Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven and even the small village of Giethoorn- who doesn’t know the Netherlands most popular destinations, it is, of course, one of the most beloved countries in Western Europe. However you should know that this country is so much more beautiful when you see more than just its big cities and tourist spots – because the true and authentic Netherlands can be enjoyed only by visiting villages and towns on the outskirts, which offer a wealth of unique beauty that will allow you to get to know the Netherlands Inside out. So, we’ve collected 10 recommended places to visit throughout the Netherlands, which will ensure that your next trip to this country is as authentic and enjoyable as possible!
Zierikzee is a delightfully small, picturesque town that houses no less than 500 historical sites and monuments. This town, in the Zeeland province in the south-west of the Netherlands, has many interesting places to visit. One of the favorite tourist attractions is the ancient church with the challenging name of Sint-Lievensmonstertoren, built in the 12th century. From the top of its imposing tower – about 60 meters high, you can get an excellent view of the city and the entire area. Since Zierikzee sits by the sea and is considered a fishing town, it is also recommended to visit the Maritime Museum and harbor gates built here in the Middle Ages.
The beautiful Naarden is one of the best-preserved fortress cities in the Netherlands, and perhaps even in Europe as a whole, and is a great example of the fortification system known as “star-forts” and was widespread in Europe during the 15th century. Nardeen played an important role in the 80-year war for the independence of the Netherlands more than 500 years ago, but today its military career has stayed in the past and now it is a great addition to those picturesque and peaceful places to visit in the Netherlands. In the old and charming center of Nardeen, you can find the Great church, or Grote Kerk, from the 15th century which is considered one of the oldest surviving in the Netherlands to date, as well as the Fortress Museum.
The small, pastoral town of Thorn is located in the southern province of Limburg, near the border with Belgium, and is also known as the White Village for its small white painted houses (unlike traditional Dutch architecture where most of the houses and buildings are dark). Thorn has a fascinating history that began in the 12th century, when it was founded as a small settlement that grew around a monastery in the area, and later gained independence of its own and became a state that was then considered the smallest state in the Holy Roman Empire. Today it is a pleasant little village, full of stone-paved alleys, small courtyards and a beautiful Gothic church at its center.
The town of Elburg lies in an area where evidence of settlement has been found from 796 CE. After a flood that apparently hit the place, it was completely rebuilt in the 14th century and remained a peaceful fishing town for hundreds of years. Local residents also refused to connect it to the Dutch national railway system established in the 19th century. Only during the 20th century, when the fishing industry in Elburg diminished, the town opened itself to the world and over the years became a major tourist attraction attracting tens of thousands of tourists a year. Of course, you can also be among the city’s visitors, stroll through its picturesque streets, and admire the beautiful stone bridges found throughout it.
Unlike most other places on this list, Leiden is not a small town but a city of urban character, however urban it is, it still manages to invoke a sense of calm which makes it one more destination you need to reach in Holland, especially if you love art and museums. In the city where one of the most famous Dutch artists of all time, Rembrandt, was born, there is a wealth of interesting museums to explore, and it is also home to the first university in the Netherlands – Leiden University. There are also quite a few green areas, such as the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
Although the main attraction in the town of Oudewater is probably one of the strangest in the Netherlands, it still shouldn’t be missed, because at least it will benefit your body image …we’re talking about the Witches Weighhouse, a public building which sits at the center of the town where in the 16th century men and women suspected of witchcraft, were given the opportunity to prove their innocence. According to popular belief in those days, the bodies of witches had no soul so they weighed less than the weight of an average person. During this period, Oudewater became a magnet for people who wanted to prove their “innocence” to those who accused them of witchcraft. Although luckily, our belief in wizards and witches is no longer, the Oudewater building is still active, and you can reach it and get a signed document that confirms that your weight matches your body structure and that you aren’t experimenting in the dark arts!
If you are a fan of the sour yellow condiment called mustard, you should visit the city of Doesburg, one of the main tourist attractions is the mustard and vinegar museum, where you can discover more about these favorite foods and of course taste them. In addition, the town hall known, which is considered the oldest public building in the country, can be found in this small and charming town – situated on the banks of the Isle River in the center of the Netherlands. You can also visit a museum dedicated to French glass artist Rene Lalique, which holds more than 250 hand-made glass items.
8. Broek in Waterland
Many visitors in Holland already know the name Giethoorn- the picturesque village of canals that can be explored by boat which allows one to appreciate the special beauty that appears in every corner. If you already know this attraction, you will certainly be happy to hear about the small village of Broek in Waterland, which is also full of small water canals, colorful little houses and spacious flowered meadows – all with much less tourist buzz than Giethoorn. Broek in Waterland is also well-known for its cleanliness, so much so that you will often see its inhabitants wandering around barefoot because they don’t have to worry about dirt or debris on the ground.
A short ride of no more than half an hour on the train is what separates the great Amsterdam from the small and modest harbor town Horn, once one of the most important business and commercial centers on the Netherlands’ trade routes, which today is simply a relaxed and charming vacation destination. As in Dutch tradition, Horne is littered with stone cobblestone streets where you can stroll for fun, and small boutique shops selling the best of local produce. You can also visit the West Frisian Museum with its extensive collection of paintings, silver, and weapons from the Golden Age of the Netherlands. If you are a nature enthusiast, you can find beaches and golden dunes in Horn, which are simply breathtaking.
Somewhere on the shores of the Wadden Sea, on the northwestern tip of the Netherlands, is the fishing village of Harlingen, famous for its extensive fishing industry which has recently attracted many tourists who want to discover this part of the country. The views you can see from the town’s coastline are simply wonderful, with the horizon dotted with dozens of fishing boats that go out to the sea every day to bring in the fish for tomorrow. The beachfront lighthouse, erected in the 1920s, is one of the iconic landmarks of this small, proud town.