Table of Contents
Facts about The Netherlands
The Netherlands is internationally known for its tulips, clogs, coffee shops, and windmills. In the Netherlands abortion is legalized, soft drugs in coffee shops are allowed, and prostitution and human euthanasia are legitimate.Dutch people in general are comfortable to discuss any topic. They are open and direct and may appear blunt and rude to non-residents. However, the true reason is more likely to be found in a sense and feeling of equality and a no-nonsense culture.
This country in Western Europe borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the west. Three large European rivers cross the Netherlands: the Rhine (Rijn), the Meuse (Maas) and the Scheldt (Schelde) flow through the Netherlands and drain into the North Sea. The Netherlands (“lower countries”) is a ‘flat country’ without mountains and with hills in a few areas of the country. There are some Caribbean islands: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba that belong to the Netherlands as well.
The Netherlands has a population of 17.5 million people and an area of only about 42.000 km2, resulting in a density of 523 people per square kilometre. It is the 16th most densely populated country in the world and the second-most densely populated country in the European Union. Surprisingly, it is also the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products by value.
The official language is Dutch, and Frisian is considered a secondary language in Friesland, while English and Papiamento are the secondary official languages in the Caribbean.
The Netherlands knows a parliamentary democracy, in which the society and political climate are well respected. In 2017, The Economist ranked the Netherlands as the 11th most democratic country in the world. It is also a monarchy with limited powers for the King. The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces, each under a King’s Commissioner and the provinces are divided into municipalities.
Airport The main Dutch airport, Airport Schiphol is the third busiest airport in Europe.
The four largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
Amsterdam is the country’s capital city, the Venice of Holland with many charming canals and picturesque centuries-old canal houses. Amsterdam is well known internationally for its liberal attitude towards drugs and prostitution. You can find legal prostitution and coffee shops that sell marijuana in Amsterdam’s red-light district; de Wallen. It is nice to explore the city by boat or to wander around the busy city centre.
The Hague is the only big city with a beach straight on the North Sea coast. You can easily reach the beaches Scheveningen and Kijkduin by public transport. In the Hague the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court reside. The King’s palace is situated at the Noordeinde. The Hague has a huge and busy inner city, you can visit museums and marvel at great architecture.
Rotterdam is a very diverse and bustling city. The Port of Rotterdam is the third busiest seaport in the world, behind only China and Singapore. Above all, Rotterdam is the architecture and innovative city of Holland with a beautiful skyline. There are many things to see and do around the busy city center, shopping, visiting museums and so on.
Utrecht is a big city populated with thousands of students, but still has an intimate atmosphere with cobbled small street and picturesque canals in the inner city. It was built around the Dom Tower. It is nice to enjoy a beer at one of the many cozy cafes along the canals and watch the crowds.
The Netherlands flourishes under a mild maritime climate and knows four seasons: autumn, winter, spring and summer.
Climate change and the rising sea level are likely to have a great impact on the Netherlands. Only about 50% of its land exceeds 1 m above sea level, while approximately 26% of its land is below sea level. The Dutch constructed dikes and polders to reclaim the land below sea level. The Dutch are extremely inventive in water control, they are consulted worldwide for this knowledge.
A famous dike is the Afsluitdijk, which blocks the former Southern Sea from the North Sea, resulting in the formation of the IJsselmeer. Many square kilometres were reclaimed from the sea with the construction of the Afsluitdijk. The system of dikes to protect against floods is called the Delta works. The Delta works are extensive civil works throughout the Dutch coast. The main goal is to reduce the risk of flooding in South Holland and Zeeland by raising thousands kms of dikes, and by closing off the sea estuaries of Zeeland.
There are many national parks and nature reserves, yet they occupy a small part of the country compared to other European countries.
Dutch cultural heritage is very extensive with contribution of internationally famed artists as Lucas Gassel, Pieter Bruegel, Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Vincent van Gogh, and Piet Mondrian.
Literature flourished during the Dutch Golden Age, when Joost van den Vondel and P. C. Hooft were the most famous writers. Famed 20th century authors include Godfried Bomans, Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Hella S. Haasse, and Gerard Reve. Everybody knows Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, published after she was murdered in the Holocaust.
