The Netherlands is, undoubtedly, one of the most vibrant and interesting countries in Europe, well known for its diverse capital city of Amsterdam. The Dutch country (formerly known as Holland) is much more than just canals, Catholic churches, museums and peaceful countryside, and if you meander off a little, you will find picturesque towns as well as lesser-known cities like The Hague and Rotterdam. The Netherlands is a labyrinth of strikingly lovely canals, beautiful alleys, bicycle-friendly locals, traditional Dutch homes, windmills, sparkling flower markets, and jaw-dropping views. Whether you’re spending two days or two weeks in the Netherlands, we hope that this list of things the Netherlands is famous for will provide a glimpse of this country. Of course, when you visit this wonderful country, it warrants a stay at one of its best hotels and Airbnb tiny houses!
1. Vincent van Gogh
This list isn’t even remotely close to complete without the Netherlands’, arguably, best contribution to the world—Vincent van Gogh! He belongs to the list of the most influential figures in Western art. During his lifetime, van Gogh has created over 2,000 artworks, more than 800 of which are oil paintings that were completed two years before his death. His works are mostly comprised of portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and self-portraits. Some of his most notable works include the Starry Night in 1889, Sunflowers in 1887, and the Siesta in 1890.
Seriously, who doesn’t have Amsterdam on their bucket list of places to visit? It is Holland’s capital and is notable for its canal system, festivals, narrow houses, and artistic culture. One of the best areas to visit in the city is its Museum District where you’ll find the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk. The city got its name from the river Amstel, which had a dam built to control flooding, hence the term Amstel dam. Some of the other attractions you’ll find in Amsterdam are the Anne Frank House, the Heineken Experience, and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam.
You may remember Miffy from your childhood books. She is a tiny female rabbit created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna. The first book came out in 1953, and almost 30 more were published after. These books have sold over 85 million copies and have had television shows and a movie created after it. Some of the titles you may be familiar with are Miffy: Colors, Numbers, and Shapes on Cartoon Network, Miffy and Friends, Miffy’s Adventures Big and Small, and Miffy the Movie in 2013. Miffy was created by Bruna after stories he told his son Sierk about a small rabbit they had seen during a holiday.
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4. De Wallen
Perhaps one of the well-known, if not the most, tourist spots in Amsterdam is De Wallen. It is the most popular red-light district in the city, or maybe even in the world. De Wallen is comprised of alleys with hundreds of cabins rented out by sex workers who provide their services inside. In Amsterdam, window prostitution is the most common type of sex work. The district of De Wallen is also home to sex-related establishments like sex shops, sex theatres, sex museums, and peep showrooms. There are also a number of cannabis museums and coffee shops that sell cannabis in the area.
5. World's first stock exchange
For those unfamiliar, the world’s first official stock exchange was actually in Amsterdam. Dutch East India Company established the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in 1602 and renamed it Amsterdam Bourse. The stock exchange merged with the European Options Exchange in 1997 and is currently being handled by Euronext Amsterdam which is what its current name is. In September 2000, it merged with the Brussels Stock Exchange and the Paris Stock Exchange, forming Euronext. The stock exchange is located at Beursplein 5.
It’s hard to imagine Holland without picturing windmills in the scenery. It is essentially the most famous thing the Netherlands is known for. All around Amsterdam, you’ll find windmills in different sizes in souvenir shops. From fridge magnets and spoons to clocks and garden decor – you’ll find windmills everywhere! To put it in numbers, there are over 1,000 windmills still standing from 1850, but only a few still operate commercially. You can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the village, Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site, set against the backdrop of river Noord and nestled between Rotterdam and Dordrecht.
Villages & Windmills Zaanse Schans Small Group Tour
Duration: 5 hour
After a long day of sightseeing and trying our things to do in Amsterdam, take a sip of the well-known pale lagers, especially Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel that are the most popular beers from the Netherlands. Pale lager is commonly drunk before or after a meal owing to its versatile flavor which pairs wonderfully with most meals. The Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of beer and produces a number of regional specialties that are neck-to-neck with Belgium or German brews and are brewed as per ancient recipes.
One place which you surely can’t afford to miss is the House of Bols, one of the oldest distilleries in the world. The company offers a glimpse of the exciting bar-tending culture along with a spectacular guided tour of its facilities and a tasting session that culminates into an hour-long cocktail workshop, where guests can learn more about cocktails, genevers, and the basic skills behind mixology.
Amsterdam: Guided Craft Beer Brewery Bus Tour with Tastings
Duration: 165 minute
While it might be difficult to sum up Amsterdam’s unique charm succinctly, there are several items readily available in the city that capture a certain measure of its pleasant history and culture. One such piece of beauty that you can’t miss out on, is delftware ceramic items. From blue and white vase, salt & pepper shakers, and hand-painted tiles to a lovely box with the little girl and boy poised for a kiss, these porcelain pieces are iconic symbols of the Netherlands.
Delftware painters paint the traditional decorations on the porcelain items purely by hand- and it doesn’t have to necessarily be in blue. If you want to buy authentic delftware, you have to go to the lovely town of Delft, which makes for an interesting day trip from Amsterdam. When you buy an authentic piece from either of these potteries, you will receive a certificate from the Chamber of Commerce recognizing your purchases as authentic delftware.
