As a recent transplant from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, I’ve found that one of the best ways to experience the Netherlands is by creating a thoughtful itinerary highlighting the country’s many unique attractions.
From charming small towns to world-class museums, the Netherlands offers a rich cultural and historical tapestry that captivates and inspires travelers. Over the years, I’ve become quite adept at crafting travel plans that showcase the best of what this incredible country features.
Since I’m both an avid traveler and a proud resident of the stunning city of Amsterdam, I’ve come to appreciate how essential it is to focus on a few key destinations to create a memorable and enriching experience.
Though relatively small, the Netherlands has fascinating cities, picturesque landscapes, and many cultural highlights. My explorations have led me to discover that spending time in several locations and relying on public transportation and train travel is the key to unlocking the true essence of Dutch culture and scenery.
Throughout my numerous trips around the country, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of what makes the Netherlands such an enchanting destination.
I believe any traveler can create an unforgettable Netherlands adventure by immersing oneself in the local culture, uncovering hidden gems, and enjoying the unparalleled beauty of the Dutch countryside. As someone who has come to love this beautiful land, I’m eager to share my insights and help others create their own memorable Netherlands experience.
Planning Your Netherlands Itinerary
Best Time to Visit
Having moved from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and visited the Netherlands multiple times prior to my move, I can confidently advise on the best time to visit this beautiful country. The Netherlands has a maritime climate: milder winters and cooler summers.
Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) are ideal because of the pleasant weather and how fewer tourists are present. I love the spring when the tulips are in full bloom, and Keukenhof Gardens becomes a must-visit attraction.
See Related: Best Time to Visit Amsterdam: When Should You Visit?
Trip Duration and Budget
Given the Netherlands’ compact size, it’s possible to cover a lot in a short amount of time. Based on my experiences, I suggest planning a 7-10 day trip to explore diverse Dutch cities, windmills, and each province’s rich culture.
The Netherlands is a part of the Eurozone, so you’ll use euros for your transactions. Here’s a rough estimate of daily costs in the Netherlands:
- Accommodation: €50-€150
- Meals: €20-€60
- Attractions: €10-€30
- Local Transportation: €5-€20
Travel Advice and Preparation
As an ex-pat now living in Amsterdam, I’m pleased to offer some valuable travel tips here for your Netherlands itinerary:
- Public Transportation: The Netherlands has an efficient and extensive public transportation system. Use trains, trams, and buses to travel between and within cities. An “OV-chipkaart” can be purchased for easy travel on most forms of public transit.
- Cycling: The Netherlands is extremely bike-friendly. Cycling is a popular and convenient way to explore Dutch cities and the countryside. Most cities have bike rental facilities. Do note, that bike theft is bit of a problem in the cities!
- Language: Dutch is the official language, but most people speak English. Learn at least a few basic Dutch phrases to make a good impression, but you’ll generally have no trouble communicating with locals in English.
- Etiquette: The Dutch are typically welcoming and friendly. They’re good-humored and known for their directness and appreciate polite behavior. Be punctual, respectful, and follow local customs.
- Safety: The Netherlands is a safe country, with a pretty low crime rate. Like any place, being cautious and aware of your surroundings is crucial. Monitor your belongings in busy areas and be mindful of traffic, especially bikes.
Planning your Netherlands itinerary is an exciting process, and the country offers a range of experiences across its cities and countryside. As someone well-acquainted with Dutch life and attractions, I hope these tips help you make the most of your time exploring this captivating European nation.
See Related: How to Travel From London to Amsterdam
What to Pack for Visiting the Netherlands
When I was going through the back-and-forth of moving my whole life from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, I quickly learned how crucial it is to pack the right items for a trip to the Netherlands. Packing for this country can be tricky due to its unpredictable weather.
If you want to make the most of the Netherlands, be prepared to spend one week or longer here. Summer is no exception, either. Here’s my expert advice on what to include in your packing list while preparing for your adventure.
What to Bring to the Netherlands
First off, don’t forget about the weather. I always bring a rain jacket because the Netherlands can be quite rainy, especially during spring and autumn. Since I started doing this, I have never been caught off guard by an unexpected downpour.
Along with weather-conscious items, it’s critical to pack some adaptable clothing. I recommend bringing light layers for unpredictable temperatures.
The Netherlands can quickly go from sunny and warm to chilly and overcast, so having a versatile wardrobe will help you stay comfortable. Pack a mix of lightweight shirts, sweaters, and at least one warm jacket.
Here are some items I always have in my bag:
- Toiletries: Including travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and toothbrush.
- Medicine: A small first-aid kit with pain relievers, band-aids, and antiseptic cream is nice to have in case of any emergencies while you are on the go.
