Tulips, clogs, canals and of course Amsterdam when we think of Holland. We all know Amsterdam, but did you know there are many more great cities in the Netherlands? Maybe not all as big as Amsterdam, but certainly worth a visit during your vacation in the Netherlands.
But where are those other beautiful cities in the Netherlands? And which ones are the best to visit? You can ask yourself that when you visit Holland. I will give you a few recommendations.
For the distance it will not make much difference. The Netherlands is a small country and everything is easily accessible. You can use a rental car to drive through the country, but public transport works great too. So don’t let that stop you from traveling ‘all the way’ to the other side of the country to visit one of the best cities in The Netherlands.
The best big cities to visit in The Netherlands
Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, the place of canal houses and museums. Many famous painters lived here, and you can find many famous works of art in the museums. Like in the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. Of course, Amsterdam looks glorious thanks to its 400-year-old waterways, which are crisscrossed with bridges. Amsterdam is a legacy of the Golden Age that tourists love to visit today in The Netherlands.
The sights in the city of Amsterdam are countless. Taking a picture at the I amsterdam sign is very popular! But when you visit Amsterdam as a tourist, you should definitely not skip these. We’ve been there thousands of times and it never gets boring!
- Central Station – This is the largest train station in Amsterdam. It was designed by Pierre Cuypers who is known for his design of the Rijksmuseum.
- Amsterdam Canals – Amsterdam has 100 kilometers of canals with about 1500 bridges across them. The three main canals (Herengeracht, Prinsengeracht and Keizersgeracht) are the most popular among tourists and are arranged in a pattern of semicircles.
- Museum Square – Amsterdam truly has museums and galleries for every interest! The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and the Stedelijk Museum are the most popular choices. The Museumplein is a square and city park in the district of Amsterdam-South. The Rijksmuseum is located on this square and opened its doors in 1885. Also the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum can be found at the museum square.
- The Vondelpark – This is the city park and since 1996 also a national monument. This park is popular, with tourists but also with locals. On hot summer days the park is one of the most popular places to be in Amsterdam. You can exercise, sunbathe, picnic and even barbecue. During the summer there are also numerous events organized in the park.
If you are on vacation in the Netherlands, Utrecht is one of those beautiful cities to visit. Utrecht is the beating heart of the Netherlands. The city is built around the Domtoren, which you cannot lose sight of for a second. The car-free city center (that’s great) is small and therefore getting lost is impossible. Like Amsterdam, Utrecht also has beautiful canals. But here you will find canals filled with waterfront cafes and terraces, we love to sit there in the summer! Besides the Dom tower, Utrecht has hundreds of other monuments, which contribute to a special charm in the centuries-old university city.
Tip when you visit Utrecht with kids: The Miffy museum
In Utrecht you can find the one and only Miffy museum! The museum is mainly aimed at toddlers and preschoolers, they can play in different places in Miffy themes. From Dirk Bruna, the spiritual father of Miffy, 1200 works can be admired, including of course his books. Activities are also regularly organized.
Another tip is to visit: The Haar Castle
The Haar Castle is located in the village of Haarzuilens, not far from the city of Utrecht. This beautiful estate was built in 1892 in neo-Gothic style. The estate consists of a main building and outbuildings such as a chapel, as well as magnificent gardens. If you ask us, The Haar Castle can call itself one of the most beautiful castles in the Netherlands.
Rotterdam is the second biggest city in the Netherlands and is different from all other Dutch cities. Thanks to its impressive skyline, Rotterdam is also called ‘Manhattan on the Maas’. Rotterdam is a centuries old city in the Netherlands, but unfortunately on 14 May 1940 the city was largely destroyed by a bombing raid during the Second World War. Rotterdam is a city with many faces; a tough port city, trendy nightlife city, chic shopping city and hip artist city. This young, dynamic metropolis is a city you must experience for yourself.
These are the must-sees in Rotterdam:
- The Cube houses (Dutch: kubuswoningen), also called pole or tree house, is a design by architect Piet Blom. He wanted to design a kind of village in the big city, seeing the houses as trees and the whole complex as a forest. Meanwhile, the Cube Houses in Rotterdam belong to the most iconic buildings in Rotterdam. A real must-see!
- The market hall, this is the first indoor market in the Netherlands and a major attraction in Rotterdam! In the hall you will find the market with about 100 fresh units, about 15 food shops and several restaurants with a supermarket and four-level parking garage underneath. If you walk between the market stalls and look up, you will see the artwork ‘Horn of plenty’ by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.
- The Euromast, the Euromast is a viewing tower in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. At 185 meters, it is the highest tower in the Netherlands that is open to the public. Definitely worth a visit!
The Hague (Den Haag)
If you’re asking yourself what the best big city in the Netherlands is to visit, you should also definitely consider a visit to The Hague. The Hague is a royal city with allure thanks to its many historical monuments, residential and working palaces, royal routes and carriages. And the Dutch government is based in this city. What is also a good reason to visit this city; The Hague is the only major Dutch city by the sea.
