Netherlands Travel: The Best Cities in the Netherlands
The Dutch cities worth visiting (besides Amsterdam!)
So, you know me for writing blog posts about Amsterdam, but guess what guys? There are also other cities in the Netherlands worth visiting! Yes, really! There are in fact over 280 cities in the Netherlands in total - a number that surprised me even after living here for six years - and I can say with some confidence that all are worth visiting for one reason or another.
Sadly I haven't done very much travel around all these fantastic Dutch cities since living here other than getting to know a handful of the cities in Holland provinces, and especially Rotterdam very well. This is something I want to change and soon. However, who knows how long it would take before I get to see the majority of these cities in Netherlands and then find time to write about them. Lucky for me and you I know a lot of travel bloggers and writers who have visited these fab Dutch cities and they want to share their experiences with you.
The Best Cities in the Netherlands
Before we get into this list of Dutch cities, you should know that it's not an exhaustive list of places to visit in the Netherlands. It certainly doesn't include every city in the country, and of course there are towns, villages, beaches, national parks and more that are also worth seeking out in the country. (You can find some of these places listed in these suggestions for day trips from Amsterdam.) But this post really is more about the cities in the Netherlands that are worth knowing about so you can plan your Dutch travel to include those that sound most interesting to you, and for each city I've added a special top tip for some of the bigger cities in the Netherlands listed here so you can really get the most out of your trip. So let's get to it shall we!
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By Tea of Culture Tourist
Being the second biggest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is probably the one that looks the least Dutch. It was heavily bombed during the Second World War and most of its historical centre was completely destroyed. After the war, the decision was made that the old buildings won’t be restored. But, instead it became a modern architecture hub. Some of the most famous modern architects have built their buildings there. The first skyscraper in Europe was built in Rotterdam back at the end of the 19th Century. It’s called the White House and you can still see it today. Just a few steps from it, another famous buildings are located, the Cube Houses. The inspiration for those bright yellow houses were trees in a forest. And when standing bellow them, it really looks like people are living in tree houses. One of them was turned into a museum, so you can visit it and see how those famous houses look from the inside. Alternatively take in some of the architecture, the Cube Houses and more on a guided tour.
One of the most beautiful bridges in the Netherlands is also located in Rotterdam. Erasmus Bridge isn’t only famous for its design, but also because it’s the largest bascule bridge in western Europe. You can board a ferry just bellow the Erasmus Bridge and go on a tour around Rotterdam’s port. It’s the biggest port in Europe and definitely an interesting place to visit. Rotterdam is also a home to some amazing street art. You can take a street art tour and explore it with a guide. Or you can just stroll around and discover some of its art while wandering its streets.
For the art lovers, Museumpark is a place to go. This is where majority of the city museums are. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen has a wonderful modern art collection. But, it would be worthy visiting it only to see the famous statue created by Picasso in front of it. Rotterdam has a great food scene, as well. From some lovely cafes, to restaurants serving the food from all around the world. However, a heaven for all the foodies is definitely the Market Hall. Located in a beautiful building with a mural created by Arno Coenen on its ceiling, it’s a place where you can find the fruit you’ve never heard of, all the different kind of Dutch cheese to some lovely wines.
TOP TIP FOR ROTTERDAM: If you'd like to head to Rotterdam, think about getting a Rotterdam Welcome Card (for as little as €12,00) to get free public transport and discounted museum entry.
By Alex from Lost with Purpose
The small city of Haarlem lies halfway between Amsterdam and the beach town Zandvoort. Chock full of history, it serves as the capital of the province of Noord Holland. Small as the city center may be, it houses several medieval churches, beautifully kept hofjes (intimate center courtyards), a number of stately buildings, and a handful of world-class museums. One of the things that makes Haarlem so pleasant is that - unlike it more famous neighbor Amsterdam - the city protects the atmosphere and feel of its historical center. You won’t find Nutella pancakes or tourist traps here. There are also fewer tourists than in Amsterdam, allowing for some respite from the selfie stick-touting tour groups you’ll encounter in the ‘dam. Haarlem is also great base to explore Noord-Holland, as it’s in the middle of the province and has good train connections elsewhere, or just stay in the city and get your bearings by going on a bike tour.