Famous Dutch philosophers were Erasmus, Rudolf Agricola, Spinoza and Descartes.
Famous Dutch scientists were James Hutton, Hendrik Lorentz, Enrico Fermi, and Christiaan Huygens. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover single-celled organisms with a microscope.
In the Netherlands there are many styles in architecture that were built and preserved. Some of the most prominent styles are:
The Romanesque architecture (from the years 950 – 1250); mostly to be found in the provinces of Gelderland and Limburg.
The Gothic architecture (about 1230); mostly concentrated in the province of North Brabant.
The Dutch Baroque architecture (1525 – 1630) and classicism (1630 – 1700); mostly to be found in North Holland, South Holland and Zeeland.
In the south of the Netherlands there are some festivals that originated from Catholicism that rarely occur in the rest of the Netherlands. Festivities like Carnival, the celebration of Three Kings, Brabantian Day and a huge flowerfestival (bloemencorso).
On King’s Day Dutch people dress up in orange to celebrate the King’s Birthday all throughout the country.
What to eat in the Netherlands?
In adherence with the no-nonsense culture, the Netherlands does not have a rich gastronomical culture. There are several Michelin star restaurants in the Netherlands, but the average Dutch person does not put a lot of time and effort in cooking. There are many dairy products. Breakfast and lunch are typically bread with toppings and dinner is usually a portion of potatoes, some meat, and vegetables. Food is generally seen a must instead of a social enrichment of life.
However due to the influx of immigrants and the influence of several other cultures, there is a slow shift in Dutch attitude towards food. It is getting more varied and laborious.
Some delicious Dutch treats you should really try when visiting the Netherlands are:
- Stroopwafels (syrup waffles), consisting of caramel-like syrup filled waffles.
- Bossche Bol, a pastry filled with fresh cream and wrapped in dark chocolate.
- Poffertjes, similar to small pancakes and served with sugar and butter.
- Bitterballen, delicious savoury treats, comparable with small croquettes.
Fun facts about the Netherlands
- The Netherlands is the first nation that legalised same-sex marriage.
- Dutch men are the tallest in the world.
- The Netherland is the world’s biggest exporter of flowers
- One-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, even the main international airport is 3 metres below sea level
- The Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest exporter of beer after Mexico.
- Dutch farmers were the first to produce orange carrots, before carrots had all sorts of colors; white, purple and yellow. They did this through purposedly breeding and to honour the king.
- Amsterdam is built entirely on wooden poles to prevent the city from sinking.
- Amsterdam has 1200 bridges.
- The Dutch have 22 million bicycles, there are more bikes than people in the country!
- Up to 15,000 bikes are fished out of Amsterdam’s canals every year.
- In the Netherlands, there are 37,000 kilometers of cycle paths.
- Dutch people eat an average of 14.3 kilos of cheese per person per year.
Why did we go to The Netherlands?
We did not. We live in The Netherlands. Anjali was born and raised in The Netherlands. When she was 10 years old, her parents decided to move to Surinam, South America where she lived with her 3 brothers, sister and parents. She returned to the Netherlands at age 18 to study pharmacy. After she finished her studies, she worked as a major pharmacist in the Dutch army until her children were born. Anjali is predominantly a mum, but also managed to become a professional photographer and responsible for the family’s Instagram account and blog.
Rakesh was born and raised in Surinam. When he was 16, he moved to the Netherlands with his parents and brother. He studied medicine and finished his PhD in the field of cholesterol and diabetes. He specialized to become an intensivist and currently still works at the ICU. Rakesh is also the person who compiles our travel video’s.
Best things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is internationally known as the city of prostitution, drugs, and alcohol. You can find legitimized prostitution in Amsterdam’s red-light district; de Wallen. There are coffee shops that sell marijuana to use in the coffee shops, not on the streets.
However, this is not only what Amsterdam is about. There is plenty to do and to see in Amsterdam for families as well.
Amsterdam is the country’s capital city, the Venice of Holland with many charming canals and picturesque centuries-old canal houses. There are plenty historical sites to visit, great architecture to marvel at, tourists always and everywhere, restaurants serving food from all around the world in the city that never sleeps and where everything is possible.
Even to us, living in the Netherlands, a visit to Amsterdam feels like being abroad.
