The Kingdom of the Netherlands or the Netherlands (Nederland) is often mistakenly referred to as ‘Holland’, which accounts for only 2 of the 12 connected regions that make up the country.
The Netherlands began its independent life as a republic in the 16th century. It’s foundations lie in flourishing trade of its maritime exploits, which placed this tiny but rich country at the forefront of European culture.
Water plays an integral part of the national psyche as well as its geography. An estimated 20% of the total area is water, and much of the land has been reclaimed from the North Sea in efforts which date back to medieval times and have spawned an extensive system of dykes. It’s capital Amsterdam, has gleaned its character from land reclamation, being built around an intricate canal system.
The Netherlands, is a lively mix of tradition, with its windmills, clogs and tulips, and fast-paced modern European life. It’s an ideal destination for those who enjoy pursuits like cycling or walking, there is a strong tradition of outdoor activities and partly due to its accessibility, the country side is well used. But it is a cultured land as well, having produced many of the world’s most famous artists from Rembrandt and Vermeer in the 17th century to Van Gogh in the 19th and Mondrian in the 20th.
It is one of the world’s most densely populated nations. The Dutch are an affable bunch, with a good sense of humour and keen to enjoy themselves. In the cities, national holidays like Queen’s day are celebrated with vigour – the Dutch certainly know how to party. Despite their country’s puritan past, they are known for tolerance, or at least turning a blind eye. The Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’. In reality, drugs are prohibited, and this tolerance exists only for designated premises in the major cities.
The Netherlands offer a traveller a variety of experiences from exploring its rich cultural heritage, making the most of the outdoor life, to exciting cities with contemporary food culture, and vibrant night life. Best of all its so compact you can enjoy it all in one trip!
The Netherlands has approximately 480 inhabitants per square kilometre and there are over 16 million bicycles in use, almost one for every citizen!
The currency for the Netherlands is the Euro (€)
Language – Dutch is the language spoken in the Netherlands. They also speak English very well. However, there are also places that speak German, usually in the south and east regions of the country.
Largest Cities: (by population) Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Groningen, Breda, Apeldoorn, Nijmege
Echternach Dancing Procession, held five days after Easter, sees parish people walk to the town’s abbey to bear offerings. It draws so many thousands of visitors that the procession is repeated on Whit Tuesday.
MUST SEE & DO...
- See the Dutch masters of the Golden Age at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
- Check out the Netherlands Political elite in the strangley laid back atmosphere of the Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament in the Hague.
- Bike or Hike through one of the largest and greenest National Parks, Hoge Veluwe. There is a gem of a museum in the centre
- Visit this iconic museum and learn about Dutch occupartion at the The Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam
- The beach at Scheveningen has everything from kitch arcades to a thriving surf scene.
- Eat a Pancake, sweet or savory – they are a mainstay of national cusine.
- Explore Rotterdam’s modern architecture, with a guided tour or make your own way round some of Europes most innovative buildings.
- Walk or Cycle through the dunes at Camperduin on the North east coast.
- Try the local Gin, Jenever – check with the bar staff as to the most traditional way to consume!
- The St. Nicolaas Boat Club of Amsterdam is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic boats on the Amsterdam canals. As well as that, it’s the BEST way to explore the city.
- By airSchiphol is the major international air transport hub 15km out of the centre of Amsterdam, alternatively you can take a ferry into both the Hook of Holland (Hoek van Holland) and Rotterdam in the South.The Netherlands is connected to the rest of Europe by a superb network of motorways. Although frontier formalities between The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium have now all but vanished, motorists (particularly on smaller roads) should be prepared to stop when asked to do so by a customs official.Eurostar operates direct trains from London St Pancras International to Paris and Brussels, where you can take connecting trains to major cities.
- By bus: Eurolines is the main operator for international coaches to the Netherlands. Services are limited: only a few main routes have a daily service, such as from Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris, but this is the cheapest way to travel and you get a discount if your age is less than 26.
- By train: The Netherlands is well served by public transport with one of the most efficient trains networks in Europe making no point in the country more than a three hour journey away. Amsterdam and The Haag are famous for their trams and are a great way to travel around these city hubs. Nederlandse Spoorwegen is the principal passanger railway in the Netherlands. There are two different forms of trains in the Netherlands: The ‘stoptrein’ stops at all stations. The ‘intercity’ only stop at larger stations. ‘Sprinters’ are trains operating as a ‘stoptrein’, but only on dedicated lines in the Randstad.
