There’s so much more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam. While we totally understand that Holland’s capital will probably be your first stop, once you’ve been to the cafes, rode your bike and cruised the waterways on a boat, it’s time to explore further afield.
The best thing is, they’re all just a short drive / train ride away!
This southern port city is like Amsterdam’s rowdier, more liberal little sister. It’s the second biggest city after Amsterdam, has the same pretty canals and even its own red light district.
But Rotterdam had most of its buildings wiped out during World War Two. In the years it was rebuilt it took on a more modern and carefree vibe. Now, there’s no end to the quirky buildings and fascinating monuments – even just wandering around the city is like paying a visit to an art museum. Make sure you visit the Wereldmuseum and Nederlands Fotomuseum if you only have the time for two.
Hundreds of students call Rotterdam home and make up the 160 nationalities living here. That means there’s plenty of diversity when it comes to food choices. It’ll take you a while to make your way through everything, so make sure you schedule in a few days.
There’s a bar here that was once known and named as the World’s Best. Head to De Witte Aap for live music and a chat with the locals.
If you’re a history buff, Maastricht is the place for you. Some say it’s the oldest town in the country, although a few Dutch locals might debate that accolade with you.
The city is all cobbled streets and winding roads. You’ll see Roman ruins, medieval monuments and Gothic churches lining the streets. You can head underground to the caves of St Peter where labourers worked away and soldiers hid during the city’s sieges.
Above ground, Maastricht will probably remind you of other big European cities. With so many foreign influences, it stands out from the other Dutch metropolises.
Make sure to also check out the Basilica of Saint Servatius and the Bonnefantenmuseum for the most impressive buildings.
Utrecht is one of the quirkiest cities in the Netherlands. Just 40 minutes south of Amsterdam, it’s often called the heart of Holland, yet, it doesn’t actually see that many tourists. It’s home to the Netherlands’ biggest university though, which means you’re never stuck for a club or late night bar.
Despite being popular with a younger crowd, Utrecht has managed to hold onto its old warm charm and is the best place to go to discover how the authentic Dutch way of life has mixed with the new.
With its certified status as ‘old’ there are lots of medieval walkways and gothic architecture here. Lucky for us, it’s built around the Domtoren, the tallest tower in the country, which makes for a useful landmark when you’re lost in the labyrinthine walkways.
Another cool feature of Utrecht is that the city is split-level. Most of the old town’s restaurants are located on the same level as the canal, below street level, which makes for an interesting experience.
Utrecht was once dubbed the ‘happiest place in the world’. This could be down to the fact it’s home to the Miffy Museum, dedicated to the famous cartoon rabbit, one of nine museums in the city. Creator, Dick Bruna, is from Utrecht and you’ll find an entire square dedicated to Miffy’s adventures.
The population of Groningen only reaches 200,000, making it one of the smallest cities in Holland. It’s made the list though, thanks to its dedication to being both eco-friendly and fun.
In Holland a bike is your best friend and Groningen is where that initiative began. As well as being a health hot spot, the city also looks after the environment. It’s been named as a ‘Fairtrade town’. That means you’ll find bicycle speed bumps, organic stores and craft houses all over. This just adds to the creative vibe, which pulls in so many students. That and the city’s 24-hour bars.
5. Den Bosch
Have a go at saying this place’s full name, ‘s’Hertogenbosch’ after a few pints – even the locals opt for the nickname.
Den Bosch is an old, fortified city holding on to many of its original buildings. The Moriaan is in fact the oldest building in the Netherlands and St John’s Cathedral is said to be among the country’s best with its beautiful Gothic design.
Boasting the best of everything, the city also claims to rival Amsterdam when it comes to the country’s best canals. They’re less commercialised and a little more peaceful so you can cruise along and even glide underneath the buildings in the canal network, known as Binnendieze.
Once you’re back on dry land, try a bossche bol. This is the city’s delicacy and is one for the sweet tooth, a big ball of pastry drizzled in chocolate with a cup of coffee is the best.
So there you go, a few more places to visit in the Netherlands that aren’t Amsterdam. It’d be cool to go somewhere a little different on your InterRail trip, right?