You might want to consider purchasing a I amsterdam City Card.
This will give you access to all major highlights and many museums, city-wide public transport, a canal cruise and bicycle rent.
1. Absorb the city’s vibes and architecture
There are so many things to do and see, but I would suggest just to start bij wandering around this busy city. Discover the centuries old canal houses, the modern architecture and watch the many tourists from all over the world rushing through this busy city.
The Dam square is a busy and beautiful city square that used to be a dam, but nowadays is a lively square amidst Amsterdam’s urban centre.
It is nice to wander around and discover the outstanding architecture.
Amsterdam’s central station is certainly worth a visit.
2. Wander around the Wallen
3. Explore Amsterdam’s canals
Amsterdam’s canal ring is UNESCO heritage site listed. There are over 100 kilometres of canals in Amsterdam. Before the 20th century Amsterdam’s canals were extremely polluted. Most people used to throw anything in the canals. Nowadays, the canals are quite clean.
The canals host several events throughout the year, including a huge gay parade during Pride and the ‘Grachtenfestival’.
4. Spend a day at the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum is one of the most famous museums in The Netherlands. The building itself is very beautiful and houses thousands of great artworks.
Inside the museum you will easily spend hours marveling at the endless collection of thousands of great works including The Night Watch (Rembrandt) and the Milkmaid (Johannes Vermeer).
5. Have the Heineken Experience
6. Travel back in our dark history at Anne Frank’s House
7. Take a boat trip
8. Learn at the Nemo Science Museum
9. Have fun at the Artis Zoo
There are many animals in the Aryis zoo. Also, Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus in the Zoo is among the oldest botanical gardens in the world and worth a visit.
10. Go to the Van Gogh Museum
11. Have a magical time at WONDR Experience
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
It was not until the pandemic hit, that we realized we should explore our own country. There are people coming from all over the world to visit Amsterdam and we hadn’t even thoroughly explored our own capital city! We decided we really wanted to stay in the city centre and choose Conscious Hotel Westerpark to stay.
The location of the hotel amidst the city centre made it easy for us to explore Amsterdam just by walking.
Watch our You Tube video of our fun time in Amsterdam: https://youtu.be/74cZvtm2fUE
Conscious hotel Westerpark, situated in the true city centre, and still an oasis of greenery situated next to Westerpark was an excellent choice!
Whenever we felt like having some time off of the bustle and hustle of the big city, the Westerpark just behind the hotel was a great park to unwind.
There is also a nice play area in the Westerpark. Our kids had fun climbing!
Our kids loved the easy going, non pretentious atmosphere of the hotel.
The staff is heartly and welcoming and the atmosphere is friendly. We loved the stylish and luxurious interior too!
You will find binoculars in every room, how cute is that? Ishita was occupied gazing at the stars in broad daylight. She obviously did not spot any, but our elderly children did looking through the binoculars at night!
We loved how Conscious Hotels have incorporated sustainability in every aspect of their hotel.
They practice what they preach: the furniture is recycled, and the hotel runs completely on green energy from Dutch windmills. They have solar panels, a delicious organic breakfast buffet, and the linen on the bed is made from fair-trade cotton. The staff actively participates in world-clean-up days like collecting garbage from Amsterdam’s canals.
This must be the cutest green-walled bar in Amsterdam Westerpark! It was great to spend some time with the kids at this cute bar. We chatted along for quite a while. At a certain moment our small kids run off to the playground next to the bar and our elderly kids went to watch the fishes in the aquarium behind the bar, there simply wasn’t time to get bored!
Staying at Conscious Hotel Westerpark made it possible for us to start every day well rested after a good night’s sleep in comfortable beds.
They serve a delicious organic breakfast. It was healthy, fresh and tasty.
Our youngest is usually picky about her food, but she tried almost everything at the breakfast here!
If you are searching for accessible luxury close to or with easy access to any highlight in Amsterdam, we would recommend this hotel!
Where to eat in Amsterdam?
There are countless restaurants, bistro’s and cafetaria’s in Amsterdam. You can find food and drinks 24/7 in this big city.
