18 Places to Visit in the Netherlands

By Marina Krivonossova on November 9, 2020

Are you a traveler who’s tired of all the boring, touristy activity lists you find upon Googling what to do in the destination of your choice? I know that in my experience, those mundane lists are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spots to see in the country I plan to visit. That’s why I decided to compose this list of 18 places to visit in the Netherlands, as seen through the eyes of someone who’s spent nearly two years living in and exploring this beautiful country (both as a student and a recent grad). The following list contains both cities and specific locations within or nearby cities to check out, so make sure you don’t miss anything when you visit!

1. Kasteel de Haar. This beautiful castle is located just outside the city of Utrecht. The original building in its place had been around since about the 13th century, but the fairytale-like castle you’ll see if you visit today was actually built in the late 1800s. Not only can you see the beautiful architecture of the castle and the gardens surrounding it, but you can even tour the castle’s interior! And trust me — there are lots you’ll want to check out there.

Kasteel de Haar entrance (image via Marina Krivonossova)

2. Tulip Fields. If you’re visiting in the springtime, the tulip fields of the Netherlands are a must-see. The best thing about them is you don’t even have to pay to revel in their beauty! If you go for a drive or bike ride by the city of Lisse, you’re bound to encounter many of these beautiful fields. If you’re not much of an explorer and prefer to just see a lot of tulips in one spot, then the Keukenhof is where you want to go. Dubbed “The most beautiful spring garden in the world,” the Keukenhof is just that — a garden where you can see a plethora of Dutch tulips in one location. However, if you’re not too keen on shelling out money for tickets, and you’d prefer to avoid crowds, then I highly advise just driving or biking around Lisse to see the tulip fields on either side of the road. I personally enjoyed doing that much more than visiting the Keukenhof!

Tulip fields near Lisse (image via Marina Krivonossova)

3. Giethoorn. What do Italy and the Netherlands have in common? They both have a famous city built on the water! Giethoorn is known as “The Venice of the Netherlands,” as it’s a city that’s mainly accessible by boat. When you visit Giethoorn, you get the chance to rent your own motorboat, rowboat, or canoe and make your way down the lovely canals. It truly is an experience like no other, particularly because you’re in control of your vessel — you don’t need an employee or guide to accompany you. My number one tip is to try and visit Giethoorn on a weekday, right at the opening time of boat rental shops. That’s when you’ll experience the fewest crowds.

View during a Giethoorn boat ride (image via Marina Krivonossova)

4. FloriWorld. Do you like flowers? Do you want to enjoy the Dutch tulip experience year-round? Then you’ve got to pay a visit to Aalsmeer’s FloriWorld! The Netherlands is the largest flower exporter in the world, so it’s no surprise that they have an entire attraction dedicated to this activity. FloriWorld is completely indoors, so it’s a perfect place to visit when it’s raining out (and it’s raining quite often here in the Netherlands). And the exhibits are all quite photo-worthy, so be ready to take lots of pictures!

One of the many flower-oriented exhibits in FloriWorld (image via Marina Krivonossova)

5. A’DAM Lookout. Calling all thrill-seekers and height lovers to come visit A’DAM Lookout in the city of Amsterdam! As far as I’ve noticed, this place somehow manages to be one of the lesser known attractions in the Netherlands, despite being located in the touristy city of Amsterdam. At A’DAM Lookout, you take an elevator to the top of a tower, where you can spend some time on either the indoor or outdoor viewing platform (or even both!) There’s also a swing located on the outdoor viewing platform, which allows you to hang over the ledge and enjoy the views of Amsterdam and surrounding areas. I’m generally a fan of the thrill associated with heights, but even I was a little squeamish when I caught myself hanging over the ledge!

Catch yourself swinging over the edge of the world when you visit A’DAM Lookout in Amsterdam! (image via Marina Krivonossova)

6. Leiden. Home to the world-renowned Leiden University, this city is one of the cutest suburban centers I’ve ever visited. Located between the busy and bustling cities of Amsterdam and The Hague, Leiden is nothing short of a laid-back Dutch town. However, don’t let its relaxed demeanor deter you from visiting. Leiden is one of those perfect cities that’s gorgeous regardless of the season, with activities that will appeal to every kind of person. If you want museums, botanical gardens, history, windmills, churches, and more, then Leiden is the spot for you! Bonus points if you can visit during the celebration of Leidens Ontzet (October 2-3).

