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Travel guide for the Netherlands

The Netherlands! A country known for its characteristic windmills, vast areas of tulips and picturesque canals. However, the real reason why Holland is worth visiting is its culture. The Dutch are some of the most relaxed people you will ever meet. They like to talk, drink, go to festivals and generally live their lives. A lifestyle that you will definitely envy compared to our own rhythms and stress. Below you will find all the information you need before your first visit to the country.

General Information

  • Information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.
  • The power voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. Socket types C and F.
  • The official currency of the country is the Euro (€).
  • Mobile phone companies you will find in the Netherlands are KPN, Vodafone Nederland and T-Mobile. If you travel frequently buy a surfroam sim. You use it for global internet with very low charges and use in over 200 countries including the Netherlands. For more information see here.
  • The population of the Netherlands is 17.5 million.
  • 40% of the population are classified as atheists and do not support any religion, while the remaining 60% are divided into Catholics, Protestants and other religions.
  • The official language of the country is Dutch.
  • The capital and largest city is Amsterdam, followed by Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

Budget

The issue of staying in a destination, as we have mentioned before, is a subjective one. Each of us can travel either alone or with a group of friends, have different selection criteria and obviously different budgets. However, the solution to all of the above is provided by the platforms that now exist and are listed below, with countless options for all types of travellers. Prices are obviously more upmarket in touristic Amsterdam, while in the provincial part and the neighbouring cities the opportunities are more plentiful. As an indication we give an overview regarding accommodation in the Netherlands below:

Low budget: You can find prices for hostels ranging from 18€-50€, per night. Usually free Wi-Fi is provided, free breakfast in several, safety lockers and extremely central locations such as in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. In other cities such as The Hague and Utrecht prices are lower.

Mid budget: Enjoy private rooms with flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, an on-site restaurant and bar, a pool, and good locations to nearby attractions and public transportation.

High budget: Enjoy the best hotels with top service, luxurious private rooms, hot tubs and in- room Jacuzzis. As the budget goes up the luxuries and amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, spas, in-house restaurant with fine dining, and a bar with great cocktails.

PERSONAL FACT: For us personally, our trip started with a bit of bad luck. While we had already booked a room 3 months before our arrival in the Netherlands, a month before we were cancelled for unclear reasons ( luckily no money was withheld). As a result we could not find available rooms as it was Christmas and we ended up paying 380€ for a room, literally 10m² outside the centre! Still we had an incredible time in Holland!!!

Traditional Food

The Netherlands is not particularly renowned for its cuisine like other European countries. However, there are some recipes that only need to be enjoyed once. We personally fell in love with stroopwafels and searched for them frantically, even on our return to Greece. Below we list some traditional recipes that you can try during your trip to the Netherlands.

Poffertjes: They are small fluffy pancakes made with yeast and flour. They are usually served with icing sugar and syrup, but there are several alternative toppings such as syrup, whipped cream and strawberries. You can find them in sweet shops, as well as in flea markets. An alternative to Poffertjes are the well-known Churros which also come with various toppings, icing sugar and various flavoured syrups.

Bitterballen: You can find it in almost every café and bar in the cities. Most people take it as a side dish with their beer. These little fried balls are meat-based, fried and served with mustard. The filling inside can have several variations, just be careful not to eat it too soon, as the filling inside is usually quite hot at first.

Stroopwafel: This sweet snack is a unique type of biscuit, which is made from two thin layers of dough with a syrup filling. You can find packages in almost every grocery store and bakery in the Netherlands, as well as fresh at flea markets. We, as mentioned above, loved them and had them as a daily snack!!!

Read our full article on Italy here.

Patat: The Dutch version for chips or French fries. Alternate names are also the following words: “Friet”, “Frites”, “Patat” and “Vlaamse frieten”. They are larger and crispier than normal French fries and were invented in the north of Belgium. The Dutch love them and accompany them with several toppings such as mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, curry or peanut sauce. There are also patatje oorlog (war), a combination of peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onions. Patat are usually served in a paper cone or box. You will find them everywhere in the cities and at many flea markets or festivals from street vendors.

Olliebollen: Dutch recipe traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, at local markets and festivals, like the potatoes mentioned above or churros. These fried balls of dough are similar in taste to a cake and often have raisins added to the dough. Oliebollen are usually served warm with icing sugar.

Hollandse nieuwe haring: The herring is cleaned of the giblets immediately after being fished on board. Dutch herring is traditionally eaten whole, holding the fish by the tail. If this doesn’t look too familiar, you can eat it in small bites or in a sandwich called Broodje Haring.