Getting around Amsterdam
You can easily explore Amsterdam city centre just by walking. It is very useful to purchase a 24 hour OV-Chip card. These travel passes are available from ticket machines throughout Amsterdam and allow holders to freely move between the city’s trams, trains, and buses for an entire day.
You might have purchased the I amsterdam City Card. With this card you You get access to all major highlights and to city-wide public transport, a canal cruise and bicycle rent.
If you did not purchase the I amsterdam City Card, it might be a good idea to purchase a 24 hour OV-Chip card. These travel passes are available from ticket machines throughout Amsterdam and allow holders to freely move between the city’s trams, trains, and buses for an entire day.
Best things to do in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.
Rotterdam is famous for its outstanding creative and innovative architecture and having one of the biggest harbors worldwide. Rotterdam center was almost completely destroyed during WWII and has been completely rebuilt. Nowadays the architecture in Rotterdam stands out being the most innovative in the Netherlands.
In the 1300’s the port of Rotterdam played a major role in the intensive trading of the Dutch East India Company.
Rotterdam is a vibrant city with a very diverse population, a mixture of cultures, food and interesting sites.
We spent one day in Rotterdam and loved exploring this city! It is nice to wander around, marvel at architectural highlights and enjoy great food!
1. See the Cube house
Visit the cube house designed by Piet Blom. This is such a strange and different house, like nothing you witnessed before! This house is compiled of several cubes, tilted 45 degrees to optimize the available space and built upon hexagon-shaped columns.
There are actually people living there! There is one Show Cube Museum open to the public if you would like to know what it is like inside this weird house. https://kubuswoning.nl/en
2. Walk the Erasmus bridge
This unusual bridge is special since there is only one single steel pylon with 40 steel cables attached, which holds up the bridge. The shape of the pylon gave the bridge its nickname: The Swan. The bridge spans 802 meter long across the New Meuse river and connects the north and south parts of this city.
The shape of the pylon gave the bridge its nickname: The Swan. The bridge spans 802 meter long across the New Meuse river and connects the north and south parts of this city.
3. Enjoy art at the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen
This special building houses more than 151.000 artworks and is also the world’s first publicly accessible art depot. The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is located in the Museumpark of Rotterdam. www.boijmans.nl/en/
The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is located in the Museumpark of Rotterdam. www.boijmans.nl/en/
4. Stroll around Rotterdam’s art street
The arts and culture street in Rotterdam, de Witte de Withstraat, is a street with galleries, fashion boutiques, and (art) cafés. You will find wall paintings from local artists with the Rotterdam Street Art Route.
5. Marvel at the design of Rotterdam Central
Rotterdam Central Station does not look like a central station at all. The design was meant to express how Rotterdam city is drawn to the new station, but standing in front it feels the other way around. A massive triangle shaped structure leans towards Rotterdam city.
The clock in the front façade and the letters that spell out ‘Centraal Station’ originated from the former station. Rotterdam Tourist Info is in the main hall.
6. Go up the Euromast Observation Tower
The Euromast, a 185-meter-high tower, is a very distinctive landmark in Rotterdam. It takes just 30 seconds for the Euromast lift to take you up to a height of 100 metres, where you will find an observation deck and restaurant. The Euroscope revolving lift will take you up to 185 metres. There is a possibility to book for an abseiling experience from the Euromast which offers spectacular views. I would never dare to do this, but the views are sup[posed to be amazing. www.euromast.nl/en
7. Stroll around Markthal
Markthall is an indoor market hall with a huge ceiling. You will see the massive artwork sprawled across the ceiling: the ‘Horn of Plenty’ by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.
The main hall houses the market itself, as well as shops and various restaurants which serve a wide variety in food, with a supermarket and a four-storey car park situated below.
8. Board the ss Rotterdam
The ss Rotterdam (1959) is the former flagship of the Holland-America Line. This luxurious steamship was built in Rotterdam and returned to Rotterdam Port in 2008 after many voyages. Nowadays the ship is used as a hotel and restaurant. You can book several tours to explore more of this luxurious, majestic cruise liner.
9. Wander around Historisch Delfshaven
Delfshaven is one of the few parts of the old city that survived the 1940 bombardment of Rotterdam. It is the birthplace of Admiral Piet Hein, a 16th-century hero of the war against Spain.