- Power adapters: Dutch outlets use a Type C or Type F plug, so pack the appropriate adapter for your electronic devices.
- Money: The Netherlands uses the Euro, so have some on hand and a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Last but not least, don’t forget about travel documentation. A valid passport is mandatory, of course, and depending on your country of origin, you may also need a visa. I always carry a copy of my passport, travel insurance documents, and any booking confirmations for accommodations, just in case.
With these items packed and ready, you’ll be prepared for whatever adventure the Netherlands has in store for you.
Top Destinations and Attractions to Visit
As a newly minted Amsterdammer, I can vouch for the fantastic experience this city provides. Exploring the city on foot or by bike is a must. Use a map to navigate and orient yourself, as there are dozens of stunning canals (the entire canal ring is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and bikeways to explore.
Other non-negotiable highlights include the Rijksmuseum, which houses a splendid collection of Dutch paintings; the Van Gogh Museum, showcasing the renowned works of Vincent van Gogh; and the Anne Frank House, an important historical site. The former are both located in Amsterdam’s beautiful Museum Square.
For those interested in modern art, don’t miss the Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam’s nightlife offers many options, from microbreweries to swanky bars. First-time visitors expect that the nightlife scene is solely oriented in the lively Red Light District. That’s far from true as there’s diverse nightlife all over the Amsterdam city center but also just outside the city in old factories, parks, riverside, and pretty much entertainment.
For more good times in Amsterdam, check out these articles:
A perfect foil to Amsterdam‘s historical architecture and winding canals, Rotterdam has emerged as a cutting-edge destination renowned for its innovative architecture. Highlights include the Cube Houses, Erasmus Bridge, and the Markthal (Market Hall), an iconic food market at the heart of the city’s delectable food scene. This coastal city is perfect for architecture and design enthusiasts and is a wonderful place to stay.
If you plan to visit Rotterdam, go on a day trip to Kinderdijk. These iconic, indigenous windmills provide a quintessential perspective of those Dutch landscapes you often see in photos. Plus, you’ll get an excellent background on the history of water management in the Netherlands.
See Related: Best Tours in Rotterdam
Home to the International Court of Justice and the political center of the Netherlands, The Hague is more than an administrative hub. It boasts a few attractive locations like the historic Binnenhof, Madurodam – a miniature city park – and many museums, such as the Mauritshuis, which holds many renowned Dutch artworks.
As a national and global center of law politics, you’ll typically find a broad cross-section of folks visiting and staying in the Hague. Consequently, there are some immaculate hotels in the city.
Utrecht is often overlooked but boasts a rich history and picturesque streets. The Dom Tower is the locus of this charming city, which also features stately canals and ample green spaces. I recommend wandering around the city center and taking in this off-the-beaten-path attraction’s unique atmosphere.
In the southern part of the Netherlands, Maastricht is known for its rich food culture, delightful charm, and historical significance. Key attractions include the iconic St. Servatius Basilica, the Helpoort – a city gate from the 13th century –and a labyrinth of tunnels at St. Pietersberg Caves. You’ll fall in love with this lovely city in just a week.
In the north of the country, Groningen is a student city with an energetic vibe. Noteworthy sites include the Groninger Museum, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions, and the Martinitoren, a church tower offering panoramic city views. This dynamic city presents an enjoyable balance of culture, history, and leisure.
During your one-week vacation in the Netherlands, you can cover these destinations and two provinces in one day, exploring your itinerary and ensuring a diverse and memorable encounter.
See Related: Holland vs Netherlands: What’s the Difference?
Dutch Culture and History
Art and Museums
One of the first exciting and interesting things that struck me about the Netherlands was its rich history in art. As a fan of art, I couldn’t wait to explore famous museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Mauritshuis.
At the Mauritshuis in The Hague, I was thrilled to see the renowned Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer. Discovering the works of Dutch Masters like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Frans Hals left me in awe. Don’t miss the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam for those interested in contemporary art.
Historic Sites and Castles
The Netherlands is also home to many places abundant in historical significance and castles that transport you back in time. My favorite is the medieval Castle De Haar near Utrecht, the epitome of luxury and beauty.
Exploring the charming cities of Delft, Hoorn, and Haarlem brings a delightful blend of history, culture, and atmosphere. Some notable historical highlights include:
- Grote Markt, the central square in Haarlem, surrounded by stunning architecture
- Visiting Delft, famous for its Delftware and beautiful canals
- The historic city center of Leiden rich with picturesque canals and historic buildings
Windmills and Countryside
Living in the Netherlands means embracing its iconic windmills and picturesque countryside. No trip here is complete without visiting the Zaanse Schans or Kinderdijk. In this open-air museum, you can admire traditional Dutch windmills, watch artisans at work, and learn about the country’s industrial past.
