Highlights of Holland

Highlights of Holland

Windmill in flower park Keukenhof

Windmill in flower park Keukenhof

If you visit Holland and only have limited time, then these are the ten places that you must visit.

1. Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the Dutch capital and the largest city of the country. Its airport, Schiphol, is the main port of entry of the country, and is probably where you start your visit of Holland.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city – at least the downtown area is. You can easily explore Amsterdam on foot, but the best way to enjoy Amsterdam is on a canal cruise over the city’s many canals. Be sure to visit the secret annex where Anne Frank hid during the war, and the Rijksmuseum that houses so many masterpieces of the Dutch golden age, including Rembrandt’s best works.

Read more: Highlights of Amsterdam.

2. Den Haag

Knight's Hall, Den Haag

Knight’s Hall, Den Haag

Amsterdam may be the capital, but Den Haag is the home of the Queen, the government, parliament and diplomacy. It is usually called Den Haag, but in Holland also known as ‘s-Gravenhage, and in English as The Hague.

Highlights of Den Haag include the Binnenhof area with the medieval Knight’s Hall (now used by parliament on special occasions), the Madurodam park with miniatures of many Dutch landmarks, the Mauritshuis with its collection of Dutch golden age masterpieces (including Vermeer’s Girl with a pearl earring), and the Peace Palace funded by Andrew Carnegie housing the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Peace Palace Library of International Law.

3. Kinderdijk

Windmills in Kinderdijk

Windmills in Kinderdijk

Holland has many windmills, and you will probably see several during your trip. But the group of nineteen windmills near the village Kinderdijk is an impressive sight, and well worth a visit.

Kinderdijk is a village near Rotterdam. You can book a boat tour from Rotterdam that includes a visit of the Kinderdijk windmills, or book an excursion by bus from Amsterdam.

4. Tulip fields

Tulip fields in Lisse

Tulip fields in Lisse

Holland is famous for its tulips. Near the villages Lisse and Hillegom are large fields of spring flowers (not only tulips but also other spring flowers like daffodils and hyacinths). Also worth visiting is the flower park Keukenhof, in Lisse (open March-May).

The bulb fields around the village Zijpe are less well known, but just as spectacular.

The tulips bloom in April, so try to plan your visit around that time.

5. Afsluitdijk (Enclosure Dam)

The Afsluitdijk (litt. Enclosure Dam) is a 32km (20 miles) long causeway damming off the Zuiderzee, a former salt water marginal sea but now a fresh water lake known as IJsselmeer. It is part of the Zuiderzee works: Damming off the Zuiderzee and drain parts of it to create land.

The Afsluitdijk was constructed between 1927 and 1933 and connects the provinces Friesland and Noord-Holland.

6. Deltawerken (Delta Works)

The Deltawerken or Delta Works is a series of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, and storm surge barriers constructed to protect the southwest of the country against floods. Construction started after the 1953 North Sea flood that killed almost 2,000 people in this area.

The largest and most spectacular of the Delta Works is the Oosterscheldekering (or Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier). Halfway the barrier is the artificial island Neeltje Jans, built to facilitate the construction of the barrier. It now houses the Delta Works visitor center.

7. Volendam

Volendam, now a large town, was once a small fishing village not far from Amsterdam. In the old port you can still admire the old fishing boats, and in the old part of the village there are still a few people wearing traditional costumes. There is a small costume museum, and you can have your photo taken in traditional Volendam costume.

8. Zaansche Schans

The Zaansche Schans area in the town Zaandam is home to over 30 historic houses and six historic windmills. Some buildings were moved here from other towns in the region, others were reconstructed. You can see traditional Dutch crafts here, visit a wooden shoe workshop, or go to a cheese farm.

9. Het Loo Royal Palace

Royal Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, province Gelderland, was once the summer residence of the Dutch royal family. Built in the 17th century, the Orange-Nassau family used it until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. The palace is now a museum, where you can visit the royal quarters with original furniture and objects.

10. Waddenzee (Wadden Sea)

The Wadden Sea (Waddenzee, in Dutch), is the area between the north coast of the Dutch mainland and the islands the Dutch call the Waddeneilanden (Wadden Sea Islands). The Wadden Sea extends eastwards along the German and Danish coasts, but since this is a Highlights of Holland article, we are mostly interested in the Dutch part of the sea.

The Wadden Sea consists mostly of mud flats, crossed by a few deeper tidal creeks. The mud flats are dry during low tide, and a popular resting place for seals and for many kinds of birds. It is possible to walk over the mud flats, from the coast to some of the islands, but don’t try that without an experienced guide as you would almost certainly drown!

The islands (Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog), with their sand dunes and beaches, are popular beach resorts (and have been so since the 19th century). Regular ferry services connect the islands with the mainland.

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