Nestled between Belgium and Germany, the Netherlands is a beautiful country characterised by its endlessly flat landscape and impossibly colourful tulip fields. Filled with historical, foodie, and cultural experiences, here’s your perfect guide and itinerary to spending one week in the Netherlands.
Things to know before visiting the Netherlands
Easy to reach by plane, train, or car, once in the Netherlands, it couldn’t be easier to get around. Though accommodation tends to err on the pricier side of things, travelling by train is surprisingly affordable. For example, the train from The Hague to Leiden costs just a few euro, and the train between Rotterdam and Gouda costs well under ten euro.
Of all the Netherlands travel tips I could give you, you should know that the Netherlands and Holland are not interchangeable, and they aren’t even the same thing! Whereas the Netherlands is the entire country, Holland is simply one small region of the Netherlands.
When travelling around the country, you’ll soon learn that many people have an incredible level of English. Though I still advise you to learn a few simple words of Dutch (it’s only polite!) in almost every situation we were in, we soon found someone who was able to answer our questions and queries!
Stay: 2 nights
Where to stay: The Hoxton, Amsterdam
As the capital of the Netherlands, there’s no shortage of things to do and even more attractions to see when it comes to Amsterdam. So whether you want to enjoy a secret small museum, cycle around the city, or simply want to wander along some historic canals, Amsterdam well and truly has it all!
Some of the best things to do in the Dutch capital include meandering through the city’s many cobbled lanes (known collectively as ‘hofjes‘ these historic streets were once built to house those less fortunate and are now pockets of peace in the heart of Amsterdam) and snap photo of picture-perfect canalside houses.
Read more: The ultimate Amsterdam bucket list
Stay: 1 night
Where to stay: Van der Valk Hote Leiden
Beautiful and often overlooked in favour of nearby popular cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam, your first mistake on this one week Netherlands itinerary would be to forgo a visit to Leiden. After all, the city is home to a plethora of interesting things to see and do, including several small museums, its own castle, and the very bar where the Heineken Star came from!
Of all the places listed within this Netherlands itinerary, Leiden may well be the quaintest of them all. Though technically a city, the Dutch settlement is formed of a tightly compacted maze of walkways, cobbled lanes, canals, and is easily explored on foot over the course of a day or two, giving Leiden more of a friendly town aura than that of an unknowable metropolis.
Nearby, Kasteel Duivenvoorde can be reached by bicycle, car, or public transport, and is easily one of the most beautiful castles in this part of Holland. And for those wishing to stick within the city limits, the hofje where Van Steen once lived, the boat bars of the canals, and the Miniaturist filming locations are all worth checking out.
Stay: 1 night
Where to stay: Hotel des Indes
For those with an interest in politics, The Hague likely needs no introduction. After all, this is where many embassies in the Netherlands are located, not to mention that the sprawling UN Palace of Peace on the fringes of the historic town centre.
But scratch below the surface, and you’ll soon discover a myriad of history, culture, and a foodie scene well worth discovering. Highlights of The Hague include the Mauritshuis (home to Vermeer’s The Girl With the Pearl Earring) and Madurodam, one of the oldest theme parks in Holland. Did you also know that the Hague is not just home to the city, but also to the sea?
Scheveningen was once a fishing village in its own right which thrived on the profits of local herring but has since been absorbed into the fabric of The Hague. Now, the district is one of the best places to head to in the hotter months of the year, when watersports activities can be found and cafés selling cucumber cool drinks and piping hot fries set up shop alongside the golden sandy beach.
Stay: 1 night
Where to stay: Hampshire Hotel
If you’ve ever read anything about European pottery, then no doubt you’ll have noticed ‘Delftware’. Also known as ‘Delft Blue’ this iconic pottery is Dutch tin-glazed earthenware and originates in Delft. Today, there are several ways to experience Delftware pottery, including visiting the Delft Pottery De Delftse Pauw factory, where there are free demonstrations throughout the week (as well as the chance to purchase a souvenir from your Dutch trip!)
Even if the earthenware doesn’t interest you, you’re sure to find plenty of other Delft attractions that are much more up your alley. For example, the Nieuwe Church (New Church) is home to William of Orange’s Tomb, while its tower offers stunning views onto Delft’s main town square. for the art lovers, the Vermeer Centre is an absolute must.
Read more: Bierhuis de Klomp, the oldest bar in Delft
Stay: 1 night
Where to stay: Inntel Hotels Rotterdam
Architecture lovers simply must visit Rotterdam, one of the most unusual cities in Europe, never mind the Netherlands. However, be warned: Rotterdam is a city like no other and if you come with preconceptions then you will surely be sorely disappointed. Instead, visit with an open mind and the city is sure to entice and enthral you in equal measure.
After all, this innovative Dutch settlement is filled with some of the most groundbreaking buildings of modern times, including the ever-so-famous (and very Instagrammable) Rotterdam Cube House. Other highlights of Rotterdam include the world-famous Markthal and plenty of quirky museums. While in the city, be sure not to miss out on Rotterdam’s maritime history, highlights of which can be found in the Maritime Museum and in the Oude Haven (Old Harbour).
Read more: Secret Spots & Hidden Gems of Rotterdam
Stay: 1 night
Where to stay: Best Western Plus City Hotel
While many tourists prefer to venture to the larger city of Utrecht, Gouda is easily one of the prettiest towns to be found anywhere in Europe. Home to delights such as the 15th-century Stadhuis (town hall), a still-functioning Dutch windmill (next door you can buy flour that’s been freshly ground in the adjacent mill), and a Catholic church hiding behind a canalside façade, there’s no shortage of quirky things to do in the city that’s best known for its namesake cheese.
Other highlights of Gouda include many stunning canals (without the kind of crowds you’ll likely see in Amsterdam or Amersfoort) and the Gothic Sint-Janskerk Cathedral. Visit during the winter, and you can expect to find Gouda transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with ice skating rink, giant tree, and Christmas market!
To end your one week in the Netherlands, celebrate in style by heading to the vintage bar of Biercafé De Goudse Eend. Housed somewhere between Blekerssingel canal and the historic Waag House (cheese weighing house), this traditional Dutch bar serves all kinds of beers, ciders, and ales, many locally produced. During our visit, we were more than pleasantly surprised to spend our time hanging out with the bar’s latest recruit, a beagle puppy!