It’s also easy to visit the famous tulip fields from Haarlem. When visiting the city, don’t skip the interior of the St. Bavo Church. Given it dominates the skyline of the central square, it’s pretty hard to miss. Inside, you’ll find a Müller organ dating from 1738, played on by a young Mozart when he visited Haarlem as a 10-year-old. While on your historical kick, spend a few hours museum hopping. Haarlem’s most notable are the Teylers Museum and the Frans Hals Museum. Both are worth a visit for their architecture alone, but they house some amazing art and antiquities collections, too.
But wait, there’s more! Haarlem brews its own beer, Jopenbeer. If you want to sample some, go to the Jopenkerk (Jopenchurch), an old church converted into a brewery and restaurant. The restaurant is passable, but the multitudes of beer flavors are delicious. Whether you seek culture and history, a peaceful escape, or simply good drinks and food, Haarlem has something for you.
TOP TIP FOR HAARLEM: It's very easy to stay in Haarlem and then visit Amsterdam during the day and you'd arguably save a lot of money as even the most luxurious hotels in Haarlem are cheaper than some of Amsterdam's best budget hotels. We've actually cycled from Amsterdam to Haarlem a few times and obviously public transport is even quicker.
By Nicholas of Rambling Feet
Utrecht has been in the international news lately for the wrong reasons. Don't let them put you off, though. I visited it to see a design icon but found several more things worth staying for. For architecture fans, the Rietveld-Schroeder House is a must-see sight. Gerrit Rietveld was a member of the De Stijl movement and he designed the house according to their principles, using only tones, primary colours and strong horizontal and vertical elements. To see the interior, one has to book a spot on a guided tour. The building may be 90 years old but it still looks out of this world, especially next to the other townhouses in the neighbourhood. The living space is beautiful, airy and versatile; it's never been modified and Rietveld's famous furniture pieces are also on show. Getting to the Rietveld-Schroeder House is easy; just borrow a bicycle from the Centraal Museum and follow the supplied map.
The Museum is also worth a visit, not only for Dutch contemporary art but also a recreated Dick Bruna studio. Does the name sound familiar? The late cartoonist created Miffy (Nijntje) and Black Bear. His original sketches are on display. Other notable buildings include De Inktpot, which looks as if a UFO crashed into its side, and the Domtoren, which was separated from the rest of the cathedral (Domkerk) during a storm 445 years ago.
To see the rest of the city, the climb to the top takes 465 steps in all.Elsewhere in the old city centre, there is vibrant nightlife along the Oudegracht. Here, the water level is a whole floor below the street level, so you can find more restaurants and bars by the water. The atmosphere is as good as any canal in Amsterdam, helped in no small part by the local student population.
TOP TIP FOR UTRECHT: Utrecht is a great Dutch city to visit if you have children. Not only is there the brilliant Nijntje (Miffy) Museum but there is also Het Spoorwegmuseum, the country's best railway museum and older kids would love doing a kayaking tour of Utrecht's canals.
ByMichael from The Round the World Guys
I had the opportunity to spend eight days in Den Haag - The Hague - a while back. I had already been to Amsterdam and wanted to experience something a bit different. Well, Den Haag is more than just a bit different. While Amsterdam is constantly busy, Den Haag is much less so. Here, you can enjoy a museum without the crowds. You can eat in cafes and sidewalk restaurants even in the centre of the city, without feeling rushed or squeezed in. And the people, not as worn down by the constant over-tourism in the capital city, seem far more relaxed.
