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A Travel Story by the Fair Tourism Team
The Netherlands. A country where people from the city believe that people are not walking on wooden shoes anymore, but where the farmers still go to tent parties on their beloved clogs. A country famous for its cheese, windmills, and, of course, Amsterdam. But also a country that is home to 17 million people who all have their favourite places in the country. The Fair Tourism team has bundled their expertise on the Netherlands and together we have come up with a list of favourites. We have personally visited the destinations in this article and we think they should be on your list too!
Kinderdijk – Kim
When I grew up, I always woke up with a windmill view. This majestic construction stood only 15 meters away from my window. I guess that is why windmills have always felt like home to me. In my municipality, there are countless windmills. 52 to be precise. You have probably heard about the most famous ones: the windmills of Kinderdijk. I know this might not be a hidden gem, the windmills even have a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but that does not make the place less special. It is magical to see the mills lined up with your own eyes. The windmills are surrounded by water and footpaths which means that you can visit them by foot or by boat. Or, if you are really lucky, on skates. Ice skating on the side of these windmills: it won’t get more (traditional) Dutch.
Westerschelde – Melanie
Because my parents work in the inland waterway shipping industry, I have encountered a lot of beautiful destinations within the Netherlands. Although there are many nice water bodies to navigate through by ship, one of my favorites is still the Westerschelde in Zeeland. It is very close to my hometown Terneuzen, and from there you can also get incredible views over the estuary. When traveling through the water during the daytime, you can often see seals laying around on the sand. If you are very lucky, you can even encounter dolphins! The most beautiful time of the day, in my opinion, is during sunset. In the picture below, I was actually on board of the ship with my parents when a photographer took a shot from the shore. For tourists wanting to experience the Westerschelde from the water as well, there are possibilities for booking boat tours.
Nieuwkoopse Plassen – Tjalda
The ‘Groene Hart’ is a green area in the middle of the Randstad, with authentic farms and beautiful nature reserves. Here I live in Nieuwkoop, a village best known for the Nieuwkoopse Plassen. On a warm summer day, you can go canoeing and swimming here and in winter, with a little luck, you can go ice-skating here! For all other days of the year, this is a wonderful place to cycle, skate or go for a walk; all things I love to do! There is even a path straight through the puddles, where you are in the middle of the water. Highly recommended is to enjoy the sunset here on a clear day, when the sky takes on a different orange color every few minutes.
Utrecht – Elise
Without hesitation, I can say that Utrecht has been one of my favourite destinations in 2020! It is the perfect place for spending a nice afternoon with friends or family. I went to Utrecht for the first time with a friend and we both instantaneously fell in love with this city! The atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming, whereas the canals and small streets make it look cozy and relaxing. I would recommend going to Utrecht during summer so that you can fully enjoy the canals and have lunch or a drink at one of the many terraces. Moreover, the city is easily accessible and simple to travel to. You can either go by train and arrive directly in the city center, or you can drive there and park in a, relatively cheap, Park & Ride space and then easily take the bus or subway to reach the city center. Once you are in the city center, you can do everything on foot: go shopping in the mall, have a walk in the city or buy some delicious food.
Because of the canals, I can say that Utrecht looks like Amsterdam. However, personally, I prefer Utrecht given that it is less crowded and more authentic than the capital, which makes it more pleasant to visit.
Vrouwenpolder – Celina
Before I came to study and live in the Netherlands, my family and I used to come every year to the province of Zeeland to spend Pentecost, or ‘Pfingsten’/ ‘Pinksteren’, with a group of friends in the small village of Vrouwenpolder – a short holiday I don’t want to miss! Situated in the Northernmost corner of the region of Walcheren in the province of Zeeland, Vrouwenpolder may seem inconspicuous but actually has a lot to offer: beautiful sunsets – or sunrises for the early birds – over the North Sea, an amazingly wide sand beach with dunes to play fun games or take long relaxing walks (Zeeland has a coastline of over 650 km!), and many possibilities to try out all kinds of watersports! While I personally rather enjoy watching the fascinating tricks of the countless kite surfers from a distance, I indeed tried out other activities before, like water-skiing or sailing, which can be easily done on the Veerse Meer, a huge lake literally just around the corner of Vrouwenpolder. Here you can find all kinds of watersports activities, and with the sun shining above, this is one of my favorite places to be! Of course, grabbing some fries and a refreshing ice tea at the Strand Paviljoen rounds up a whole day at the beach just perfectly – or you can try out other facets of the Dutch cuisine during a nice dinner in one of the numerous beach restaurants! Another one of my favorite activities I would not want to miss out on is the weekly market every Monday during the summer months in the town Domburg, which is situated not more than 20 minutes by car from Vrouwenpolder. Here you can buy anything, including farmers’ produce, Dutch sweets like poffertjes, stroopwafels, and the best, freshly roasted nuts I ever tried! Up to this day, whenever I return to Vrouwenpolder, and especially the beach, it feels like coming home!
