Which European country is best known for having the most liberal mentality, the warmest, most welcoming atmosphere and the greatest number of tulips? Well, I made it pretty obvious when bringing the tulips into question, so prepare yourself for a virtual tour of The Netherlands, a small and beautiful country that has a lot of traits to offer to its travelers. Whether you’re visiting for its cultural heritage, sophisticated cities, fairy-like country sides, bohemian cafes, laid-back attitude and, why not, for exploring the well known attractions of Amsterdam, The Netherlands will leave you with a big smile on your face and a strong wish to come here again. Especially if you have a wild soul and feel the occasional urge of going on an adventure by exploring colorful places with interesting people that send positive vibes and draw beautiful memories.
The Netherlands literally means “lower countries”, the name drawing its meaning from the country’s flat lands, and it is often called “Holland”, but you should know that this naming isn’t correct. When talking about the country’s inhabitants, language, culture and other related things, the correct term to be used is “Dutch”.
Situated in Western Europe, The Netherlands neighbors, towards the east, with Germany, with Belgium to the south and the North Sea towards the northwest. The country is densely populated, having a surface of 41,543 square km (16,033 sq mi) which is inhabited by 16,919,139 people, having a density of around 500 people per square km. It is governed by a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy; the capital is its biggest city, Amsterdam.
What to see, what to do
The most exciting place to be once you’re here is, of course, Amsterdam, also known as the “sin city”, a magical place that combines cultural elements with contemporary ones and the result is just thrilling. Whether you’re passing one of the plethora of restaurants, cafes, historical buildings, museums, canals and so on, everything you encounter seems surrounded by romance, friendship and a charming ambiance that embraces you and always seems to be bursting with joy and excitement. Take a canal boat tour and enjoy the city’s seventeenth century architectural beauties and popular sights, such as Anne Frank’s house, the Flower Market, the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum, the Red Light District (because why not?) and many other interesting areas.
In the search for the country’s monuments and historical treasures, be sure to visit Utrecht, which has been well preserved and has the biggest university in the country, Maastricht, for its beautiful medieval architecture, churches, lanes and monuments, Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt, for visiting the first university in the country and a plethora of museums and monuments; Rotterdam – the largest European port and a beautiful display of modern architecture, The Hague – the judicial capital of the world, seat of the government and royalty and a lovely place to visit for admiring palaces and other buildings, Haarlem, Madurodam, Alkmaar or Gouda are also notable cities that should be visited if you’re planning to spend your holidays here.
For admiring some of The Netherlands’ many windmills and other traditional elements, explore its picturesque countryside and towns by visiting the Waterland and Zaan Region, Kinderdjik, which has 19 windmills, the Zaanse Schans, which also has a museum, Schiedam – for seeing the tallest windmills in the world, the Bulb Region for its tulip fields and Keukenhof, which has the largest flower garden in the world.
As for activities, cycling is extremely popular in the Netherlands, being the usual form of transport for many and there are around 22,000 km of dedicated paths throughout the country.
If you’re traveling here in the summer, when the temperatures are permissive for sunbathing and swimming, you can enjoy the Dutch beaches at Scheveningen, Bergen, Zandvoort, the West Frisian Islands or the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands.
Food and drink
When traveling to the Netherlands, be sure to try out some of the following Dutch specialties, especially the sweets, which leave my mouth watering as I’m writing: bitterbal – a deep fried round ball filled with a mix of butter, chopped beef and spices, stamppot – mashed potatoes with vegetables and smoked sausage, rookworst – ground meat sausage, erwtensoep – thick pea soup with sausage, poffertjes – tiny pancakes served with butter and powdered sugar, stroopwafels – cookie-like syrup waffle, appeltaart – apple pie and more.
The regional drinks are beer, coffee and tea. A local alcoholic beverage is jenever – Dutch gin, which turns into beerenburg when adding some herbs to it. The Dutch also have the best hot chocolate, which consists in actual melted chocolate mixed with milk and whipped cream.
Visa and Passports Requirements
Netherlands is a member of the European Union and it signed the Schengen treaty, hence if you’re an EU citizen, you’ll not require a passport, just an ID. For USA/Canadian tourists, a passport is required (no Visa though).
International calling to Netherlands
You can save money on international calling and text with 011Now service. It works on any phone. There is a smartphone app for calling Netherlands. Easy dialing, no fees, no taxes. Free trial call.