For many people, Netherlands tourism is synonymous with the country’s capital city, Amsterdam. But while its network of picturesque waterways, stunning array of museums and excellent dining and drinking options certainly make Amsterdam a Netherlands essential, there’s much more to see in this small but perfectly formed gem of a country.
From photogenic, windmill-scattered countryside to castles bursting with history, our list of Netherlands tourist attractions offers plenty of inspiration for your next trip.
Amsterdam’s Canals, Amsterdam
The Netherlands’ canals are among its most famous attractions, and they really do deserve their hype. It’s possible to spend your entire visit to Amsterdam in the scenic old town, where the canals are concentrated.
Take in views of postcard-perfect tall and thin canal houses as you sip coffee outside a waterside café. Alternatively, cover more ground by going for a run or a bike ride around the canal network and stopping at independent shops along the way. The floating Flower Market and the quirky Houseboat Museum are among the attractions you’ll find on the water.
If you have the opportunity to choose any time of year for your holiday, timing it to coincide with the blooming of Keukenhof is a good idea. This incredibly beautiful site, famous for its tulips, is one of the largest flower gardens in the world and one of the most renowned Netherlands tourist attractions. It’s only open for a short window each year, between mid-March and mid-May, when the blossoms transform the park into a breathtakingly colourful landscape.
This vast museum is home to several million pieces of art and artefacts, and has a particular focus on the Dutch Old Masters. It’s simply so large you’re likely to get art fatigue before you’ve managed to visit all of its 250 rooms, but it’s fun trying to pack in as much as you can. However much time you give yourself, there will always be more to see.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Another museum that puts Amsterdam among the world’s best cities for art is the Van Gogh Museum, where you’ll find hundreds of artworks by the man himself. The museum also offers a window into Van Gogh’s famously tumultuous personal life.
Along with tulips, windmill are one of the top symbols associated with Netherlands tourism. To see as many as you can at once, head to the pretty village of Kinderdjik, an UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to 19 18th-century windmills – more than anywhere else in The Netherlands. Between April and October the windmills are in motion.
Kasteel De Haar, Utrecht
Kasteel De Haar is the Netherlands’ biggest fortification and is home to a vast castle set in beautiful grounds. The castle dates from the late 19th century and has been transformed into a wonderful museum.
Valkenburg Castle, Valkenburg
If you prefer your castles really ancient, make your way to Valkenburg. The 12th-century castle here sits atop a hill and offers astounding views across Geul Valley.
The castle is not the town’s only highlight; its spas, 14th-century basilica and Christmas markets held within caves are all major draws, too.
Cheese Market, Edam
Edam cheese is among the Netherlands’ most recognisable exports. These round, wax-covered cheeses have made their way to every corner of the globe. It all started here, in the ancient town of Edam, which celebrates its contribution to dairy with a regular cheese market on a large scale, as well as other cheese-themed attractions.
Hoge Veluwe National Park, Between Apeldoorn and Arnhem
The Netherlands’ canals, museums and other top attractions often tend to be concentrated in the urban areas, but the beautiful countryside is not to be overlooked. Hoge Veluwe National Park is a wonderful place to familiarise yourself with the country’s nature and wildlife.
At close to 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares) in size, the park offers plenty to see for casual visitors as well as serious hikers and nature-spotters. Look out for deer in the woods and pay a visit to the sculpture park. The area is also a favourite with a wide species of birds, so if you’re a keen ornithologist, be sure to bring your binoculars.
The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
Back to Amsterdam for another one of its most famous attractions, this time a very moving one. The Anne Frank House is set in the same building where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II.
During her time in hiding here, teenage Anne wrote the diary that would go on to become one of the most-read books in the world. Anne never lived to see the impact her words would have, as she was captured before the end of the war and died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The museum in the Anne Frank House looks closely at the story of the Frank family and relates it to the wider horrors suffered by Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis. It is an emotional testament to the destruction caused by prejudice.
The Netherlands has far more than its fair share of pretty villages, but even among them, Marken is a particular standout. Sitting on the banks of Lake Ijsselmeer, it’s a hub of traditional Dutch imagery. Ancient wooden houses and tulips are plentiful, and the old-fashioned Dutch crafts, such as clog-painting, are kept alive here. Visit during the warmer months to see the locals capitalising on this traditional spirit by dressing up in period clothing for the annual summer festival.
Delta Works Dikes, Zeeland
The Netherlands’ flat topography has meant dikes have become a common feature of the landscape. The system of dikes known as the Delta Works is an awe-inspiring engineering project on a massive scale. Make your way south to Zeeland, home to the Maas, Schlede and Rhine rivers, to marvel at the sheer amount of water controlled by the dikes here.