The Netherlands

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 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. 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. It is nice to explore the city by boat or to wander around the busy city centre.

Amsterdam is the Venice of the Netherlands

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 streets 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.

National Parks

There are many national parks and nature reserves, yet they occupy a small part of the country compared to other European countries.

Cultural Heritage

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).

King’s Day

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. Dutch people have a diet rich in dairy products, which may explain why they are amongst the tallest people in the world. 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.
The famous Dutch tulips in so many colors!

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 social media accounts.

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

Is this picturesque scenery what you expected from Amsterdam?

So.. when talking about Amsterdam, what is the first thing to come to your mind? Are you familiair with the typical charming houses with beautiful facades along the picturesque canals? Will you think of a city with thousands of bikes and where everything is possible? A liberal city with a limitless tolerance towards  religion, color and sexual preferences?

Maybe Amsterdam brings images to your mind of prostitution, drugs, and alcohol. Since this is also what Amsterdam is famed for. You can find legitimized prostitution in Amsterdam’s red-light district; de Wallen. There are coffee shops that sell marijuana to consume in the coffee shops. It is not allowed to smoke marijuana on the streets.

Famous coffeeshop selling marijuana, not coffee!

However, the drugs and legalized prostitution are 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, houseboats, thousands of bikes and and centuries-old canal houses. 

The famous canals in Amsterdam

There are plenty of historical sites to visit, great architecture to marvel at, tourists always and everywhere, cozy markets, many interesting museums, restaurants serving food from all around the world in a city that never sleeps and where everything is possible.

A church in Amsterdam center

Amsterdam is not representative for other areas in the Netherlands. It is busier, more international and more touristic. Many people working in shops don’t even speak Dutch!  Even to us, while living in the Netherlands, a visit to Amsterdam feels like being abroad.

Houseboats in Amsterdam

Here is a list with the best things to do in Amsterdam:

1. Absorb the city’s vibes at the Dam Square

There are so many things to do and see, but I would suggest just to start bij wandering around the busy city center. Discover the centuries old canal houses, the modern architecture and watch the many tourists from all over the world at the Dam Square. 

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 city centre. There is always something going on at the square, events, street performers,  countless tourists, simply a feast to all your senses! You will find many bars and restaurants here as well.

The King’s official reception palace is located at the Dam Square. The Palace plays a major role during state visits, special receptions, and ceremonies. The Palace is usually open to visitors. 

Palace at the Dam
Dam square

The fancy warehouse “De Bijenkorf” and luxurious “Amsterdam Diamond Centre” are situated at this square as well. Fun fact: we bought our wedding rings from the Amsterdam Diamond Centre. We needed the rings within a month, and the staff looked a bit startled when we told them. We were happy they managed to deliver our rings in time!

There is also a big ‘phallic’ National Memorial statue on the Square, built in the memory of Dutch soldiers and members of the resistance who died in World War II. The monument stores soil from the Dutch provinces and the Dutch East Indies.

When my friend Marielena from San Francisco came to Amsterdam

When my Instagram friend and blogger Marielena  from San Francisco came to Amsterdam, we met up. We strolled around Amsterdam city centre, the Dam Square, several markets and the Jordaan.

2. Enjoy the hustle and bustle at Central Station

Amsterdam’s central station is certainly worth a visit. I simply love the details and Neo-Renaissance design of the station. It is recently renovated and just nice to walk through and experience the thousands of tourists finding their way around. It is quite safe, but very busy so you should be aware of pickpockets in this area.

The station has three tunnels under all of its platforms, leading either to the Amsterdam Centre side (Centrum) or to the Amsterdam North side (the IJ side). These tunnels are the way to reach the railway platforms. The  IJ-passage is a passage to the shopping area. It does not lead to the train platform. The IJ-passage has an open exit to the lake side of the station.

The city busses, trams and metro’s are in front of the Central Station.  

You can find a small information centre and shop outside in front of the Central Station 

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, full of garbage, dead fish and feces. in 1879 the government started with cleaning up to improve the water quality in the canals. Nowadays, the water in the canals are less dirty, but still contain high levels of E.Coli after heavy rainfalls. Another source of pollution are the many bikes that fall into the canals. Each year, between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles are pulled out of the water!

