Between endless canals, centuries-old canal houses, and bright tulip fields, you certainly don’t need to look hard to discover that there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands! Here are some of the very best towns and cities in the Netherlands you must visit on your next Dutch adventure!
Of course, one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands is its capital city, Amsterdam. Canalside houses, hidden gems, quaint museums, and plenty of churches: Amsterdam is a fairly compact city that’s easy to explore over the course of a few days.
While in the city, be sure not to miss out on the Rijksmuseum (home to several works of art by Rembrandt) and the Jordaan district, a trendy area that’s characterised by its narrow canals and quirky eateries. Thanks to its many transport links across the rest of the Netherlands, easy day trips can be taken to plenty of other Dutch destinations; such as the tulip fields of Keukenhof or the mills of Kinderdijk.
If you’re looking for Holland off-the-beaten-path, then Leiden offers a plethora of hidden gems. Full of cosy cafés, bagel bars, and plenty of secret spots, indeed no visit to the Netherlands would be complete without a trip to the university city of Leiden.
After all, the oldest bar in the city is where the Heineken Star originated, while the classical feel of the city meant that Leiden was chosen for filming the Miniaturist (which is actually set in Amsterdam!). Nearby, Kasteel Duivenvoorde dates back centuries, is one of the most beautiful castles in Holland and is even surrounded by a moat!
#3 The Hague
Underrated and often missed in favour of more popular Dutch attractions, The Hague is home to the city and the beach. And in a country like the Netherlands, this is the kind of fact that shouldn’t be easily overlooked! Of all the cities near Amsterdam, the Hague is one of the easiest to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam, or as a weekend escape in its own right. The city even has a great vegan scene.
After all, the endless stretch of sand at Scheveningen is breathtakingly beautiful and the boardwalk there is filled with eateries in the summer months. Nearby, old-town Scheveningen was once a historic town in its own right though it’s been since absorbed into the fabric of The Hague. Nevertheless, the suburb retains its own vibe and it’s here where you can taste pickled herring, a local speciality.
Did someone say cheese? No doubt you’ve heard of Gouda before, thanks to its namesake cheese. But what you may well not know is that Gouda is so much more than its namesake cheese. From pretty canals to churches disguised as houses, this city has a plethora of activities worth discovering and is well worth exploring over the course of a long weekend.
Highlights of Gouda include the De Goudse Waag (a historic cheese weighing house), the city’s standalone town hall with its mechanical clock, and a windmill that still sells its own freshly ground flour in the shop next door. Head to Gouda on a Thursday from the beginning of April until the end of August and you can expect to find the traditional cheese market in full swing!
For those familiar with European pottery, no doubt ‘Delftware’ is a term you’ll have heard of before. The pretty city of Delft sits midway between the Hague and Rotterdam and can easily be visited as a day trip from either city (especially if you’re planning to cycle from The Hague).
To get an idea of how the city is laid out, be sure to head up the tower of Nieuwe Kerk, which offers a fantastic bird’s eye perspective of the town’s main square. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Delft, de De Delftse Pauw offers factory tours, as well as the chance to purchase some authentic Delftware.
Located in the South of the country, in the province of North Brabant, the pretty city of Breda can be found just under an hour away from the substantial port city of Antwerp. Inextricably linked with Dutch Royal History (the city is where the Princes of Orange spent much of their time), Breda is easily one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands.
Some of the best things to do in Southerly Dutch city, which counts several castles among its many attractions, including admiring the beautiful cathedral and visiting the historic beguinage. If you have a little more time to explore, then I highly recommend heading south of the city and paying a visit to the impossibly picturesque Kasteel Bouvigne.
Futuristic architecture, plenty of bridges, and a fantastic foodie scene: there is no city in the Netherlands, nor indeed in Europe, quite like Rotterdam. And that’s a great thing! Following WWII, the city was near flattened, leaving behind a blank space on which a multitude of fascinating architectural structures have since been constructed.
Highlights of Rotterdam include several impressive bridges (most notably the Erasmus Bridge), some pretty out-of-this-world-architecture (make sure to check out the Cube House Rotterdam), and a culinary scene to rival any capital city in Europe (the Markthal is a feat of architecture and has dozens of eateries).
If you’re looking for rolling hills and all the history, then Maastricht simply must be on your list for places to visit in the Netherlands. After all, it was here that the real-life d’Artagnan was killed and it’s also here where you’ll find one of the coolest bookstores in Europe, a shop housed within a former Dominican church.
Close to the border with both Germany and Belgium, highlights of Maastricht include exploring the historic city centre, visiting one of the city’s many museums, and even staying in a former church if you feel so inclined. If you have a little time while in the city, be sure to make the bicycle trip out to Chateau St. Gerlach for afternoon tea, a lavish country house where you can even book to stay!
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Rotterdam (or, alternatively, a short ferry ride), Dordrecht is allegedly the oldest city in the Netherlands. Once upon a time, Dordrecht (which is known as Dort in English) was not an island but actually a part of the mainland Netherlands.
However, a flood (known locally as Saint Elisabeth’s Flood) on the 18–19 November 1421 led to a giant mass of extra was that caused the city to become an island. Visit the city today, and highlights of Dordrecht include admiring the unfinished Minster, exploring the Dordrechts Museum, which features plenty of Dutch masters, and dining at Coffeelicious, where I ate some of the very best pancakes of my life!
The fairytale town of Giethoorn can be found in the North of the Netherlands and is like something straight out of a storybook. After all, where else in Europe do the residents not own cars but instead paddle their way around their home city?
The village centre is inaccessible by car and the houses are connected by a series of small interconnected bridges. Does this stunning place in the Netherlands sound dreamy enough for you yet? Check out my friend Christina’s guide to Giethoorn for more information on how to visit this pretty as a postcard town!