When you get to The Hague, I'd recommend doing two things right away: First, buy a transit pass right away. They are inexpensive relative to single tickets, and you'll likely use them a lot. Although The Hague is a certainly a very walkable city, it’s quite easy to just hop on the tram and be where you want to go in minutes. Second, do a walking tour of the city. These tours are conducted by local guides for tips only. A walking tour is a great way to get yourself centered and get the feel of Den Haag. After your tour, I highly recommend visiting the Maurutshuis Museum. There, you'll find Vermeer's The Girl With a Peal Earring and View of Delft, as well as other masterpieces like Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson. Fans of Escher will enjoy Escher in the Palace, an entire museum dedicated to the master of the art of (mis)perception. And, of course, there is The Peace Palace - home to the International Court of Justice. If you're interested in spending some time outside the city, I highly recommend hopping on a tram and taking a 25 minute ride to Delft, just outside the city. In Delft, visit both the Old Church and the New Church. In the Old Church, you’ll find the grave of Vermeer alongside many other prominent Dutch people. In the New Church lies Prince William of Orange I. Don’t forget to climb the bell tower for an amazing view of the city. For me, The Hague felt like what The Netherlands should be - a laid back, progressive city with quality restaurants, bars, museums, nestled in a larger metro area with unique smaller towns within an easy tram or train ride. It’s Amsterdam, just far more relaxed.
TOP TIP FOR DEN HAAG: The famous miniature museum of the Netherlands Madurodam is very close to Den Haag which is one of the country's most popular attractions. Alternatively if you're staying in the city, you could consider a beer-themed walking tour of The Hague and I've heard good things about this exhibition at Het Paleis.
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By Jodie of a la Jode
Eindhoven is one of the most surprising cities I've ever visited. Despite its compact size, the city of Eindhoven is packed with foodie treats and experiences that even non-foodies will get excited about - yet very few people know about it. From modern fusion restaurants to Michelin-starred fine dining, there's something for every taste bud in Eindhoven. Coffee is also an art form in Eindhoven, and Coffee Lab serves up some of the most unique cups of java in the world.
Wherever in the city you find yourself, you can be sure that you're never far from a new food experience. The city of Eindhoven has a modern, lively vibe that welcomes everyone who finds themself there. The entire city is a bustling hub of innovation, with new initiatives and forward-thinking spots popping up all the time - which isn't really surprising given that Eindhoven is home to both the Philips company and some of Europe's most renowned designers. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local because they'll be able to tell you about the recent pop-ups worth visiting, as well as some of the city's fascinating modern history and design initiatives.
TOP TIP FOR EINDHOVEN: Eindhoven actually has its own airport and some low-cost airlines fly there from a number of destinations in Europe. Check Skyscanner to see if an airport near you does!
By Karen of WanderlustingK
By Michelle of Greedy Gourmet
Groningen is a vibrant university city with stunning architecture and incredible history. The last time I visited it, I completely fell in love with it! It is located in the northern part of the Netherlands. Believe it or not, the city was founded already in the year 1040, although archaeologist have discovered traces of civilization that date back all the way to 3700 B.C.
Generally speaking, Groningen was known throughout history as ‘The Metropolis of the North” and that it was “Martinised”. For this reason, when you visit the city center of Groningen, you’ll find the beautiful Martini Tower, otherwise known as Martinitoren. There is also the world famous Groninger Museum as well as the Theefabriek (Groningen’s only tea museum). So, if you are into museums, this is the place to be. Above all, it's known for is distinct cuisine and food culture. Have you ever heard of the famous Groningen mustard soup? Oh yes, it’s a soup made with mustard that’s super tangy and exciting. I also highly recommend taking some time to visit the local Fish Market. It is one of the best in the regions where you’ll find tons of things that will tempt your taste buds. Let’s not forget about the famous eierball (deep-fried egg coated with meat and breadcrumbs) and bitterballen (traditional Dutch meatballs). This is the street food to try when you are in Groningen. If you are into a cooler vibe, then definitely don’t miss out on the chance to get your cocktail served by a robot at Mr. Mofongo’s. Definitely a memorable experience. As you can see, I loved my time in Groningen. For more information about this incredible Dutch city, then check out this post sharing the top foodie things to do in Groningen.
TOP TIP FOR GRONINGEN: Enjoy a very personal private tour of Groningen with a knowledgeable local to really find out the inside story of Groningen.
By Chelsea of Pack More Into Life
The Netherlands is one of my favorite countries and with so many fun and vibrant cities to visit, I’m going to tell you why you should include Delft. Delft is located on the west coast of the Netherlands in between The Hague and Rotterdam. It started as a rural village in the middle ages and has grown to be a bustling city and tourist destination.
