Most people coming to the Netherlands spend a day or two in Amsterdam, visit Keukenfof when it’s open and take a tour to Kinderdijk or Giethorn. And that’s it. At the same time there are so many other beautiful places that deserve to be included on anyone’s bucket list for visiting the Netherlands.
So, here is a list of 21 amazing places, popular and less popular, that I would recommend to any traveler to visit in the Netherlands. Not enough places? Then take a look at my suggestions for the 20 most beautiful cities in the Netherlands.Here is a list of the most beautiful must-see places in the Netherlands. How many have you visited? Click To Tweet
What is the Netherlands most famous for? That’s right: cheese, tulips, windmills and clogs. So, let’s see where you can find all these Dutch icons!
- 1 Keukenhof
- 2 Zaanse Schans
- 3 Zuiderzeemuseum
- 4 Alkmaar
- 5 Giethoorn
- 6 Kinderdijk
- 7 De Haar Castle
- 8 Brunssummerheide
- 9 The Castle Gardens of Arcen
- 10 Heusden
- 11 Thorn
- 12 Amsterdam
- 13 De Biesbosch
- 14 Valkenburg
- 15 Texel
- 16 The Dunes of Loon and Drunen
- 17 Neeltje Jans
- 18 Den Bosch
- 19 Het Loo Palace
- 20 Volendam
- 21 Haarlem
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Tulips! Lots of tulips! Everywhere! You can’t find a place more Dutchy than that. Unfortunately, being a spring garden, Keukenhof is open only in the period March-May. It’s a perfectly manicured garden, where each year they plant more than 7 million spring flower bulbs. Hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, and daffodils in most amazing shapes and colors create intricate patterns and you get lost in a maze of colorful spring flowers.
Read more: Everything you need to know about Keukenhof.
Suggested tour: Half-day guided tour from Amsterdam to Keukenhof
Zaanse Schans is all about windmills! Visit this small museum village and step back in time. Zaanse Schans is a representation of how life was in the 18th and 19th centuries in North Holland Province. You can visit the windmills and learn how they work and what they were used for. There are also handcraft workshops, where you can see how clogs were made or sails for the ships. Although Zaanse Schans is very pretty, it tends to be quite touristy, as everybody wants to take a glimpse at that nostalgic Dutch reality, long gone now. Is it a tourist trap? No, it’s just a tourist attraction, that still feels authentic.
Suggested tour: Half-day tour from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans
Zuiderzeemuseum is an ethnographic complex which tells the story of a community that’s gone as the Southern Sea isn’t there anymore. You’ve probably know that the Dutch are very good at playing God and creating their own land. What once was Zuiderzee (the Southern Sea), today is IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel) after they built the Barrier Dam in 1936. Half of the lake was further drained and there was created the 12th Dutch province – Flevoland. In this ethnographic village you can see different old crafts and even take part in workshops. Zuiderzeemusuem is a good alternative for Zaanse Schans, minus the windmills and the crowds. Oh, and their collection of traditional costumes is amazing!
Suggested tour: Walking tour of Enkhuizen with a visit to Zuiderzeemuseum
Cheese! Another Dutch icon. From March till September Alkmaar is all about cheese during the re-enactment of the traditional cheese market. It’s held each Friday, from 10 am to 13 pm. If you can’t make it to Alkmaar for the famous cheese market – do not worry! Alkmaar is still among the most beautiful places in the Netherlands!
Suggested tour: Tour of Alkmaar with a visit to the Cheese Market
They call it the Venice of the North or the Dutch Venice and indeed Giethoorn completely deserves its nickname. Imagine an idyllic small village with no streets but canals instead. Beautiful houses, mostly farms, with thatched roofs, lots of green and flowers and the willows hanging above crooked bridges. Unfortunately the last years Giethoorn has been discovered by the tourists and is suffering from overtourism. Nonetheless, the place is simply gorgeous and too cute not to see it.
Suggested tour: Day trip from Amsterdam to Giethoorn
Kinderdijk is another iconic place in the Netherlands as it reveals the engineering genius of the Dutch. Kinderdijk is not just a row of windmills that look beautiful against the setting sun or in the blue hour. These were actually water management installations that regulated the water level. They are also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. When visiting Kinderdijk, do not forget that there are people living in the windmills, and be a respectful tourist.
Suggested tour: Group tour from Amsterdam
De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle near Utrecht is perhaps the most famous and most visited Dutch castle. If it’s the most beautiful one, that’s pretty subjective, but it’s for sure quite imposing. The castle was restored in 1892 by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers in a Neo-Gothic style. The original castle dates back to the end of the 14th century. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful park and gardens. You can visit both the castle and the park.
Brunssummerheide is a nature park in the Province of Limburg. The best season to visit the park is at the end of August/beginning of September when the heath is in bloom. Everything is purple! Well, the other seasons also don’t disappoint as the park has lots to offer: sandy dunes, small lakes and forests and the most special for the Dutch landscape – hills! There’s a lovely restaurant with a terrace and an amazing view to the hills and the park.
The Castle Gardens of Arcen
If you are visiting the Netherlands and the Keukenhof gardens are closed your best bet will be the Gardens of Arcen. A meticulously manicured park with gardens and a lovely castle – the Castle Gardens of Arcen won’t disappoint you. The best time to visit the park is June-July when all flowers are in bloom. Beside the gardens, you can also visit the castle.