The most famous sights of The Hague:
- Het Binnenhof. In the center of The Hague you will find Het Binnenhof, the political heart of the Netherlands. You can enter Het Binnenhof freely from the beautiful ‘Buitenhof’ and via ‘Plein’. You can walk between the famous places of which the Torentje (little tower), the Ridderzaal (Knight’s Hall) and the Lower House are the most important and best known.
- Palace of Noordeinde. Noordeinde Palace is the working palace of the Dutch king and is located in the center of The Hague. Several royal weddings have taken place here. Unfortunately you can’t visit the inside of the palace, but the outside is definitely worth a visit as well!
Good to know: these cities above are very good to combine when you visit the Netherlands. In terms of distance they are easy to reach, but also the good train connections ensure that you can combine these cities in a weekend.
When you visit the south of the Netherlands, the province of Limburg, you must visit the city of Maastricht. Maastricht is the capital of Limburg and this is the city with the most monuments in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. The history of this city goes back centuries. In fact, Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands that already existed at the time of the Romans.
Besides its beautiful sights, Maastricht is also a popular shopping city in the south of the Netherlands.
Maastricht is also very nice to visit during the Christmas period. We love to go there for the Christmas market on the Vrijthof. On this square you can also find the St-Servaas Basilica and the St-Jans Church. And when you are here at Christmas time, make sure to visit Valkenburg as well, where you definitely will get into the Christmas spirit.
At first sight Eindhoven appears to be a fairly modern city, yet it has numerous national monuments. And therefore it really belongs in this list of the best big cities to visit in The Netherlands. Industrial heritage such as old Philips factories in Eindhoven are now a sparkling center for hip stores, fine dining establishments, luxury lofts and creative workplaces. And good news for tourists, Eindhoven has its own airport!
From Rooftop Bar to the Philips Museum. The absolute must-do in Eindhoven? Experience it!
Lively yet peaceful, if that’s what you’re looking for on a citytrip, Groningen is the place to be. Groningen is located in the north of the Netherlands and it is the capital of the province with the same name. In this city you will find culture and beautiful historical monuments like the Martinitoren. When you stand at the top of this tower, you will understand what they mean by ‘a peaceful city’. But Groningen is also the home for many students, and those students bring the city to life.
The most famous sights of Groningen:
- Martinitoren – In the past 500 years, the Martin Tower has burned down, lightning struck, and nearly collapsed. Do you still dare to go to the top?
- Hofjes of Groningen – In the past, the Groninger hofjes offered free shelter to the poor, widows and sick. You can compare them to the Almshouses in England. Nowadays, all kinds of private individuals live in these oases of rest in the inner city.
For the city of Haarlem you don’t have to go far from Amsterdam. You will find this beautiful city less than 20 minutes drive from Amsterdam. Haarlem has a cozy historic center, famous museums, stores, restaurants and not to forget the Molen de Adriaan on the Spaarne. From antique market to pop concert, there is always something going on here.
These are the must-sees in Haarlem:
- Molen de Adriaan – A visit to Haarlem is not complete without a visit to Molen de Adriaan. Located on the Spaarne, you can see this tower mill from far.
- Sint Bavokerk – On the Grote Markt, the Sint Bavokerk immediately stands out. This magnificent medieval basilica rises high above the buildings around the square.
Arnhem is a beautiful city in the province of Gelderland. Again, a city with history, which can still be seen here and there. This city is really worth a visit, but the green parks and nature reserves near the city are also fine tourist attractions.
You have already read the five must-sees of Arnhem on our site. But we can certainly add a few more sights to that list. Let’s highlight the green parks and nature reserves near this city!
- Zypendaal is a country house located in the Park Zypendaal estate on the north side of the city of Arnhem. The monumental Park Zypendaal owes its name to the water that seeps from the ground in some places. This is not a typical Dutch flat park, the park in Arnhem has quite a few height differences.
- Het Openluchtmuseum (Open Air Museum) – To the north of the city you will find the Open Air Museum. Here you can experience the history of the Netherlands. The museum is located in a lovely green area and is quite extensive. But there is a beautiful old streetcar which can be used to transport you for free to the different parts of the park.
- Posbank – The view is breathtaking! In August the area turns completely purple when the heather is in bloom. This is the Posbank, the heather near the city of Arnhem where you can walk around for hours.
The best small cities to visit in The Netherlands
Small towns in the Netherlands, they are picturesque, they are pretty and they are very easy to walk around because, well, they are small. We will give you a list of the best small cities to visit in The Netherlands.
Elburg is a fishing town in the province of Gelderland. The town is remarkably straight, with straight streets and a straight city wall.
Elburg has a charming appearance. When you walk through the streets here you can still see the past. There are fishing nets and many other fishing articles. The old fishermen’s cottages are well preserved here. Just like the stately buildings.
The city has many monuments, the main attractions include the city walls the St. Nicholas Church, followed by the Reformed Church and finally you must have seen the Vischpoort. There are of course many more attractions because the city has 296 national monuments.
