We lived in the Netherlands for a little over two years, where we tried all the things we were supposed to try. After traveling
the country from one end to the other, which isn’t that difficult since it is so small, I think there’s a few things you should try
to do when you go. Needless to say, get out of Amsterdam. Yes, there is plenty of great things to do there, but there is also so
much more to the country than special coffee shops and canals.
It is extremely easy to travel anywhere in Holland. Everyone, and I do mean everyone speaks English. Even if they tell you they
don’t, they do. The TV. is has many English shows and the kids start learning at the beginning of their schooling. They speak
One thing you need to know about Dutch, the language is that since Holland is such a small country, they need lots of small things
to fit into their small houses. Because of this, when they talk about something, they use a “je” ending to denote smallness. So a
huisje (small house), hondje (little dog), so a bierje is a small beer. And boy is it small. It is only .25 liters. A large bier
would be .33 liters, so watch out when ordering beers. With the Euro, especially, you can pay for lot for just a little beer.
The Dutch have a fantastic public transportation system that is relatively inexpensive. You can travel by train and bus all over
the nation, and it’s also easy to drive. I would definitely recommend renting a car and visiting some of the smaller villages that
aren’t in any tourist guide.
One of the best ways to get around is to rent a bike; the Dutch love bikes! According to the International Bicycle Fund, and I as a witness can attest, Holland is the country that leads the world in using bikes as transportation. It is also the “first country to establish an official national bicycle policy; currently almost 19,000 kilometers of paths and lanes exclusively for bicycles.” Maybe it’s because there are only a few hills and the bike paths make it very safe, I don’t know. No matter what you’ve got to love biking in the Netherlands.
One of my favorite places I visited while I was there was the Hoge Veluwe National Park. When you enter, you park your car and pick up one of the many white bikes available. These you take from one location to another or just on the various paths. There are a couple of museums in the park. One is a nature museum with displays of the local flora and fauna. It’s perfect for the kids. Another is the Kroller Muller Museum, an art gallery which houses a number of painters as well a sizeable Van Gogh exhibit. You can easily bring a picnic and spend the entire day exploring the park.
Something else the Dutch love is cheese! I would look forward to every Tuesday, when the local parking lot was filled with food vendors, and the usually frequented was the cheese man. I would have garlic or herb cheese, soft or hard cheese, stinky or aromatic cheese, but no matter what each Tuesday my lunch was cheese. Some towns to visit for cheese is Edam and Gouda (the “g” in Dutch is a guttural “h” sound, so you might want to practice it before you ask for “gooda” cheese).
The rest of the food is somewhat bland. On practically every street corner, there is a snack bar that serves lots of deep-fried foods, from French fries to meats, like frikandel. Frikandel is a minced meat hot dog, with ingredients coming from all sorts of farm animals, to include horse. Whatever the mix is, it’s worth a try. It is practically the Dutch national dish.
The one food you should try is the Dutch pancakes! There are pancake restaurants everywhere and you can either buy savory or fruit pancakes. One pancake is for one person, but they usually are about 12 inches in diameter and what we like to do is buy two pancakes to share, one savory one to start with then eat a fruit one for dessert. I am writing a review on one of my favorite pancake chain restaurants which you can see here.
You certainly cannot go to Holland and not see tulips. The two are synonymous, however, the tulip didn’t originate in Holland. It actually came as a gift from the ambassador to Turkey in 1565 (go here for a more in-depth history). Either way, the Dutch have certainly commercialized the flower and Keukenhof gardens is a must-see attraction if you happen to be in the country around the
month of April.
Other places that you should check out while you are in the Netherlands:
Kinderdijk (a Unesco World Heritage Site) is well worth the jaunt out there. It is very picturesque and you can see the mills at
Muiderslot, not far from Amsterdam in the city of Muider, is a great castle and museum to visit. There are plenty of other castles,
palaces, and museums to visit as well, but this is one of my favorites.
Another destination would be the Open Air Museum in Arnhem. It has all kinds of displays highlighting typical Dutch culture.
Of course, a must for every Amsterdam visitor is the Anne Frank house. It is by far one of the most interesting things to do. It is
small, as you can imagine, so if you plan a visit here, make it your first stop and hopefully the line won’t be too long.
Veel plezier en Nederland!