-visit attraction. Every Friday morning from April to September, the city’s Waagplein square transforms into a bustling marketplace, where you can sample an array of artisanal cheeses, including the famous Beemster and Edam varieties. Take a stroll along the nearby canals and admire the beautifully preserved medieval architecture, including the stunning Stadhuis (Town Hall) and the Gothic-style Grote Kerk.

Alkmaar’s Hidden Gems and Local Legends

Architecture enthusiasts will love exploring Alkmaar’s lesser-known gems, such as the 17th-century Accijnhuis, a former tax office turned museum, and the striking National Beer Museum, housed in a beautiful 17th-century building. Meanwhile, local legends come alive at the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar, which showcases an impressive collection of art and artifacts that tell the story of Alkmaar’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Understanding the significance of Alkmaar’s cheese market, for instance, requires delving into the city’s history as a major trading hub. The market’s origins date back to the 14th century, when Alkmaar was a key player in the Dutch cheese trade. Today, the market is a celebration of this heritage, with local farmers and artisans selling their wares alongside traditional cheese-making demonstrations and folk music performances. By exploring Alkmaar’s hidden gems and local legends, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s unique character and charm.


Unlike Amsterdam, Haarlem is a charming city that hasn’t been overrun by tourists, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a more authentic Dutch experience.

The Flower City of the Netherlands

With its stunning flower-filled gardens and picturesque canals, Haarlem has earned its nickname as the “Flower City of the Netherlands”. Take a stroll through the Grote Markt, surrounded by beautiful flowers and quaint cafes, and visit the Frans Hals Museum, which features an impressive collection of Dutch art and flowers.

Haarlem’s Rich History and Cultural Heritage

Haarlems rich history dates back to the 12th century, and the city is filled with architectural gems that reflect its past. From the stunning St. Bavo’s Church to the medieval Grote Markt, Haarlem’s historic center is a treasure trove of cultural heritage.

City guides will regale you with stories of Haarlem’s Golden Age, when the city was a major trading hub and the center of the Dutch tulip trade. You can still see remnants of this era in the city’s ornate merchant houses and grand guildhalls. Be sure to visit the Corrie ten Boom House, a museum dedicated to the heroic deeds of a local family who helped Jews escape persecution during World War II.

De Hoge Veluwe National Park

Now, if you’re looking for a true escape from the urban jungle, De Hoge Veluwe National Park is the perfect destination. Located in the eastern part of the Netherlands, this stunning park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Exploring the Wilderness of the Veluwe

Around every bend, the Veluwe’s seemingly endless landscape of heathlands, sand drifts, and woodlands unfolds like a canvas of ever-changing colors and textures. As I wandered through the park’s winding trails, I felt as though I’d stumbled into a secret world, hidden from the rest of the Netherlands.

Spotting Wildlife in the Netherlands’ Largest National Park

Nationally recognized as a hotspot for biodiversity, De Hoge Veluwe is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including red deer, wild boar, and the rare European badger.

Spotting these creatures in their natural habitat is a thrilling experience, and the park’s varied landscapes provide the perfect setting for a wildlife adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for the park’s resident birds, including the majestic white-tailed eagle and the curious woodlark. With a little patience and luck, you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive fox or the playful otter.

Wadden Sea Islands

After exploring the charming villages and cities of the Netherlands, I headed to the Wadden Sea Islands, a unique and fascinating destination that offers a glimpse into the country’s natural beauty.

Island-Hopping in the Wadden Sea

Island-hopping is a must-do experience in the Wadden Sea, where you can explore the five inhabited islands of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog. Each island has its own character, with picturesque villages, pristine beaches, and stunning natural landscapes.

Discovering the Unique Flora and Fauna of the Islands

One of the most striking aspects of the Wadden Sea Islands is their unique flora and fauna, which have adapted to the harsh maritime climate. The islands are home to a wide range of bird species, including oystercatchers, avocets, and spoonbills, as well as seals and other marine life.

Flora-wise, the islands are covered in a variety of plants, including beach grasses, saltwort, and sea lavender, which thrive in the salty soil. The Wadden Sea Islands are also home to several nature reserves, where you can explore the unique ecosystems and spot wildlife in their natural habitats. As I wandered through the reserves, I was struck by the diversity and beauty of the flora and fauna, which are truly unique to this region.


Not many places in the world can claim to be the epicenter of a particular industry, but Lisse is undoubtedly the flower capital of the Netherlands.

The Flower Capital of the World

Widely regarded as the “bulb capital of the world”, Lisse is where the Netherlands’ famous tulip industry was born. The town’s fertile soil and mild climate make it the perfect place for growing flowers, and its proximity to Amsterdam has made it a popular day-trip destination for tourists.

