8 special spots in the Netherlands you may not have heard of
We’re all aware of the many tourist spots located in the Netherlands; Amsterdam being the main city that everyone goes to visit, filled with historic sites and museums, and more recently Rotterdam for its stunning modern architecture.
When you’ve been there and done that, and you’re now a resident with a few more weekends to fill up, you may want to venture out a little further.
8 less known places to visit in the Netherlands
Here are eight of our favourite towns around the Netherlands that are less struck by tourist fever:
Brielle is a charming little seaside town situated about 35 kilometres from Rotterdam. It’s a historic place, best known for the Capture of Brielle by the Watergeuzen (Dutch rebels) on April 1, 1572 during the Eighty Years War, which led to the massive Dutch uprising against the Spanish.
If you like monuments, then this place is for you; Brielle has the highest number of monuments per capita in the entire country. What’s brilliant about it is that most of the monuments have been maintained in their original state, with over 400 of them having made it onto the National Heritage list.
It’s definitely a prime location for all you drone lovers because the aerial views of this town’s star-shaped structure - deriving from an old 1713 fort - are simply breathtaking. It has nine bastions and five ravelins that can be seen clearly from the air, and numerous gates are still in their original form. If you haven’t got a drone, you can get a great view climbing the steps of the Grote Sint-Catharijnekerk, a church where William of Orange married his third wife in 1575.
To get an overview of the town’s history, it’s worth visiting the old City Hall which is now a historic museum called Den Briel, or if you know Dutch, there is a City Walking Tour app available for your smartphone.
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Like Brielle, Naarden is also a star fort with restored walls and a moat, situated just a stone's throw away from Amsterdam. Although it had been its own municipality for most of its existence, it became part of a new one with Muiden and Bussum called Gooise Meren in 2016.
There is a lot to see in the old town including the Nederlands Vestinmuseum ("Fortress Museum"), the bi-annual Naarden Photo Festival, and on Good Friday the town celebrates with a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in the Grote Kerk, a site which dates back to the 15th century.
It is one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands having survived the Spanish invasion and the burning down of the town. The church has numerous wooden vaults that were hidden for many years until its recent restoration, which can now all be seen by the public during the numerous events that it hosts including music nights and the photo festival.
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Schiedam is a city and independent municipality on the outskirts of Rotterdam. It is well known for its distilleries, malt houses and production of jenever (gin).
The internationally renowned Ketel One gin is often referred to by the word “schiedam” by many French and English speakers. So if gin is your thing, be sure to pay the National Jenever Museum a visit!
Schiedam is also home to the five tallest windmills in the world, called De Noord ("The North"), Walvisch ("Whale"), Drie Koornbloemen ("Three Corn Flowers"), Nieuwe Palmboom ("New Palm Tree") and Vrijheid ("Freedom").
Over the years, Schiedam has become known for herring - a firm favourite among the Dutch even today - as it was also a large shipbuilding city during the 19th and 20th centuries. Schiedam was established originally as part of Rotterdam in 1309 after the river Schie was dammed to protect it from the North Sea.
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A stunning city in West Frisia in North Holland, Enkhuizen is a picturesque harbour town similar to Hoorn and Amsterdam in that it was known to assist in overseas trade during the times of the Dutch East India Company.
It was one of the largest marinas in the Netherlands, particularly during the 17th century when it was at the peak of its power, yet it quickly lost its dominance to Amsterdam.
It is currently home to the Zuiderzeemuseum, where you can find out all about Enkhuizen’s history. It is also worth visiting the city’s oldest building, the Drommedaris from 1540. But perhaps the most exciting attraction is the boat trips that will take you to the port of Medemblik.
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Ameland is one of the West Frisian Islands situated on the north coast of the Netherlands and is famous for its sand dunes. With its neighbouring tourist hotspots of Texel and Terschelling, Ameland is sometimes overlooked.
Like most parts of Friesland, Ameland has some spectacular landscapes, nature and wildlife. It has a variety of different plants, large dunes and over 60 different types of birds. It even has its own woods, one of which is called the Nesser Bos.
