Did you know that the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe? Just over 17 million people live in an area of approximately 45,000 square kilometres, yet it still manages not to feel crowded and busy. Some of that may be due in part to the happy, relaxed inhabitants who still ride bicycles as a major mode of transport, so much so that there are over 18 million bikes in the country. That is more than 1 bicycle per person!
Amsterdam is a beautiful city packed with history, culture, world famous art as well as colourful flower markets, world class sport and the infamous red light district. However if you are wanting to move away from the nation’s capital there are many more cities that have just as much to offer and are all unique in their own way. Due to the compact size of the country most of them aren’t too far if you are keen to day trip, although if you want to sit back and enjoy the scenery then you should take advantage of the fantastic train system.
The largest sea port in Europe and one of the country’s largest cities, Rotterdam was mostly destroyed during World War II so is a showcase of modern architecture. The cube houses are a must visit if you are keen to see examples of the architecture, as is the skyline of Rotterdam including the Hotel New York. If you’re a bit hungry though, visit the Cool District to see some of the coolest cafes, bars and boutiques.
Den Haag (The Hague)
The third largest city in the Netherlands and home to the International Court of Justice, The Hague is approximately an hour from Amsterdam and the Dutch government is based here. Art enthusiasts will be delighted with the numerous museums that house works by famous Dutch artists like MC Escher, Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt. The museums themselves are also exquisite examples of architecture too.
This vibrant university town is famous for it’s Delft blue pottery and the Delft University of Technology, it is also a short 45 minute train trip from Amsterdam. The city centre is compact and is a great place to just stroll around the canals, taking in the history and architecture of the town that is said to have inspired Vermeer.
The town of Baarle-Nassau is intertwined with the Belgian municipality of Baarle-Hertog and the complicated borders are the result of medieval treaties, agreements, swaps and land sales. You can see which country you are standing in as it is clearly marked on the ground so you can be half in Belgium and half in the Netherlands!
The island of Schiermonnikoog is the site of Netherland’s first national park and is one of the West Frisian Islands. It is a fantastic place to relax and take in the natural beauty of the country, while strolling along the widest beach in Europe. Schiermonnikoog boasts a variety of hiking trails and you might even stumble across a family or two of sunbathing seals!
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