There are over 100 kilometers of canals in Amsterdam

The canals host several events throughout the year, including a huge gay parade during Pride and the ‘Grachtenfestival’.

There are many events organized at the canals every year

When my friend Marielena from San Francisco came to Amsterdam, we walked from the Waterlooplein to the Jordaan en stopped several times to take a photo. I simply love the picturesque sight of the small, opulently decorated houses along the canals! 

There are many small, opulently decorated houses along the canals
You will find these cute bikes with flowers along the canals

Every now and then you will come across these cute decorated bikes, in exuberant colors and covered with flowers. 

4. Marvel at the famous crooked houses in Amsterdam

Looking at the canal houses an Amsterdam, you will quickly notice some strange characteristics; the houses are not standing straight, they are very narrow and they tend to lean forward! Why are the houses built this way in Amsterdam? 

The crooked houses of Amsterdam

Why are the houses in Amsterdam crooked?

The houses in Amsterdam are quite a sight! They are not straight, a bit crooked, leaning forward, and leaning against each other. How is this possible and when did this happen?

Well there are several reasons for this weird phenomenon of crooked houses in Amsterdam. 

  1. First of all, the houses in Amsterdam were built centuries ago on wooden piles, drilled meters deep into the wet soil. Obviously, the wooden poles are not suitable to last for many years. The houses in Amsterdam tend to sink unevenly in the ground.
  2. Secondly, when one of a few houses in a row is renovated, the neighboring houses can not lean properly onto the renovated house. They will start moving. The final result is another crooked row of houses in Amsterdam.
  3. Thirdly, the wooden poles are prone to rot and decay. Nowadays the foundation of new houses is strong, made out of steel and cement, but the wooden poles are still present underneath the majority of old houses in Amsterdam.
  4. Lastly, when people add extra floors to the old houses, the weight increases and the houses sink even more.
Houses in Amsterdam were built on wooden poles
This is where to find some of the most crooked houses in Amsterdam:
  • Sluyswacht: today a cafe, this house was built in 1695 as the lockkeeper’s house. The famous artist Rembrandt used to live across this house. 
  • The Dancing Houses: when walking along Damrak you will see a row of tall, narrow buildings. These canal houses from the 17th century are the Dancing Houses.
  • Spiegelgracht
  • Rokin
  • Vijzelgracht

Why do the houses in Amsterdam lean forward?

Not only are many houses in Amsterdam not straight and a bit crooked, they also lean forward towards the street. The houses were created like this intentionally. Why is this?

  1. Until the start of the 19th century, construction regulations in Amsterdam specifically stated that all houses needed to lean forward to a specified extent. Houses were made out of wood in medieval times. Rain and snow used to drip off the roof and did not enter the floor below.
  2. Also, a bigger living space was created from the second floor on, without taking too much surface from street level.
  3. Thirdly, it was easier to hoist up goods like cotton and cacao into the attics of the canal houses. Many houses in Amsterdam were used for storage and trading of goods. Using a hook on the beam sticking out of the top floor, it was easy to hoist up the goods.
  4. Lastly, it looked better and the house owners could show off their glorious facades even more with a  forward leaning house.
You can see the hook to hoist up goods

Why are Amsterdam canal houses so narrow? 

In the 16th century, the houses preferably needed an entrance on the waterfront since this was the way of transportation and trading. This is why a maximum amount of houses were built along the canals. The houses are narrow, but deep in length and often with a garden in the back. Some wealthy people could afford more land and built wider houses along the canals such as the ‘Golden Bend’ of the Herengracht. 

Taxes were determined by the size of the facades which explains the narrow facades of the houses. 

The narrowest houses in Amsterdam are at;

  • Oude Hoogstraat 22
  • Singel 7
  • and at Kloveniersburgwal 26.
The houses in Amsterdam are very narrow

4. Spend a day at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum at the Museumplein in Amsterdam is one of the most famous museums in The Netherlands. 

