Most visitors to the Netherlands confine their exercise to cycling and walking, both of which are ideally suited to the flatness of the terrain and, for that matter, the excellence of the public transport system. The Netherlands also offers all the sporting facilities you would expect of a prosperous, European country, from golf to gymnasia, swimming pools to horseriding, plus one or two more distinctive activities: these include Korfball, canal ice skating, though this is of course dependent on the weather being cold enough, and the idiosyncratic pole sitting, wherby participants literally sit on top of a pole for as long as possible.
The Netherlands possesses some great sandy beaches on both its western and northern coasts, although it has to be admitted that the weather is notoriously unreliable – some say bracing – and the North Sea is really rather murky. There are a number of fully-fledged seaside resorts – such as Zandvoort and Scheveningen – but there are nicer, quieter stretches of coast, most notably amid the wild dunes and beaches that make up the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland near Haarlem. There are also long sandy strands right across the islands of the Waddenzee from Texel to Schiermonnikoog and these beaches are popular for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The lakes of Friesland and the IJsselmeer are good for sailing, particularly the yachting centre of Sneek.
The chief spectator sport is football (soccer) and the teams that make up the country’s two professional leagues attract a fiercely loyal following. Big-deal clubs include PSV Eindhoven (w psv.nl); Feyenoord from Rotterdam (w feyenoord.nl); and Amsterdam’s Ajax (w ajax.nl). The football season runs from September to May, and matches are traditionally held on Sunday at 2.30pm, with occasional games at 8pm on Wednesday. Tickets for key matches are notoriously hard to come by.
Played from one end of the Netherlands to the other, Korfball (w korfball.com) is a home-grown sport cobbled together from netball, basketball and volleyball, and played with mixed teams and a high basket. To watch a game, ask for fixture details at the local tourist office.