Five Things First Time Travellers To the Netherlands Should Know
- Most people in the Netherlands can speak English. In fact, the country is known for having one of the highest levels of English proficiency in the world. That said, it's still useful to learn a couple of Dutch phrases and the locals will appreciate the effort.
- Yes, you can legally buy cannabis. However, the herb is only available from licensed coffee shops, and you can't smoke it outside these establishments. If you do, you could get arrested and end up paying a fine.
- Card payments are preferred in the Netherlands. So much so that most shops have stopped accepting physical money altogether. While this sounds great, it causes a few problems for travellers. Most stores only take Maestro cards and finding a place that will accept Visa or MasterCard is quite rare.
- Tipping is customary in the Netherlands. If you think the service was exceptional, tip 10% of the bill. However, if you found it to be average, you can either round up the bill or leave some change for the server.
- The tap water is safe to drink. So much so, it's considered healthier than bottled water because it contains Fluor. Do yourself a favour and save some cash by topping up your water bottle as you explore.
Best Time To Visit the Netherlands
Netherlands is a great all-around destination. No matter when you go, there's always something to see, and you'll never run out of things to do.
If you're looking for that perfect mix of great weather and low prices, plan your trip during the two shoulder seasons. From April to May and September to November, there will be fewer tourists and temperatures will still be warm.
For the cheapest possible hotel rates and flights, book your flights for the winter months. From December to March, hotels will slash their prices, and you can scoop up some fantastic deals. However, the tradeoff is short, dark and freezing days. Make sure you pack a warm coat and a pair of thermal underwear to stay warm.
The most popular time to visit the Netherlands is during the summer months. From June to August, temperatures will be soaring, and the temperamental weather will be at its best. But the ideal conditions means you'll have to deal with an influx of tourists. Book a good few months in advance as most hotels fill up, and their rates skyrocket.
No matter when you visit, your social calendar won't be empty. The Netherlands hosts more than 300 festivals a year and has something going on every month without fail.
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and one of the most visited cities in the world. It's full of history, interesting museums and impressive architecture.
Float down the city's famous 17th-century canals, visit the trendy cannabis coffee shops and stroll through the infamous Red Light District.
If you're travelling on a budget, don't forget to sign up for the I am Amsterdam City Card. You'll get free access to some of the top attractions and free rides on the city's public transport system.
Located on the banks of the Nieuwe Maas, Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands. It's home to the largest port in the world and is considered an important cultural hub.
Rotterdam also boasts some of the best museums in the country and is a culinary hot spot.
Make sure you check out Great St. Lawrence Church. It's all that's left of the city's medieval buildings, as most were destroyed during World War II. Other top sights include Museum Boymans-van Beuningen and the famous Kinderdijk Windmills.
The Hague is home to the Netherlands Royal Family and is the seat of the country's government. Its streets are lined with beautiful architecture, art galleries and fascinating museums.
Visit the 13th-century Knights' Hall, The Peace Palace and The Binnenhof to learn more about the city's role in Netherland's history. Marvel at the gigantic Panorama Mesdag, and if you need to escape the city for a few hours, take a day trip to Old Town Gouda, famous for its cheese.
Top Attractions in the Netherlands
If you want to appreciate the Netherlands's tulips, head to Keukenhof. Often called the Garden of Europe, it's home to over 700 different varieties of tulips and is the world's largest open-air flower show.
Located on the outskirts of Lisse, it's an easy one hour drive from the capital city of Amsterdam. For the best time of year to see the tulips, plan your trip during April and the beginning of May.
If you can't make either of these months, the gardens are full of other flowers that bloom throughout the year. Some of the most popular are the snow whites (February to March); Daffodils (March to April) and the Crocus (January to February)
For history buffs, no visit to the Netherlands would be complete without a stop at Rijksmuseum. Located in Amsterdam, the museum has been collecting art and antiquities since 1809.
Today, it boasts a collection of 5,000 paintings and 35,000 books that span across 250 rooms.
Apart from its artistic treasures, the museum also has exhibitions on the development of art and culture in the Netherlands. Visitors can learn about the history of the Dutch handicrafts and how the different art forms have evolved over the centuries.
If you're planning on visiting Rijksmuseum, make sure you block out an entire day to explore as much of the museum as possible.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Despite the Netherlands size, it's home to one of the most diverse national parks in the world. Hoge Veluwe National Park spans across 13,800 acres and is one of the most popular destinations for nature lovers.
Once a hunting park in the early 20th century, its wildlife is now protected. If you decide to go on a hike through the dense woodlands, keep an eye out for the wild boar, mouflon and deer. Bird lovers will also have loads to see. The park is an important sanctuary and is home to a variety of species.
Before you leave, check out the unique sculpture park and art gallery, the Kroller-Muller Museu.
Van Gogh Museum
The Netherlands may be famous for its windmills, clogs and cheese, but it's also the home of Vincent Van Gogh. He is one of the most influential figures in Western art, and his paintings are sought after by collectors all over the world.
It's no surprise that the Van Gogh Museum is one of the country's most popular attractions. Each year, more than 1.5 million people flock to see the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings.
The impressive gallery boasts over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 letters. Be sure to book your tickets online to avoid the queues and plan your visit during the off-peak times. If you can, avoid the weekend and visit before 11:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m.
Kasteel De Haar
Located in the ancient city of Utrecht, Kasteel De Haar is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands. Built in the 14th century, an entire village was relocated to accommodate it.
After falling into disrepair, the castle was restored in the 19th century by its owner Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar. Today, it's one of the most-visited museums in the Netherlands and is renowned for its fairytale looks and impressive collections of antiques.
The castle is open seven days a week but does have a few dates throughout the year where the opening times differ. Tickets cost EUR 16 each, and there is also a parking fee of EUR 5.
Major International Airports in the Netherlands
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
- Eindhoven Airport
- Rotterdam The Hague Airport
- Groningen Airport Eelde
- Maastricht Aachen Airport