Holland might not technically be a city, but since Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam equate to the same area size as greater London, you could easily argue that this region of Holland is just as compact as one – but as varied as a continent too.
Indeed, many of the nation’s greatest attractions are found in North and South Holland, where visitors can enjoy cycle trips through the countryside past windmills and tulips, nibble on cheese and other local delicacies, and admire the sensational architecture throughout. You’ll soon realise the sheer diversity of things to do here makes it perfect for short getaways. With your mini-adventure just a ferry ride away, take a look at why we think Holland should be your next city break.
Ease of Travel
To give you an idea of the country’s scale, it’s possible to drive from the west coast to the eastern border with Germany in just over 90 minutes, meaning you can see plenty of the region even if you’ve only got time for a short break. Whether you want to cycle amid the tulip fields of Haarlem, explore Amsterdam’s Muiderslot Castle or relax on the sandy beaches of the Noord-Holland region, everything you could ever hope to do – save perhaps skiing given the lack of mountains – is within reach. To get to this diverse country, all you need to do is pack up your car with everything you need, and board our overnight Hull to Rotterdam crossing. You’ll wake up feeling fresh, with the whole country at your fingertips.
Colourful Flowers Everywhere
Holland is commonly associated with the tulip, its unofficial national flower, and in the Noord-Holland region the fields erupt into a rainbow of colour every spring. As well as being some of the nation’s main exports, the stunning bulbs are also some of its most popular attractions. Step foot on the world’s only floating flower market in Amsterdam’s Singel canal or visit Keukenhof in spring, where the blooming of 7 million tulips help the most beautiful garden in the world burst into life. If you’re visiting in spring, you can even catch some floral artworks on the move by cheering on the famous floats of the annual Flower Parade between Noordwijik and Haarlem.
It’s the Bike Capital of the World
Holland is also well-known for having a very low-lying flat landscape, which has helped to make bicycles its most common mode of transport. Thanks to this accessibility and the country’s mild climate, it’s easy to see some of the most well-known attractions on two wheels. Make sure to hit the saddle in Amsterdam to explore the city’s latticework of canals, or head out to the cycle trails that lead to nearby villages like Naarden, Weesp and Edam. One of the best bike routes in the capital will take you to the working windmills of Zaanse Schans, where the traditional houses and factories will transport you back to a simpler time.
See the Work of the Dutch Masters
While bikes and windmills tend to be most commonly identified with the Netherlands, the nation’s painters have actually had a profound and enduring legacy on the art world. Known collectively as the Dutch Masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Bosch and others helped to shape art from the 16th century, and the period became known as the Golden Age of Dutch painting. Many of the greatest masterpieces can be found in Amsterdam; the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world is at the museum named after him, while the Rembrandt House Museum was once the artist’s home and where many of his greatest works were produced – though his ‘Night Watch’ is located in the Rijksmuseum. Just north of Rotterdam is Delft, the home city of Johannes Vermeer, but his iconic masterpiece ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ can be found on display in the Mauritshuis in the coastal retreat of The Hague.
One of the most interesting features of this country is the startling contrast of architecture throughout, as traditional tall, narrow houses stand alongside gleaming futuristic structures. Rotterdam in particular offers an inspiring array of modern constructions, such as the Markthal or the iconic cube houses. Of course, you can’t discuss Holland’s architecture without mentioning their most quintessential national symbol, the windmill. The UNSECO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk features a number of working mills and is only a short drive or hour’s bike ride from Rotterdam.
Across the country the shelves in local delicatessens groan with the weight of huge wheels of artisan cheese; both a ubiquitous sight in Holland and an indicator of just how passionately the Dutch care about their dairy products. Besides exporting millions of tons of creamy ‘kaas’, the locals of course also like to eat it in abundance! So if you truly want to blend in, you’ll need to visit turophile hot spots like the Alkmaar Cheese Market and museum. Alternatively, for a chance to get your hands on the freshest produce straight from the source, head to the centuries-old Gouda and Edam cheese markets in their respective hometowns.
Even though the country’s coastline stretches nearly 2000km, many visitors are still surprised to discover just how beautiful and numerous the Dutch beaches are. The Royal Residence of The Hague is where you’ll find the most famous stretch of Scheveningen, and the wide boulevard and huge pier here are the star attractions. A quick boat ride north of Amsterdam takes you to Texel, the largest of the West Frisian Islands, which boasts vast sections of sparkling white sand, bordered by gorgeous beach huts.
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