The Netherlands: Unlocked

Although almost half of it lies beneath sea level, The Netherlands is one of the most urbanized – and densely populated – nations on earth, with a huge range of places to visit packed into a relatively small area. To get to know it a little better, we asked our Dutch representative, Corinne, to give us the inside scoop on her home country. This is The Netherlands: Unlocked!

How to say hello in Dutch

Hoi

How to say goodbye

Tot Ziens

How to say thank you

Bedankt

Currency used

Euro

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Photo: Shereen M. Via Flickr CC

Favorite national foods

Stroopwafel : “syrup waffle” is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. Large versions are sold in the streets as a snack.

Hutspot is a dish of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots and onions with a long history in traditional Dutch cuisine.

Boterpunt: a Dutch treat, ⅓ butter, ⅓ sugar and ⅓ flower mixed by hand till you get a round ball. Flatten it and put in the oven for 25 minutes at 180 °C. Very heavy!

Erwtensoep or snert is a pea soup of green split peas, different cuts of pork, onions, carrots and often potato. Slices of rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage) are added a few minutes before serving. The soup is traditionally eaten during the winter. Koek en zopie outlets, small food and drinks stalls which pop up only during winters along frozen canals, ponds and lakes and cater to ice skaters, usually serve snert as a hearty snack.

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Photo: Sheila Sund via Flickr CC

Best month(s) to visit The Netherlands

The Netherlands has all four seasons and it is always great to explore it. In summer go to the widest (well, almost) beaches in the world; in winter explore our great museums in Amsterdam with Dutch painters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Every season has its own charm and beauty. The month of May is important if you want to enjoy the beautiful colours of the tulip fields. The peak season of July and August means there are a lot of tourists in the cities and lots of open-air cultural events, festivals and nightlife.

Best way to get around

The Netherlands is easy to explore by train when you are travelling. Make sure to rent a bike in The Netherlands: almost every train station has a bike rental. It’s a great way to explore the countryside and not hard to do since it is a flat country and it has a great cycling infrastructure.

4811919256_a6dbc10080_zPhotos: Moyan Brenn via Flickr

Local customs

The Dutch shake hands when they meet you for the first time. Be aware, if they get to know you a little bit they will shake your hand and kiss you three times on the cheek to say welcome and also do this saying goodbye.

A novel to read or a film to watch or a song to listen to learn more about The Netherlands

One of the most famous Dutch books is off course the diary of Anne Frank. The Dutch also have a very famous children’s book called Nijntje (Miffy). She is a small female rabbit in a series of picture books drawn and written by Dutch artist Dick Bruna. The original Dutch name, Nijntje, is a shortening of konijntje, meaning little rabbit.

Amsterdam is a well known film location which has been used for famous films like Diamonds Are Forever and Ocean’s Twelve. The film Girl with a Pearl Ear Ring is a film based on a painting by Johannes Vermeer. This film will shows you a lot of old streets in Dutch cities.

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Photo: Lies Thru a Lens via Flickr CC

 

Local websites for discounts in restaurants, theatre, cinema, etc.

Check out http://tickets.holland.com.

Towns or villages which are worth a visit

Groningen has the youngest average population in The Netherlands. It has a long and turbulent history, which becomes evident from the historic warehouses, courts and buildings. Groningen is also a city with nerve, with the most numerous examples of innovative architecture within its boundaries. In addition, it was once proclaimed the city with the best city centre in The Netherlands because of its charm.

Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in Holland, as you will quickly discover when strolling through the historic inner city. Churches, city walls, monumental merchant houses and big squares merge seamlessly with a comprehensive and varied range of shops. Maastricht is also a city of indulgence and culinary highlights.

Middelburg dates back to the late 8th century or early 9th century. Middelburg is a city in the south-west of The Netherlands and the capital of the province of Zeeland. Situated on the island Walcheren, modern Middelburg has preserved and regained much of its historic and picturesque character. There are lavish 17th and 18th century merchant houses and storehouses standing along canals, of a similar style as found in cities like Amsterdam.

Photos: Fremitus via Flickr CC, Iulian Ursu via Flickr CC, Nedra via Flickr CC

 

The best kept secret about The Netherlands

There is so much to see outside the (well-known) cities!! So, leave the cities behind for a few hours and discover the surrounding Dutch countryside. Drive through idyllic landscapes. Visit the dunes at the island of Texel, for instance. Much of the area is a bird sanctuary and accessible only on foot.

Schokland used to be an island. Occupied and then abandoned as the sea encroached, it had to be evacuated in 1859. But following the draining of the Zuiderzee, it has, since the 1940’s, formed part of land reclaimed from the sea. Schokland has vestiges of human habitation going back to prehistoric times. It symbolizes the heroic, age-old struggle of the people of the Netherlands against the encroachment of the waters.

Read more:
http://www.visitholland.nl/
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/the-netherlands

The most unique thing about this country

Stelling van Amsterdam: Extending 135 km around the city of Amsterdam, this defence line (built between 1880 en 1914) is the only example of a fortification based on the principle of controlling water. Since the 16th century, the people of The Netherlands have used their expert knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. Amsterdam was protected by a network of 42 armed forts and 4 batteries, acting in concert with temporary flooding from polders and an intricate system of canals and locks. It was, however, never fully used. The forts and the infrastructure were left in place, largely in their original state.

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Photo: Bert Kaufman via Flickr CC

Common misconceptions

People think the Dutch are all wearing wooden shoes. Well, most people don’t, but in some villages you can still find some (old) people who do!

Best free activities in The Netherlands

A lot of things are for free in The Netherlands. You can go to parks, enjoy dance events and outdoor concerts. It all depends on what you are looking for.

Anything else we should know?

The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution and, to some degree, euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. In 2001 it became the world’s first country to legalise gay marriage.

 

 

3 Comments on “The Netherlands: Unlocked

  1. Awesome pics and very helpful post for the people who love to visit Netherlands.Thank you so much for the detail information. And among all the pictures that flowers pic is simply superb. Loved it.

  2. Two more towns:

    If you’re looking for the classic stereotypical “Windmill look” the best spot is the town of Zaanse Schans.

    If you’re looking to get out the busy city for the day and the weather’s nice, try the beach town of Zanvoort.

    One more event tip:

    There’s some great prices on last minute (same day unsold) tickets from a little ticket window somewhere around Leideseplein. I forget the name of it.

    • Good advice indeed the last minute ticket shop. For tickets 50% off for that day only. Also sold online.
      My advice is to go to restaurants that are all over town in every neigborhood, skip the touristy restaurants and eat locally. A dutch famous place to eat is in an eetcafe (a cafe to eat and drink).

      Veel plezier in Nederland!

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