Everyone’s heard of Amsterdam and knows about its scandalous red-light district and infamous coffee shops. But the Netherlands is so much more than just Amsterdam! The Netherlands is home to some of the most underrated beaches in Europe, world-class tulip fields, and a number of charming Dutch villages just waiting to be explored. The next time you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands, keep this guide handy, as a tool to explore the other cities, towns, and villages that will give you a side of Dutch culture that is simply unattainable in its bustling capital city.
Getting to the Netherlands
Amsterdam Schipol is far and wide the country’s largest and busiest international airport. It’s well-connected, and if you have to fly into the country, it’s likely the cheapest option.
From cities such as Paris, Brussels, and Düsseldorf, getting to Amsterdam is easy and straightforward by train. If you need to fly to Europe, it may be cheaper to fly into one of the aforementioned cities and taking a train to Amsterdam, depending on flight costs.
When to go
The best time to visit the Netherlands largely depends on what you want to do. If you simply want decent weather, the best months to visit are April to October. Most visitors come during the months of July and August.
Most rain falls in the winter and it can be quite cold due to the North Sea’s influence. The Netherlands has a maritime climate, so cold winters and hot summers. March to May is tulip time, so anticipate higher prices, more crowds, and fewer accommodation options. If you’re not interested in the tulips, I’d recommend going in September or October.
What to See
|Amsterdam||Country Capital, Canals, Red Light District, Anne Frank House, Dutch Resistance Movement, Museums|
|Rotterdam||Port City, Cube Houses|
|The Hague||Parliament, Museums, International Criminal Court|
|Lisse||Keukenhof, Tulip Fields|
|Zaanse Schans||Working Windmills, Open Air Museums, Quaint Painted Houses|
|Maastricht||Bonnefanten Museum, College Town|
|Utrecht||Bell Tower, Cathedral, Medieval Churches|
|Giethoorn||Car-Free Village with Canals, Bike Trails, National Park|
|Haarlem||Medieval City, Art Museum, Frans Hals|
|Kinderdijk||Windmills, Museums, Waterways|
|Delft||Blue and White Pottery, Medieval City|
|Volendam||Fishing Harbor, Colorful Houses, Museums|
|Alkmaar||Markets, Museums, Canals|
|Leiden||Botanical Garden, Art Museum|
|Zandvoort||Dutch Seaside Town, Beaches, Sand Dunes|
Traveling within the Netherlands
By far the best way of getting around in the Netherlands is via their impressive rail system. It is primarily operated by Nederlandse Spoorwegen, it efficiently connects major parts of the country. Given the small size of the Netherlands, getting around is fairly straightforward. Renting a car is also an option, and you can cover a lot of ground this way.
Detailed Netherlands Articles
Money-saving tip: Don’t input any dates to scan the best available times to go OR simply input ‘Netherlands’ instead of a specific airport – you may get a much cheaper flight!
When I travel, I personally prefer to use VRBO. I book an entire apartment, giving me my privacy and the comfort of home amenities, such as a kitchen and washing machine. Since my dog(s) travel with me, it also allows me to filter based on pet-friendliness without the stress of disturbing hotel guests.
If you’re traveling long-term, Airbnb usually offers discounts for stays of a month or more – the discounts are significant, sometimes 50-60%! It winds up being cheaper than what I would have paid for my apartment rent back in the USA.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get a discount by using my link below.
If you’re a budget-savvy traveler and not traveling long-term, hostels are a great option and are abundant in the Netherlands.
For run-of-the-mill hotel stays, Booking.com usually offers the best deals.
The Netherlands is a relatively safe country to visit. That being said, all major cities have some aspect of danger to them, particularly in the ‘seedier’ areas. I love the quote that says “Everywhere is safe. Everywhere is dangerous.” Or is it “Nowhere is safe. Nowhere is dangerous.”? Either way, you’re bound to find safer and more dangerous areas of any place you visit. Always trust your judgment and remove yourself from unsafe situations (or situations that may feel unsafe).
Particularly important in the more touristy cities (lookin’ at you, Amsterdam) be aware of common scams that are geared toward the unsuspecting tourist.
Money Saving Tips
The Netherlands isn’t near as expensive as some of its neighbors, however, it’s also not known as being one of the most budget-friendly destinations in the world. That being said, there are a few key ways you can travel to the Netherlands with a budget-conscious mindset.
Avoid taxis in Amsterdam, particularly since the city isn’t very car-friendly, and taking a car won’t save you much time. Opt for the tram instead, or, do as the Dutch do, and grab a bicycle. If you do decide to take the tram, get an unlimited ticket for however many days you plan on using it. This will save you money in the long run.
Accommodations will also be more costly if you’re visiting during summer or winter, or if there’s an event going on in whichever city you’ll be staying in. From March to May is tulip season, so keep in mind that many tourists from around the world come to the Netherlands specifically for this reason.
If you don’t already have one, create a Pinterest account! Pinterest is an invaluable resource for travelers. Simply input ‘Free things to do in….’ and see all the great options that come up. There are plenty of free things to do in the major cities.
Speaking of cities, get yourself a city pass if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing – museums, tours, public transport, etc. are usually highly discounted with the purchase of a city pass.
FAQs About Traveling to the Netherlands
Do I need a visa to visit the Netherlands?
- Most travelers from the United States and many other countries within the Schengen area do not require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) for tourism or business purposes. Visa requirements may vary based on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. Check with the nearest Dutch embassy or consulate for the latest visa information.
What’s the best time to visit the Netherlands?
- The Netherlands is a year-round destination, but spring (April to May) is famous for its vibrant tulip fields. Summer (June to August) offers pleasant weather and outdoor festivals, while winter (December to February) is ideal for enjoying Dutch Christmas markets and ice skating.
What’s the currency in the Netherlands, and can I use credit cards?
- The official currency is the Euro (EUR), and credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments. However, it’s a good idea to have some cash, especially for small purchases and in rural areas.
What languages are spoken in the Netherlands?
- Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands. Most Dutch people speak English fluently, so language barriers are rare, especially in urban areas.
Is tap water safe to drink in the Netherlands?
- Yes, tap water is safe to drink throughout the Netherlands. You can refill your water bottle at public fountains and taps in many locations.
How do I get around the Netherlands?
- The Netherlands has an efficient public transportation system, including trains, trams, buses, and metros in major cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Bicycles are a popular and eco-friendly means of transportation, and rental cars are also available.
What are some must-visit places in the Netherlands?
- The Netherlands offers attractions like Amsterdam (the capital), Keukenhof Gardens, Zaanse Schans, and the historic city of Delft. Explore charming towns, museums, and picturesque canals.
What is Dutch cuisine like, and are there vegetarian/vegan options?
- Dutch cuisine includes dishes like Dutch pancakes, herring, and cheese. You’ll find vegetarian and vegan options in most restaurants, especially in larger cities.
Is it customary to tip in the Netherlands?
- Tipping is not obligatory in the Netherlands, but it’s appreciated. A 5-10% tip for good service in restaurants is common. In cafes and bars, rounding up the bill is sufficient.
Is it safe to travel in the Netherlands?
- The Netherlands is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. Use common-sense precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and staying aware of your surroundings.
What should I pack for my trip to the Netherlands?
- Pack clothing appropriate for the season and activities you have planned. Comfortable walking shoes, rain gear, and an umbrella are recommended, as the weather can be changeable.
What is the legal drinking age in the Netherlands?
- The legal drinking age for purchasing and consuming alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, is 18 years old in the Netherlands. For spirits and stronger drinks, the legal drinking age is also 18. Please adhere to these age restrictions when ordering alcoholic beverages in bars and restaurants.