Tourists visiting the Netherlands often miss many hidden gems. From 17th-century small towns to bustling big cities, national landmarks, and lesser-known attractions, the country is filled with fantastic places that cater to every type of tourist. We want you to know all the best places to visit in the Netherlands, which is why we have created a list of the top must-see attractions!
Amsterdam is usually the starting point for most visitors vacationing in the Netherlands. This stunning city is steeped in rich history and offers plenty of things for tourists to enjoy. In the central part of the city, visitors can take a canal cruise tour, visit the peep shows and coffee shops in the Red Light District, or spend the night clubbing at one of the many hot spots in Rembrandtplein. Some of the city’s other top attractions and museums include the Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark, the ARTIS Zoo, and the National Maritime Museum.
Amsterdam also has many outdoor spots that offer fun activities, such as the Het Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), where tourists can wander through the blossoming cherry trees, canoe on the lake and rivers, or climb and walk along the treetop trails at Klimpark Fun Forest. Thrill-seekers and adventurers can visit a tower called the A’DAM Toren on the north side of the city and pay to get strapped into a swing and then swung out over the edge of the building!
Related: 3 Days in Amsterdam: The Perfect Amsterdam Itinerary
Known as the Venice of the North, Giethoorn is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. This small Dutch town is famous for its breathtaking thatched houses, lush nature, and small canals. The town itself doesn’t have many roads, so the best way to get around is either on foot or by boat. Tourists can rent miniboats from various locations and cruise along the waterways all the way to the lakes at the Nationaal Park Weerribben-Wieden. There are also many nature walking paths and biking trails in the national park, and bikes can be rented from the town. The area is one of the most unique in the country, offering serene landscapes with dramatic wooden bridges and a small-town feel. Visitors can learn more about the town’s history at the Museum Giethoorn ’t Olde Maat Uus.
If you want to visit Giethoorn on a day trip from Amsterdam, we recommend this tour from GetYourGuide.
Known for its medieval-era architecture and rolling hills, Maastricht is one of the best cities in the Netherlands. The city is the birthplace of the Euro and offers plenty of attractions for tourists. Spend an afternoon roaming the shops in the Centrum, then head over to the Basilica of St. Servatius, the oldest in the Netherlands. Visitors can also book a boat tour of the Meuse River or take a guided tour of Fort St. Pieter.
On the outskirts of the city in the Limburg Hills, tourists will find vineyards and excellent wines at Apostelhoeve Winery. Take a tour of the vineyard and discover 34 acres of lush fields where five different grape varieties grow. Hiking enthusiasts should check out the trails leading up Sint-Pietersburg Mountain, where there are the remains of a castle and monastery. Nearby, the Maastricht Caves Zonneberg also features World War II-era caves with incredible charcoal drawings and a museum.
4. Keukenhof Holland
Tulips and windmills are some of the biggest attractions in the Netherlands, and there is no better place to experience them than at Keukenhof Holland in Lisse. These spring gardens are among the largest gardens in the world and have been appropriately nicknamed the Garden of Europe. It is only open from March to May every year, so if you are planning to visit the Netherlands during this time, this is an absolute must-see. Seven million flower bulbs are strategically planted here every year to create a colorful and enchanting space to wander and take pictures. Every year, Keukenhof has a theme for their garden, with the 2022 theme being Flower Classics and prior years having themes such as Van Gogh and Romance and Flowers. This is the best place to get the classic photo of the tulips with the Dutch windmill in the background.
Near the gardens, visitors can also opt to explore Keukenhof Castle or take a boat tour around the surrounding tulip fields of Lisse.
Buy skip-the-line tickets to Keukenhof here!
If you are interested in World War II history, then you should definitely mark Groesbeek on your list of the best things to do in the Netherlands.
This quaint small town is home to the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, which contains the most Canadian military graves in the Netherlands. It is an incredibly moving experience to wander amongst the fallen, reading the names, ages, and quotes left behind by families. The cemetery also holds 2,610 Commonwealth graves from World War II, of which 2,338 are Canadian; the others are from countries like Britain and Australia.
Also found in Groesbeek is the Vrijheidsmuseum, the Freedom Museum. Here, visitors can learn about what freedom and the war mean to the Dutch, Germans, and other nationalities. They regularly host events for kids as well.
If you want to learn more about the Battle of the Rhine and the surrounding area, check out this tour from Liberation Tour. Owner Bert Eikelenboom trained as a guide at the National Liberation Museum and is recognized by the Guild of Battlefield Guides. His tour can be personalized to last a half day, a full day, or multiple days.