Bloemendaal – Jeremiah
One of my favourite places to visit in the Netherlands is without a doubt the beach Bloemendaal (or Bloomingdale). I am someone that enjoys beaches and nature and this one is really nice with great scenery. And the best part is you can go visit the beach for many reasons! Personally, I like to go there for fun in summer to swim and have drinks with friends (there are many cool beach clubs), for peace and to recharge myself during a beach walk, to have a good run, or to just enjoy the sunset. If you walk a bit further at Parnassia, a well-known beach pavilion, you can also find the dunes of the National Park Zuid-Kennemerland. This is a must to visit if you are into nature. And if you go the other way, you can walk to the beach of Zandvoort. You can spend the whole day at the beach, every time of the year, but I like it most in spring when nature is blooming. Blooming in Bloomingdale.
Vlissingen – Nikoleta
If I had to choose a favourite place in the Netherlands, I would confidently say that this is Vlissingen. This is the case for several reasons, but most of all as this is the first city where I initially settled, when moving to the Netherlands back in 2017, and therefore the place where my first encounter with the Dutch culture took place. This coastal town is truly beautiful and experiencing its bright pink sunsets with cotton candy-like clouds while listening to the sound of the waves, is a truly magical experience that makes you feel alive and forget about the worries of tomorrow. Besides being far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, living in Vlissingen has the perks of being 1-2 hours away from beautiful Belgian destinations such as Brussels, Brugge, and Ghent, as well as majestic nature reserve parks in Zeeland (the province where Vlissingen is located) such as Oranjezon and Oosterschelde.
Kootwijkerzand – Fija
The biggest sand-dunes area in Western Europe! Kootwijkerzand is sand, dunes, and rugged nature. What I love most is taking my dog and running through the wide and vast land. It hardly looks like anywhere else in the Netherlands. Such a unique place where you could even meet wild animals. The wind can be cruel at times but it is the perfect place in summer to cool down. The lookout tower of 13.5m called ‘The Hourglass’ is great for taking pictures. I recommend coming to watch the sunrise here as you see the sun coming up on the horizon.
The Hague – Lilli
What I love about Den Haag or The Hague is its diversity. From the diversity of the scenery to that of the people living in the third biggest city of the Netherlands. And although it offers all the advantages of a big city, everything here can be discovered by foot or bike (typically Dutch). For me, however, the highlight is and remains the beach of Scheveningen with its unique pier. The beach and its dune parks offer very lively, but also quiet places where you can simply disconnect from the big city. Since I grew up by the sea, but also appreciate all the opportunities a big city has to offer, The Hague is the perfect place for me. Even though I was only able to get to know the city during the pandemic, I could already enjoy many lovely places here. This makes me look even more forward to a lively den Haag after the crisis.
Breda – Meel
I moved to Breda to study in 2017, without ever visiting the city beforehand, so all I knew about Breda was based on Google search images. Little did I know that I moved to one of the coziest cities in the Netherlands. The first word I got taught by local Dutchies was gezellig, which describes the atmosphere this city offers: cozy, warm, and social even if there is no literal translation for gezellig. Before the pandemic. Breda was buzzing with full terraces all year round as people want to socialize after a day of work or school. Besides that, the city is referred to as the Pearl of the South, which you will understand when you visit. The overall atmosphere here makes people want to come back, but the city also offers a lot of history and beautiful architecture. The church is the most astonishing building, and it shines from the distance as it is the tallest building in the city.
