If you are thinking about backpacking Europe or seeing the major cities here, know that there are numerous fantastic locations in the Netherlands you need to explore. Here are our favorite tips for planning a trip to the Netherlands.
Most Dutch cities are very welcoming, offering a glimpse into the past and storied history here and exciting, modern thrills.
Whether you want to do some Holland adventure travel through the city’s countryside or a more modern, even upscale, Netherlands itinerary, there are some exciting opportunities.
Below are some of the best tips for traveling in the Netherlands. You’ll love the experience, especially when you embrace the culture.
Show Table of Contents
- Travel Tips for Visiting the Netherlands
- 1. Budget Backpacking in the Netherlands Is the Way to Go
- 2. Make a List of the Sites You Have to See
- 3. Plan a Trip When Something Special Is Happening
- 4. Make Time for Dutch Food
- 5. Train Travel in the Netherlands Is Fun!
- 6. Explore the Canals
- 7. Pick One of the Many Day Trips in the Netherlands
- 8. Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Lesser-Known Cities
- 9. Ensure You Have Travel Insurance
- 10. Take the Time to Learn About Dutch Life
- What You Should Know Before You Leave for Your Trip
- What is local cuisine like in the Netherlands?
- Is the Netherlands Worth Visiting?
- What is the best time to visit the Netherlands for backpacking?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the visa requirements for traveling to the Netherlands?
- What should I pack for a trip to the Netherlands?
Travel Tips for Visiting the Netherlands
1. Budget Backpacking in the Netherlands Is the Way to Go
One of the most common ways to explore this country is by backpacking, so we are devoting a good section here to answer all your questions.
Backpacking through the Netherlands is an exciting opportunity to see the countryside. With its laidback attitude and young, hip lifestyle, the area is certainly perfect for a backpacking trip.
Here are some of the best backpacking routes in the Netherlands to consider to save money during your visit:
- Start with two days in Amsterdam, the heart of the country, where you’ll want to explore mostly to see the attractions. Choose to stay in Haarlem or Utrecht to explore the city.
- Visit Rotterdam, a very cool destination with a contemporary feel. It’s quite a modern destination.
- Visit The Hague and explore the numerous Gothic buildings here (and you get to spend time on the beach, too).
- Start in Rotterdam (any of the cities mentioned above is a good starting point).
- Visit Maastricht for the adventure.
- Stop exploring Delft, a small city with outstanding shops and farms.
- Spend a day in The Hague to see the Dutch city lifestyle up close.
- For a beach experience, head to Scheveningen for a day or so.
- Visit Haarlem next, and spend some time exploring the countryside.
- End your trip in Amsterdam, exploring the city’s many amenities.
See Related: Rotterdam vs. Amsterdam
2. Make a List of the Sites You Have to See
The Netherlands offers such a wide range of sites to see and experience that it’s hard to narrow everything down for a single trip. However, there are some exceptional sites you do not want to miss.
If you are planning a day trip to Amsterdam or sightseeing for only a few days and want to hit all of the most important attractions and historic cities, consider adding any of these to your list of must-do locations:
- Anne Frank House, where Anne and her family hid during World War II
- Hoge Veluwe National Park
- Kröller-Müller Museum
- Red light district
- Van Gogh Museum
- Grachtengordel, the canal district of Amsterdam, is noted for its bridges, shops, and cafes
- Royal Palace
- New Church (Nieuwe Kerk)
- Netherlands Open Air Museum
- National Monument
3. Plan a Trip When Something Special Is Happening
As you start planning your trip exploring this small country with big cities, remember that there are some exciting times of the year to visit. If you can plan a trip any time of the year, these are some of the best times.
Check out the Christmas Markets
Visiting during the holiday season is the best way to experience the Christmas Markets. These happen in all the major cities, including Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Maastricht, and Valkenburg.
This is when there are illuminations over the canals, lots of singing and concerts, exceptional music and food, and lots of shops to explore. If you visit the Netherlands during this time of year, don’t miss the Festival of Lights in Amsterdam’s city center.