One of our favorite reasons for visiting Delft is that the entire city is walk-able, and the attractions are compact in the center of the city (the Delft pottery factory is the only attraction outside the center of the city). Be sure to visit the new church which is located on the market square with tombs from the Dutch royal family. It dates back to 14th century and has a bell tower that you can climb for some spectacular views over Delft. Across the market square is the grand city hall with its beautiful stonework, carved statues and intricate designs. Although you are not able to enter this building, the exterior should be admired. If you’ve started to work up an appetite, wander a few canals over to 't Postkantoor for their delicious soups and sandwiches. Or perhaps you just need a quick pick me up, then grab some coffee from the Kek Coffee bar.
After you’ve explored the city, venture over to the Delft blue pottery factory to see how each piece of pottery is hand painted with it’s famous blue designs. We braved the tour with three little ones and then headed over to the park and nearby Lake to let the kids play at the playground and relax a bit. There is a small café and boats to rent. If you are able to time your visit for Kings Day in April, you’ll be delighted with a city full of festivities! In the morning you’ll discover a flea market with families setting up their blankets along the canal. We found some old hand painted tiles and a few old coins. Then head to the market square with your orange clothing to listen to music, dance and party into the evening. It is a family friendly event with plenty of entertainment for everyone. Want to read more about taking the kids to the Netherlands? Head over to my family friendly travel blog to read all about it.
TOP TIP FOR DELFT: It's actually very easy to do a quick tour of Delft along with The Hague and Rotterdam all in one journey. You won't be able to do as much, of course, but it will mean you see all three cities in a day if you are short on time.
By Sarah and Justin of Travel Breathe Repeat
Leeuwarden is a double capital: it is the capital of the province of Friesland and it was a European Capital of Culture in 2018.
It is also fantastic city, deserving of the recent attention and tourism boost. Being in Friesland, it does feel a little different from the rest of the country. And it sounds different too, as you’ll hear residents speaking their native language of Frisian. You can definitely see most of the top sights in Leeuwarden in one day - and that’s what we did. We walked around its lovely tree-lined streets, small canals, and leafy parks. We peered up at its very own leaning tower, the Oldehove, imagining about what the city was like in the 16th century when construction on it began. We window shopped at the unique prison turned cultural hot spot, Blokhuispoort. We regretted not having booked advance tickets to the supposedly wonderful Fries Museum, where we could have learned more about the history and culture of Friesland.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Speciaalbier Café De Markies - one of the best beer bars we’ve visited in the Netherlands. It was especially gezellig and we learned a lot about the city and the region from the friendly staff. If you’re looking to stay over in Leeuwarden, we can recommend B&B Kia Ora, owned by a couple that is one half Kiwi and one half Fries. The location was great, our room was spacious, and breakfast was tasty. We are very happy we chose to visit Leeuwarden, and think it’s one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands, even though we hadn’t heard of it before moving here!
TOP TIP FOR LEEUWARDEN: There are also private tours of Leeuwarden that would give you more information about the city and about the special Friesland identity and traditions.
By Bruna of Maps 'N' Bags
The southernmost Dutch city, Maastricht, is a sweet place with a medieval atmosphere and sprinkled with cozy cafes. Maastricht is a charming city many tourists decide to visit after their packed Amsterdam itinerary. Granted you can spend a day visiting churches, historical buildings, and sites, but personally, at the end of the day stop by one of its beer cafes, such as the Gouverneur, have a couple of beers and do some people watching. It’s so simple, and yet so pleasant! During the day, be sure to visit the Gothic Saint Jan’s Church with its prominent red tower and the impressive Romanesque Basilica of Our Lady.
However, the most interesting church isn’t really a church. Well, at least not anymore. A bookstore named Selenyz is based in a former Dominican church right in the heart of Maastricht. This sacred place maintained most of the original decoration and built a three-story structure in the nave where you can stroll along dark wood shelves. It’s really impressive! Oh, and if hunger strikes you, stop by the Bisschopsmolen for a piece of the local treat, a pastry and filling pie named vlaai. And by the way, here is the country’s oldest working water mill. Maastricht also has many seasonal events, such as the famous Christmas Market and the Dutch Carnival festivities in the winter, and food and music festivals in the summer. Also, if you’re reaching it from Amsterdam, know that there’s a direct train to the city and it’s a 2.30-hour train ride. I might be biased because I used to live there, but I promise I won’t exaggerate: Maastricht is one of the most delightful cities in the Netherlands to visit for a weekend.