Giethoorn is a village with a lot of water in the province of Overijssel. It is not a town but a village and is incredibly popular with tourists in the Netherlands. Giethoorn is also known as Dutch Venice. Almost everything in Giethoorn takes place on the water. You can move around with a tour boat, smaller boats and canoes. Giethoorn has something romantic, it almost seems like you’ve landed in a fairy tale. Or in gnome land since you have to bend over for the little bridges you sail under.
Not to be missed: the beautiful 18th and 19th century farmhouses.
Another village and not a town, but certainly worth a mention in this list of the best small cities to visit in The Netherlands! I’m talking about the monument village of Orvelte! Orvelte is one of the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands and can be found in the province of Drenthe. In the lively monumental village, where people just live and work, you will experience history at first hand.
Woudrichem is a sturdy fortified town lying on the Merwede in the province of North Brabant. Wander along the ancient facades, visit the historic harbor and talk about this history on a nice terrace.
An absolute must is a visit to Slot Loevestein. Slot Loevestein is among the historical hotspots of the Netherlands. This is the castle where Hugo de Groot was held prisoner, but managed to escape in a book chest.
Close to the German border, in the beautiful Westerwolde (South-East Groningen), lies fortress Bourtange. Bourtange is built in a star shape, typical of these fortified towns and especially spectacular looking from above. Go back in time and see the medieval architecture, canals and dikes. The city has four museums, a number of restaurants, historic stores and a hotel in the former soldiers’ barracks. Make sure you do not miss the re-enactment of the battles of the Eighty Years’ War against Spain!
Monnickendam lies on the Markermeer in the province of North Holland. And although the town has plenty of things to discover itself, such as the Speeltoren, the Grote- or Sint-Nicolaaskerk and the wooden drawbridge in the harbor, it is also a great base for trips to Marken and Volendam. Don’t forget Broek op Waterland! In short, the entire Zaan region is worth visiting during your vacation.
The city of Doesburg, situated along the Gelderse IJssel and the Oude IJssel, was for a long time the most important fortress city of the Netherlands. The wealth of that time can still be seen in the beautifully restored historic center and fortifications. A must is a visit to the Waag, one of the oldest restaurants in the Netherlands.
Doesburg lies at the geographical center of the eastern Netherlands and is therefore a good starting point for visiting the National Park Veluwezoom or the city of Arnhem.
Harlingen is located in the north of the Netherlands, in the province of Friesland. For many Dutch people, Harlingen is the town where you make the crossing to Terschelling and Vlieland. But Harlingen is much more than that! Harlingen is a very nice and cozy town, full of history. The center is not too big and therefore you can easily walk around with children. A beautiful harbor where you can see the boats sail right into the Wadden Sea. A town where spending the night in a hotel still feels like stepping into someone’s living room.
Dokkum is also found in the north of the Netherlands, in the province of Friesland. By the way, did you know that Friesland was ranked third in the category ‘best European destinations’ by Lonely Planet? So it’s really worth visiting this province!
The cozy Dokkum is a charming town for a fun day out. You’ll find a nice mix of stores, restaurants, terraces and attractions. Here you will find the famous IJsfontein which is part of the 11Fountains project where artists made a fountain for 11 Frisian cities.
Dokkum is also the place to be for history. Bonifatius was murdered near Dokkum in 754, giving the town international fame. In the Bonifatius Chapel you can see a reference to this event. So, if you are looking for the best small cities to visit in The Netherlands, then Dokkum is highly recommended!
Deventer part of the Hanseatic League, situated on the river IJssel and a city with a beautiful history. And that can be seen everywhere in the ancient center. Pleasant squares alternate with wonderful monuments and sights. During a day in Deventer it is a pleasure to discover the oldest stone house, the oldest scientific library and the oldest park in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, the city has a number of special museums to experience, including Museum de Waag and the Toy Museum (fun for the kids).
The picturesque town of Enkhuizen in the province of North Holland attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some love Enkhuizen for its many historic buildings and monuments, others love its harbor and fantastic water sports facilities. For the children there is Sprookjeswonderland, a great fun park full of gnomes and fantasy.
A visit to the Zuiderzee Museum is also highly recommended. The Zuiderzee Museum consists of an outdoor and indoor museum. In the Outdoor Museum you will find more than one hundred and thirty authentic houses, stores and workshops. You can see the craftsmen at work and experience the daily life of the past.
Located in the province of South Holland, Delft has a worldwide reputation thanks to Johannes Vermeer, Delft blue pottery and the Royal Family. The Master of Light Johannes Vermeer was born in Delft. Delft blue earthenware has been world famous since it was created in the time of the Dutch East India Company. Moreover, Delft is still the place where you can see and experience how Delft Blue is authentically manufactured. Delft is a small city where you can wander around but a great tip: explore the city from the water!
Dutch people usually skip Harderwijk. You will not find Harderwijk in many lists of the best small cities to visit in The Netherlands. Yet we want to put Harderwijk on the map, because this city deserves it.
The Vischpoort, the Grote Kerk (church), the City Museum, the Vischmarkt, these are just a few of the many sights in Harderwijk. But above all you will find hospitality, friendliness and versatility in Harderwijk. And those seem to me the perfect qualities to this list of best cities in the Netherlands to close.