Looking to discover the alternative side of the Netherlands? While the Netherland’s capital Amsterdam is an incredible destination, the Netherlands are full of lesser-known gems just waiting to be discovered. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of 5 beautiful Dutch destinations to visit that aren’t Amsterdam. From picturesque car-free villages to buzzing towns, take a look at our guide to discovering the alternative side of the Netherlands.
1. Leiden: Home of the Flower Bulb
Did you know that the city of Leiden has the greatest number of waterways and bridges in the country after Amsterdam? This vibrant city is a buzzing all-year-round destination! If you are visiting during spring you will find yourself in the centre of the flower-bulb season. In fact, Leiden is the region where the first flower bulbs in the country were grown. In the summer, you can enjoy the boat-spotting walks by the city’s picturesque canals. And, as the weather gets colder, you can cosy up in one of Leiden’s many trendy cafés and eateries. Make sure to try out local treats, such as the famous Dutch apple pie! Last but not least, see the city sparkle under festive lights and decorations during the winter, with a buzzing Christmas market and live performances taking place at the town square.
2. Zaanse Schans, Zaandam: Land of the Windmills
Known as the home of the windmills, Zaanse Schans is only a 20-minute drive away from Amsterdam. Step into the Netherland’s industrial past by venturing down Zaanse Schan’s iconic windmill path. Amongst the historic windmills, you will find quirky museums and local craft shops. Don’t miss out on visiting the historic clogs workshop, as well as the cheese museum that offers tastings of local cheeses. After exploring Zaanse Schans, make sure to also visit Zaandam. Surrounded by historic fishing villages and factories, the city itself combines history with modernity. The epitome of this modernity is, of course, the world-famous façade of the Inntel Hotel Zaandam, made up of almost 70 individual Zaan houses in varying shades of green.
3. Delft: The meeting point of the past and future
Delf is both a buzzing university city and a history-steeped cultural hub. Located in South Holland, the city is home to the renowned artist Johannes Vermeer, as well as the world-famous Delft Blue earthenware. Apart from its history-steeped past, the city is also renowned for being home to one of the top Technology Universities in the world. Stroll through the town centre to take in the city’s well-preserved medieval beauty. Walk down the cobbled canal-lined streets, browsing local markets and taking in the impressive architecture. Also, make sure to check out the city’s trendy cafés and eateries, offering a combination of traditional Dutch dishes and innovative world cuisines. To discover the best of the city, you can also join the Delft Walking Tour to hear about the city’s rich past from a knowledgeable local.
4. Giethoorn: The fairytale village stuck in time
This car-free village in the northeastern part of the Netherlands looks like something out of a fairytale. Picture boats strolling down calm waterways, beautiful footpaths, and bicycle trails that lead you through traditional Dutch thatched-roof houses.
Visiting the village, you will feel like you’ve gone back to a simpler time. Historically, the village was only accessible by boat. You will notice that the traditional Giethoorn boats, also known as punters, are still around, as are the village’s historic wooden bridges. We recommend going on a boat ride to see the traditional 18th-century farmhouses up close and to take in the area’s natural beauty. Also, make sure to venture to one of the many local restaurants by the waterfront for a taste of authentic Dutch cuisine.
5. Utrecht: The Beating Heart of Holland
The fourth-largest city of the Netherlands is a buzzing haven well-worth discovering. As you can imagine, this centuries-old city is steeped in history. The entire city was built around Dom tower, which you can see from any point in the city so you will never lose your way. Another eye-catching sight is the Rietveld Schröder House, a Unesco-protected house designed by the leading hero of the De Stijl art movement. Apart from that, the charming car-free city centre is a noteworthy sight in itself. Stroll along the beautiful canals, exploring local shops and market stalls. Also, make sure you check out the impressive wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water. The city also boasts many microbreweries, offering artisan locally crafted beers. We recommend checking out the local institution Kafe Belgie that offers over 200 brews!