Exploring the Keukenhof Gardens and Beyond

Any visitor to Lisse would be remiss to skip the Keukenhof Gardens, one of the world’s largest flower gardens. With over 7 million tulips, daffodils, and other flowers on display, it’s a kaleidoscope of color and scent that’s simply breathtaking.

Plus, the gardens are meticulously designed to showcase the beauty of flowers in a way that’s both aesthetically pleasing and educational. You can learn about the history of tulip cultivation, see demonstrations of flower arranging, and even take a boat tour through the surrounding countryside to see the flowers in bloom from a different perspective. And if you’re visiting in spring, be sure to check out the Flower Parade, a colorful procession of floats and marching bands that celebrates the start of the flower season.


Despite being a small city, Delft packs a big punch when it comes to charm and character. This picturesque town is famous for its blue and white pottery, rich history, and cultural significance.

The City of Blue and White Pottery

Almost anywhere you go in Delft, you’ll find evidence of its long history of pottery production. Any visitor to the city can’t help but be drawn to the iconic blue and white ceramics that adorn shop windows, museum shelves, and even the city’s streets themselves.

Uncovering Delft’s Rich History and Cultural Significance

Significance permeates every corner of Delft, from the grandeur of the Nieuwe Kerk to the quiet intimacy of the Prinsenhof Museum. As I wandered through the city’s streets, I felt like I was uncovering layer upon layer of history, each one revealing a new story or anecdote about this fascinating place.

Rich in history and steeped in tradition, Delft is a city that wears its heart on its sleeve. From the moment you step into the city, you can feel the weight of centuries of craftsmanship, innovation, and creativity. Whether you’re exploring the city’s many museums, visiting the famous Delft University of Technology, or simply taking in the sights and sounds of the city’s picturesque streets, Delft is a place that will leave you enchanted and inspired.


To answer the question, Where do you recommend I go to on my vacation in the Netherlands?, I would definitely suggest Eindhoven, a vibrant city in the south of the Netherlands that’s often overlooked by tourists flocking to Amsterdam.

The City of Light and Innovation

For centuries, Eindhoven has been known as the City of Light, thanks to its rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in the fields of lighting and technology. Today, the city is home to many startups, design studios, and tech companies, earning it the nickname “Brainport of the Netherlands”.

Exploring Eindhoven’s Vibrant Design and Technology Scene

To experience the city’s innovative spirit, head to the Strijp-S area, a former industrial site turned creative hub, where you’ll find a plethora of design studios, art galleries, and trendy bars and restaurants.

The city is also home to the Eindhoven University of Technology, one of the top technical universities in the Netherlands, which has spawned many successful startups and innovations. Take a stroll through the campus to get a feel for the city’s entrepreneurial vibe.


All roads lead to Utrecht, or so it seems. This charming university town is a mere 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam, making it the perfect day-trip destination.

The Wharf Cellars and Canals of Utrecht

On the banks of the Oudegracht canal, you’ll find a unique feature of Utrecht’s architecture: wharf cellars. These medieval storage spaces, now converted into cozy cafes and shops, add to the city’s charm.

Discovering the Hidden Gems of Utrecht’s Medieval Center

Gems like the St. Martin’s Cathedral, with its striking Gothic architecture, and the Rietveld Schröder House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and iconic example of De Stijl design, await discovery in Utrecht’s medieval center.

With its winding streets and picturesque canals, Utrecht’s historic heart is a treasure trove of architectural styles, from Gothic to Renaissance. Take your time exploring the city’s hidden corners, and you’ll stumble upon unique landmarks, quaint shops, and lively squares.

Beemster Polder

Keep exploring the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam, and you’ll discover hidden gems like the Beemster Polder, a tranquil and picturesque region just north of the capital city.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Beemster

One of the most notable attractions in Beemster is its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its unique cultural and historical significance.

Exploring the Unique Landscape and History of Beemster

An hour’s drive from Amsterdam, Beemster Polder is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the Netherlands’ rich history and stunning landscapes.

Another reason to visit Beemster is to experience its unique landscape, which was reclaimed from the sea in the 17th century. As you wander through the polder, you’ll notice the intricate network of canals, dikes, and windmills that have been carefully preserved to showcase the region’s remarkable engineering feats. Take a stroll along the canals, visit the Beemster Museum to learn more about the region’s history, or simply enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of this charming Dutch countryside.


For a city that’s often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbor Amsterdam, Rotterdam has a lot to offer.

The Modern Metropolis of Rotterdam

An architectural playground, Rotterdam is a city that’s not afraid to think outside the box.

Exploring the City’s Architectural and Cultural Landmarks

Modern and sleek, Rotterdam’s cityscape is a marvel of contemporary design.