For an authentic Dutch experience, I highly recommend cycling through the picturesque countryside, visiting charming villages like Edam and the fishing village of Volendam, and, of course, experiencing the Tulip fields in Lisse during the peak tulip season.
Canals and Waterways
One can’t discuss the Netherlands without mentioning the canals and waterways that define its urban landscape and much of its rural one too. To genuinely experience them, rent a bike and explore cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Delft, blessed with a network of picturesque canals.
Alternatively, you can hop aboard an entire canal cruise or canal tour in Leiden and Utrecht or rent a boat in Giethoorn, one of 38 European cities known as the “Venice of the North.” This one really earns it, though.
In my time here, I’ve discovered that the Netherlands is a treasure trove of culture and history, and there’s always more to see and appreciate. This country offers a genuinely memorable adventure from incredible art to fantastic architecture and from historic cities to iconic windmills to enchanting waterways.
During my time in the Netherlands, I found that the country has an extensive and efficient public transportation system, with public transport, which includes trains, trams, buses, and ferries.
I usually purchase train tickets online or at the train stations for quick and easy train travel between major cities throughout. If you prefer exploring at your own pace, renting a bike is an excellent opportunity to experience the renowned Dutch cycling culture, especially for city tours and countryside rides.
I sometimes rent a car for longer distances, a walking tour which provides more flexibility, especially when visiting regions like Zeeland (Old Zeland, the OG Zealand, if you will) and the North Sea coast. When exploring coastal towns like Marken, Enkhuizen, and Zandvoort, sailing tours offer a great trip and a unique perspective of the Netherlands.
Accommodations and Booking
As for accommodations, I found various options to suit diverse preferences and budgets. From luxury hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, there is no shortage of places to stay.
My go-to platform for booking accommodations is Booking.com, which offers competitive rates, easy booking, and genuine reviews. Popular cities, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, fill up quickly, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Dining and Dutch Cuisine
As a food enthusiast, I appreciate the diverse dining options in the Netherlands. Dutch cuisine is highly underrated but boasts some delicious dishes worth trying. Traditional Dutch dishes and famous foods include:
- Stamppot: A hearty dish made with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and sausage
- Haring: Raw herring served with onions and pickles
- Pannenkoeken: Large, thin Dutch pancakes with sweet or savory toppings
- Bitterballen: Deep-fried meatballs typically served with mustard
- Stroopwafel: A well-known and well-loved thin waffle caramel sandwich treat
- Cheese: The Netherlands is home to some of the best cheese in the world, such as gouda
Numerous international dining options include Indonesian, Turkish, Italian, and traditional Dutch cuisine. Don’t miss the food markets, where you can sample various dishes and find unique Dutch products.
Possible Itinerary to Follow
|1||Amsterdam||Visit the Rijksmuseum, take a canal boat tour, explore the Jordaan neighborhood|
|2||Amsterdam||Visit the Van Gogh Museum, see the Anne Frank House, stroll through Vondelpark|
|3||Utrecht||Climb the Dom Tower, explore the canals and wharves, visit the Railway Museum|
|4||Rotterdam||Visit the Markthal, see the Cube Houses, explore the Maritime Museum|
|5||The Hague||Visit the Peace Palace, see the Dutch Parliament buildings, explore the beach at Scheveningen|
|6||Delft||Visit the Royal Delft factory, see the Oude Kerk, explore the historic city center|
|7||Haarlem||Visit the Frans Hals Museum, explore the Grote Markt, see the windmill at Molen de Adriaan|
I hope my travel advice helps you create an unforgettable Netherlands itinerary using my experiences and knowledge of this beautiful country’s transportation, accommodations, and cuisine.
How to spend a week in the Netherlands?
Spending a week in the Netherlands provides ample time to explore its incredible cities and serene countryside. Starting in Amsterdam, dedicate a few days to visiting the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and the picturesque canals. Then, take day trips to the historic cities of Utrecht and The Hague, coupled with the iconic windmills of Zaanse Schans.
How many days do you need for the Netherlands?
A trip of around 7 to 10 days would allow a fulfilling exploration of the Netherlands. This provides time to immerse yourself in the cultural hub of Amsterdam, visit time-honored landmarks, and explore the country’s beautiful landscapes. Remember, each city has its unique charm, so ensure your itinerary offers a diverse taste of the Netherlands.
What can you do in the Netherlands for a week?
In the Netherlands, you can delve into the country’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty for a week. Start in Amsterdam with its world-class museums, then head to The Hague to visit the Dutch Parliament.
Don’t miss the cheese market in Gouda, the charming canals of Utrecht, and the windmill village of Kinderdijk. Lastly, bike through the stunning tulip fields if you’re visiting in the spring.