The Netherlands beyond Amsterdam is a bit of a mystery to most people, even to those who live there – which, of course, is part of its charm. However, to save you having to read through the entire Guide before deciding where to go we’ve put together a few itineraries to help you out.
The Netherlands is a small country, so you can see the best of it within a week – that is if you don’t linger too long in Amsterdam.
A good place to start, and small enough that you can see its highlights in a day or two.
Only fifteen minutes from the capital, but a place apart, with a nice old centre and plenty to see, including the fantastic Frans Hals Museum.
Lively student town just half an hour from Amsterdam that retains its cobbled old centre.
The Netherlands’ most handsome provincial town with plenty of historical attractions and the most classically beautiful canal-riven Dutch town centre.
The country’s most significant and accessible wetland, easily explorable by boat or bike.
The most accessible of the Dutch islands, and a wonderfully relaxing place of dunes, birds, beaches and gentle cycling, and with some great places to stay.
Perhaps the most enchanting of the old Zuider Zee ports, its face firmly turned towards the water around its busy inner harbours, and with the excellent Zuider Zee Museum as a bonus.
The northern part of the country’s major urban centre, with a huge university population and a buzzy centre full of bars and restaurants.
You don’t normally think of the Netherlands as a place to experience the Great Outdoors, but it is a fantastic destination for many outdoor activities, from horseriding to sailing to some other, more specifically Dutch pursuits.
There’s nothing more Dutch – or more enjoyable – than the guided walks you can do between the north coast and the islands of the Wadden Sea.
The Netherlands is a boaty kind of place all round, but the lakes and waterways of Friesland are the best place to take to the water, or there are plenty of opportunities on the IJsselmeer.
You can, of course, do this anywhere if the weather is cold enough, but there’s nothing better than following at least part of the course of the famous Elfstedentocht race through Friesland.
The countryside is well suited to all kinds of equestrian activities, especially the Hoge Veluwe National Park.
5 Windsurfing and surfing
There’s no better place for both activities than Renesse in Zeeland’s Schouwen-Duiveland, where you can rent boards and wet suits and seek out the plentiful waves and wind.
The Netherlands is known for its art and boasts some top-class collections. Several smaller towns hold a fantastic selection of Dutch painting and sculpture, and visiting some of these lesser-known museums and galleries makes for a great trip.
When it reopens, the Rijksmuseum will reclaim its rightful place in the top ten of European galleries; until then you still have the Van Gogh Museum, the newly reopened Stedelijk and the excellent Amsterdam Historisch Museum, to name just three.
It’s worth visiting Haarlem for this museum alone – to see paintings by Frans Hals and others in the almshouse where he lived his final days.
This elegant seventeenth-century mansion in The Hague is home to one of the finest concentrations of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the world.
A vast collection of Flemish, Dutch and modern art awaits in this amazing museum in Rotterdam.
Utrecht is home to an extensive fine art collection with a local focus, including great works by Jan van Scorel, the Utrecht School, as well as Gerrit van Rietveld and Miffy’s Dick Bruna.
Perhaps the country’s finest collection of late nineteenth-century and modern paintings and sculptures, housed in a wonderful location in the Hoge Veluwe park.
It may be a bit of a trek, but Enschede’s Rijksmuseum Twente is as good a small collection of Dutch art as you’ll find outside the major museums.