Netherlands travel guide
The Netherlands is a modern, liberal and vibrant country that still retains pride in its history and traditional culture. Since the end of the Second World War, the Dutch values of thriftiness and moderation have been replaced by a notable joie de vivre, which manifests itself in the way the Dutch embrace life. Eating out often, enjoying a beer or a glass of wine, exulting in the outdoors by attending funfairs or flea markets, and embracing the arts, this new leisure culture has come to characterise 21st century Netherlands.
Amsterdam is The Netherlands’ most bustling and modern city. With its Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam is as full of arts and culture as it is busy and inviting. Cosy coffee shops pop up everywhere, as do cafés and high-class restaurants. Strolling or sailing along the canals or walking through Vondelpark, visiting the floating flower market and going on a cycling tour will ensure you soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful city.
Further afield, there are plenty of towns and cities that make The Netherlands such a diverse and fascinating country. From the rich history of Haarlem and the windmills of Zaanse Schans in the north to the estuary-veined Zeeland in the south, the natural culture of The Netherlands seeps through. Cycle through tulip fields, explore the wild sand dunes of the West Frisian islands, tour the seat of parliament in The Hague or enjoy the bustle of one of the world’s largest ports in Rotterdam.
Whether you’re looking to relax or spend every second seeing something different, you will find the perfect spot in The Netherlands, which is naturally infused with its appealing and refreshing culture.
With its maritime climate, The Netherlands experiences mild summers and cool winters. Be prepared for rain whenever you go, as this can happen often and unexpectedly. Summer (June to August) is peak tourist season and the temperatures can climb to about 25°C, although it can also get wet and windy. Spring is an excellent time to visit as the tourists will be less invasive, the weather will be slightly drier than summertime and the tulip fields will be in full bloom.
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It is worth checking whether you need a visa to enter The Netherlands as EU citizens as well as residents from over 60 countries – including the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Israel – need only a valid passport to visit for up to three months. Other nationals need a “Schengen” visa which is issued by Dutch consulates or embassies. Prices vary but it can cost around £30.
Dutch cuisine is generally simple and wholesome, comprising of pork, hams and sausages, potatoes, and green vegetables such as cabbage, chicory and kale. Coastal areas eat a lot of seafood, especially cod, mackerel and herring, as well as its own variety of small brown shrimp. Cheese is one of The Netherlands most famous exports, with varieties of Gouda and Edam sold and eaten constantly by the locals. Often herbs and flavourings are added to the cheeses, including cloves, caraway seeds and cumin.
Traditional Dutch dishes include erwtensoep, a thick smoked sausage and pea soup, stamppot, a filling dish of curly kale, chicory and bacon mixed with mashed potato, and shrimp croquettes, creamy shrimps deep fried in breadcrumbs.
Dutch cuisine has been influenced by many cultures as they interacted within the melting pot that is The Netherlands. Most significantly, Indonesian cuisine is prevalent in Dutch eating habits as the Dutch colonized the Asian country in the 17th century. Exotic ingredients such as cinnamon, rice, coconut and chilli are now staples in Dutch cooking. The Dutch have even created their own dish, the rijsttaefel, based on Indonesian food. It consists of about twenty small, spicy dishes, served on a base of rice or noodles. The dishes include prawn crackers, curried meats and fried bananas in batter, and was created because the Dutch colonialists often found Indonesian meals to modest for their appetites.
Food from the continent also found its way into Dutch cuisine, including Germany’s sauerkraut and a wide range of French cuisine. There has also been a large Jewish influence on Dutch food since Jews fleeing persecution in Portugal and Belgium made their home in Amsterdam as far back as the 16th century. Foodstuffs like pekelvlees (salt beef) and pickled vegetables are practically considered Dutch dishes.
Modern Dutch cuisine consists of local Dutch dishes, as well as an ever-increasing number of foreign influences. The 20th century saw many Turkish and North African immigrants settle in The Netherlands, bringing a wide variety of Middle-Eastern foods. The Netherlands is now a multicultural hotspot, with restaurants offering Greek, Thai, Ethiopian, Italian and Japanese fare, while some of the more inventive Dutch chefs are combining traditional food with modern influences.
The Dutch like their alcohol, especially beer, and have several worldwide brands to show for it. Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel are all brewed in The Netherlands, and there are countless other varieties available to purchase in the country.
The Netherlands is also the home of Bols jenever, of which there are 36 flavours. Other popular Dutch spirits include berenburg, a distilled herbal drink, and advocaat, an egg-based brandy.
Netherlands uses the Euro. The euro is available in seven different bills and eight separate coins. The bills are available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro denominations. The coins are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents, and 1 and 2 euro denominations.
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Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is the main airport of The Netherlands and receives budget airlines as well as mainstream international routes. It is approximately 20 minutes from Amsterdam city centre by rail.
Eindhoven Airport (EIN) is much smaller than Schiphol but handles various international routes.
Rotterdam Airport (RTM) is the third biggest airport in the country, handling some international routes as well as chartered flights.
Flavours of Bols jenever include Maraschino Cherry and Chocolate
One third of The Netherlands’ land was reclaimed from the sea
The Netherlands is the third most densely populated country in Europe, after Monaco and Malta
Although many people refer to The Netherlands as Holland, Holland actually only comprises two out of the 13 Dutch provinces
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage and over-the-counter sales of marijuana, sanction euthanasia, and regulate prostitution