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The Netherlands

5 cities not to miss in the Netherlands

The Netherlands offers a lot for a visitor, but just so it’s easier for you, these are the 5 cities not to miss in the Netherlands. They are all relatively close together, so if you stayed in the Netherlands for a week, you could get a taste of each. This list is perfect for those who are visiting the Netherlands for the first time and want to see more than just Amsterdam.

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5 cities not to miss in the Netherlands

Amsterdam Canal Houses

Amsterdam

Why visit Amsterdam? Because of the beautiful buildings, kilometers of tree-lined canals, and old cobblestone streets.

Amsterdam is one of those cities that needs no introductions. When you say “Amsterdam” people immediately think of windmills, tulips, and clogs. Even the name of the country isn’t necessary. It’s well-known…and well-visited.

Some may say that it’s too touristy and not worth visiting. It’s true, there are a huge amount of visitors, but you can easily avoid big crowds by visiting during shoulder season. Make plans to see Amsterdam in May, early June, and September. It’s still crowded, but less so than the height of summer.

Top tips for Amsterdam: Take a canal cruise, book ahead for the major museums like the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House, take a food tour, stroll around the canals on foot. Order the I amsterdam card to gain entry into many museums for free as well as being able to take local transportation for free.

The Hague

The Hague - Escher in Het Paleis

Why visit The Hague? It’s full of history and culture. This city has been a major player in wartime rules, among other things during, The Hague conventions.

While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is the political capital. Yeah…it feels a bit weird, doesn’t it? But it means that The Hague feels a bit more regal and a bit more proper. They even have proper shopping galleries in The Hague!

Nearby, you’ll find a popular beach in the district of Scheveningen. It’s just a tram ride away from the center of the city. It’s a lovely beach with a pier filled with great spots to eat and some good entertainment. Within the city, you’ll find a host of museums, including a fun one to look at….the Escher museum. Even if you’re not much of a museum person, you’ll likely be entertained.

Rotterdam

Rotterdam houses

Why visit Rotterdam? It’s quirky, edgy, and has lots of interesting modern architecture.

Rotterdam was hit pretty hard in World War II, so it rebuilt in a fantastic way. You’ll find all kinds of new architecture mixed in with the beautiful old Dutch styles. Keep looking up in this city for a feast for the eyes. As the country’s second city, it’s very different from Amsterdam in its vibe. But it still has everything you could want–super modern and some of the oldest museums, a strong food scene, and great nightlife.

Top tips for Rotterdam: Visit the Markthal, take a food tour, take a bike tour.

For city-wide discounts, check out the Rotterdam Welcome Card.

Haarlem

Haarlem bridge

Why visit Haarlem? If you want to see the famous Dutch architecture with the small town feel that’s buzzing with locals and super authentic, Haarlem is the place to visit.

Some people think of it as little Amsterdam, but it’s its own city. It used to be bigger and more powerful than Amsterdam! Haarlem has a wonderfully walkable downtown area and hosts various markets throughout the year. It’s a perfect place to stay while visiting the Netherlands because it’s easy to get to many places by train and you get the quiet small-town vibe.

Top tips for Haarlem: Take a food tour, Visit a local market, Go inside the Grote Kerk, walk everywhere.

Utrecht

Dom Tower Utrecht Netherlands
Dom Tower, Utrecht, Netherlands Photo by: Sean Cutrufello

Why visit Utrecht? As a university town, it has a young and fun feel with the look that makes you know that you’re in the Netherlands.

Utrecht is such a great city to visit! This is a great place to stroll around for quintessential Dutch pictures and then visit great restaurants. There seems to be a lot of breweries here, too, so if you like beer, add a brewery visit to your itinerary.

Top tips for Utrecht: Take a canal cruise, do a cheese tasting at the local shops, and go up the Dom Tower.

How to find accommodation in the Netherlands

Jess at castle in Zeist

Depending on the type of trip you are on, and how long you are staying, you may prefer an apartment or a hotel. For short trips, I recommend a hotel where there’s someone who can give advice and make the most of your stay. For a longer stay, an apartment is nice. In many cities like Amsterdam, there are heavy restrictions on renting apartments, so keep that in mind when booking. In general, if you want to be a responsible traveler when you are staying in Amsterdam, a hotel or hostel is best.

Booking.com is a Dutch company and is our go-to for booking accommodations. It was started in a building near the famous Rijksmuseum, and has grown into what it is today. Many of the properties offer free cancellation, but always check the terms as you book.

How to travel around the Netherlands

jessica at NS train ticket machine

To move from city to city and use local public transportation you can buy an OV Chipkaart. It’s a blue plastic, reloadable card that you can use on all public transportation in the country. These can be bought from major train stations, from the big yellow and blue ticket machines, and online.

If you plan to stay in one city for a longer period of time, a day pass may be better if offered in the city you are in. Amsterdam has a GVB ticket that you can buy and Rotterdam has an RET ticket available. However, for ease of maneuvering from place to place, the OV Chipkaart is the easiest to have. Just be sure to keep it topped up!

Enjoy your Dutch travels!