The Rijksmuseum

The museum houses thousands of great artworks. The most famous paintings date from the Dutch Golden Age of painting. Inside the museum you will easily spend several hours marveling at the endless collection of great works.

We wandered around for hours

We had expected our kids to ge bored after a while, but this did not happen. We wandered around for several hours, even our smallest children were fascinated by the artworks. Some paintings had a big impact, because of the beauty, enormous size or because of the inhumanity pictured. 

The impressive The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn (1642), the true jewel of this museum is enormous and very detailed. The painting is famed for its dramatic combination of light and shadow. The painting shows a group in motion instead of a static group , which was quite unusual back then.  

The impressive The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn (1642)

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer (1660). Vermeer’s great ability to paint color, light and form in detail, was recognized centuries after his death. 

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer (1660)

The Rijksmuseum hosts several van Gogh works, his self-portrait indisputable being the most famous painting. They say that van Gogh used himself as a model to save money. 

Self-portrait Vincent Van Gogh (1887)

Some artworks are cruel and a bit shocking to our youngest kids. Even to us, to be honest. This painting represents a story from Roman times in which a consul condemn his son to be beheaded for ignoring a command. It was a reminder for officers to remain impartial and about the severity of punishment in the case of insubordination.

Consul Titus Manlius orders the Beheading of his son, by Ferdinand Bol ( 1661-1663)

Rembrandt’s pupil Willem Drost painted this strange scene. The story of Cimon and Pero dates from Roman antiquity and is about self-sacrifice and charity. Pero was sentenced to death by starvation, but his daughter kept him alive. She visited him in prison and breastfed him secretly. (1655-1657)

Cimon and Pero by Willem Drost (1655-1657)

The Rijksmuseum houses much more than paintings; several historical artifacts and memorable artworks. Below is a cabinet from 1660 and more artworks.

Many paintings are huge and cover a large wall! Just like the famous painting below. 

Militia Compagnie of District VIII by Bartholomeus van der Helst (1543)

There is a section dedicated to the enormous grieve and terrible history in Second World War. Below is a concentration camp coat, worn by Isabel Wachenheimer. She was transferred from the death cam Auschwitz to a labor camp in Austria in 1944. You can watch a historical movie and see several exhibits. 

There are many museums to spend time in Amsterdam. You should decide beforehand which museum draws your interest. 

There are many museums in the Netherlands

5. Have the Heineken Experience

To be honest, we havent been yet. It is a major touristic attraction, but I am not a beer drinker. I heard good and less great stories about the Heineken Experience. I guess it’s good to visit if you are interested in the beer production! 

6. Travel back in our dark history at Anne Frank’s House

The house where Anne Frank lived her last years and where she wrote her famous diary. Still on my list to visit! I heard many stories about how this place made a huge impression.

7. Take a boat trip

A great way to see Amsterdam and the city highlights, is to take one of the canal cruises. 

Take one of the famous canal cruises when in Amsterdam

8. Walk through the Red Light District

Although not my favorite part at all.. we have walked through the Red Light District during daytime with our kids. How could we not? It is the part of Amsterdam, even the part of the Netherlands, that draws international attention. We have been to so many countries worldwide, and this is what people know about the Netherlands: Amsterdam, the city of legalized sex, drugs and alcohol. Which is actually sad and gives a bad , totally incomplete idea of the Netherlands. Being this notorious, I want my kids to know and learn that the prostitution going on here is sometimes the only way they know to make a living. It is not always a free choice. For me, this area fills me with a strange mixture of thrill, wonder, grieve and sadness. You should experience it yourselves. 

Condoms in all shapes and sizes

8. Learn at the Nemo Science Museum

We visited the Nemo Science Museum several times. it is a fun, rather packed museum suitable for kids of different ages. Various scientific experiments are setup, and there is a lot to learn! 

9. Have fun at the Artis Zoo

A visit to this Zoo, unexpectedly situated in Amsterdam, is a great idea to escape the hustle and bustle from the city for a while. Especially when traveling with children, this might be the perfect break!

