#01 Amsterdam Noord and the Eastern Docklands
There’s plenty to see in the Netherlands apart from Amsterdam, but it would be a strange trip that missed out the capital altogether. It’s not all clogs ‘n’ canals, though – head off the tourist track to the eastern docklands or Amsterdam Noord, newly developed and home to some cutting-edge, Modernist architecture, including the exhilarating EYE.
#02 Den Haag (The Hague)
Den Haag’s reputation for dourness is completely undeserved: it boasts a first-rate restaurant scene, smart hotels and enough prime museums to exhaust even the most energetic sightseer – the newly revamped Mauritshuis and the Gemeentemuseum are good reason to visit in themselves.
This inordinately pretty little village is rural Overijssel at its most engaging, with ancient thatched cottages strung along the banks of a narrow canal that is itself crossed by the cutest of wooden bridges.
#04 Hoge Veluwe National Park
A richly forested swathe of dunes and woodland in the middle of the country. You can cycle your way around thanks to a fleet of free-to-use bicycles, and pop into the excellent Kröller-Müller Museum at the heart of the park to admire the fine art and sculpture.
#05 Delta Project
A series of huge dykes and flood-barriers in the far-flung western province of Zeeland bear witness to the country’s long battle to hold the sea at bay, achievements celebrated in an adjacent exhibition hall.
No country in Europe is so kindly disposed towards the bicycle than the pancake-flat Netherlands: you’ll find bike paths in and around all towns, plus long-distance touring routes taking you deep into the countryside.
#07 Anne Frank Huis, Amsterdam
A poignant and personal evocation of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Among the moving exhibits is the bookcase behind which the Frank family and friends hid for two years.
#08 Frisian Islands
Of the string of wild and windswept holiday islands off the northern Dutch coast, Terschelling is the most popular, a fine spot for walks and bike rides amid the swelling dunes.
Literally millions of flowers are on show in these extensive gardens, which specialize in daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths and – of course – tulips.
This lively market town features an intricate old quarter of canals and picturesque bridges, plus a simply stunning cathedral.
With its distinct identity and feel, Texel is the most accessible of the Dutch islands, just a couple of hours north of Amsterdam by train and ferry.
#12 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Quite simply the best and most comprehensive collection of van Gogh’s work anywhere.
#13 Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
Hals was one of the finest of the Golden Age painters and this engaging museum has a fine sample of his work, particularly his dark and brooding later canvases.
#14 Southwest Friesland
Touring the small towns and villages of this region shows a whole different side to the country than the more urbanized southwest – it’s peaceful and charming in equal measure.
Revamped and reconfigured, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum displays a world-beating collection of Dutch painting, with Rembrandt to the fore.
#16 The Biesbosch
As an escape from Dutch urban life, the reedy marshes and lagoons of the Biesbosch are hard to beat.
#17 Indonesian Food
Thanks to the Netherlands’ colonial adventures in Southeast Asia, restaurants around the country prepare some of the finest Indonesian cuisine outside Indonesia.
One novel way of getting to the Frisian Islands is to try guided wadlopen or “mud-walking” from the mainland at low tide.
Celebrated by Vermeer, Delft’s centre is particularly handsome, and its market square is one of the country’s most beguiling.
This atmospheric, laidback city in the far south, squeezed between the porous Belgian and German borders, offers a worldly outlook and a superb old quarter.
This beautiful inland lake, formerly the Zuider Zee, lies at the heart of the Netherlands and represents the country at its watery best, with charming old ports like Hoorn and Enkhuizen and former islands like Urk to explore.