Since I started with photography I became a tourist in my own country. My first project were the windmills at the Kinderdijk. From that point on I am looking for beautiful spots in my country to capture. Today, I’ll share some of these spots with you and advise you on the best time to visit.
1. Amsterdam – Best time to travel: whole year
I start this list off with probably the most known place in The Netherlands: Amsterdam. Over 1,5 million people live in the capital of The Netherlands, a city with many different languages and cultures. To me, Amsterdam is the capital of freedom, as soft drugs and prostitution are well accepted. The city owes her name to a dam that was built to prevent the settlement next to the river Amstel from flooding. The first mention of the name Amsterdam dates from 1275.
There are many cultural and modern landmarks to visit. If you are travelling during spring, consider the dates 27th of April and 5th of May special. On the 27th of April we celebrate our king’s birthday. The city will turn orange and the streets will be filled with drunk partying people. A little less drunk are the people on the 5th of May, as we celebrate our country being freed from the Nazis. Both days are very festive! If you travel during the winter, consider the Amsterdam Light Festival in the months December and January!
Also, every month, Europe’s largest flea market takes place in the Ij-hallen! Another special event is “Museum Night“. Each year, in the month November there is one night when museums (including the big ones) stay open till late night. A very special night to participate in!
2. Rotterdam – Best time to travel: whole year
Next up is another big city, Rotterdam. Just like Amsterdam, the name of this city is derived from a dam and a river. A dam was built to protect the settlement from floods of the river Rotte, hence Rotterdam. While the Dutch capital is home to some magnificent old buildings, Rotterdam is known for her modern architecture, as most old buildings where destroyed during the heavy bombing in the Second World War.
Over half a million people live in the city centre and a large portion of the inhabitants are international students, of which a large selection of art students. This gives the city a vivid vibe during night time, especially on the “Witte de Withstraat”. A Street with many bars including the (former) best bar of the world (according to Lonely Planet): De Witte Aap (The White Monkey).
Some special events are the “Rotterdam Roof Days” (Rotterdamse Dakendagen). During these days in June you got to experience Rotterdam from height as you can visit the roof tops of over 40 heigh buildings. A second special moment is Museum Night Rotterdam. In March this city participates in the same event as the capital Amsterdam. Visit many places during the night!
Not convinced yet? Check out my series on Rotterdam:
- Rotterdam – The bird’s view
- A series on Rotterdam – Central Station
- A series on Rotterdam – Construction never stops
- A series on Rotterdam – Living in a cubicle
- A series on Rotterdam – Market Hal/Markthal (Part 1)
- A series on Rotterdam – Market Hal/Markthal (Part 2)
- A series on Rotterdam – Modern architecture
- A series on Rotterdam – Erasmusbrug/Erasmus Bridge (Part 1)
- A series on Rotterdam – Erasmusbrug/Erasmus Bridge (Part 2)
3. Kinderdijk – Best time to travel: spring, summer, and winter
A cultural heritage is the Kinderdijk, a small village in The Netherlands, known for the windmills on the dike. These 19 windmills origin from around 1740 and form a great Dutch scene. Go there by winter, and you might have the chance to see the locals skating on the canal next to the windmills. Go there in spring or summer and see how the flora turns vividly green!
4. National Park Veluwezoom – Best time to travel: Spring and August
The Netherlands is a small country. So people and nature live closely. There are however spots where nature is given space to develop. In this country heathland can be found everywhere. The most beautiful heather however can be found at National Park Veluwezoom. Holland’s oldest National Park, part of the larger nature area called “Veluwe“. Spring is a great place to walk nature everywhere, but for heathland August is the best month. This is when everything starts blooming. A spectacular sight, especially at the Veluwe, as this is a area full of hills (which is special in a flat country). Read my article on photographing heather here (click!).
5. Tulip fields – Best time to travel: April / May
The Netherlands always have been known for the windmills and tulips. To see windmills you’ll want to visit Kinderdijk, but the tulip fields are found elsewhere. These fields can be found in the area of Lisse and Hillegom (near the city Leiden), or more up north near the city of Almere.
Depending on the weather and temperatures, the flowering season starts at the beginning of April. If the start of the spring season is warm this would be earlier, while a cold finish of the winter delays the blooming. It is difficult to predict when the tulips will flourish, they bloom however for three weeks. So planning is difficult, but possible. Aim for the period around the third week of April and you should be able to see them.
6. Utrecht – Best time to travel: whole year
I would describe Utrecht as a cosy city. With only 340.000 people living there, it isn’t a big city, and the many students living there give this city a relaxed vibe. But it is not just that. The city center is not too big, and is divided by many canals. Next to these canals are many fine restaurants.
A great city to travel to throughout the whole year, but probably the best time is to go there when the weather is warm, during summer and spring. There a few highlights in this city. Every year there are recurring beer events. So if you are a great fan of beer (not simple lager), then there are a few moments to go to Utrecht. For example every spring, usually the first day of April, there are the “Spring Bock Beer days”. In October there are the “Autumn Bock Beer days” and in November there is a “Regional Beer Festival”. You can definitely say that Utrecht is a great place for the beer lovers!
7. Paard van Marken (Horse of Marken) – Best time to travel: summer or winter
If you look for the past of The Netherlands, Marken might be the place for you. A small city, where not much is happening. This little fisher’s village is not easy to get to by car, so you’ll need to walk a bit. It is as if time stood still in Marken. Little girls still ride their ponies on the streets and young boys help their fathers on the fields during hay time.
To be honest, there is only one point of interests for tourists here: Het Paard van Marken, or translated The Horse of Marken. I have no idea why it is called Horse, because it is a light house. The best time to visit this place is during summer, when life slows down even more. Or during an extreme cold winter, when the lake freezes over for a spectacular view (something which unfortunately does not happen often).
8. One of the many castles – Best time to travel: whole year
The Dutch culture and history are very rich. This small country has delivered many big names to the painting and art community. The horrors of the Dutch during the “Golden Century” are well know too (slavery). The remains of the Dutch culture are visible from even before the 17th century, as The Netherlands counts over 1.200 castles, some of which are aged almost a thousand years! Most of them are open for public and can be visited throughout the while year. Some very known castles are:
9. Speulderbos – Best time to travel: spring and autumn
The Dutch landscape is marked by many forests. One of the nice woods is “Speulder Forest”. The Speulderbos (near Ermelo, The Netherlands) is part of the nature area the Veluwe. This forest is known for it’s old Germanic myths and “dancing trees” (trees that grow crooked).
During spring the green comes alive in the forest, and even more spectacular is the sight during autumn, as the whole forest turns brown, yellow, and orange.
10. The area of Hilversum and Loosdrecht – Best time to travel: spring and summer
I conclude this list with the place that I live in, Hilversum. Why? Because I know this area and take many pictures here. We have everything! Lakes, small villages, churches, castles, and a lot of nature. Hilversum is a small city, only 90.000 people living here. The nickname of the town is “Media City” as the public and most commercial TV and radio stations are located in Hilversum.
The best time to visit is during spring and summer, as the rich people drive their Ferrari’s to show off, and many people get their boats ready to cruise the lakes. Cycling is a great way to explore this area. Check out my posts on my home town:
- A tourist at home (Part 1)
- A tourist at home (Part 2)
- My nifty fifty and ancient Holland
- Castle Loenersloot
- Feedback needed : Three simple questions
- A day in my life: Sunset during the ride home
- Getting back to you
If you have any questions on a trip to Holland, feel free to ask me in the comment section!