Visiting the Netherlands all around the world
The Netherlands is renowned for some of its historical architecture - the picturesque canals, the magnificent windmills in fields of tulips, the quaint bridges and waterways. People travel from all around the world to experience the aspects of this country that make it so unique. However, did you know that the Netherlands isn’t the only place in the world where you can experience, well, the Netherlands?
Let’s travel the globe to see where else you can find traces of this small-but-mighty country.
Looking at photos from Holland, Michigan feels a little like looking at photos from a parallel universe. Landscapes and architecture typically associated with the Netherlands sit beside more traditional Midwest American buildings.
Holland was founded by Dutch Americans in 1847, and to this day a large proportion of its inhabitants have Dutch American heritage. In its heyday, the city was known as the City of Churches - even today there are 170 churches in the greater Holland area, many of which belong to the Reformed Church in America, also known as the First Reformed Church of Holland.
Holland’s entangled history with the Netherlands means that a lot of its cultural identity is intertwined with Dutch culture. The annual Tulip Time Festival, and a number of Dutch-themed attractions, attract thousands of tourists each year, meaning the Dutch culture also plays a key role in Holland’s economy.
Holland is home to De Zwaan, a 250-year-old Dutch windmill situated on Windmill Island, and Nelis’ Dutch Village, which is a theme park offering a little piece of the Netherlands in Michigan. The village allows visitors to step back in time to experience the Netherlands from the early 1900s. It offers a wide variety of entertainment, including Dutch dancing, wooden clog carving, and photo opportunities, as well as rides and games.
Huis ten Bosch, Japan
This “town” was designed by the Japanese as a Dutch theme park, for anyone who wanted to get a taste of what the Netherlands has to offer. Named after the royal palace in The Hague, Huis ten Bosch opened in 1992 and has recreated the Netherlands with life-sized copies of old Dutch buildings.
To make the buildings in the park look more realistic, the founder of Huis ten Bosch imported bricks from the Netherlands. He also dug more than six kilometres of canals to replicate the iconic Dutch feature.
Some of the buildings replicated in the park include:
- Amsterdam Centraal
- The Dom Tower in Utrecht
- Dutch VOC ship “De Liefde”
- The Scheepvaartmuseum
- Nyenrode Castle in Breukelen
As far as attractions are concerned, this theme park has it all. Not only is it filled with a wide variety of museums, but also a number of fun rides. For thrill-seekers, why not check out the world’s fastest virtual reality roller-coaster.
Holland Village, China
This one is another surreal experience. This picturesque Dutch-inspired town was built as part of the One City, Nine Towns project in Shanghai. The builders had hoped that Holland Village, or Holland V for short, would appeal to Chinese expats living in the Netherlands, and would inspire them to return to their home country.
Sadly, though, this didn’t really work out, and the town is pretty deserted. Unlike Huis ten Bosch, Holland V isn’t a theme park, so there isn’t much entertainment, and it still serves a predominantly residential purpose. However, seeing as it’s deserted, it does provide a fun and quirky backdrop for (wedding) photography and films.
Modelled after the city of Amsterdam, the buildings were designed by Dutch architects, and walking around you’ll spot replicas of the Bijenkorf, the Scheepvaartmuseum, and, of course, a traditional Dutch windmill.
Source: Drew Bates via Wikimedia Commons
Dutch Colonial Architecture
The Netherlands' rather problematic and extensive colonial history means that examples of Dutch architecture - real ones, not replicas in theme parks - can be found in countries all around the world.
Oranjestad, Aruba, offers a quintessentially Caribbean twist to traditional Dutch architecture. You may already be familiar with the Netherlands’ connection to the tropical island, but did you know Aruba has a number of examples of Dutch architecture?
Aruba’s capital city is named after King Willem I of the Netherlands, known as a Prince of Orange (the city’s name translates to “orange city”). Recently, the local government has placed more emphasis on preserving the island’s cultural heritage, and consequently some of the Dutch colonial architecture.
The city’s history means it’s full of “Dutch” street names, such as Wilhelminastraat, and buildings, like the Willem III tower or the Elroy Arends House. Here, while some of the features may be recognisable as traditionally dutch, the materials and colours used means that the buildings look completely different. The city is so beautiful!
Several examples and remnants of Dutch culture and architecture can still be found in South (East) Asia. One beautiful example is in Galle, Sri Lanka, where you can find the Groote Kerk Church. The church is placed within the Fort in Galle, known generally as the Dutch fort, and is neighboured by a number of other buildings that date back to the Dutch rule.
The Dutch governed part of Sri Lanka in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the church was built around 1640. It isn’t particularly large or ornate, but the roof is supported by two Dutch gables on each side. Inside, a number of tombs line the floor, written in Dutch with traditional Dutch designs from the period. The church’s graveyard is also the burial place of several Dutch soldiers.
Known as the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, construction on this small church started in the mid 17th century. The church’s bell was cast in the Netherlands in 1685, before finding its home in New York. Looking from the outside though, this church definitely looks like it could be found in a small town somewhere in the Netherlands. So weird!
The church got its name from Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. After his death, the writer was actually buried in the church cemetery, known as the Old Dutch Burying Ground.
Have you visited any of these places before? Or can you think of any other examples of Dutch architecture or culture outside of the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!