Rattling your bike over cobbles, past a line of gabled houses reflected in a mirror-smooth canal…the Netherlands is just like you imagined it. In its 17th-century Golden Age, Dutch traders established a global economy — and funded a culturally rich society back home. Tiny Holland may just have the world's densest concentration of great artists, and shows off their works in several world-class museums. Be sure to venture beyond Amsterdam — take advantage of the efficient train network, which puts nearly every Dutch destination within an easy day trip. Rent a bike and cruise the flat countryside. Wherever you roam, look behind its placid exterior, where you'll find a complex mix of modern technology, honored traditions, quaint countryside, outrageous architecture, and no-nonsense, globally minded people.
At a Glance
Best Home Bases
▲▲▲ Amsterdam The dynamic capital, lined with Golden-Age architecture, boasts magnificent museums, a lively food scene, diverse nightlife, and an eye-opening Red Light District, along with bustling streets and markets and bikes everywhere.
▲▲ Haarlem Cozy, quiet burg with its own top attractions, plus easy access to big-city Amsterdam.
▲▲ Delft Picturesque hometown of Vermeer and Delftware with college-town vibe — a good base for day-tripping to The Hague and Rotterdam.
North of Amsterdam
▲▲ Edam, Volendam, and Marken Postcard-perfect region of Waterland harbors with the adorable cheesemaking village of Edam, the tourist depot of Volendam, and the fascinating former fishing hamlet of Marken.
▲ Hoorn and Enkhuizen Time-warp duo of the Golden-Age merchant’s town of Hoorn and charming village of Enkhuizen, with an open-air museum that preserves lost Zuiderzee culture.
▲ Alkmaar and Zaanse Schans Holland’s tasty cheese capital — Alkmaar — with its Friday cheese market, and Zaanse Schans, an easy-to-reach though touristy folk museum.
▲ Flevoland Intriguing province reclaimed from the sea featuring Schokland, a former fishing village now surrounded by dry land.
South of Amsterdam
▲▲ Rotterdam Europe’s busiest port with soaring skyscraper architecture and 21st-century buzz.
▲▲ Leiden Historic, charming college town that was the Pilgrims’ last stop before Plymouth Rock.
▲ Keukenhof and Aalsmeer Flower-power destinations with fabulous tulip gardens (Keukenhof, open only in spring) and famous floral auction scene (Aalsmeer).
▲ The Hague Governmental hub with excellent art museum (Mauritshuis), international courts, and nearby beach.
East of Amsterdam
▲▲ Museums near Arnhem Two Dutch treats — the granddaddy of open-air museums (Netherlands Open-Air Folk Museum) and a world-class collection of Van Gogh masterpieces (Kröller-Müller Museum).
▲ Utrecht Bustling university city with the Netherlands’ largest medieval old town and its best railway museum.