10 Places to Go in the Netherlands Outside of Amsterdam

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From its Golden Age to the modern era, the Netherlands is a country whose laid-back atmosphere and understated beauty have long made it a rewarding but sometimes overlooked European destination. Amsterdam is often the first and sometimes only stop for visitors to the Netherlands, but beyond the picturesque capital lie a host of Dutch delights, from small towns and sprawling beaches to iconic windmills and tulip fields. Trains are very reliable and easy to find in the Netherlands, but this is also a great country for a road trip, with lots to see and do within a few hours’ drive of Amsterdam. Abbey Chase

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Gouda

Known for its eponymous and world-famous cheese, Gouda (pronounced “HOW-duh”) is a lively market town in South Holland that rewards gourmands and history buffs alike. Stop by t’ Kaaswinkeltje to pick up one of the many varieties of Gouda, explore the city’s 15th-century architecture, and check out Gouda pottery, a style native to the city known for its Art Deco aesthetic.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Pyramid of Austerlitz

Just outside Utrecht is one of the more bizarre and fascinating relics from the Napoleonic Era in the Netherlands. General Auguste de Marmont, a close confidant of Napoleon’s, was stationed in the area in 1804 and commissioned his troops to construct the pyramid as a way to pass the time while they waited for a British invasion. The 120-foot earthen structure was finished in a remarkable 27 days and later rechristened the Pyramid of Austerlitz to commemorate Napoleon’s 1805 victory. After a tedious restoration process due to problems with erosion, the monument was reopened in 2008.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

Abbey Chase

Bloemendaal beach

Even in the summer, a dip in the North Sea is not for the faint-hearted, but the Dutch coast is a surprisingly charming place to spend a day. Bloemendaal Beach is easily accessible by public transport from Amsterdam or by bike from Haarlem, and is a favorite hangout among locals in the summer. The waterfront is lined with restaurants and bars that stay open well into the night.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Giethoom

The Netherlands is full of towns and villages crisscrossed by canals, but Giethoorn is the only one that is completely car-free. Pedestrian bridges and bike paths weave among the 18th-century farmhouses, but the flat-bottomed punt boats are the more efficient and interesting way to get around. If you visit during the winter, you can join the locals in skating along the frozen canals.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Haarlem

This postcard-perfect city is just 15 minutes by train from Amsterdam, but the change of pace is instantly noticeable. Known as one of the best places in the Netherlands to shop, Haarlem is replete with interesting boutiques and welcoming cafés that line the still largely tourist-free alleyways and quiet canals. Haarlem was incorporated as a city in 1245 and boasts a remarkably well-preserved central market square, anchored by the impressive Saint Bavo Church. Be sure to visit the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands, with an eclectic collection ranging from Michelangelo’s drawings to curiosity cabinets.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Kinderdijk

Few things symbolize the Netherlands quite like the windmill, a necessary innovation in a country where 25 percent of its land sits below sea level. The 19 windmills in Kinderdijk date to the 18th century and are still used today to pump water out of the polder, an area of low-lying reclaimed land. A series of walking and bike paths traverse the huge UNESCO-protected area, making it the perfect spot for a peaceful afternoon picnic.

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Keukenhof

For two months every spring, Keukenhof Gardens explodes with the blooms of more than 7 million flowers, most notably the famous Dutch tulips. Tulip mania began in the Netherlands in the 17th century, when the colorful flowers became much sought-after status symbols, and the country is still known for its horticulture tradition. The 2017 season runs from March 23 to May 21, with the best viewing usually in mid-April. Alternatively, there are extensive bike trails that wend through countryside—ideal for seeing the bulbs during peak season away from the crowds.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Delft

The quiet streets, medieval architecture, and verdant canals of Delft epitomize the charm of the Netherlands’ small cities, but Delft stands apart thanks to its list of illustrious residents and history. Several members of the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange, have lived, been married, and are buried in Delft, while Johannes Vermeer depicted his hometown and its residents in many of his renowned paintings. Delft is also known for its ornate blue pottery designs, inspired by the styles on Chinese porcelain that was first brought to the city in the 1600s.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Wadden Sea Islands

Strung together in an archipelago in the North Sea, the five main Wadden Sea Islands, also known as the West Frisian Islands, are a popular vacation spot for locals, but less frequented by foreigners. The islands are sprinkled with picturesque seaside villages alongside expansive beaches home to large populations of native birds and seals. As with almost everywhere in the Netherlands, a bike is the best way to explore the area. Ferries to the islands depart regularly from the mainland towns along the coast.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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Hoge Veluwe National Park

Hoge Veluwe National Park packs a lot into its 20 square miles. Much of the park is dense forest and home to a large population of deer, before giving way to some of the largest sand dunes in Europe. A historic hunting lodge built by the couple who founded the park is now open to the public, in addition to a small museum displaying the couple’s private collection, which includes works from Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Netherlands Travel Guide

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