Overloon is another fantastic town to visit if you’re interested in military history and World War II. The Americans famously liberated Overloon, and the Overloon War Museum boasts an incredible collection of military planes, cars, tanks, and much more. It is truly a mind-blowing experience to inspect these massive machines up close. The museum also features stories and interactive exhibits depicting war in the area.
Visitors can also wander through the town, shop at the boutique stores, and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. Afterward, you can head over to the ZooParc Overloon to roam among the giraffes, lions, and kangaroos.
Efteling is one of the best tourist attractions in the Netherlands for families. This fantasy-themed amusement park is the largest in the country and features 36 rides, including six roller coasters and four water rides. Take the kids on a stroll in the Fairytale Forest, where you walk amongst trolls and giants, pass Little Red Riding Hood, and end up at Hansel and Gretel’s house. There are plenty of attractions here to discover, and it is well worth a full day’s visit!
Located a short train ride from Amsterdam, this seaside town is perfect for those looking to spend some time at the beach or outside.
The town is home to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, also known as the Dunes, which is a massive nature preserve that features rolling sand dunes, walking trails, historic houses to explore, and lots of deer! Hiking through the hills is a great way to spend the morning and enjoy some of the best nature in the Netherlands.
For those lucky enough to visit here when the weather is warm, spend the day at Zandvoort Beach. The sand is incredible, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars on the beach where you can grab lunch or a cocktail. There are also dog-friendly areas where you can bring your furry friends for some off-leash fun! Make sure to hit up one of the fish stands for some traditional Dutch kibbeling (battered cod or white fish with a sauce).
Tourists can also try to catch a race at the CM.com Circuit Zandvoort. In addition, there are packages available that give you the chance to drive your own car on the track, get your racing license, or experience what it’s like to be a racecar driver by renting and driving a Ferrari 488 GTB or an Aston Martin Vantage on the track.
If you are looking for a small town in the Netherlands that offers charm, activities, and a rich history, then Hoorn is the place for you!
This 17th-century former Dutch East Indies base is a thriving village chock-full of boutique shops and quaint restaurants set just north of Amsterdam on IJsselmeer Lake. Tourists can visit many museums, like the Westfries Museum, where there are thousands of artifacts from the United Dutch Indies Company and paintings from the 16th to the 19th century. For a family-friendly (and dog-friendly) museum, check out the Museum of the 20th Century. It is set in an old prison near the Hoorn Harbor, making for a unique location, and it features interesting exhibits and displays of toys, interior designs, and artifacts that depict how Dutch life has changed over the past century. If you are a railway buff, then you should definitely head to the Museumstoomtram Hoorn-Medemblik, a rail museum set in a 19th-century station that offers train tours on the oldest steam locomotive in the Netherlands. Julianapark provides the perfect spot for visitors to relax with a picnic and watch the sailboats cruise by or to go for a dip in the water.
Is there anything better than cheese? For those of us that aren’t lactose intolerant, the answer is probably not. Regardless, the town of Gouda, also known as the Cheese City, is one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands.
Tourists can roam the medieval Markt Square and try samples at the seasonal cheese market or head over to the Gouda Cheese Experience and immerse themselves in an interactive world of cheesiness. For those who aren’t cheese-crazed, there is plenty more to see and do here. Families will love the Dino Experience Park, a Jurassic-themed park with a large playground and miniputt. Tourists can also rent bikes and go for a ride through the trails on Reeuwijkse Plassen Lake or take a stroll through the beautiful gardens and check out the windmill at Park Houtmansplantsoen.
Before leaving the city, make sure to snap a picture in front of the Stadhuis van Gouda, an iconic 15th-century town hall with red and white shutters.
11. Zaanse Schans
Are you wondering what to do in the Netherlands? Well, top on the list for many people is to see Dutch windmills, and Zaanse Schans is the place to do it!
This neighborhood located near Zaandam just outside Amsterdam boasts historic industrial windmills surrounded by green wooden houses and waterways, creating an 18th-century atmosphere. Not only does the area feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but there are still many artisan traditions practiced in the village that tourists can indulge in. Head to the Wooden Shoe Workshop of Zaanse Schans to watch how traditional clogs are made and tour the museum or check out the Cheese Farm Catharina Hoeve, a 17th-century establishment offering demonstrations on old cheese-making practices and samples, of course.
Visitors can also tour the inside of windmills at the World of Windmills and learn how logs were sawn, paper was made, and spices were ground back in the day. The original Dutch grocery store, Albert Heijn, can also be found in Zaanse Schans. It is now a museum where you can learn the history of the franchise and purchase souvenirs. If you find yourself hungry for a snack, head over to the Bakery Museum in the Gecroonde Duyvekater to purchase Dutch goodies and sweets made in an authentic bread oven!
Rotterdam is a modern city located about a 40-minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station. Most of the city was flattened by bombers during the war, but the Dutch rebuilt it, and now it’s a must-see in the Netherlands!