Erwtensoep: a soup recipe with peas, quite thick and with lots of vegetables such as onions, potatoes, celery and different kinds of pork and smoked sausage, which is added just before serving. It is usually accompanied by rye bread, along with smoked bacon, cheese and butter. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day, it is also an ideal dish for a cold day.

Kroket: When it comes to snacks though, no one can beat the Dutch! Kroket is a roll with ragout meat inside, covered with sesame seeds. The original Dutch kroket is made from beef, but there are many different flavours such as chicken, shrimp, goulash or even vegetarian. You can try it as a snack, but most of the time it is served on sliced white bread or hamburger buns with mustard on the side. Be careful because the inside can be quite hot. You can buy it almost everywhere in Amsterdam such as snack bars, cafes and restaurants.

Transportation

Plane: The main airport is Schiphol Airport, which is located 21km away from Amsterdam city centre. Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen and Maastricht also have their own airports. So you won’t have any problems travelling internally this way. The advantage is the speed, the disadvantage is the corresponding cost. You can get around more economically by train and bus.

Train: Trains are a good way to travel between cities and the Netherlands has 400 stations that operate all day and some serve night services. Go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam in 70 minutes for just 18 euros one-way. More nearby destinations are also The Hague and Utrecht if you are already in Amsterdam. Timetables and prices can be found here.

Tram: The tram is another great way to travel and runs from 6am to midnight. You can get around within cities while watching the view out the window.

Bus: Buses are a cheap way to get around and bus routes are available in most areas. Schedules are on time and you will rarely be off schedule. Available routes can be found here.

Taxis: Taxis are a good way to get around. Taxis have an initial charge of €7.50 which includes the first 2km and up to 4 people. The cost consists of the starting price plus the distance and duration of the trip. The price can range from €0 to €2.20 per additional kilometre. A taxi ride from Amsterdam airport to Amsterdam city centre, for example, will cost 39€ which is the standard price, while for online bookings this cost can go up to 49€. Uber is respectively available in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Eindhoven and Haarlem and is constantly growing. Obviously it is the most economical way of getting around compared to taxis and you can know the cost for the route you choose from the start.

Bicycle: Costs vary depending on the city and the shop. Nowhere else will you enjoy cycling around so undisturbed within a busy city. You will run no risk and there is mutual respect between road users.

Car rental: Quick and direct transport to the places you want to go. You will hardly encounter heavy traffic, as many people use their bicycles in the cities. The most suitable means to plan your tour between different cities, just the way you want. For availability and prices see here.

What to do in the Netherlands

Amsterdam

The top destination for first-time visitors to the Netherlands. It has many beautiful canals and is perfect for a lovely relaxing morning or afternoon. You can take a ferry ride or walk along the banks of the canals to enjoy the beautiful views of the city. Another way to see Amsterdam is of course by bicycle, the main mode of transport for locals.

Art lovers will love the van Gogh museum. It has the largest collection of van Gogh paintings in the world and you can either book a private guided tour or tour it yourself. Beyond the canals and the arts, many people visit the capital for the freedom and relaxed pace of the city. Visiting the city’s famous coffee shops is a unique experience in itself. The menu includes various varieties of cigarettes and drinks as well as the famous space cakes.

In the centre still the three well-known entertainment areas are the popular Red Light District with girls showing off  their ware in respective street windows and the Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein areas. On the outskirts of Amsterdam, however, are some of the best places for clubbing in the world.

Book your in-city rides here.

Amsterdam the capital of the netherlands
Rotterdam

The country’s second largest city and its most important port. You can visit the old harbour which has a special atmosphere and entertainment. You will be confronted with a different aura from the rest of the city. It reminds you of something from another era! You will find historic ships and a mixture of old houses and modern design at the same time which is the characteristic of the city.

On the other hand, a visit to the ultra-modern Europoort port is also a must to see the real thing. You can opt for a boat tour to see this industrial masterpiece as well as visit the Maritime Museum. For food, coffee or just a stroll one of the most suitable places in the city is the Markthal (Market Hall). It is a building with an impressive design ahead of its time and its space is decorated with an interesting pattern of flowers, insects, fruits and other plants. For those who love activities and more extreme situations, you can try to do Zip-line. From May to September at the Euromast tower you can attempt to zip-line the fastest zip-line in all of Europe! The tower is also open outside of these days for views of the entire city from the tallest building.

