After five years away from the Netherlands, the time had come for the Dutchman to return to his home turf. It was many firsts for both of us; our first time traveling together, Joey’s first time bringing a girl home to meet the extended family and my first visit to Europe. Being young and carefree we were a little late booking plane tickets, something I would not recommend, but having a welcoming family waiting for us across the pond put our bank accounts at ease. It was an overnight flight from Halifax to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Amsterdam. Joey’s uncle was kind enough to pick us up and bring us to his home. Leaving the city I got to appreciate the long winding narrow cobbled streets and some of the 14th century architecture. It was a picturesque sight for tired eyes.
Even though Joey is from the Netherlands, he had a really hard time making a list of things to do while visiting his natal country. The last time he had been there, it was during his party animal stage and every night was a night on the town. Though we did want to spend a few evenings out on the town, I also wanted to see some of the iconic landmarks that make the Netherlands so rich in history.
It took some asking around and a fair bit of research until we came up with a list of spots to visit while travelling. We luckily had access to a car while in Holland (thanks to Joey’s Uncle and Aunt), enabling us to visit more remote locations and see more places in a week than the average tourist.
1. Madurodam – The Hague, South Holland
How about checking out the entire country of the Netherlands as if you were a giant? Madurodam is a miniature park build on a scale of 1:25. This tiny town is a near perfect depiction of all the historic landmarks throughout the country. What better way to start off your vacation than checking out this miniature interactive map of the Netherlands and choosing which sites you would actually like to see in real life.
2. Apenheul – Apeldoorn, Gelderland
I would definitely consider myself an animal person. If you have kids or like me love cuddly furry creature make sure to visit the Apenheul. Visit and interact with all different species of monkeys at this primate park as you get up close and personal with some of the most curious little creatures. In an attempt to make the environment as natural as possible the monkeys wander the park uncaged surrounded by forest.
3. Kinderdijk – Kinderdijk, South Holland
The Kinderdijk is a must-see for tourist looking to have an authentic Dutch experience. Hike or bike through some of Holland’s most beautiful trails in the Alblasserwaard region as you enjoy the peace and quiet of this green oasis. Step back in time as you explore the Kinderdijk landscape, the only places in the world where you can still find authentic windmills in action so close together. This UNESCO world heritage site, where you can tour a 1950’s windmill, meet a real life miller or cruise the canal, will not disappoint.
4. Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam, North Holland
Known for its fields of blossoming tulips, it only makes sense that the Netherlands has year round flower markets. In Amsterdam the most famous flower market in the country, the floating Bloemenmarkt, is located on the Singel canal between the Koningsplein and the Muntplein. Having been in existence since 1862, visit the only floating flower market in the world and bask in the colourful array of flowers any day of the week. Stop by and smell the roses, in one of the most fragrant spots in all of Holland.
5. Muiderslot – Muiden, North Holland
If handsome knights, secret passageway and eerie dungeons are for you, then you will feel right at home exploring the ancient castle in Muiden. Muiderslot is one of the best known and most authentic looking castles in the country, hosting many years of Dutch history within its walls. Having been around for over 700 years, the castle is great for adults and kids alike, to learn firsthand what life was like in the middle ages.
6. Red Light District – Amsterdam, North Holland
One of the best known region of Amsterdam is its Red Light District. A top tourist attraction, the district has everything from sex museums to a Condomerie, selling condoms in all shapes and sizes. Visit the district at night and stroll by the brothels, sex theater and peep shows as you appreciate the naughty atmosphere of this taboo region. For more information on this taboo region check out my Fifty Shades of Red blog post.
7. Cheese and Klomp Factory – Amstelveen, North Holland
Two big things that the Netherlands are known for are wooden clogs and cheese. All over the country you will find vendors that offer tours of clog making and cheese making. The tour that we chose was at a 160 year old farmhouse turned Cheese and Klomp Factory. With all the tools and machinery on display and a carefully crafted video, we learned about the clog and cheese making process. Afterwards we even got to sample several different types of cheese made in house.
8. Canal Cruises in Amsterdam – Amsterdam, North Holland
Amsterdam’s 17th century canal ring have been deemed a UNESCO world heritage site since August 2010. Having some of the best vantage points in the city, relax as you tour some of the most important parts of the city by water. With audio guides available in many different languages as well as day and evening cruises you can’t go wrong seeing the city from a different perspective.
It may have been a struggle at first, figuring out what to do and see in the Netherlands but after all our research and after having visited the country I realized the possibilities are literally endless. Our short visit had only grazed the surface of things I had wanted to see. Next time we travel, I am hoping it will be in April so that I can experience King’s Day, the blooming tulip fields and maybe even catch a voetbal match.
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