Planning Your Trip
Itineraries & Day Trips
Things to Do
What to Eat & Drink
The Netherlands is a beautiful country with glorious national parks, picturesque windmills, and romantic canals all waiting to be explored. Cyclists will feel right at home in a country where there are more bikes than people while history, art, and architecture lovers will have plenty of sights to pique their interest. Plus, the cannabis is legal, and cheese and beer are celebrated; what’s not to love? This guide will help you plan your trip to the Netherlands from start to finish.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit: Being a Northern European country, the Netherlands doesn’t experience much extreme weather, however rain is common all year round. During the depths of winter, the temperature can drop down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), whereas in July it only makes it to 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) (66 degrees F). On any given day, the weather can quickly switch from sunny to rainy and back to sunny again and, being a flat country, the wind can feel quite strong. For more information, read our complete weather and climate guide for the Netherlands.
Language: Citizens in the Netherlands speak Dutch as their first language, but almost everyone speaks at least some English and many are fluent, making communicating in the Netherlands easy for English-speaking tourists.
Getting Around: The NS rail system in the Netherlands is fairly clean, modern, and runs on time. If you’re traveling around the country and want to do so on your own time, it’s easy to hire a car from Schiphol (the Netherland’s largest airport) and in Rotterdam. In the country’s big cities everyone tends to travel by bicycle, which are easy and affordable to rent. Uber is available in the Randstad area (covering Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht), as well as Eindhoven, Haarlem and ‘t Gooi. You can see where in the Netherlands that Uber is available on their website.
Travel Tip: The cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam have the metro, trams, and buses, while The Hague and Utrecht offer buses and trams to get around. In each city, you can buy day tickets that allow you access to all modes of transport.
Things to Do
The Netherlands is famous for so many things, from canals and clogs to windmills and tulips, so it can be hard to decide what to do while there. A visit to the country wouldn't be complete without taking a boat tour and winding your way through Amsterdam's waterways. It's also well-worth hiring a bike like a local and heading to Zaanse Schans, a picturesque village with beautiful traditional windmills.
- If you find yourself in the country in spring, you should take a trip to Keukenhof. The park welcomes over one million visitors each season and you'll be greeted by seven million blooms including the iconic Dutch tulips.
- Love being by the water? In summer, be sure to check out the beach clubs at Zandvoort or Noordwijk for instant Ibiza vibes.
- A trip to Amsterdam is all about balance. Learn about one of the most famous Dutchman at the Van Gogh Museum, then head to a coffeeshop (a cannabis cafe).
What to Eat and Drink
Dutch cuisine is tasty and very reminiscent of home cooking. There is bitterballen, a thick stew which is breaded and fried, a perfect partner to a small beer (for which the Netherlands is also known). Stamppot is a traditional comfort food consisting of boiled, mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables and sometimes meat. Stroopwafels, a large caramel-filled wafer cookie, are plentiful and can be bought plain or dipped in melted chocolate and loaded with different toppings like marshmallows or hazelnuts.
Then there are Dutch cheeses, which are typically relatively hard and fairly mild like gouda and edam. You can visit the cheese market in the town of Gouda or head to the cheese market in Alkmaar, the oldest cheese market in the Netherlands.
As for the beers we mentioned, Jopenkerk in Haarlem is an old church that has been converted to a craft beer brewery and restaurant, where you can take a tour, taste the beers, and stop for lunch. Alternatively, head to Amsterdam and hotfoot it to the old Heineken Brewery (now a museum) if you want to see how a household name beer is brewed. More into wine? Take a tour and have a tasting at Amsterdam's own winery.
Where to Stay
Most first-time visitors head straight to Amsterdam which is the country's capital and most popular city welcoming 20 million visitors in 2019 (compared to one million residents). From here you can take day trips to Utrecht, Haarlem, The Hague, and Gouda. You can also get to Rotterdam in a day, but this city, known for its contemporary art and architecture, is worth spending a few nights in. Plus, from Rotterdam you can reach Tilburg, Breda, and both the De Biesbosch and Drunen National Parks.
Interior design in the Netherlands is incredibly chic, and there are plenty of luxe hotels to stay in such as The Dylan in Amsterdam and Hotel Pincoffs in Rotterdam. Airbnb is available around the country, in fact you can even find some houseboats on the site, if you’re looking for somewhere different to stay.
From the U.S. you can fly to Schiphol airport on various airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, and KLM. You can also fly into Rotterdam, but flights can be limited and more expensive. It could work out cheaper to fly to Amsterdam and travel by train to Rotterdam, which costs around 18 euros per person.
You can rent a car but parking in the Netherlands, especially in the bigger cities, is incredible expensive. If your hotel doesn’t have free or affordable parking, it’s best to get around on a bike, tram, bus or metro. The country isn’t huge—it’s roughly half the size of South Carolina—so it’s easy to get around on public transportation.
Culture and Customs
The Netherlands is a safe country where most people speak at least some English.
You generally only tip waiting staff if the service was good or exceptional, at which point you tip around 5 to 10 percent. Otherwise, you can round up the bill or leave the change.
Typically, Dutch people are quite formal which can come across as being a little standoffish.
- Want to travel the city freely? Get a GVB (in Amsterdam) or RET (in Rotterdam) day pass, which allows you to travel on most buses, trams and the metro, from eight euros.
- Taxis from the airports are expensive but don’t be tempted to hop in an unlicensed cab. Uber operates in the country and costs around 30 euros from Schiphol to Amsterdam. From Rotterdam airport to the city center is around 16 euros.
- Museums are not free in the Netherlands, so if you’re heading to Amsterdam and want to head to some of the cultural sights it’s well worth buying an I amsterdam City Card (starting at 65 euros for 24 hours). It gains you free entrance to the best museums and galleries, free travel within the city limits, and discount on food and a canal cruise. With or without the card, if you want to visit the Van Gogh Museum, be sure to book your slot in advance as it sells out fast. You can only visit the Anne Frank House by booking online beforehand.
- There are 20 National Parks dotted all over the country that are beautiful, free to explore, and rich in various fauna and wildlife. Head to one for a walk or do as the Dutch and cycle.
Netherlands Bureau for Tourism and Congresses. "Keukenhof."
Statista. "Inbound Tourism Forecast in the Netherlands 2014-2020 (in millions)." April 7, 2020.