One of Rotterdam’s most distinctive sights is the interesting and eccentric cluster of yellow cube-shaped houses. There although some people are surprised, there are people living inside this special construction. The Erasmus Bridge, also known as the Erasmusbrug, is another timeless symbol of the fantastic city of Rotterdam and is the second longest bridge in the entire country. You can finally easily escape from the urban part of the city by taking a stroll through Het Park, amidst its green spaces and lakes. During the summer season, many locals have barbecues on the park’s grass.

rotterdam in the netherlands
The House of Anne Frank

It is one of the most popular museums in the Netherlands. It is located on the canal Prinsenhracht in Amsterdam. The museum is based on the personal story of the little girl, who became famous after her death from her diary. There she hid with her family and other Jews in a hidden room in her house for about 2 years until they were discovered and taken to the Nazi concentration camps. In particular, at the entrance to the second floor there is a mobile library with which they hid the entrance to the shelter. The tour of the house gives you the opportunity for a hands-on experience.

Utrecht

Utrecht is a city quite close to Amsterdam which we also visited by train. The big plus of the city is that it combines the variety and life of the Dutch metropolis with the friendly vibes of the countryside at the same time. It’s a picturesque city with traditional beauty like the capital, but without as much tourism.

It is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands in terms of size and the largest university city in the country. Its large network of pedestrian walkways will help you see most of the city on foot. Utrecht also has its picturesque canals with the added bonus of being the only ones that have built-in docks. In the city’s main canal, the Oudegracht, you can see that there is a separate level almost on the same surface as that of the water.

This is where ships used to unload various goods from all over the world to be stored on the docks afterwards. These warehouses, which are still there, have been renovated and are now used as shops, bars and restaurants. The historic centre of the city still steals the show. There is also the tallest ecclesiastical monument in the country with a height of 112m which is the Dom bell tower.

utrecht
Zaanse Schans

A village a stone’s throw from Amsterdam. You can get there either by train or bus in less than an hour. It is known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the area were relocated using special trailers. Zaanse Schans is located next to the de Zaan waterway, making the area particularly suitable for exploring by boat. There are several companies that offer and undertake boat tours.

zaanse schans
Eindhoven

It is a city that not many people choose as their final destination in the Netherlands. However, there are quite a few things to see in Eindhoven.

First of all, since the bicycle as a means of transportation is predominant in the Netherlands, you could take a special ride this time. You can cycle through van Gogh’s Starry Night. A local artist chose a unique and beautiful way to honor the famous painter. He created a bike path that glows in the dark! The famous painting has come to life in Eindhoven in the form of the Roosegaarde bike path, created with stones that reflect sunlight. When fully charged, the self-illuminated path gives off a light that references the colour tones of the painting in a striking way.

In the city you will also find the strange Evoluon exhibition centre which on the outside strongly resembles a UFO. Many people gather around the perimeter of the building to have their pictures taken. More information can be found here.

You will also come across the museum of the famous Philips company. Eindhoven owes its existence to this company whose family chose the then small village to found their company. Finally, you can do your shopping in the main Martk Square and enjoy your coffee, as well as visit the Feel good market, a large open-air market where you can eat local food and taste local beers while listening to music.

Texel

This island is a paradise for those who want a beach holiday, with its 30 km long sandy beach. There are 7 villages which are beautiful and are natural refuges for several species of birds and seals. The island is quickly reached in just 20 minutes by ferry from Den Helder.

A landmark of Texel is the picturesque lighthouse Eierland in the north of the island. The lighthouse is accessible and offers a dreamlike view of Texel and the neighbouring island of Vlieland. During the climb, you will also be given lots of information about the fascinating history of the lighthouse. A natural attraction of wild beauty, for which many people travel all the way here, is Texel National Park with its forests, dunes and coastal plains, located on the west coast.

As far as activities on the island are concerned, there are so many to try. For starters, you can go skydiving from a plane. For the less adventurous, you can simply take in the beauty of the scenery from above by taking a simple flight or cross the coast in a catamaran. Even horse riding, sailing, kite surfing, canoeing, flyboarding, golf, bird watching and hiking trips are also some of the many activities Texel offers. More information can be found here.

texel island in the netherlands
Tulip route

If you like roadtrips you can try the following route if you have rented a car. From February onwards, as the famous tulips in various colours gradually emerge, among clusters of other flowers such as gladiolas and dahlias, a special picture is formed on this route. However, the best time to attempt this roadtrip is between March and May. You can start from Haarlem, the beginning of the Bollenstreek route as the famous tulip route is called, which takes about 40 kilometres. From Haarlem you will drive to Lisse, via the N208 highway. There are the Keukenhof Gardens where we discuss below. Finally you can continue on to the historic town of Leiden and finish in Naaldwijk, a village famous for its vast expanse of greenhouses and the largest tulip auction house in the world.