Royal Delft: Delftblue Factory and Museum
Duration: 1.5 hour
The Netherlands has so much to offer art fans. It has produced some of the finest painters in the world, none more so than in the Dutch Golden Age when their prolific artists developed styles and masterpieces on which Europe relied on for the next two centuries. Most are familiar with towering figures like Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen, who changed the art of painting forever with their brush strokes and were artistic pioneers in the centuries before and after the ‘golden era of painting’ as well. They paved the way for some of the most breathtaking landscape paintings ever produced.
Amsterdam Private Rembrandt Walking Tour with Rijksmuseum
Duration: 4 hours
The three main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht), cover over 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the area, and they form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel, contributing to Amsterdam’s fame as the ‘Venice of the North’.
Amsterdam’s city center is shaped by a multi-tiered canal belt that encircles Dam Square. This old feat of engineering was mainly constructed in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, at a time of economic prosperity. Many stores around Amsterdam sell old prints of the canal system and maps of the city can be found at most bookshops or tourist spots.
Amsterdam: City Canal Cruise
Duration: 75 minute
The Netherlands is a global trendsetter and leading exporter of flowers, plants, bulbs, decorative trees as well as fruit and vegetables. Over three-quarters of all the flower bulbs traded globally come from here, the majority of which are tulips. Tulips are the signature flowers of this country and other flowers like Dutch roses, crocus and hydrangea are increasingly grown abroad on account of the favorable climate. Most parts of the country are transformed into a vast sea of flowers from mid-March to mid-May, starting from the crocus season in March, followed by daffodils and hyacinths. It’s from mid-April through mid-May that the Tulips finally show their gorgeous colors. When the tulips bloom, you can enjoy lovely colorful fields. It’s best to explore the region by bicycle or a leisurely stroll. This famous thing in the Netherlands is one that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Alkmaar: Tulip and Spring Flower Fields Bike Tour
Duration: 3.5 hour
What is the Netherlands known for? Bicycles, of course! One of the best ways to enjoy the scenic beauty and the great Dutch outdoors is by bicycle, which surprisingly surpasses the number of residents in the country. In bicycle-loving European cities like Amsterdam and The Hague, over three-quarter of all journeys are made by bike. Bike lover tourists might want to consider buying cycling related accessories including a fancy bicycle seat cover in any conceivable color and pattern (Holland themed covers in Delftware, windmill, and cow patterns are quite alluring) to add flair to your bicycle. The waterproof cover keeps your saddle clean and dry, and it can be found at bicycle shops and other boutiques. You can also buy a solid lock for your two-wheeler, that stands up well to the bike thieves. Expect to pay at least 40 EUR (46 USD) for your lock at a bike shop, but the security difference compared to a U-lock is immense.
Amsterdam: City Highlights 2-Hour Bike Tour
Duration: 2 hour
The Dutch have a long history of cheese-making, and there are several types of goat cheeses, farmer’s cheese or Leiden cheese, that are easily available at most shops. But the most popular among them is Gouda, a yellow Dutch cheese made from cow’s milk, and available in several varieties, including ‘Jong’ (young), which is creamier and softer and 'Belegen’ (aged), which has a sharper flavor. Don’t forget to taste the famous Edam cheese, derived from the pretty town of Edam, and well known for its red-hued rind and signature round shape. If you are planning to bring some back home, make sure you have your cheese vacuum packed for getting it through customs.
Amsterdam: Dutch Cheese & Wine Cruise
Duration: 1.5 hour
Wooden Clogs have been the traditional footwear for many years, dating back to as old as the 13th century. You are, however, unlikely to meet someone wearing clogs on the streets, as today most of the Dutch do not don these locally-made shoes and it is mostly tourists who buy these as souvenirs. But don’t get disheartened, you can still find a pair of contemporary yet somewhat retro-looking wooden shoes, from those made in bare wood to those painted in Delft Blue tulips with high attention to detail, materials and colors, at most shops here. They will surely make an offbeat addition to any wardrobe. You can take a half-day excursion to the Zaanse Schans and Volendam to see local craftsmen who still make these colorful and bold footwear, the traditional way.
You can’t resist the pull of buying an adorable pair of little clogs known as wedding clogs, made from unpainted wood, fit for the size of a child’s foot. These gift clogs are affordable and can be a special handcrafted take-away gift.
Volendam: Wooden Clog Painting Workshop
Duration: 2 hour
Licorice or ‘drop’ is remarkably sought-after in the Netherlands, owing to its array of different forms (sweet, salty, soft and hard) and flavors (like orange, honey or blueberry). You can get your hands on these black Dutch sweets yourself at any pharmacy, supermarket or at HEMA and even consider bringing some of your favorites back with you. The confection is usually flavored with Aniseed, the wonderful savory exotic spice that gives a sweet, astringent and spicy flavor to the candies and has been used to enhance the foods of various cultures for at least 4000 years.
Amsterdam Jordaan District Food-Tasting Walking Tour
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
Your next vacation just got simpler
The Netherlands’s tourist attractions cater to a wide range of tastes and interests, they have so much to offer everyone. Due to its relatively small size and flat and low rolling hills that cover most of the central area, it is fairly easy to visit the Netherlands quickly and to see a lot of the country in a short span of time. Many people are oblivious to all these things the Netherlands is famous for, so make sure to get your hands on most of them, if not all.
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