Located in northwestern Europe, the Netherlands is best known for its interconnected canals, fields of tulips, and iconic windmills. This flat and low-elevation country borders Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea, and everything you'll stumble upon is bound to be picturesque...the famous cities, the quaint towns, and even the beaches! Approximately 15 million tourists visit the Netherlands each year, yearning to be immersed in its modern culture and relaxed way of life.
We've created this travel guide to give you some top tips on how to have the best trip possible in this famed European country!
Good to know before you go
Getting there and getting around
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the main international airport in the Netherlands and the third largest in Europe. If you're planning on traveling to the Netherlands from outside of Europe, this airport puts you just 6 kilometers away from the busy capital of Amsterdam. Conveniently accessed by train, Dutch Railways has a service that goes directly to Amsterdam Central Station, allowing you to access all that the city has to offer in just 15 minutes.
The public transportation here is second to none—ranked fourth in the world!—and is the best way to travel with ease, both inside the cities and across the country. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and experience the Netherlands' cycling culture.
Biking around the city is truly the best mode of travel, not only for viewing the city, but also to skirt around quickly. You are sure to see thousands of them on your trip, but be sure to keep an eye out when crossing the roads, as it's likely a bike will becoming your way instead of a car! A bike can be rented for anywhere from 10€ to 40€ per day, depending on how long you're renting for and from which shop.
Traveling across the country is made easy, thanks to Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the national railway, which connects almost every town in the nation and boasts over 400 stations. To cover long distances, the high-speed trains are recommended, as they allow you to get to a different city or town very quickly. The prices are dependent upon how far you're traveling—the further you go, the more expensive! Be sure to snag a window seat to enjoy the serene views of the Dutch countryside.
The most effective way to travel on trains is to buy a 7.50€ OV-chipkaart that you can use for all trains in the Netherlands. The card acts as the ticket and can be topped up at the machines that are conveniently located at every station. As you start your journey, swipe in at the barriers and swipe out when you arrive at your destination; this calculates your route and deducts the correct amount from your card.
Food and drink
One of the best experiences of visiting a new country is tasting all the different foods and drinks it has to offer. The Netherlands has a very traditional way of cooking and serving food, and every dish you try is guaranteed to be hearty and wholesome, with ingredients grown by skillful farmers or freshly caught on the coast. Stamppot is the traditional dish usually eaten on a cold winter's day: a mix of mashed potatoes, kale, carrots, sauerkraut, and rookworst sausage.
The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in the world, with just over half of the population not identifying as being of any religion. The most predominant religion, however, is Roman Catholicism, dating back to the 16th century.
The Tulip festival in Amsterdam sees the streets being filled with vibrant colors every which way you glance. The tulip is the symbol of the Netherlands dating back to the 17th century and the Ottoman empire, withstanding economic impact for the country, both historically and in present day.
Amsterdam celebrates this through the thousands of tulips throughout the city, diverse in both color and variation. The motto of the annual Tulip Festival is "A tulip for every citizen," and there are 85 locations around the city that boast over 500,000 flowers total. The unique sea of colors create natural beauty in the middle of a built-up city and is not a sight to be missed.
Places to visit
Most people visiting the Netherlands head straight for Amsterdam. While it's definitely a city you'll want to check off your bucket list, make sure to hit up other cities to experience even more of the Dutch culture, architecture, and artistic jewels.
Head to The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, for a number of sites rich in history and politics. If your heading there in summer, even better, as you'll get to relax on the serene beaches lining the coast of the North Sea.
Rotterdam is far from a traditional Dutch city. After being destroyed in WWII, it was rebuilt with a totally unique architecture. You can check out the unconventional cubed houses and the city's art scene, both on the street and in the museums. This is sure to be different from anything else you will visit on your travels in the Netherlands!
Outside the city
If big cities aren't your forte, make sure to check out the incredible natural sites scattered throughout the Netherlands, ensuring a more tranquil sightseeing experience.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Become acquainted with nature in the largest continuous nature reserve the country has to offer. The landscape is so diverse that you can choose to either hike or cycle, all while looking out for the abundant wildlife the park holds.
The Windmills of Kinderdijk
Located in the wetlands of Dordrecht—the oldest city in Holland—these windmills were built in 1740 to help control flooding. Now declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the long-standing windmills are one of the most photographed places in the whole country.
The Garden of Europe
Nicked name "The Garden of Europe," Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden. The garden holds more than 7 million flowers all diverse in color, lining streams and waterfalls. A peaceful meander of this vibrant landscape sounds heavenly for a little bit of relaxation.
Safety while abroad
Luckily, the Netherlands is one of the safest countries in Europe. You can never be too careful, though, and adequately preparing before visiting a new country makes travel plans a lot smoother.
The worry of traveling to different countries can be the long-winded visa processes and documentation. The Netherlands, however, is a Schengen country, which means traveling there is made straightforward for most.
Due to the Netherlands forming part of this agreement, the country is completely visa-free. This means American, Australian, and Canadian citizens can visit without obtaining a visa, as long as their stay does not exceed 90 days. EU citizens also have the freedom of travel without the hassle of any visa processes.
What you'll need:
- Valid Passport
- Documentation with purpose of stay and proof of sufficient financial means
Any citizens traveling from one of the other 25 Schengen countries are granted free movement, with no internal borders in the whole of this area!
These are our top tips, but don't forget to consult your home country's government websites for updates on travel and more information:
- U.S.: https://travel.state.gov/
- Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/
- Europe: https://ec.europa.eu/consularprotection/traveladvice/
- Australia: https://dfat.gov.au/travel/Pages/travel.aspx
Health and Safety
- The European emergency number is 112 and will connect anyone to the police, fire department, or to an ambulance.
- There is safe and drinkable tap water throughout the country.
- No vaccines are required in order to travel to the Netherlands.