Coffee shops, Gouda cheese, and windmills are probably the first things that come to mind when thinking about that small, Western European country called The Netherlands with its famous capital Amsterdam.
Don’t worry, it’s all there. However, this history-rich, multi-cultured country has a lot more to offer than just that.
Language: Dutch, Frisian
Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim
Currency: Euro (€)
Government: Parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarch
Best time to visit: April – September
DID YOU KNOW THAT...
- More than 25% of the Netherlands is below sea level.
Luckily, the country is not in a tsunami-prone part of the world.
- The Dutch are the tallest people in the world.
Dutchies have an average height of 184 cm for men and 170 cm for women.
- The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in Europe.
The country has 487 inhabitants per square kilometre.
- Amsterdam is built entirely on poles.
The city’s soil consists of a thick layer of fen and clay, which is why all buildings are built on wooden poles that are fixed in a sandy layer that is 11 meters deep on average.
- Dutchies love their coffee
After Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. They drink no less than 140 liters of coffee a year on average. That is 3.2 cups a day!
- 86% of the Dutch people speak English as a second language.
All Dutch children learn English in school and visitors to Amsterdam are often impressed with the fluency with which the Dutch speak English.
- The Netherlands is the largest beer exporter in the world.
In 2001, Dutch beer companies exported an astonishing volume of 1.3 billion liters of beer abroad. Half of that was shipped to the U.S.!
WHERE TO GO?
Seen the country's flatness and short distances, the #1 Dutch Way To-Go is cycling. Rent or buy a cheap second-hand bike and let’s explore!
First stop is Amsterdam! Besides the absolutely worth-visiting museums such as the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh and the Anne Frank House, the city features beautiful parks, trendy cafes and iconic neighbourhoods. Cycle your way along the canals or choose to go on a guided canal tour by boat which gives you an amazing new perspective on the city with its iconic houses.
Lose yourself in the Jordaan – the area with its nice cafes, little shops and farmers markets on the weekend, is to be found right next to the city center. However, somehow the place is still undiscovered by tourists. This former working-class district is a local hot-spot and especially in summer great for wandering around while people-watching.
Unwind in Vondelpark - This is the central park and Amsterdam’s place to be for running, picnicking or simply enjoying and hanging out. On warmer days the place is crowded and regular free open-air concerts are no exception.
For (window) shopping, don’t waste precious time on Kalverstraat and find your way to ‘The Nine Streets’. To be found in the canal districts’ heart and is one of the city’s most delightful shopping areas. Spend a fabulous day exploring the designer boutiques, art galleries, jewellers, vintage -and gift shops.
Not tired of shopping yet? Walk down P.C. Hooftstraat, the country’s Rodeo Drive for luxury brands and more people- and car watching.
Make your way down south, with a stopover in the judicial capital of the world, the seat of government and the royal family, The Hague and its beloved but touristic beach town Scheveningen. Spend your day with a visit to Binnenhof and go for an active ice-skate in The Uithof. For the art-lovers, ‘Panorama Mesdag’ and ‘Mauritshuis’ are the places to be.
Continue to the modern port city of Rotterdam. ‘Manhattan on the Maas’ and ‘Gateway to Europe’ are common names for this energetic, multiethnic city.
At first sight, it doesn’t have the traditional Dutch style and charm as other cities. Mainly cause the place got completely bombed in World War II. The decades following were spent rebuilding, which explains the iconic modern architecture and high-building.
Rotterdam is home to Europe’s largest port, so if checking that out sounds fun to you, there are a few boat tours you can do. Rotterdam is known for its wide variety of hosted events throughout the year, especially in the summer months.
Moreover, all the trendy hotspots and good nightlife often make people remind the city of bustling Berlin.
Make your way through Witte the Withstraat – A multicultural, artsy street which represents the typical Rotterdam atmosphere. All the multiple cultural influences give the street a unique ambiance and a good representation of the city’s lifestyle. You can find a wide variety of popular bars, restaurants, trendy boutiques and art galleries.
Local’s tip: Have lunch at Eastern/Northern-African hotel/restaurant Bazar.
Explore Kralingen – This nice neighbourhood is seen as a little village by locals. It is very divergent with the mix of rich residents and students. The neighbourhood is lively with chic deli’s interspersed with little foreign supermarkets and on the edge you’ll find the lake ‘Kralingse Plas’, a popular hang-out spot in summer.
Furthermore, you cannot miss out on visiting the last year-opened Market Hall and the Cube houses at Blaak, the Euromast and having a drink at Hotel New York in the Oude Haven.
TIPS & TRICKS
- Avoid massive queues at popular museums and attractions by pre-purchasing tickets online.
- If you are planning on visiting lots of museums, it is worth investing in an I Amsterdam city card (available at iamsterdam.com),
which includes a canal cruise and public transport.
- Amsterdam is a safe city, but watch out for pickpockets especially where there are crowds of tourists.
- Many businesses don’t accept non-European credit cards – Have a look into that before you go.
- Dutch people are down to earth, honest and sarcastic. Don’t take the wry humour personally.
- You will learn that almost every Dutch person speaks at least English, maybe even French, German or Italian.
The Global Work & Travel Co. regularly offers Au Pair exchanges in the Netherlands.
In addition, the country is a popular and easy weekend trip when you’re on a Working Holiday in the UK.
London St. Pancras station is connected to the Netherlands by Eurostar high-speed trains, but airplane tickets are budget-proof too, you might want to check out Ryan Air for cheap airfare deals within Europe.
Have Fun & Travel Safe!