With popular draws like The Hague and Amsterdam, it’s no secret that The Netherlands is a dream destination. However, not all cities make the guide books, and sometimes half the fun can be discovering the lesser-known locations this beautiful land has to offer. When planning your getaway, you can be forgiven for missing out some hidden gems, so we’ve compiled a list of unsung sites for your next break.
Dordrecht: Unexplored Opulence
With more than a thousand monuments within the city boundaries, Dordrecht is a cultural melting pot, and just a 30 minute drive from Rotterdam port. Due to its close proximity to South Holland’s river network, it has an affluent past – something you can still see in a wealth of local landmarks. One is Huis Van Gijn, a sprawling mansion formerly owned by a 19th century art collector before being left to the Old Dordrecht Society. Its perfectly preserved interiors date back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and allow visitors today a glimpse into Dutch life of the past. The Voorstraat is one of the city’s oldest streets, and is brimming with specialist shops – be sure to seek out the many wine merchants and antiquaries working there. Offering panoramic river views and stunning architecture, the riverside Groothoofd path is the perfect place to soak up all that Dordrecht has to offer.
Eindhoven: Cutting-edge Culture
A high-tech hub full of contemporary architecture, Eindhoven is actually one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Rebuilt after World War II, it’s been massively influenced by its links to electronics giant Philips, earning it the title ‘Lichtstad’ or ‘City of Light’. In honour of this, every autumn the locals hold the Lichtjesroute (Route of Lights), marking out the route the allies took during the town’s liberation with spectacular light installations. Strikingly reminiscent of a UFO, the futuristic Evoluon simply has to be seen, as does the Hovenring – a suspended roundabout which offers cyclists and pedestrians an exciting way to explore the city.
Undiscovered Den Bosch
Set in the diverse province of Noord Brabant, Den Bosch (officially ‘s-Hertogenbosch, though that formal title is rarely used) is a richly cultured metropolis teeming with ancient monuments, medieval architecture and culinary treats. It’s home to no fewer than seven museums, including the Noordbrabants Museum, which holds popular exhibitions showcasing local art through the ages, as well as the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre, dedicated to the works of the city’s most notable historical resident, Hieronymus Bosch. A great way to explore is by boat – the canal system actually flows underneath the streets and thoroughfares, offering both wonderful scenery and a completely new viewpoint. Elected the most hospitable city in Holland four years in a row, you can always be sure of a warm and friendly welcome. For local produce, De Markt square is a must, lined with beautiful shops and a lively market full of Dutch delights. Be sure to try the Bossche Bol, a delicious concoction of chocolate, pastry and whipped cream. Its recipe is a closely guarded secret, making it an exclusive local treat.
Monuments of Maastricht
Within Limburg, the southernmost province of the Netherlands, lies the beautiful city of Maastricht. Full of history, its fortified walls date back to the 13th century, and visitors can tour the underground network of tunnels. There are two main squares – vibrant Vrijthof is a must for its selection of bars and the spectacular Basilica Maastricht cathedral, while Markt is home to the stunning town hall. A short drive south will take you to the rolling Limburg hills, where the local vineyards lie. Initially planted back in Roman times, you can walk among the grapevines, and even sample the Dutch wines made on site.
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