Xeni

Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands

Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands

PSA: The Netherlands doesn’t get enough attention. It’s in that odd middling place in Europe, where it’s not north, south, east, or west. It’s a directionless land filled with clogs, tulips, windmills, amazing chocolate sprinkles, and very mean ducks. When I was in the Netherlands, I tripped, and a bunch of ducks laughed at me. It was traumatizing. Everyone thinks I made this story up, but I swear it’s true. Steer clear of ducks, however, and you’ll have a great time here! Anywhere you go in the Netherlands, you’re bound to have fun, but here are some of my personal favorites

1.)   Natura Artis Magistra- In Latin, this translates to “Nature is the Teacher of art and science”. But we’ll call it the Artis Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in Europe (founded in 1838), this also has an aquarium and planetarium. You can spend a week here! It also has a library, which houses archived records of zoologists and biologists. It’s home to some 900 (you read that right) animal species, and 250 kinds of trees, if you’re one of those people who go to zoos to look at trees. It’s great for kids, sure- but adults will love it too.
2.)  Efteling- Why go to Disneyland when you can come to Efteling? Open since 1952, this fantasy themed amusement park is three times the size of Disneyland, and with a lot more variety! There’s four realms (travel, fairy, adventure, and other) in the theme park, and outside of the park, there’s an 18-hole golf course, luxury hotel, and a holiday park. Built in a rural pine forest, this has a outdoorsy, relaxed feel uncommon among theme parks.
3.)  Verzetsmuseum- This translates to the Dutch Resistance Museum. Dedicated to the Dutch resistance against the Nazis in the 40s, this moving museum is great for modern day inspiration. Walls filled with photos, video clips, letters, and more will teach you all about Dutch life under Nazi occupation. For kids, there’s a large exhibit, with real stories and items from children of that time. While most people will go to visit the Anne Frank house (that’s definitely worth a visit!), this is a great place to spend an afternoon learning about Dutch history.
4.)  Micropia- When you travel, you want to see something different. And Micropia definitely falls into that category. The only museum of it’s kind in the world, this intriguing museum is devoted entirely to microbes- both the harmful and friendly kind. With interactive programs that allow you to “meet your microbes” (you can see the 100 trillion microbes that cling to you wherever you go!), and it’s being right next door to the Artis zoo, Microbia is a must see in the Netherlands.
5.)  Royal Palace- Originally built as a city hall in the 17th century, Napoleon converted it to a palace 200 years later. And if Napoleon wanted to live there, you know it’s cool. Still used by the royal family, you can wander around on your own or take a guided tour (while they’re not there, wait until they go off to fly planes or something).
6.)  Gouda- Whether you pronounce it the right way (Goo-dah) or the ignoramus way (Gow-dah), I think we can all agree that Gouda cheese is delicious. With the exception of you fine lactose- intolerant people. And this town is where it first came from! But gouda cheese isn’t the only delicious food to call Gouda home- it’s also where stroopwafels were first made. Speaking of which, don’t you even think about leaving the Netherlands without trying stroopwafels (and poffertjes)! It’s gothic-style city hall and beautiful churches make the town of Gouda a popular destination, and a must-see. Okay, so you’ll probably just go for the cheese. I don’t blame you.
7.)  Rijksmuseum- You can’t go to the Netherlands and not visit an art museum. It simply isn’t done. Home of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Bosch, you can see the creations of these artists and so many more at the largest and most visited museum in the country. It’s been open since 1798- it’s almost as old as America! The building itself is impressive- you could almost mistake it for the royal palace.
8.)  De Biesbosch- The Netherlands is famous for it’s dikes, and for it’s reclaimed wetlands. De Biesbosch National Park is one of the last freshwater tidal wetlands in the country, consisting of willows, rivers, and reeds. It’s a popular place for waterfowl, and an important spot for migrating geese. If the geese make it a priority on their itinerary, why shouldn’t you?
9.)  Keukenhof- One of the world’s largest flower gardens, I wouldn’t recommend this place, also called the Garden of Europe, to anyone allergic to pollen. With more than 7 million daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips, the Keukenhof is an explosion of flowers. If flowers aren’t really your thing, never fear- it also has a petting farm and maze, and a playground for kids.
10.)  Van Gogh Museum- Perhaps the most famous Dutch painter, this modern building houses some of the greatest art in the world. It’s not all Van Gogh, it also has creations by his contemporaries- Rodin, Dalou, Gaugain, Monet- it’s the most visited museum after the Rijksmuseum. It has a main building for permanent exhibits, and a smaller building for temporary exhibitions, accessible via an underground tunnel from the main building. It’s an art lover’s dream- and a bored 8 year old’s nightmare.
11.)  Utrecht- Until the Dutch Golden Age, when it was outshone by Amsterdam, Utrecht was the Dutch center of culture, commerce,a and politics. These days, it’s most famous for the Dom Tower of Utrecht- the largest bell tower in the Netherlands. The tower stands at the spot where the city of Utrecht was founded almost 2000 years ago.
12.)  The Hague- Home to the U.N.’s international court of justice, the Hague has been a center of Dutch and international politics for hundreds of years. It’s like the Dutch New York- it really needs it’s own list! There’s something for everyone- the fashionista, the gourmand, the history buff, the art connoisseur- plan to spend at least a few days at this bustling nucleus of Dutch culture.