TOP TIP FOR MAASTRICHT: Love running? Then go on a running tour of Maastricht so you can learn about the city and get fit at the same time.
S'Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch)
By Daniela of Ipanema Travels To...
The Dutch Province of North Brabant is famous for the so-called Burgundian lifestyle – good food and drinks enjoyed with friends and family. And the capital city of North Brabant, s'Hertogenbosch or Den Bosch as it's more commonly known (thank goodness!), lives up to this promise. Den Bosch is for those who love to enjoy life and for those who love history.
The city is absolutely adorable with the Market Square and the Old Town Hall. In the middle of the Market Square there are a water well and a statue restored according to a 16th century painting which can be found in the local museum. When in Den Bosch do not miss to visit Sint-Jan (St. John’s Cathedral), get a beer at one of the many cafés at the Parade, or eat a Bossche Bol at Jan de Groot. An absolutely unique experience is a boat tour on the Binnendieze. These aren’t just the normal canals that you’ll find in most Dutch cities, these are canals that were part once of the city’s sewer. So, you’ll go with the boat under the houses. And I promise, it won’t stink.
One of the must-sees in Den Bosch is the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre, dedicated to the greatest medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch. From the top of the former church, where the Centre is located, there’s a beautiful view to the city and Sint-Jan. If you are into museums, you can visit the Noordbrabants Museum and the Design Museum. You can reach Den Bosch easily by train. It takes only an hour from Amsterdam. If you are travelling by car, the best is to park outside of the city centre on one of the specials parking terrains and use the shuttle service to get to the city centre.
By Lesia of Dutch Wannabe
Leiden is a quintessentially Dutch city that offers charm and canals in abundance, making it the perfect day trip from Amsterdam. The city's university dates all the way back to the 16th-century but even today Leiden remains a student town. If you are looking for a fantastic day trip that will introduce you to the country, the city fits the bill perfectly.
Leiden is like the Netherlands in miniature: it has everything from its very own windmill in the heart of the city, to cozy canals and a gorgeous Hortus Botanicus botanical garden that is a must for every visitor. Start with a boat tour to feel the spirit of the city, but don’t miss the chance to rent a bicycle and explore Leiden’s surroundings. The city centre is quite compact, which makes it so much easier to get around even if you’re unused to biking. Despite its size, there are many things to do in Leiden so you can easily take two days to explore it. The city has your fair share of unusual museums as well, from the windmill museum De Valk to the CORPUS interactive museum which guides you through the human body.
If you are into art and history, don’t miss the Museum De Lakenhal, which has art by Rembrandt, or the Japan Museum SieboldHuis which has a lot of interesting mementos from the times when Japan was still under lock and key. And if you’re coming with family, you can always extend your journey to stop by the nearby Duinrell amusement park and enjoy the beautiful National Park Hollandse Duinen as you bike across the Meijendel dunes.
By Clemens & Anne of Traveller's Archive
By Manouk of Groetjes uit Verweggistan
You might not even know this city exists, but Middelburg is definitely one of the best cities in the Netherlands to consider visiting! It is the capital of the province called Zeeland. Travelling here you will see a lot of flat land and a lot of water. This is the place to see the famous waterworks (Deltawerken) that the Dutchies build to protect themselves from the sea.
Middelburg itself is a lovely city. It is small, which makes it perfect for a short weekend break. And the best part: it does not get many tourists, which makes it fantastic for escaping the crowds and travelling off the beaten track. The first eyecatcher is the old city hall, standing in the main square of the city. It is one of the many historical monuments in the city: you will find more than 1100 in the city!
The best way to discover them is by doing a walking tour or have a tour in the old city hall, so you learn about why Middelburg once was one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. Or you could learn more in the Zeeuws Museum. And besides all the history, it is a lovely quiet city for a stroll along the canals or a drink on a sunny terrace. The food is delicious, so try one of the many restaurants! You could try the typical Dutch mussels or any other seafood, because the city is close to the coast. But even if you decide to go for something else, we only had delicious dinners in this city.