Besides visiting the island's beach called Buren, people can visit the Nes, home to the island's only secondary school and ferry services, the smallest village, Ballum, which is also home to the island's small airport, and the most populated village of Hollum, where one can spot the island’s lighthouse.
Most people travel to Ameland by ferry, but you can also fly there. On a good day, when the tide is low between Friesland and Ameland, you can hike across it, known as mudflat walking.
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This little gem, nicknamed "little Venice", is only accessible by boat through an intricate network of small canals. To get there, you have to take the train to Steenwijk and then a bus for about half an hour.
The village has a small population of around 2.600 and over 180 bridges that connect the little islands of houses and museums that make up Giethoorn.
You can go on a boat tour or even rent your own boat to get around. Giethoorn has some impressive museums which illustrate what life was like living in the town, and many have spectacular collections of antiques on display. The town is also home to a few well-known restaurants including Michelin star De Lindenhof, all with spectacular views of the canals.
Giethoorn is small and therefore may not take up the entire day. If you’re eager to keep exploring you could also visit neighbouring Zuiderzee towns like Vollenhove and Blokzijl, which also house historic buildings, churches and castles amidst their own waterfronts.
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Home to many famous painters, including Vermeer, Delft is perhaps already known as a special spot, particularly after the Hollywood release of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Still, it’s made it onto our list for many other reasons.
Situated just a scenic hours' cycle north of Rotterdam, Delft is known for its historic town square, Delft Blue pottery, university and stunning canals. Delft became a town in the 11th century when it was built alongside the canal named "Del". Later in the 13th century, Delft established itself as a city.
William of Orange was a resident in 1572, and during that time, Delft was one of the leading cities in the Netherlands, serving as a headquarters during the Eighty Years' War. After the Act of Abjuration in 1581, it became the capital of the newly independent country.
Immensely rich in history, Delft has an abundance of sights to see including many monumental buildings like the Oude Kerk, where numerous famous figures in Dutch history are buried, the Nieuwe Kerk, the Dutch Royal Family’s burial grounds sealed with a 5.000-kilogram covered stone, the Prinsenhof museum, the Oosterpoort city gate, the Vermeer Centre, and the windmill De Roos.
The city also has Delft Blue pottery factories including De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles or De Delftse Pauw, where you can learn all about how the ceramic pottery derived from Chinese porcelain was brought back to the Netherlands via the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century.
If you'd rather be immersed in nature, Delft also has its own botanical woodland called Delftse Hout, where people may visit with their bikes, walk around or even take a horse ride tour. If you’re feeling a little more daring, you can even swim or windsurf on the lake or narrow beaches. There are also campgrounds and recreational facilities.
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Apeldoorn is a city and municipality in the centre of the Netherlands. It includes villages like Beekbergen, Loenen and Hoenderloo and is home to the Kadaster and government land registry.
It is perhaps best known for its palace, Het Loo. The palace was bought as a medieval hunting lodge with its surrounding woods, estates and watercourses under William III and his wife Princess Mary II.
It was restored to its original 17th-century state and opened as a museum in 1984. Today, visitors can now truly experience what it was like for the Orange-Nassau dynasty who lived in the palace for over 300 years through the furnished rooms and 17th-century baroque gardens.
Visitors to Apeldoorn can also visit the Protestant Mariakerk, a Roman Catholic church that was restored and converted after a fire in 1890 - it is now a national monument. Some other top attractions include Apenheul, a zoo with a variety of different apes and monkeys; some of which are even free to roam around. There is also an amusement park called Koningin Juliana Toren.
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Getting around the Netherlands
For all those out there worrying about how exactly you get to all these beautiful places, don't fret! If you don’t drive or you’d just rather enjoy the scenic train journey, it is possible to get around quite easily via public transport. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has some great offers available on their English website, Discover Holland. They have various deals, which often include a meal or beverage option.
It’s well worth it, especially if you’re keen to go and visit several of the villages, towns or cities across the Netherlands.