The Netherlands (or Holland as its sometimes referred to) is in western Europe (and partly in the Caribbean), bordered by Germany and Belgium. It is a magical country that is best known for its canals, tulips, windmills, museums, cheese markets and Delft Blue earthenware.
The Netherlands is home to modern skyscrapers, beautiful forests, pristine beaches, Instagram-perfect landmarks, medieval canals and colourful tulip fields. Unbeknownst to the regular tourist however, the country has more to it than meets the eye. There are off the beaten path destinations in the Netherlands that you should be aware of.
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Off the beaten path – Hidden Gems in the Netherlands
The world already knows about the capital city Amsterdam (including the city’s infamous Red Light District) and tourists often make sure to spend days and days discovering this enchanting city. That’s all good. Amsterdam does represent the country very well, but the Netherlands is much more than just its capital.
To prove this, below are amazing destinations that you would otherwise not see in any major tour package itinerary.
Haarlem is often overshadowed by Amsterdam. So many tourists miss this city, thinking they’ve seen all of Holland after spending time in the capital. Don’t make the same mistake.
Haarlem is older than Amsterdam, so you can see so much history in its streets, buildings, and homes. In the city centre, you will find St. Bavokerk or Grote Kerk (Big Church), which was built on the spot of a burnt down 12th-century church and officially became a cathedral in 1557.
This religious and historic structure is so stunning, especially its stained glass windows and old organ, that your jaw would drop in awe. Young Mozart played in this church using the same organ, and so did other famous musicians.
Haarlem is also home to interesting museums, including the eccentric Teyler’s Museum and De Hallen, a tiny contemporary art museum.
Haarlem is a short train ride from Amsterdam. You can easily find reasonable and cheap accommodations in the city.
You simply would not believe your eyes once you see Naarden for real. Just photos (especially aerial shots) of this atmospheric star-shaped fortress city will wow you. Also, its well-preserved walls/moats and beautiful houses make Naarden one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands.
You can see one of Holland’s oldest churches here, dating all the way back to 1572. This is a tiny historic city that is also just a short train ride from Amsterdam.
Find places to stay in Naarden* with Booking.com.
Gouda cheese is so popular around the world that there is a good chance you have one at home in your pantry. This Dutch cheese originated from the city of Gouda. If you are a cheese lover, you now know where to go when in the Netherlands. It is only 55 minutes by train and compact from Amsterdam.
Wondering what to see in Gouda? Check out the impressive Town Hall on the central market square, the oldest yard that dates back to 1449, St Jan church, which is the tallest church in the Netherlands and has huge stained glass windows and rows of historic Gouda houses, some of which were built in the 1600s.
It makes perfect sense to check out the Gouda cheese market on Thursday mornings from April to August. You can watch cheese making, cheese trading and cheese weighing in de Waag.
Efteling is the quintessential Dutch amusement park. It is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, predating Disney, and one of the largest in the Netherlands, about twice the size of Disneyland in California. Yet, it’s a wonder why it is not as popular as the House of Mouse. Well, this is not the standard theme park for little kids, as its iconic fairytale forest shows off many of the darker European fairy tales with its own signature style.
Efteling is unique, mysterious, quirky, yet delightful, to say the least. It is located in the town of Kaatsheuvel in Loon op Zand. It used to be a humble little nature park and playground when it opened in 1952, and since then, around 100 million people have come to visit.
Come here to see more than 30 attractions in different fantastical realms: Fairy, Adventure, Travel, and Alternative. You can also see Aquanura, which is the largest fountain in Europe. Visitors love watching the water ballet, as the fountain bursts in sync with accompanying lights and sounds to create a truly spectacular show.
Efteling has its own on-site hotel. Find out more and book* on Booking.com.
Dutch Kremlin (Kunsttuin Nederlands Kremlin)
The Dutch Kremlin is a private sculpture garden built by Ger Leegwater in 1990 in his own backyard. His inspiration was mythology, Italian architecture, Russian architecture and the Bible. It is certainly a unique, interesting and off the beaten path eye-candy. It took Ger 20 years to finish this sculpture garden for you to enjoy.
You won’t believe that only one man created very detailed sculptures of Angel Raphael (from the Bible), several mythological figures, dragons, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s cathedral and other pieces.
Museum De Oude Aarde
Museum De Oude Aarde in the quaint village of Giethoorn is popular for having the world’s largest egg in the world. This is not an egg museum, however. Come here to see precious gemstones, jewellery, fossil minerals, and natural treasures worldwide. You will see a variety of stones that you never even thought existed.
There are so many prominent and little-known museums scattered around the country, and De Oude Aarde is definitely amongst the unique ones.
Not far is Olde Maat Uus Museum, nestled in an old farmhouse. Check out Olde Maat Uus to know more about the farming history of Giethoorn and be transported back in time, some hundred years ago when living in the Netherlands was much simpler.
Hayema Heerd Straw Hotel
This one-of-a-kind hotel will let you connect with nature and sleep in an igloo made from straw. Where else can you find an accommodation nearly as unique as this. Straw-Hotel Hayema Heerd offers a comfortable bed (made from straw), a dining area and even a fridge to keep your refreshments chilled.
Straw-Hotel Hayema Heerd is found in the university city of Groningen, a small yet picturesque city in the North Eastern part of the country near the German border. When here, you will meet hundreds of international students from around the world and mingle with them in the city’s cute bars, cafés and restaurants.
These are just some of the many quirky and secret destinations in the Netherlands that will delightfully surprise you. They should make you wonder how much more the country has to offer and how much regular tourists are missing out. On your next visit, make sure to get off the beaten path and create a new and interesting track for others to follow.