Amsterdam’s Hortus Botanicus in the Zoo is among the oldest botanical gardens in the world and also worth a visit.

10. Discover the hidden spots

There are many special little places to find with a remarkable past. Lindenhofje provided a home to poor widows in the 16th century.

The Willemstraat is another street with a rich history. There used to be 57 corridors in 1775 in this one street, built inside the complexes. Many families lived here. Many exits were not visible from the street. 

The Sluyswacht, nowadays a cafe for a drink and a snack, used to be the home for the ‘sluyswacht’. This was the man who controlled the nearby lock. This lock would keep out invaders and it also controlled the water levels. 

The Sluyswacht dates from 1692 and opposite of where Rembrandt used to live

The Waag on Nieuwmarkt Square used to be the city gate and dates back from 1466. It is the oldest non-religious building in Amsterdam. 

The Waag used to be the defensive city gate

11. Have a magical time at WONDR Experience

When you find yourselves in Amsterdam
Hopping blithely to that big pink building,
a magical time is about to begin.
The friendliest staff in pink will welcome you on the red carpet upon entering a fantasy world of creative imagination.

We had so much fun at WONDR Experience! We plunged into the blue ball pit, danced in the mirror gate and swam in the marshmallow pool. The kids painted walls (this time with permission!) and cuddled bears, sang on a glamorous stage, jumped in confetti rain, wandered through a colorful jungle and played piano.
You can watch a short impression of our magical time here

I captured way too many moments. It’s so easy to click away in a place with so many creative rooms! 

Getting around Amsterdam​

It is easy to explore Amsterdam walking

You can easily explore Amsterdam city centre just by walking. It is quite doable with family to explore the city centre in 1 or 2 days just by walking.

If you do not feel like walking all day, 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. 

You can also just use your bankpas to check in and check out in all public transport in Amsterdam. 

If you are planning to visit a lot of museums and highlights, it is a good idea to purchase 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. 

In the tram in Amsterdam
A typical Amsterdam photo

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.

Happy to be on our way to Amsterdam!

The location of the hotel amidst the city centre made it easy for us to explore Amsterdam just by walking.

This hotel is very close to Amsterdam Highlights!

Watch our You Tube video of our fun time in Amsterdam:

Conscious hotel Westerpark, situated in the true city centre, and still an oasis of greenery situated next to Westerpark was an excellent choice! Not only was this city situated close to a park, the interior was quite green and refreshing as well.

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!

Luxurious interior

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!

We loved the bar!

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.

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!

Conscious Hotel in Amsterdam is a centrally located, easy going 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.

One of our favorite restaurants in Amsterdam is Oriental city. We went to this restaurant for the first time when we did not have kids yet, in 2007 with our first baby and nowadays with 6 kids in 2023, we still go. This restaurant is truly easy with kids and babies, very affordable and the food is great. 

Best things to do in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.

Night view of Erasmus Bridge

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.

Cube houses

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.

In front of the Cube houses

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.

Nickname 'The Swan"

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.

Walking to the Erasmus Bridge

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.

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is located in the Museumpark of Rotterdam.

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.  

Rotterdam Central Station

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.


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.

Interior of Markthallen

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.

Outside Markthallen

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.   

SS Rotterdam

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?

We spent a wonderful weekend in Rotterdam at theslaakrotterdam, a beautiful Marriott Bonvoy hotel. We were pampered!! For a visual impression, watch our short video on Instagram!

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!

Upon checking in, our kids received drawing paper

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!

A lovely morning

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!’ 

It had been a great stay!

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.
  • Some very useful apps for public transport are: OV9292 and the NS app. You can use Apple Pay, Google Pay or you bank card to check in and check out at buses, metro’s and trains. To check in, uni just place your device or bank card in front of the reader. When arrived , you check out by holding your device or card in front of the reader. In busses and trams, readers are located inside the vehicle. For metro’s and trains, the readers are located on barriers. Another way to pay for public transport , is to purchase an OV-chipcard. 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 like a short distance for people living in the USA, feels far away for 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.  

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