Hidden gems of the Netherlands
As coronavirus restrictions begin to lift and the vaccination roll out picks up speed we can once again think about exploring the beautiful flat Dutch landscape. It’s time to take the focus out of Amsterdam and see what else this country has to offer. After a lot of debate with friends and followers, these are our hidden gems of the Netherlands:
Located in the National Park Weerribben-Wieden, Giethoorn is an idyllic village featuring thatched houses perched on individual islands connected by bridges. Giethoorn was established as a settlement of peat harvesters. Peat cutting created ponds and lakes, and people built houses on the islands between them. As a result, access was only possible by bridge or using traditional Giethoorn boats, so-called punters – narrow boats pushed along using a long pole by a punteraar.
Fortunately, little has changed in Giethoorn. The tall wooden bridges are still there, and you can still travel the waters on a punter, as well as on an electric boat or a tour boat. It is for this reason that Giethoorn has gained a reputation as the Venice of the Netherlands.
If you love old cities and stunning architecture, Dordrecht is definitely worth a visit. This beautiful place gained city rights in 1220, making it the oldest city in Holland. Located on the rivers Merwede, Noord, and Ouwe Maas, it was an important merchant city. This history and wealth are still visible, with the city centre hosting 1,000 monuments. Many of them are used as museums, restaurants, and theatres.
A hidden gem within this hidden gem can be found at the Villa Augustus, a hotel and restaurant situated in the middle of a flourishing vegetable garden. It also boasts an enticing market which is open daily and sells freshly baked bread and ceramics.
A stone’s throw away from Dordrecht you can visit the world heritage site of Kinderdijk. If you love a good windmill, you’ll love this picturesque place. 19 windmills were built around 1740 as part of a flood prevention project. Today they continue to represent Dutch water management.
A great afternoon in Kinderdijk includes a visit to the three windmill’s museum, exploring the site’s history and importance.
The island of Texel is a paradise for beach lovers, with its 30km of long sandy beach. Texel has seven spectacular villages and unique nature reserves.
In addition to many sheep, birds, and sea life, Texel has an iconic bright red lighthouse in the north of the island. It’s ideal to combine a beach visit with a trip to the lighthouse, which offers extensive views of the surrounding landscape.
This open air museum recreates a traditional Dutch village with wooden houses dating to the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re planning a visit here don’t forget to see the Museumwinkel, a grocers from the past. In the bakery museum you can discover old baking techniques, and the Verkade Experience provides an insight into a 20th century chocolate factory. The original machines there are still at work to make the best cookies and chocolate.
Zaanse Schans lies by the waterway of de Zaan, making the area particularly suited to exploration by boat. There are various guided boat tours, offering insights into Zaanstreek’s past.
Obviously, if you are in the Netherlands in April and May you need to visit a tulip field. Lisse is home to many, including the famous Keukenhof, an enormous garden filled with floral arrangements.
If you don’t live too far away from Lisse, enjoy a bike ride there and take in the glorious Dutch countryside… you may even spot an Alpaca or 2.
In this unique corner of the Netherlands you can visit the historic hamlet of Achterhoek. Achterhoek is in the province of Gelderland on the German border and is surrounded by countryside. You’ll find plenty of roman roads, Napoleonic forts, royal estates, and medieval castles. The 14th century moated Ruurlo castle is not only beautiful to admire but also has a museum open to the public.
If you’re in the area it's worth visiting Doesburg and Zutphen, old Hanseatic cities with well preserved historic centres.
I could go on and on about the beauties of this country… There are so many towns, cities, and national parks to visit. You’ll just have to come over and see for yourself.
This blog post was written by Overseasy intern Lizzy Patterson