Keukenhof gardens

The Keukenhof Tulip gardens are open from March to May. Each year more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted in autumn to bloom in spring. There are a variety of 800 different tulips. A visit to these gardens is a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone. Every year the flower park is dedicated to a special theme. Inspirational gardens, events and artwork are adapted accordingly. Information about the park, events, prices and more can be found here.

Keukenhof gardens in the netherlands

Packing Tips & When to go

The winter weather in the Netherlands is a bit quirky and you can get all sorts of weather. From light rain to snowfall. If you go in winter it is advisable to be prepared for everything in terms of personal clothing and equipment. On the other hand spring and summer things are much milder. Below we list some basic things that are good to have with you.

Waterproof jacket and backpack: especially during the autumn and winter season. The reasons are obvious. You don’t want the weather, especially rain, to spoil your plans.

Umbrella: Complementary to the overhead equipment. You will see many Dutch people not part with their umbrella and carry it with them at all times. It’s a good idea to do the same to stay as protected from the rain as possible and obviously dry!

Power bank: The best ally to avoid running out of battery on your phone or camera. You don’t want to be without gps, or a camera when you need it.

Sportswear and shoes: If not sporting whatever you can be comfortable in other than leggings for example. The reason is that you will be walking quite a bit in the country and it is quite appropriate since it is completely flat so you will enjoy it. Apart from walking comfortable-sporty clothes and shoes you will definitely need to rent a bike which is considered one of the must-haves in town.

The best time to go to the Netherlands is from March to May and from September to early November. These are the periods with the most favorable weather conditions and the best deals respectively on travel packages. Additionally, you will avoid the big crowds. April, in particular,  is one of the best months for those who want to see the blooming flowers and tulips for which the Netherlands is famous!

Useful Words

The official language as mentioned at the beginning of the text is Dutch. However, due to the multicultural Amsterdam, but also in the provinces due to tourism and students you will not have any problems in communicating. Their English is perfect, so there is nothing to worry about. Below we list some basic words in Dutch:

Good morningGoedemorgenYou’re welcomegraag gedaan
Good nightGoedenachtHelloHallo!
YesJaHow are youhoe gaat het met je?
NoNeeMy name is ..Ik heet …
Thank youBedanktGoodbyeTot ziens

Useful Sites & Apps

Throughout the years we have been travelling we usually look for apps or websites that help us to get around better, either before or during the trip. In this way we have access to useful information like where can we get the best deals and expand our options. We usually make our choices on what activities we are going to do and where to go with help from those apps and follow the best ratings. Some we used are:

Booking.com

With a plethora of choices, traveller points that help you get better deals the more you travel, promo codes for you and your friends, with available credit options as well and much more. Start booking and see for yourselves. For available rooms and prices look here.

Welcome Pickups

One of the best, most trustworthy, and most convenient 5-star airport taxi companies for your airport transfer based on user reviews across various platforms such as Google, Tripadvisor, and Trustpilot. Welcome Pickups offers a great experience and safety to its travelers. Local English-speaking drivers, flat, pre-paid fee, flight monitoring for delays, 24/7 Customer support + free cancellation. Check your options here.

Air Bnb

With more than a million properties around the world and still growing. A very popular choice for those looking for more affordable options even at the most expensive locations. Having the choice to pick an apartment or even a whole villa would make you feel more at home while you travel.

Hotels.com

Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free.

Trip Advisor

I don’t know anyone that has ever travelled and not used this platform for reviews or information about almost any location around the world. Hundreds of millions or reviews are available for most interesting locations when one is traveling. It can even help you find interesting things to do where you live and haven’t noticed yet.

Omio.com

Anything you need a click away. Find the best deals on trains, buses, flights, or even ferry tickets. Travel to thousands of destinations in Canada, the USA, and Europe. I often check here when I am already on a trip and I need to visit some neighbouring town or city. Check available routes here.

Kiwi.com

The first place to visit before any trip for advice on the fastest and most efficient search engine for flights, especially when you are trying to find the best deals. We love the option to choose any location and get the cheapest options for a fixed timeframe. This way you don’t even have to pick where to go, save money and have a spontaneous trip. For available flights and prices look here.

GetYourGuide

And for whomever likes activities and adventures or are even interested in museums and historical locations there is anything available to do and can be mostly found on this platform. You can even set a time and location to find what to do and not waste time waiting. Only make sure you check the reviews to know what to expect at each different activity or visit. We have used it many times throughout Africa, Asia, and the USA without any issues. For available activities and tours check here.

Discover Cars

For car rentals at the lowest prices, servicing in over 150 countries and with the best deals and support in over 12 different languages for your own leisure.

Hotel Tonight

Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room. You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.

City Maps 2Go

Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay.

You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.

EXTRA TIP

Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.

iVisa.com

More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.

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