A beautiful summer day in Leiden (image via Marina Krivonossova)

7. Leiden Cat Cafe. I can’t not mention the wonderful Sophie Kattencafe in the city of Leiden. As a cat lover with a horrible cat allergy, it pains me to not be able to get a cat of my own. That’s why I really love the fact that Leiden has this wonderful cat cafe that I can visit every once in a while. I’ve been to many cat cafes in my life, but this is the first one I truly loved. The staff is wonderful, and the kitties look genuinely happy and healthy. The well-being of the animals is the most important thing to me, and I love being able to support such a wonderful spot. So if you’re like me and desperately craving some kitty cuddles on your travels, you can’t forget to pay a visit to Sophie Kattencafe! You get used to the fur on your pancakes, trust me…

If you love hanging out with cats while eating delicious snacks, look no further — Sophie Kattencafe is the place for you! (image via Marina Krivonossova)

8. Lage Bergse Bos. If you’re a nature and animal enthusiast like me, you’ll have to pay a visit to the Lage Bergse Bos, located just outside of Rotterdam. It’s a beautiful nature reserve where you can enjoy the splendid greenery of the Netherlands — something I really love, as I came here from the drought-ridden (though nonetheless stunning) California. The coolest thing about this place is that Scottish Highland Cattle roam the premises freely. You probably shouldn’t run up to them and pet them (they look super soft, so it might be tempting), but you can still admire their beauty in a lovely outdoor setting.

Exploring the forest and encountering one of these majestic beings could be your reality if you visit the Lage Bergse Bos (image via Marina Krivonossova)

9. Gouda. I know you’ve heard this name before, because gouda is a very popular type of cheese! So, you can already guess what this city is most famous for. Aside from their cheese stores and cheese markets on every corner, Gouda is teeming with beautiful architecture and cozy cafes. If you’re looking for a more low-key city that still has plenty to offer (particularly on the cheese front), Gouda is the place for you.

Stunning views in the center of Gouda (image via Marina Krivonossova)

10. Maastricht. The southernmost city in the Netherlands, Maastricht was one of my favorite spots to visit. I loved to see the beautiful architecture, the bridges, the shopping streets — all of it! I found that Maastricht is just a nice place to go if you’re looking to walk around and explore on foot. You can easily get lost in the beauty of the streets, walking from one exhilarating spot to the next. Plus, you’ll find yourself right across the border from Belgium, and just a couple dozen miles from Germany. So if you’re ready to finish up with the Netherlands and move on to the next country of exploration, Maastricht is a perfect note to end your Dutch adventure on!

The architecture that Maastricht offers cannot be matched by another place (image via Marina Krivonossova)

11. Heather fields at Hilversum. Purple is my favorite color, so once you see this photo, you’ll understand why I loved these flower fields so much. Most of the nature that I saw up until this point in the Netherlands looked pretty much the same wherever I went. That is, until I discovered the heather fields. The only drawback to these is that they’re generally only blooming for 4 weeks in August. Beyond that, they’re no different from the other nature reserves you’ll see anywhere else you go in the Netherlands. However, if you catch yourself able to visit these stellar fields while they’re in bloom — you’re guaranteed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Nope, that’s not wild lavender you see. Those are the purple heather fields of Hilversum (image via Marina Krivonossova)

12. Amsterdam. I know that people say this city is overhyped. And to an extent, I definitely agree with it! I really don’t think anybody should make seeing Amsterdam the sole purpose of their trip to the Netherlands. That being said, Amsterdam is still worth a day or two of every traveler’s time. This city might not be teeming with Dutch culture (as it’s quite overtaken by tourists and expats), but it’s still a gorgeous spot with unique museums and restaurants. So don’t listen to people who tell you to skip Amsterdam because it’s overrated. Visit for a day or two yourself so that you can develop your own perspective of the Dutch capital!