Find out more about Middelburg and other cities in the Netherlands on Manouk's Dutch travel blog.
By Manon of Visiting the Dutch Countryside
Elburg is a beautiful Dutch Hansa town that is located in the province of Gelderland, The Netherlands.
Elburg is a medieval city that gained its city rights somewhere between 1220 and 1271. Which makes it an older city than Amsterdam, as Amsterdam only obtained their city rights around the year 1300-1301. Elburg was a city that heavily relied on fishing and remnants of that past can be found all throughout this beautiful Dutch city.
Although the city of Elburg is relatively small, it has a lot of things to offer. As soon as you walk towards Elburg there's one thing that will stand out. The city wall. Almost the entire city is still surrounded by the old city wall. This is something you won't see often in The Netherlands anymore and it makes Elburg an even more special city than it already is. You will find city gates in the city wall and there are even houses built into the city wall of Elburg to create extra space within the community.
In Elburg you can find anything from an old monastery garden to plenty of cute alleys and restaurants. In the old monastery, you can find the Museum of Elburg and you can explore the old monument from the inside. In the Museum of Elburg, you can discover and learn about the history of the old Hansa city of Elburg. But I would also recommend you to go for a walk over the rampart that surrounds Elburg to discover this beautiful Dutch city from another perspective.
Bergen op Zoom
By Manon of Visiting the Dutch Countryside
The city of Bergen op Zoom is located in the province of Noord- Brabant and is one of those cities in The Netherlands that isn’t often visited by tourists but it should be because it has a lot to offer. It's a small Dutch city that is renowned for its Burgundian lifestyle within The Netherlands. The oldest reference to Bergen op Zoom as a city dates back to 1213 and currently it has around 50.000 inhabitants. The pace of life is slower, the people are friendly and the beautiful streets make it seem like you have just walked into Belgium or France.
During the end of spring, there's one thing you have to do in Bergen op Zoom. And that is to eat asparagus in one of their amazing restaurants. The asparagus is grown just outside of Bergen op Zoom and are renowned for its special taste. One other thing you have to do is to explore the city itself. Bergen op Zoom is home to one of the most beautiful city palaces of The Netherlands and Europe, the Markiezenhof. It's the oldest city palace of The Netherlands and dates back to the Middle Ages.
There is a museum housed inside the Markiezenhof that will show you the history of Bergen op Zoom, there are rooms completely in the style of the middle ages and plenty of more things to see. There is also a great permanent exhibit on the history of fairs, which is interesting to see. As well as temporary exhibitions that often feature local artists.
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By Manon of Visiting the Dutch Countryside
The city of Zwolle is found in the province of Overijssel, The Netherlands. The people who live in Zwolle are called Zwollenaren and are lucky to live in such a beautiful city that is all too often overlooked by tourists for other bigger Dutch cities, but this is a mistake!
Zwolle as a city dates back to 1230, but people started living here way earlier. Zwolle is one of those Dutch cities that will capture your heart and won't let it go. It's charming, lively and authentic. When you're looking for a city to visit in The Netherlands that has canals, cute squares and friendly people, then Zwolle is your place to be.
The Waanders bookstore is located in the Broerenkerk, which is an old church, and besides it being a bookstore, you can get some coffee or something to eat here as well. Not to mention that there are often theatre or music performances held. But not only can you find a beautiful church that has been converted into a bookstore here, but you can also find one of the best museums in The Netherlands in Zwolle.
Museum De Fundatie is a museum for visual arts and one of my favourite museums. They have a permanent collection of works by painters and artists such as Piet Mondriaan, Vincent van Gogh and Karel Appel. But there are new exhibitions from other artists every three months. The building of Museum De Fundatie itself is already very interesting. A fun fact is that the cloud was placed on top of the 19th-century building only back in 2013. Zwolle is definitely worth a visit, whether it's a quick pit-stop or a two-day stay. There are plenty of things to see and do in this beautiful Dutch city.
Now over to you. Did we miss one of your favourite Dutch cities? Please let us know which one and why you love it so much in the comments. And if you'd like to save this post, here are some images you can pin and share.
Frances M. Thompson
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