Amsterdam lies on the banks of two rivers – the IJ and Amstel - and was founded in the 1100s as a small fishing village. It is now the largest city in the country with a population of around 750,000 in the city itself, and 1.5 million in the district. The city is noted for its museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum and the Anne Frank House. It is also extremely well known worldwide for its red-light district and “coffee shops” – legally selling cannabis. While you’re there take time to visit Dam Square, the historical centre of the city; Leidseplein, where you will find bars, restaurants and the Leidsepleintheater; and Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
Rotterdam is located in the Dutch province of South-Holland, in the central west of the country. The city is dynamic and highly influenced by a culture of young local and international students. The city is ever changing, always expanding to suit the new influx of locals. It has a vibrant nightlife, a diverse and highly multicultural community and an interesting history, particularly in terms of maritime tradition. While in Rotterdam, visit some of the high quality museums, check out the Fenix Food market, take a cruise along the canals or join a bike tour to ensure you are making the most of both the city and local traditions.
The best place to see them for a true Dutch experience is Kinderdijk, a small village 16km from Rotterdam, where 19 mills remain preserved. Kinderdijk Windmill Park is open all year round, and during the summer months, one of the windmills at Kinderdijk is fully operational and open to the public. For just a couple of Euro you can tour through the five-storey mill to get an idea what life was like living and working there hundreds of years ago.
Keukenhof is the most famous tulip park in the world. Located in Lisse, a small town south of Amsterdam, Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden. It’s only open for two months every year, and the garden was originally part of an estate belonging to a castle ruled by the Countess of Holland in the early 1400s. She used part of her estate as an herb and vegetable garden – the name Keukenhof actually means Kitchen Garden. Development of the park began in the mid 1800s and was further developed into the 32-hectare park that exists today. It’s one of the best-known attractions in the country and one of the most photographed sights in the world, with more than 700,000 visitors a year.
The Hague, or Den Haag, is the administrative capital and is in the province of South Holland. The older parts of town have wide and long streets and houses are elegant low-rises. Walking through the streets, some of the most interesting things to see are Mauritshuis – a museum constructed in the 17th Century; The Old Town House – built in the mid-1500s it contained the offices of magistrates, bailiffs, aldermen and majors; Palace Gardens and Royal Archives; Prins Tavern – a pub used in past centuries by members of the royal household; and the Historical Museum. Modern art is also prominent, with sculptures and exhibitions throughout the city.
The Hague is the largest Dutch city by the North Sea, with two distinct beach towns - Kijkduin in the southwest and Scheveningen in the northwest, which is extremely popular for tourism, with around 10 million visitors a year. It’s a modern resort with a long sandy beach and a pier, and there is even a nudist section about 1km to the north.
Located between Scheveningen and The Hague is the miniature city, Madurodam, modelled on Dutch buildings and landmarks and a scale of 1:25. Madurodam was built in 1952 and named after George Maduro, a student who died in a concentration camp in World War II and whose parents donated the money to start the project. The city has its own Mayor and like any real city, Madurodam is constantly developing and each year new buildings, people and other features are added or redeveloped.