Located in Western Europe, the tiny country of Holland sits between both Belgium and Germany, but don’ be fooled by its small size...
After becoming an independent country in the 16th century the Dutch culture flourished, quite literally, if you want bring up the ‘Tulip Mania’ of the Dutch Golden age, and with that interesting and unique lures have sprung up year after year, making the low lying Netherlands a hot spot for tourists.
The country which gets its name from it’s truly flat landscape, with over a quarter of The Netherlands, meaning low lands, lying below sea level offers visitors sights such as the capital city of Amsterdam, the fantastic floral displays at Keukenhof Park and Floralia, wonderful water ways and even a unique and magical underground Christmas market, that can be found in the caves of Valkenburg!
Throw in the fact that the country was also home to world renowned artists, which now have spectacular museums dedicated to their works, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt, you’ll enjoy a unique experience around every corner, making Holland a country that should certainly be on your bucket list!
For such a small country, there sure is lots to do and see on a visit to Holland. From its celebrated cities, to its many icons, famous artists and amazing museums, all waiting to be discovered.
From light and fluffy pancakes, to yummy battered fish and hearty soups, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to Dutch delicacies.
It’s always helpful to have a few useful hints and tips when visiting a new country. So, here’s a bit of useful information to help you along the way when visiting Holland.
Of course no visit to Holland is complete without a visit to the capital city of Amsterdam, but with amazing locations like the historical Valkenburg and the international city of peace that is The Hague also waiting to be explored.
The Netherlands, although it may be small, has a lot of big cities with big personalities, that each offer a unique experience to their visitors.
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When you think of Amsterdam, the first thing that comes to mind is probably its controversial coffee shops, however Holland’s capital has so much more to offer. With more than one hundred kilometres of canals surrounding the city, Amsterdam has a unique atmosphere, and with so much to see and do there is no chance or time to get bored.
With world renowned museums such as the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank museums, a zoo, canal cruises and 12 Michelin Star restaurants to indulge in Amsterdam certainly is the place to be if you’re wanting an action packed trip. It’s cool hip and trendy but also has an array of historic treasures, which all add the quirky culture of this beautiful city.
Built upon a history of conquests and sieges it’s no surprise that Valkenburg has an array of cultural, historical and architectural wonders to its name.
To begin with there is the spectacular ruins of Valkenburg castle dating back to the 11th century, the marvellous marl caves and its superb railway station, which is the oldest in the country. As well as the amazing sights, Valkenburg also offers many exhibitions, delicious restaurants and at Christmas time an impressive Christmas Market, which is held in one of the city’s famous underground caves!
The Hague: Situated on the western coast of Holland, The Hague is the country’s third largest city, behind Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Seat of the Dutch government, parliament and the Supreme Court, you may think that it is unusual that The Hague is not the capital of Holland, well it was up until 1806 that is, when Louis Bonaparte set up his government in Amsterdam.
However, although the location of the capital changed, the Royal family and parliament decided to keep The Hague as their home, and today the international courts, the oldest being the ‘World Court’, which houses major trials of the United Nations, and the Royal family of House Oranage-Nassu, still reside in the city.
With a wealth of history and many attractions from museums, including the Mauritshaus gallery which houses the famous ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, to pretty parks, the beautiful Peace Palace and spectacular shopping streets to offer tourist’s, The Hague should certainly not be overlooked when you’re planning your trip to The Netherlands.
As well as its many museums and famous icons, Amsterdam also has some pretty big attractions that lure in millions of tourists each and every year. You can visit some of these amazing attractions on our fully escorted tours!
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Want to take a journey back in time, well a visit and a ride aboard the Museum Steam Tram can provide you with just that. A nostalgic ride on the Hoorn-Medemblick railway through beautiful rural countryside is the perfect way to see some of Holland’s historic cities, such as Medemblik, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Offering a memorable glimpse of yesteryear, this is the last remaining example of Holland’s old rail lines, which were once the lifeline to the local Dutch communities.
Located on the outskirts of Apeldoorn in the heart of the Netherlands, Paleis Het Loo, or Het Loo Palace, is a beautiful Dutch Baroque palace built by the House of Orange-Nassau. Designed by both Jacob Roman and Johan van Swieten for Mary II of England and stadtholder-king William III, the spectacular building was completed in 1686.
After being a royal Dutch residence for many years, in 1977 the decision was made to open the palace to the public by turning it into a state museum, which opened in 1984. Housing displays which highlight how the monarchs lived over the centuries that they lived here, with each room being completely different from the other, as well as truly beautiful gardens, which can be viewd from almost every window, it’s no surprise that the palace is extremely popular with tourists.
Translating to ‘Kitchen Garden’, Keukenhof Park, which is situated in Lisse, is actually one of the largest flower gardens in the world and is often referred to as the ‘Garden of Europe’. The park, which was originally just a simple garden, growing vegetables and herbs, now opens March through to May each year, and invites guests to come and see its beautiful blooms.
Over seven million bulbs are planted each year, and in spring the park transforms into a sea of colour, with various themed gardens spanning over the four pavilions. It really is a marvel to behold and certainly should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Every great country has to have its famous icons, and it just so happens that Holland has quite a few of them…Land of tulips, cheese and windmills, you’ll be spoilt for choice when shopping for souvenirs, but nothing compares to the real thing. So, whether you’re looking to treat your taste buds to some dairy delights, fill your nose with floral scents, or feast your eyes on some remarkably engineered windmills, or of course, all three, Hollands famou features will certainly not disappoint.