Nighttime in Amsterdam (image via Marina Krivonossova)

13. The Hague. Dubbed the Dutch political capital, The Hague is home to the UN’s International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and much more. I might be a little biased towards this city because I lived here for nearly a year, but I can honestly say that The Hague is a city like no other. It’s the perfect mix of old and new, as well as the ideal balance of Dutch and diverse. Coming to the Netherlands from California, I didn’t think I’d find a place to fit in. But in The Hague, I felt right at home. Whether you’re looking to take a scenic walk along the coast in the Scheveningen district, or you’re trying to grab drinks in a tower overlooking the city, The Hague will certainly have something that’ll make you want to stick around.

A peaceful morning in The Hague, featuring the main Dutch mode of transport (image via Marina Krivonossova)

14. Noordwijk. Do you like beaches? Forests? Beautiful sunsets? Sand dunes? Then you’ll love Noordwijk! It’s no surprise that in 2014, US President Obama stayed particularly in this city on his trip to the Netherlands. My favorite thing about Noordwijk is that it’s not as crowded with tourists as a lot of the other Dutch cities are. Plus, in the summer, the beaches of Noordwijk are much more expansive and empty than those of The Hague. If you’re fortunate enough to visit this area in the hottest parts of the summer as well, you’ll also be able to see glowing blue algae at night. Wouldn’t that just be the coolest thing?

Is that California? Florida? Hawaii? Nope… Just a beautiful Dutch sunset caught on the beach of Noordwijk (image via Marina Krivonossova)

15. Zaandam. There’s actually one main reason I visited this city, and that was to see the Lego House Hotel. I love all things quirky, so I knew I had to check out this hotel that every travel blogger had been raving about. But my visit to Zaandam showed me that there’s much more to this city than initially meets the eye. Apparently, the Russian Czar Peter spent a lot of time in Zaandam many centuries ago to learn about shipbuilding. As a Russian now living in the Netherlands, this was a very fun bit of history for me to learn!

You can’t move in to this building, but you can certainly spend a night at this quirky hotel in Zaandam! (image via Marina Krivonossova)

16. Delft. This city reminds me a lot of Leiden, in the sense that it’s very cute and quaint, but still with much to do. Delft is known for its famous Delft Blue porcelain, which was initially made as a cheaper alternative to the desirable Chinese porcelain (so if you’re looking for a very Dutch souvenir, perhaps Delft will have what you’re looking for!) Furthermore, Delft is just teeming with stunning architecture, canals, and all things genuinely Dutch. This is another one of those cities that I’d highly advise exploring on foot to enjoy every little bit of detail.

Just a typical day in the city of Delft (image via Marina Krivonossova)

17. Haarlem. A super cozy city located just outside of Amsterdam, Haarlem is a must-visit. This city used to be a major trading port in the Netherlands, and it has an incredibly rich and exhilarating history. It’s even home to the oldest museum in the country! If you’re looking for a city with some old-fashioned appeal, Haarlem is the place to go.

Haarlem city center (image via Marina Krivonossova)

18. Utrecht. This was the first city in the Netherlands in which I lived as part of my study abroad program. And I’ve got to admit — it was a great city to get introduced to the Netherlands through. It’s a city bustling with student life and expats from all around the world, so if you’re looking for a place with great diversity, this is where you need to go. Yet Utrecht has its fair share of Dutch-ness to it as well, with its extensive canal system and iconic 14th century bell tower. Utrecht is home to the Dom Tower itself, which is the tallest church in the Netherlands. Climbing up to the top of the tower might not be an easy feat for some, but it’s well worth it to see the view from above.

View of Utrecht, as seen from the top of the Dom Tower (image via Marina Krivonossova)

While I know I haven’t included every worthwhile spot in the Netherlands on my list, I think I’ve managed to list some of my favorites! I hope that if the Netherlands wasn’t on your bucket list before, it is now. And if you were thinking about going but not of what to see, I hope this list provided you with a bit of inspiration! The Netherlands truly is a country worth traveling to.

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