After writing a Top 10 about New Zealand I felt guilty for not writing one about my homeland: The Netherlands. It doesn’t matter how long I stay away I’ll always be a (little) Dutch Girl! Here is my top 10, I’m originally from the South so I’m a bit biased when it comes to this “forgotten” part of the Netherlands!
I get goosebumps every time I see his video! Amsterdam may be my country’s capital but this is the city that is home to me. Located in the south of the Netherlands, Maastricht seems “less Dutch” than other Dutch cities. It is built upon Roman ruins, has French and Spanish influenced architecture, an international atmosphere – and it is surrounded by hills! But what sets Maastricht apart from the other Dutch cities is the “Burgundian lifestyle” which means ‘the enjoyment of life, good food, and extravagant spectacle’. The people from the South take the time to enjoy their food and drinks wether at home or at one of the many restaurants, bars, bistro’s, lunchrooms. Maastricht is renowned for its world-class restaurants (five Michelin starred within five miles of the centre), so come hungry and equipped with a credit card. Located on either side of the Meuse river, it’s a truly beautiful place, with a historic centre filled with churches, squares (have a beer in the cobblestoned Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein or Het Vrijthof), old houses, fortifications and museums above ground, and miles of tunnels and caves (the Caves of St Pieter and the Casements) below.
A little bit smaller than Amsterdam, but just as much fun! When it rains (and it probably will) you can shop just fine at Hoog Catharijne, but as soon as the sun shines through the clouds it’s a race to one of many terraces at the Oude Gracht which has been Utrecht’s THE place to be since the 13th century!
Valkenburg, Limburg to be exact. I can’t say I’ve ever been to the other Valkenburg in the Netherlands, but I know that Valkenburg, LB has a lot to offer. At Christmastime, the entire city of Valkenburg sparkles with festive light. The annual underground Christmas market is a hallmark of the city, lasting from mid-November through December 23. It’s held in the Velvet Caves, a maze of 12th-century passageways that lies beneath the remains of Valkenburg’s hilltop castle. The caves and castle draw visitors year-round. Valkenburg is a biking city. It’s a great base for cycling tours and is a two-time stage finish site for the Tour de France.
Giethoorn, also known as “Venice of the North”, is a beautiful little town in the east of the Netherlands. There are no cars here; tourists leave them outside of the village and travel by water in “fluister bootjes” (literally translated to whisper boats, but it really is an electric boat) or on foot over the many wooden bridges. I visited this amazing little town when I was little, but I still vividly remember how different and beautiful it was. Definitely a must-see if you’re in the area!
Alkmaar is known as the city of cheese, but that title covers only part of what the town has to offer. It has a beautiful old centre with many historic monuments, great shopping districts and countless welcoming terraces, cafes and restaurants for every budget. Alkmaar also has a range of interesting museums, including the Stedelijk Museum, Beer Museum, Beatles Museum and naturally the Cheese Museum. If you want to get out of the city for a while, the beach and dunes are just fifteen minutes away.
“Oh Oh Den Haag, mooie stad achter de duinen.” The song about The Hague is known across the country, meaning The Hague, beautiful city behind the dunes. And a beautiful city it is indeed, but not only that it is also very “gezellig”. The Dutch word that means fun and cozy. The Hague is the city where not only the Dutch Parliament is located but also the Peace Palace and the Tribunal Court. There are plenty of shopping opportunities (boutiques to thrift stores there is something for everyone) and plenty of things to do and see. A big plus is Scheveningen, THE beach city of the Netherlands which is a short tram ride away.
Also known as the “Manhattan on the Maas”. Rotterdam might have the most impressive skyline of the Netherlands. Netherland’s most modern city began as a fishing village in the 13th century. It was developing into an industrial and trading power when German bombers destroyed the city center and harbor in 1940. However, Rotterdam’s unique architecture now brings many visitors to bike around this urbane, cosmopolitan city. Old Dutch-style houses can still be found in historic Delfshaven, from where the pilgrims set sail in 1620. Cultural offerings from summer’s carnival to classical music give Amsterdam competition.
The Zaanse Schans is one of the highlights of the Netherlands, located just outside Amsterdam. This little community dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s packed with wooden windmills, barns, houses and museums and built in the typically Dutch wooden architectural style, relocated here piece by piece since 1961. Zaanse Schans will easily fill half a day – there is so much to see, taste, smell and experience! Take a walk through the stunning buildings and the unique peat meadow landscape. Come and watch traditional crafts such as clog- and cheese-making or visit the windmills. Take a boat trip, dine in one of the restaurants or explore the shops and boutiques.
Haarlem with its many historic buildings and beautiful old squares lies near the beach on the banks of the Spaarne river. It is wonderful to stroll through the narrow streets lined by the monumental buildings built by master Lieven de Key. Visit extraordinary museums, such as the Frans Hals or Teylers Museum, and explore its countless cafés and restaurants. Haarlem is called the most Flemish city of the north with reason!
So there you have it, my Top 10 Cities of the Netherlands. What is your favorite city in the Netherlands?