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The Dutch have been producing cheese as early as 400 AD, so it’s no surprise that the delicious dairy delight has become as synonymous with Holland as the tulip and windmills.
In fact, Holland is now the largest cheese exporter in the whole world, with the industry worth over seven millions euros! Gouda and Edam are the most famous types of cheese made in the Netherlands, with almost half of the countries cheese production devoted to Gouda alone. Gouda is a round cheese that is coated in wax and often served in wheels, which generally weighs anything from 9-24 pounds.
Named after the Dutch town of the same name, the cheese is semi soft with a distinct flavour. The next most popular cheese, Edam, is again a wax coated cheese, named after the town of the same name, however the wax used to coat the cheese has a distinctive red colour, with the cheeses itself having a slightly salty and tangy taste. If you’re in the country be sure to sample the various cheeses, as there are a lot more than just the two mentioned…you won’t be disappointed!
Probably one of the first images that comes to mind when you think of the Netherlands is that of the country’s windmill scattered landscapes. There are in fact over 1000 windmills in the country, which historically have had many different uses, from pumping water back into rivers, to grinding grain for factories.
Today many of the mills are museums, or are simply out of action, however some such as a couple in Kinderdijk still pump water. Kinderdijk consists of 19 windmills that were once part of a larger water management system and constructed around 1740. Today only a few still work but the site was given UNESCO World Heritage statues in 1997.
Holland is renowned for its tulips, producing around 3 billion bulbs per year, and as a result is often referred to as the ‘flower shop of the world’. Due to their unwavering popularity, since they were first imported to Holland in the 16th century, they have appeared in many paintings and are still celebrated in festivals to this day… It is the case each spring the Dutch honour their famous flower by spending months transforming the landscapes all over the country into a sea of colour.
Keukenhof Park, the largest flower garden in the world, which covers an area of 32 hectares, opens its doors from March to May each, where a stunning display of over 7million tulips can be viewed!
Holland may be a small country but its home to some pretty amazing museums and is deemed a world leader in the field of culture and art. There are in fact seventy five museums on the country, some more popular than others, but all offer a spectacular and unique experience to those who visit.
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Situated in the capital city of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is a museum dedicated to the history and arts of Holland and is the Dutch national museum. Located in museum square, which also includes the Van Gogh museum, the national museum was originally founded in The Hague, but was moved to the capital in 1808.
Within the museum you will find over 8000 works of art and historical pieces on display, dating from 1200 to the year 2000, illustrating Holland’s rich history. Famous works such as Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid can be viewed here.
Opened in 1973 and also located in museum square in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum houses many of the famous works of the popular artist. Born in 1853, Vincent Van Gogh is one of Holland’s most famous painters and created over 2000 works of art, of which 600 of these can be found at the museum, including ‘The Potatoes Eaters’ and ‘Sunflowers’, as well as around 700 letters, all written by the Dutch artist.
Van Gogh lived a troubled life and expressed his feelings and emotions in his art, his use of bold colours and expressive brushwork contributed to the foundations of modern art.
Home to the famous Dutch artist for just under twenty years, the house, situated in the centre of Amsterdam, is a now a spectacular museum, showcasing the life and art of Rembrandt.
Refurbished to look and feel exactly how it would have when Rembrandt lived there in the 1600s, a visit to the museum is like a step back in time. Displaying many of his etchings and his collection of objects he gathered from all over the world it certainly is a must visit, especially if you’re a fan of the Dutch artist.
Consisting of chunks of fish that have been battered and served with an accompanying mayonnaise-based garlic sauce, Kibbeling is a popular snack amongst the Dutch. Originally made from cod cheeks during the nineteenth century, the dish now is typically made from other types of fish, such as hake or Pollack.
A deliciously Dutch delight, these small fluffy pancakes are light and spongey in texture and are served with a coating of powdered sugar and butter, or occasionally syrup or advocaat. Usually cooked freshly, you’ll be able to find a food stand that serves up these sweet treats.
Created by mashing a variation of different vegetables and sometimes fruit with potatoes, this Dutch dish provides a delicious and hearty meal. Traditionally including carrot and onion or sauertkraut, kale, spinach and turnip greens, Stamppot is often served alongside some form of meat, most commonly sausage, stewed meat or julienned bacon.
This delicious pea soup includes pork, split peas and plenty of veg and is traditionally served during the festive season, having an important spot on the New Year’s Day celebrations menu. The soup is thick and creamy and is topped with small slices of smoked sausage, yummy!
In Holland it is expected that you tip around 5-10% of the bill for good or exceptional service. If the service was ok then rounding up the bill or leaving some change would be enough.
The national currency is the euro (€). 1 euro = 100 cents.
Holland is one hour ahead of British time.
Holland works on the standard European 220 volts. A variety of plugs are used, including the European-style two-pin plug/ adapter.
Knowing a few keys phrases can make a great first impression. Why not try out the below on your next visit?
Influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Holland has a temperate maritime climate, with cool summers and mostly moderate winters. As Holland is a small country, there is little variation in the climate between regions. The dryer season spans from April to September with rainfall generally spread evenly throughout the year.
Smoking in the Netherlands is a grey area and although the smoking of Tabaco is illegal in all public buildings and on public transport, some bars can be quite lenient with enforcing the law. It is often the case that many offices, restaurants, bars and cafes will have a separate room which is designated for smokers, however no food or beverages should be served in these rooms.
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