- Local Transport: The best way to travel the Netherlands, be it long distance or short trips to explore its cities and towns, is by bike. No country in the world is so geared towards 2 wheel transport. Bike hire can cost as little as £5 pounds a day, and there are a number of bicycle networks that make planning your journey easy. Driving around the Netherlands is straight forward but petrol and parking make this option slightly more expensive than other European countries.Taxis are expensive and not allowed to pick up people on the street, unless it is by reservation or at a taxi stand. If in need of a taxi stand look for the ‘standplaats taxis’ sign. In the larger cities, at bar closing times, you can sometimes flag one down. Look for one with the taxi sign lit.
GLOBE TREKKER ITINERARY
Traveller Brianna Barnes explores North and South Holland on all manner of bicycles and discovers the history behind the Dutch national colour orange and its famed flower, the tulip, in this Globe Trekker adventure that is anything but flat.
She disembarks by ferry boat in the Hook of Holland and eats a raw herring (which is ritually ingested with the head thrown back.) Taking a taxi to Holland’s political capital – the Hague – she learns about Dutch resistance against Spanish Catholic rule led by the Protestant Count William of Orange and then visits the Gemeente museum for some serious modern art – involving vertical and horizontal lines and primary colours. The movement was called “The Style”, and its chief proponent was the great Piet Mondrian.
Brianna enjoys an overnight stay in a cargo container in the seaside resort of Sheveningen and braves the cold North Sea with a bunch of surfers. She hires a typical Dutch ‘granny’ bike and says “Tot Zo” – “So long!” to the Hague to explore the ‘green heart’ of Holland.
She first arrives in the medieval town of Oudewater where she’s weighed like a seventeenth century witch in the town’s waag (weighing house). After gaining her witch’s certificate she is provided lodging in a couple’s house by an association called “The Friends of the Bicycle”. Here she gains a few pounds indulging in a Dutch culinary favourite – pancakes with “stroop” – syrup.
The next day Brianna cycles into the University City of Leiden where she visits its botanical gardens and esteemed former curator who regales her with tales of Carolus Clusius and the arrival of the tulip in the Low countries from the Central steppes of Asia. Leaving Leiden, Brianna catches a train and rides north to Alkmaar, where she buys a fitting pair of clogs, takes part in the weekly cheese market and enjoys another herring lunch with a gang of water millers – all under the shade of a lovely seventeenth century paddle mill.
The wind and the sea have shaped the Netherlands in more ways than once. So Brianna hires a wind-powered bicycle called a “whike” and crosses into the province of Friesland, to explore a wind farm and learn about green energy. She partakes conclusively in the annual canal jumping competition in Heidenskip. This is an idiosyncratic sport involving an eighteen foot metal pole, freezing cold water and a lot of Dutch courage!
A volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with members of local communities, who offer free accommodation and/or advice. The best part about this place – its FREE!
F.A.S.T The Haag
A surf inspired hostel complex on the beach in Scheveningen! Camping is also available.
EAT & DRINK
- The Dutch love cheese, bread and milk. The world famous Dutch breakfast is a great way to start the day; Fruit, cheese, cured cold meats and washed down with glasses of Milk. Lunch usually consists of a sandwich (more bread, cheese and meat) with a salad or soup.
- The old-fashioned Dutch dinner consists of one simple course: beans or potatoes, meat and vegetables. A typical meal may include stamppot (Dutch mashed potato mixed with other mashed vegetables) and pea soup. Vegetable stews served as side dishes are for example rode kool met appeltjes (red cabbage with apples), or rode bieten (red beets).
- The Netherlands was once a colonial power, with interests and settlements in Africa, Asia, North America and the Caribbean. Indonesia, with its wealth of spices, was considered the jewel in its colonial crown. And the Dutch wholeheartedly embraced Indonesian cuisine. The rijsttafel or rice table consists of rice, spicy sambal paste and dozens of small dishes and can be sampled in most towns and cities across the Netherlands.
Holland Tourism – http://www.holland.com/uk/
Train info – Nederlandse Spoorwegen – http://www.ns.nl/
Amsterdam Information Center – http://amsterdam.angloinfo.com/Iamsterdam – http://www.iamsterdam.com/
Rijksmuseum – http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/
Amsterdam (2nd Edition) – Rodney Bolt – Publisher: Cadogan Guides
Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner
Tulipomania by Mike Dash
Time Out: Amsterdam (7th Edition 2002) – Publisher: Penguin Books
Lonely Planet: The Netherlands – Neal Bedford and Simon Sellars – Publisher: Lonely Planet
Eyewitness Travel: The Netherlands (2008) – Gerard M.L. Harmans – Publisher: Dorling Kindersley, A Penguin Company
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