When you visit the Netherlands you should visit at least one of its walled towns, which are part of the so-called defensive line. My personal favourite is the cute Heusden – a little town in the shape of a star surrounded by water. It looks as if time has stopped in Heusden, but instead of being just and open-air museum, the little place is actually a regular small town with a great dose of charm and lots of cuteness. When in Heusden, take a walk alongside the bulwarks, thus you can make a complete circle around the town. For some great Dutch pancakes, stop at the Pannekoekenbakker.
Read more: What to see and do in Heusden.
They call it the little white town and for a reason. All the houses are white in this little place, something quite unusual for the Netherlands. Thorn has unique historical heritage. It started as a cloister and turned into a prosperous Abbey-State, a dwarf state in the 15-18 centuries, ruled by women. The town is a popular tourist destination among the Dutch. My favourite Dutch pancakes restaurant has there a branch, so I can’t help it but recommend paying a visit to the Pannekoekenbakker for the most delicious Dutch pancakes.
Amsterdam with its spiderweb of canals and the stepped-gable houses alongside the water is perhaps the most visited place in the Netherlands and undeniably one of the most beautiful cities not only in the Netherlands but in the world. When you visit the Netherlands for the first time, the Dutch capital should be on your bucket list. Take a boat trip along the canals (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and visit a museum or two if you have more time. If you are a fan of Van Gogh, you won’t be disappointed, as the Van Gogh Museum has the biggest collection of the artist’s works.
De Biesbosch is probably the most unique national park in the Netherlands. The land that was reclaimed from the marshlands in the past centuries is now given back to nature. De Biesbosch is one of the biggest freshwater tidal wetlands in Europe – a network of interconnected rivers and creeks, a kind of an inland delta. The best way to discover this beautiful area is by boat. I highly recommend a trip on an authentic zalmschouw (a type of a boat).
Read more: My complete guide about the things to do and see in De Biesbosch.
Valkenburg is a lovely small town in South Limburg. It’s famous for the marl caves and the castle ruins perched on a hill above the town. Numerous cafes and restaurants line up the streets of this small place. It’s a very popular holiday destination among the Dutch and it’s always thriving with life. Well, after all, it’s one of the two places in the Netherlands where there are caves. Moreover the landscape around Valkenburg is quite pretty with the rolling hills and the cattle grazing on the meadows, and the occasional castle here and there.
This is one of my most favorite places in the Netherlands. If you are in search of a quiet place with gorgeous sunsets, green waters and vast sand beaches – you’ll find it all on this small West Frisian Island. Not to forget the little quaint villages, the pastoral landscapes and the great local food. Oh, and a part of the island is protected areas as one of the 20 National Parks in the Netherlands. When travelling to Texel, just leave your car on the mainland, as you won’t need it on the island. However taking your bike with you is a great idea.
The Dunes of Loon and Drunen
This Dutch National Park looks totally out of place – moving sand dunes in de middle of the country. The Dunes of Loon and Drunen are actually the biggest sand-drifting area in Northern Europe. I love their versatility. For a country with hardly any hilltops, leave alone mountains, the Dunes are great for some hiking and even sleighing in the winter (if it happens to snow). In the late summer when the heath is in bloom, the dunes turn into a magical purple haze.
Well, this place is not as pretty as the rest in this list, but impressive it is! The Dutch hydro-engineering genius at its best! Neeltje Jans is the museum that tells the story about the great flood of 1953 which cost the life 1836 people, that led to the construction of one of the biggest engineering masterpieces of modern times – the Delta Works. Standing on the bridge and watching the waves battering the concrete poles, you start thinking how powerful nature is and then you realize that those powers can be harnessed, overmastered, overpowered by the engineering genius of a small nation.
Den Bosch, or ‘s-Hertogenbosch, is the major city of the North Brabant – Dutch province that’s famous for the good food and the joie-de-vivre life style. Admire the majestic St. John’s Cathedral and take a boat tour in the old city sewerage (De Binnendieze). Don’t miss to take a beer on De Parade (a square near the cathedral) and if you are fan of the Medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who was born there by the way, visit the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre, where you can find all works (in reproduction) of the artist at one place.
Read more: My complete travel guide about Den Bosch. If you are an art lover, here’s my art guide to the museums in Den Bosch. Want to spend more time in Brabant? Check out my 4-day itinerary in North Brabant.
Het Loo Palace
There aren’t many palaces in the Netherlands, but from the few that are still there, Het Loo Palace is undoubtedly the most beautiful one. And not only the palace is worth the visit. The meticulously manicured and kept Baroque gardens contrast with the natural and a bit wild beauty of the English park. Let’s say Het Loo Palace is the Dutch Versailles, but not because it looks like the palace near Paris, it’s because of its significance and role through the centuries as the palace of the House of Orange-Nassau (the Dutch Royal House).
Volendam is a typical fishing village with traditional fishermen houses with wooden facades. In Volendam you can spot locals wearing traditional costumes in the daily life. Has time really stopped? No, Voledam just goes its own way. Once attracting a crowd of famous painters, today Volendam hasn’t lost any of its charms. It tends to be a bit touristy, but it is still quite pretty.
Suggested tour: A day tour from Amsterdam to Volendam and Marken
Haarlem is one of those historical postcard-worthy Dutch towns. Haarlem played a major role during the 80-Years’ War with Spain and it’s the best place to learn about the Dutch Golden Age, when the city was thriving and prospering.
Suggested tour: A bike tour of Haarlem
How many of these Dutch icons have you visited? What’s on your bucket list? Tell me in the comments. Or is there a place I have omitted and that deserves to be on this list? I will gladly add it.