With its rich history, cultural attractions, and stunning architecture, Rotterdam is a city that will surprise and delight you. From the iconic Erasmusbrug bridge to the impressive Markthal, a futuristic marketplace with a mesmerizing ceiling, there’s no shortage of Instagram-worthy spots. And let’s not forget the city’s vibrant cultural scene, which includes world-class museums like the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum and the Kunsthal art gallery. Whether you’re an architecture buff, a culture vulture, or just looking for a unique urban experience, Rotterdam has something for everyone.


Your journey to the Netherlands wouldn’t be complete without visiting Thorn, a charming village in the province of Limburg. This hidden gem is often referred to as the “White Village” due to its picturesque white-washed houses and cobblestone streets.

The White Village of Thorn

For centuries, Thorn has maintained its unique character, with its whitewashed houses, narrow alleys, and quaint shops. As you wander through the village, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, surrounded by the tranquil atmosphere and rich history.

Uncovering the Secrets of Thorn’s Unique History and Architecture

Thorn’s history dates back to the 10th century, when it was an important center of power and trade. Today, you can still see remnants of its glorious past in its stunning architecture, including the 12th-century church of St. Michael and the beautifully restored castle of Thorn.

Another fascinating aspect of Thorn is its unique white-washed houses, which were originally built by the Abbey of Thorn in the 17th century. The abbey’s monks used the houses to accommodate pilgrims and travelers, and today, they remain a testament to the village’s rich history and cultural heritage.

The Hague

Despite being the Netherlands’ seat of government, The Hague (or Den Haag in Dutch) is often overlooked by tourists flocking to Amsterdam. But trust me, this elegant city has plenty to offer, from stunning architecture to world-class museums and a rich history that’s waiting to be uncovered.

The Royal City of The Hague

For centuries, The Hague has been the residence of the Dutch royal family, and it shows in the city’s stately atmosphere and grand buildings. Take a stroll through the picturesque Hofvijver lake, surrounded by beautiful architecture and historic landmarks like the Binnenhof and the Mauritshuis.

Exploring the City’s Rich History, Culture, and Politics

History buffs will love The Hague’s plethora of museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Haags Historisch Museum, which probe into the city’s rich past and its significance in Dutch politics. With institutions like the International Court of Justice and the Peace Palace, The Hague is also a hub for international diplomacy and law.

With so many important organizations and institutions calling The Hague home, it’s no wonder that the city has a unique blend of old and new, from the ornate architecture of the Binnenhof to the sleek, modern design of the City Hall. As I wandered through the city’s streets, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into the Netherlands’ complex history and its role on the global stage.

To wrap up

The Netherlands, I’ve discovered, is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. From the windmill-dotted landscapes of Zaandam to the vibrant university town of Groningen, each of these 18 destinations has left an indelible mark on my travel journal. As I reflect on my journey, I’m reminded that the Netherlands is more than just Amsterdam – it’s a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, with a wealth of experiences waiting to be had. So, pack your bags, grab your bike, and get ready to explore the Netherlands beyond its capital city – I promise you won’t be disappointed!


Q: What are some must-visit places in the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam?

A: There are plenty of amazing places to visit in the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam. Some of the top recommendations include Zaandam, Groningen, Maastricht, Giethoorn, Volendam, and Kinderdijk. Each of these destinations offers a unique glimpse into the country’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty.

Q: How do I get to these places from Amsterdam?

A: The good news is that the Netherlands has an excellent public transportation system, making it easy to get to these destinations from Amsterdam. You can take direct trains to Zaandam (15 minutes), Maastricht (2.5 hours), and Groningen (2 hours with a transfer). For Giethoorn, take a train to Zwolle (1 hour) and then a bus to central Giethoorn. Volendam is accessible by bus 316 from Amsterdam Central station (30 minutes). Kinderdijk can be reached by train to Rotterdam (1 hour) and then a bus or taxi to the village.

Q: What are some of the top attractions and activities to do in these destinations?

A: Each of these destinations offers a range of exciting attractions and activities. In Zaandam, visit Zaanse Schans for its windmills and traditional architecture. In Groningen, explore the city’s canals, historic churches, and lively nightlife scene. Maastricht is famous for its cathedrals, limestone mines, and picturesque countryside. Giethoorn is a fairytale-like village with thatched-roof farmhouses, wooden arch bridges, and scenic bike lanes. Volendam is a charming fishing village with colorful houses, seafood stalls, and a ferry ride to Marken. Kinderdijk is home to 19 monumental windmills, some of which are open to the public as museums.


  • James Harrison

    My travel blog chronicles my adventures across various terrains, where I immerse myself in local cultures, savour cuisines, and form bonds with natives, offering vivid narratives and invaluable tips to fellow wanderers. My passion for exploration and the stories I share inspire others to venture beyond their comfort zones and discover the world's boundless beauty.

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Tags: Amsterdam, Tulips, Windmills.

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