Last Updated on 16th June 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
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!
Located in the province of Utrecht, Amersfoort is an ancient city with evidence of human inhabitation of the area dating back to at least 1000 BCE. Search for images of the city online and you’ll soon be rewarded with snaps of the iconic Koppelpoort, a medieval bridge constructed at the beginning of the 15th-century. Other things to do in Amersfoort include the Mondriaan House (yes, the artist Mondrian!) and the church tower of Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren.
For those who are searching for a small and less touristic city to visit during their time in the Netherlands, Arnhem is found in the East of the country in the Province of Gelderland. Surrounded by natural parks such as Hoge Veluwe National Park and Veluwezoom National Park, as you can imagine some of the best things to do nearby include hiking trails and getting lost in nature.
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.
Situated in the Province of North Holland and well-known for its cheese production, visit the Netherlands at the right time of the year and you can even expect to enjoy the world-famous Alkmaar cheese market. The event is easy to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam and typically takes place on a weekly basis from the end of March to the end of September each year.
The Dutch city of Tilburg can be found in North Brabant, which despite what you might believe from its name, is actually found in the South of the Netherlands. Easily one of the largest cities in the Netherlands, Tilburg is home to a population of around 220,000 residents. Some of the best things to do once there include the Museum of Contemporary Art and a textile museum about the history of manufacturing in the region.
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!
Located under half an hour from Amsterdam, Haarlem is a pretty city characterised by its brick façades and wealth of canals. Easily one of the best day trips you can take from the Dutch capital city, Haarlem can be explored over the course of a day, or longer if you have a little more time. Top attractions in the Dutch city include the Teylers Museum of Cultural History and soaking up the atmosphere of the Grote Markt.
One of the lesser-known cities and off the beaten path cities in the Netherlands is the charming settlement of Zutphen. Located in the province of Gelderland, the town is characterised by its leafy surrounds and wealth of stunning Dutch architecture.
Particular highlights of Zutphen include many historic towers (there are so many that the city is often referred to as the ‘tower city’) and the The Walburgis, a building which was first established as a Roman collegiate church during the 11th-century.
#9 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.
Easy to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam, one of the prettiest cities in the Netherlands is that of Utrecht, a town with attractions such as a medieval heart, countless historic churches, and the endless canals that are so synonymous with Holland. Other things to do in the city include the Gothic St Martin’s Cathedral and the Centraal Museum, which is dedicated to local history and art.
With easy transport links to the rest of the country, Eindhoven can easily be explored as a day trip from somewhere else, though is well worth visiting over the course of a weekend if you have some extra time to spare. Once in Eindhoven, highlights include several museums (must-sees include the Van Abbe Museum and the DAF Museum) and plenty of modern architecture.
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!
The capital city of the province of Zeeland, Middelburg has a distinctively different feel from many other cities in the Netherlands thanks to its position quite literally surrounded by the sea. As a result, you can expect to find plenty of sea-inspired items on restaurant menus, as well as several museums. Of particular note is the Zeeuws Museum, which features the area’s history set against the backdrop of a former abbey.
If you’re looking to go a little off the beaten tourist track during your time in the Netherlands, then hands down you need to make your way to Groningen. Once in Groningen, some of the best things to do include a fantastic modern art museum and enjoying some of the historical architecture dotted across the city.
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.
Pretty and the second largest city in the province of Overijssel (of which it also happens to be the capital) after Enschede, Zwolle has a population of around 125,000 residents. Some of the best things to do in Zwolle include an art museum set against the backdrop of a 19th-century palace (Museum de Fundatie) and the Sassenpoort, a 15th-century medieval tower with regular exhibits.
This small city of around 100,000 residents can be found in North Holland somewhere between Apeldoorn and Enschede. Top attractions of Deventer include the Fooddock (an old industrial harbour turned food hall) and the Museum de Waag, which is home to one of the oldest weighing houses in the Netherlands.
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.
Easy to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam thanks to its status as being part of the suburban part of the metropolitan area of the Dutch capital, Amstelveen is home to plenty of green spaces and many a museum. The town also has easy access to Amsterdam Bos (Amsterdam Forest), where it’s possible to enjoy a plethora of outdoor-inspired activities.
#20 Den Bosch
One of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands is that of Den Bosch (full name ‘s-Hertogenbosch), which is the capital of the North Brabant region of the Netherlands. Characterised by its brick buildings and many waterways, the city has a population of around 150,000 residents.
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).
Though less known that the world-famous Rotterdam, Helmond too has its own set of fantastical cube houses, which were designed by Piet Blom during the mid-twentieth century. This Dutch city is to be found in the province of North Brabant and is historically best-known for its textile production.
Known locally as Liwwadden in Stadfries and Ljouwert in West Frisian, the town of Leeuwarden has a population of around 120,000 residents. The provincial capital of Friesland, this city is to be found in the North of the Netherlands. Some of the best things to do there include the Oldehove unfinished and leaning church, as well as the Frisian Museum, which features displays on local history.
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!
For those in search of a pretty city with plenty of history, Roermond is the place to go. Located in the South East of the country, the settlement gained town rights in 1231 and was instrumental to the economics of the Duchy of Guelders. Today, the last Grand Duchy in the world is that of Luxembourg, a landlocked country in Europe.
Elburg gained its fishing rights in 1313, making it one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands to have been granted this status. Located in the province of Gelderland, top attractions in this Dutch settlement include the rather unusually appointed Organ Museum, as well as of course, a Grote Kerk (great church).
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!
With a population of just over seventy thousand residents, Hoorn is not the largest of the Dutch cities, and nor is it the smallest. Located in North Holland, some of the best things to do in this off the beaten path city include the Museum of the 20th-century and the Halve Maen Museum.
Pretty and by Markermeer Lake, Volendam is a unique Dutch settlement with timber-framed houses which are brightly painted. Historically Volendam made its money as a fishing port and still today it’s possible to learn all about the history of the town at the Volendam Museum. Feeling a little peckish? Sample some of the local cheese at the Volendam cheese factory.
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!
Best-known as being home to the Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse is a pretty town in the South Holland Province. Though you’ll likely only visit the settlement if you’re headed to the ‘Garden of Europe’ or wish to see the tulip fields that surround Lisse, other highlights of the town include a tulip museum and Castle Keukenhof, which is open throughout the year.
#32 Bergen op Zoom
Dating back to the 13th-century and a little off the beaten tourist track, Bergen op Zoom is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands. And not just because of its many cobbled lanes and picturesque brick façades. Instead, Bergem op Zoom is home to sights such as the medieval Gevangenpoort and Het Markiezenhof, a 15th-century palace turned museum.
If you recognise the name ‘Edam’ thanks to the world-famous cheese, then you’re not wrong! After all, this Dutch town gives its name to the iconic dairy product, and visitors will be delighted to discover that this is not all the fishing town has to offer. Located in the province of North Holland, some of the best things to do in Edam include the 14th-century bell tower (all that’s left of a historic church), visiting the Edam Museum (which is housed against the backdrop of a 15th-century house), and the 15th-century cathedral (Grote Kerk).