From the end of March through the middle of May, the tulip season is in full swing here. The best time to visit is mid-April when the countryside comes to life with exceptional tulips in every color.
The tulip fields are nearly always impressively stunning in their color, and the gardens of Europe, aka Keukenhof Gardens located in Zuid-Holland (South Holland), are like another planet.
To experience the tulip season in the Netherlands, consider the Flower Fields Small Group Cultural Bike Tour in Keukenhof. The tulip fields are a popular option throughout this time of the year, but visiting during peak season means you should try to book in advance.
See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit
4. Make Time for Dutch Food
Dutch cuisine can be somewhat underrated and offers various flavor profiles. It’s hard not to enjoy some of the local cuisines. But how do you get the best experience with Dutch food? One way to do so is to book a tour guide that allows you to learn as you go. Here are some recommendations:
- Secret Food Tours Amsterdam is an excellent, three-hour journey through the city’s local, small, family-run (read: best) restaurants. This is an excellent option for enjoying food prepared authentically.
- Guided Zaanse Schans & Cheese Tasting Tour is another excellent choice. A professional tour guide will help you see the working historic windmills and, of course, the cheese-making destinations. You can even walk in wooden shoes along the way.
- Jordaan District Local Food Walking Tour is a great way to view the Jordaan district. You will get to sample foods at several cultural attractions along the canals.
5. Train Travel in the Netherlands Is Fun!
When visiting this country, travel as the locals do. Whether you are trying to go from one small town to the next and you want to save money, consider visiting the train station. Public transit like this is an excellent way to see some of the area’s best attractions.
Dutch people travel by train often, and it’s widely accepted as a desirable type of public transport to go from one city to the next. It makes sense, then, that if you want to see the country as a local, you have to try train travel here by visiting one of the train stations.
There are numerous train tours to consider booking throughout Amsterdam and the surrounding areas. Here are a few recommendations:
- Amsterdam: Train Transfer to Utrecht
- Amsterdam: Train Transfer to Den Haag
- Amsterdam: Train Transfer to Haarlem
There are also a number of airport shuttles available at the train stations. Trains are a form of public transportation, so you can purchase a train ticket throughout your stay to get to and from various destinations in the bigger cities.
6. Explore the Canals
One of the things Amsterdam, in particular, is known for is its intricate and numerous canals. These canals have long been critical to the movement of people throughout the region, and today, they are one of the best ways to get a feel for life in the city.
You can easily walk through the city and explore the wide range of canals (and the fabulously beautiful bridges that span them – did you know there are over 1900 bridges here?). Another option is to check out a canal tour.
Most people will find day trips along the canals (spanning 1 to 4 hours) some of the best ways to see the area. Across the city, you can book a dozen or more canal tours. Some of the best options include:
- City Canal Cruise and Heineken Experience Ticket (If you want to check out the beer manufacturer while here!)
- Classic Boat Cruise with Cheese and Wine (for something a bit more fancy and elegant
- Canal Cruise and Nightlife Ticket to 20 Clubs (when you want to have some fun!)
7. Pick One of the Many Day Trips in the Netherlands
No matter where you initially spend your time in the Netherlands, it’s easy to take a day trip into any major city here.
Booking a day trip is a great way to travel from one area to the next. You can sometimes visit these destinations by train, bus, and even backpacking. Where should you go? Try these destinations.
Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
Quite the stunning town, especially for those who love the windmill culture of Old Holland, Zaanse Schans is an excellent trip. Many tours head to this city, and you’ll want to book in advance to ensure availability for your needs. It’s about a 30-minute bus ride from Amsterdam.
When here, you can check out the Dutch Wooden Shoes Workshop. You don’t have to purchase to make this a fun experience.
Then, explore the eight windmills in the city, some of which have stood the test of time. Take a tour of one., such as the Guided Zaanse Schans & Cheese Tasting Tour (yes, this tour gets you into the cheese factory, too).
See Related: Day Trip to Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken
A bit of a less famous city in terms of major cities to visit in the Netherlands, Giethoorn is also a short trip from Amsterdam (about two hours). Once you get here, be ready for some walking.