The locals used to earn their living by fishing and distilling gin. Along the historic canal houses you will find shops and restaurants nowadays.
10. Boat tour
Book a boat tour and explore the Nieuwe Maas River. The boat will most likely also pass sights like the the Euromast, and the ss Rotterdam.
11. Visit Diergaarde Blijdorp
A day spent at a zoo is always a good day. Rotterdam Zoo (Diergaarde Blijdorp) was established in 1857 and is one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands. There are many animals to observe in what resembles their natural habitats. Visit the great aquarium Oceanium as well!
Where to stay in Rotterdam?
The staff was incredibly friendly.
While we were checking in, one of the staff members gave our kids drawing paper and pencils and chatted along. We highly appreciated this, it’s just great when someone pays genuine attention to our kids at such moments!
They left us a handwritten note in the room; ..”Dear family. Welcome at the Slaak Rotterdam, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. We wish you a wonderful stay in our beautiful rooms. Should there be anything we could do for you, please do not hesitate to ask us! Thank you for letting us be part of your story. Warmest regards.” We have stayed in 4star hotels all over the world, but never received a handwritten card!
The rooms are clean and the interior luxurious.
In the 1950s, this hotel used to house a newspaper company producing a popular newspaper in the Netherlands ‘ The Free People’ . These past glorious times are interwoven in the hotel’s spirit; the lovely 1950s design of the interior and several typewriters and attributes. We loved the chocolate typewriter in our rooms!
The beds were very comfortable. We woke up the next morning happy and well-rested!
The breakfast is abundant and delicious, with freshly baked eggs and a wise selection of breads and spreads.
Need I say anything more? The location is great, at walking distance to interesting sites in Rotterdam. This hotel is only a 1 hour drive from home, but it felt like a short holiday! When we were back home, we looked at each other and said: ‘We should go back again, it was so fun and centrally located!’
Where to eat in Rotterdam?
We haven’t traveled overseas the past two years, but suddenly we felt like being in one of our favorite holiday destinations: Thailand! Let us show you why in a short video!
My Thai Son offers an authentic Thai experience in Rotterdam centre. Not only is the food delicious and freshly prepared, the staff is also very hospitable! Our favorite dishes were the selection of entrées, the green curry, shrimps in tamarind sauce and octopus!
We loved the stylish decorated Thai interior with some Dutch influences as well. I mean, have you ever seen a painting with Thai mythology and Van Gogh together??
Remember to visit this restaurant, one of the best Thai restaurants around, when you are in Rotterdam!
Things you should know before visiting the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a densely populated country, but still all looks quite organized and well-regulated.
- Dutch people in general are very honest and direct, sometimes even come across as blunt. It is good to know this is just Dutch culture. They tend to say what they mean and are not easily ashamed. They are very down to earth.
- Like in most Western countries, they are strict with time and appointments. So if you have things scheduled, be in time.
- If you explore with a bike, do not forget to lock it! Bikes get stolen a lot.
- In the big cities, like in all big cities, you have to watch out for pickpockets. Parking area’s are difficult to find and can be quite expensive.
- Most Dutch people can speak English quite well.
- Coffeeshops are not shops to get some coffee, but sell weed.
- It can be useful to purchase tickets in advance for museums, tours etcetera especially during high season.
- It can be useful to purchase an OV-chipcard for public transport in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands you will pay by distance and it is important to remember you need to tap in when you enter and tap out when you exit your transport.
- Shops close around 5-6 pm. There are night shops , but not too many. Restaurants tend to close around 9-10 pm.
- Tulips bloom only for about 1-2 months , so do n to expect to see them blooming all year through.
- The weather is very unpredictable in the Netherlands, it is advisable to carry a jacket always.
- The Netherlands is a small country , so what feels very close to people living in the USA, feels far dor most Dutch people.
Many travelers don’t think beyond Amsterdam, the Red Light District and weed.
However, the Netherlands has far more to offer. It is a charming, small country with modern cities and picturesque towns. There are some great museums like the Rijksmuseum. Many buildings originate from medieval times, there are castles, old buildings and several historical sites. The forests are always nice to wander around, there are many parks scattered though the Netherlands. Although the ocean is not clearly blue, the beaches are nice and clean to have a relaxing day in summer.