Fancy a bite to eat with a view while visiting the city? Then do yourself a favor and book a reservation at the Euromast Brasserie, located on top of one of the tallest towers in the Netherlands. The Euromast Observation Tower is located just a short walk from other top attractions, too, like the Kunsthal Rotterdam, an art museum, the Maritime Museum Rotterdam, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Another incredible attraction is the famous Cube Houses (Kijk-Kubus). Architect Pier Blom brought his unique vision to life by erecting homes consisting of unusual shapes and lines, resulting in a feat of mind-blowing creativity. Today, tourists can snap a picture in front of the buildings and then take a tour of the unique interior designs of the houses.
There is so much to see and do in Rotterdam that it’s hard to pack it all into one day, so it is recommended you try to spend more time here. The city is also home to incredible landmarks in the Netherlands, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Windmills at Kinderdijk and the unique row of homes and shops along the canal at Oude Kleine Loopbrug.
Other attractions in the city include Mini World Rotterdam; the Diergaarde Blijdorp, a zoo; and the Dutch Pinball Museum. If you are looking to spend time outdoors, head to the beach at Strand Nesselande or take the kids climbing among the tall trees at Klimpark Fun Forest Rotterdam.
13. The Hague
The Hague is famously known as the Netherland’s political capital and the home of the UN’s International Court of Justice, where war crimes are brought to trial.
Not only does this city have a fascinating history, it also boasts incredible nature. Visitors can work on their tan or try and spot seals at Zandmotor Beach, hike the sand dunes at Westduinpark, or stroll among the towering trees and lush plants at Scheveningse Bosjes. Those interested in Dutch art should not skip the Mauritshuis Museum, as it is filled with hundreds of paintings from artists like Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Possibly the most famous painting found here is the Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. Other art museums to consider visiting include Escher in Het Paleis Museum, the Museum Bredius (located in a stunning 18th-century mansion), and Kunstmuseum Den Haag Modern, a contemporary art museum. The Hague also houses other museums of particular interest, including the Children’s Book Museum, the Louwman Museum, which boasts the world’s oldest private antique car collection, and the Rijksmuseum de Gevangenpoort, which showcases a history of crime and punishment in an old prison.
The Hague is also home to some hidden attractions, like the James Turrell Celestial Vault. Built in 1996 in the dunes, this large crater has a unique vault accessed by a tunnel. Inside, there is a lush grass interior and stone slabs. The idea is that visitors lie back on these stone slabs and look up through the vault. The curvature of the vault creates a dome sky and offers a unique way to view the heavens.
When visiting places in the Netherlands, Amsterdam usually takes favor over Haarlem for tourists, but I’m here to tell you not to skip out on this breathtaking town.
The city is like a mini Amsterdam, with beautiful canals and lush parks to wander through. However, the upside of Haarlem is that it is less touristy than Amsterdam, offering a more Dutch experience to those who visit. Tourists can take a tour of the interior of the Windmill De Adriaan, discover scientific instruments and artworks at the Teylers Museum, or go biking or horseback riding at the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland. At the Jopenkerk, beer enthusiasts can sample award-winning IPAs from the Netherlands’ leading IPA brewer, Jopen.
Haarlem is also home to the largest free festival in the Netherlands, Bevrijdingspop. The festival is held every year on Liberation Day (May 5), with multiple stages playing music from pop and rock to metal and EDM. There is even a children’s stage for the little ones!
Do you know which country has the tallest peak of the Alps? Trick question – it’s actually the Netherlands, more specifically Haarlem! When Swiss geologist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure led the first expedition up Mont Blanc in 1787, he took the tip of the mountain as a souvenir, and tourists can now find it in the Archeological Museum Haarlem.
15. De Hoge Veluwe National Park
Located between Arnhem and Appledorn, De Hoge Veluwe National Park has incredible landscapes and wildlife that showcase the best of the Netherlands.
Visitors can cycle on 40km of bike paths through marshlands and forests. There are plenty of activities and events held here that include touring the country residence museum, Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, outdoor meditation workshops, and open-air concerts. The park is also home to the Kröller-Müller Museum, which boasts the world’s second-largest collection of Van Gogh’s artworks. Visitors can roam the museum and sculpture gardens and discover other famous works by notable artists such as Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso.
The park features numerous landscapes to hike through as well, including forests, grasslands, sand drifts, and more! Here, you can try to spot natural wildlife like deer, boar, and wolves. There are many different routes to hike, and all of them are dog-friendly.
That brings our list of the top places to visit in the Netherlands to an end! We’ve done the work and showed you the best of the best. Now all you have to decide is which of these fantastic attractions you’re going to visit first!
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