Oisterwijk – Myrthe
This place called Oisterwijk might not sound familiar to you, but it is one of the cutest towns in the Netherlands, so definitely worth checking out! Oisterwijk is known for having one of the biggest terraces of the Netherlands (half of the city center seems to be filled with people laughing and drinking the second the sun comes out), its beautiful forests and lakes, and the dunes that are at cycling distance. If you just Googled where Oisterwijk is situated, you might wonder how there could be any dunes, as there is no sea in sight. However, the dunes are a remnant of where the sea used to be a very long time ago. It truly is an amazing experience! Thus, whether you are just visiting the Netherlands, or you live here, don’t forget to pay a visit to picturesque Oisterwijk.
Zutphen – Guusje
Zutphen is a Hanseatic city, located in the province of Gelderland, in the east of The Netherlands. It lays along the river the Ijssel as one of Holland’s oldest towns which can still be seen with its many beautiful historic and cultural highlights. I moved to Zutphen in 2016, and as a Dutchy, I had not yet visited such a pretty little city before in The Netherlands. In Zutphen, you can walk through the small historic streets, visit the market on Thursdays and Saturdays and drink amazing coffee at my favourite coffee places such as the 200-year-old cafe De Pelikaan or the amazing coffee specialty cafe Van Rossum’s Koffie. Zutphen is a calm, but lively city with a rich history that shows itself throughout the center. Its uniqueness can be seen all over and is without a doubt worth a visit.
Amsterdamse Bos – Nikkie
Last week I visited the Japanese cherry blossom (Sakura in Japanese) park in the Amsterdamse Bos. When you visit the park it feels like you are escaping daily life. I felt amazed by all the beautiful flowers, it was like a sky full of flowers when walking underneath the trees which were making me very peaceful. In total there are 400 cherry blossom trees, 200 trees have Japanese female names and the other 200 trees have Dutch female names. The Prunus Yedoensis trees were donated by the Japan Women’s Club (JWC) in 2000 to Amstelveen. Hanami Matsuri is the Japanese name for the cherry blossom festival, where the start of spring is celebrated by the Japanese. It is a tradition to picnic underneath the trees with family and friends. The cherry blossom tree stands for a new beginning and also for the transience of life. In the middle of the park, you can find the tsunami monument, it is placed at this location because the park is a beloved area with all the cherry blossoms for the Japanese community. If you still want to visit the park, you need to hurry because the trees only bloom for approximately three weeks (until Mid-April). If you are a bit too late to visit the park, you can also visit it in May, then the beautiful purple rhododendrons are blooming, they are surrounding the cherry blossom park. Extra measures are taken to keep a visit to the park safe. There can be a long queue (it took us appr. 15 minutes), you need to keep the 1,5 meters distance and you have 30 minutes to take pictures and enjoy the view.
Meijendel – Charlotte
One of my favorite spots in The Netherlands is Meijendel, part of Nationaal Park Hollandse Duinen. It covers the coastal area from Hillegom in the North until Hoek van Holland in the South and The Hague (where our office is) is also part of it. In the most densely populated part of The Netherlands, this is one of the utmost valuable nature reserves. It is also a water-collection area for our drinking water. Furthermore, there is a very interesting interactive visitor center, called The Tapuit where the young and old can learn about the flora and fauna in Meijendel. Also, you can get more information about walking, cycling, and scavenger hunt routes. Next to it, there is a pancake farm. I love Meijendel so much because it’s full of beautiful nature: trees, bushes, flowers, lakes, and sand. I go there very frequently to walk, jog, and get lost. But quickly I will recognize where I am and find my way back. If you are lucky, you may encounter deer and hare! It’s also home to numerous bird species. You can also join a walk with the shepherds and their sheep. There are also numerous viewpoints, since the dunes are very hilly, where you can see the abundant nature as well as the sea. One of my favorite things to do is swim in the sea and I do so every week year-round.
Den Bosch – Rocio
Maybe you already guessed it, but apart from being the capital of Noord-Brabant, Den Bosch was the birthplace of Hieronymus Bosch, painter of The Garden of Earthly Delights, one of my favourite paintings. Wandering around the streets of the town, you can feel inside the world of The Garden (just to make it clear: the Paradise part, not the Hell bit), as some of the walls are decorated with characters from his art. But enough history, besides being a mysterious and legendary place, Den Bosch is also famous for The Bossche Bol, a chocolate-covered pastry with whipped cream inside. And if those weren’t enough reasons to love this surreal fantasy town, every year the entire city celebrates Carnaval. This means that you dress up and party for about five days straight. In Den Bosch, you are not allowed to enter any bar without wearing their colours red, white and yellow, and even the name of the city changes to Oeteldonk.