There are boat rentals here but no roads. That’s because people move through the area either through small canals or by foot. It’s quite picturesque as a result.
You can spend some of your time walking through the city, marveling at the natural beauty of it, and visiting some of the local shops. Stop in for a meal at one of the small corner shops.
Also, check out a tour of the Muiderslot Castle & Gardens, which isn’t available throughout the year for tours but is worth seeing from the outside if not.
Volendam, Marken & Edam
A third option for day trips is the Volendam, Marken & Edam areas, all traditional Dutch towns. Choose one or all three to visit. At sea level, Volendam is a great way to get in some of the area’s history.
It’s an old fishing village where you can spot the old harbor and Dutch ships. Marken, which you can reach by boat, offers a more historical view of life in the Netherlands because it’s a bit less modernized. You can visit a traditional clog maker here.
The third option is Edam, which is well known for its cheese production and its Medieval architecture. There’s a cheese market that happens each Wednesday here, which makes that the perfect day of the week to visit.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Lesser-Known Cities
I can’t count how often friends and family members have been incredibly excited to visit to say, “Where else can we go nearby?” or “Let’s go to Paris.” I get it. Coming over 8 hours to Europe, where you can visit three countries in less than 3 hours, is appealing, but you must visit the unknown spots and local favorites in the Netherlands.
One spot (pictured above) is Zwolle. A city I had to go to for a last-minute Visa meeting was eye-opening in terms of its history and distinctive cultural heritage. Or, take Maastricht, for example, where you’ll get a landscape that hardly even feels like the Netherlands.
Finally, another idea is to take a lesser-known day trip, like visiting the small municipalities of Weesp or Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Two majestic villages that are less than 30 minutes away from Amsterdam. You can even bike there! Now, that’s the way to go.
9. Ensure You Have Travel Insurance
The Netherlands has long been considered a safe country to visit, and it’s even been ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. The crime rates here are pretty low compared to most other cities in major European countries.
Given that this country has so many visitors from all parts of the world, you will find some concerns to be leary about. Like any place, you need to be aware of your surroundings and ensure you’re protected, which is why travel insurance for the Netherlands is so important. You can get a policy through TravelInsurance.com that covers your belongings as well as your travel plans.
An example is that it is advisable to book an experience with a trusted travel guide online through a reputable service rather than relying on anyone you find offering their services on the city streets. While that may work out, the identity of such a person cannot be guaranteed.
While it is a safe country, it is still important to be careful and watch for pickpockets, which are typically the worst risk most visitors face. We’ve covered this extensively in our full Netherlands travel guide.
See Related: I Amsterdam City Card Review
10. Take the Time to Learn About Dutch Life
The culture of The Netherlands is exciting and certainly unique from any other European country. The Netherlands became independent from its German roots in the 7th century but maintained some German-like traditions.
Note that, though many people call the country Holland, that’s technically incorrect. North and South Holland are actually provinces of The Netherlands.
Dutch life is exceptionally well maintained. Because the country is small, the government restricts development and overgrowth significantly.
The area is densely populated, and though many people live in a smaller area, it doesn’t feel crowded. When visiting Amsterdam, for example, the canals help to give the location a more prominent feel than it is. Biking just hits differently as well.
One of the best ways to experience this country’s culture is to visit some of the most important historical sites. Here are a few you should add to your must-visit list during your trip to the Netherlands.
- Rijksmuseum: A museum that has a history of more than 800 years, this location is noted for its stunning art collections by artists such as Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. Consider booking a guide for this museum to learn more about the history and importance of these artists.
- Anne Frank House: A noted tour of the Anne Frank House shows where the family hid and the strife that people throughout the country experienced during the War. While many may not want to focus on the less desirable aspects of the country’s history, this is a very big part of the region’s history.
- Van Gogh Museum: This art museum features the World’s Largest Collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work and is still technically owned by the Van Gogh family. The home was transformed into a museum after his death but now has more than 500 sketches from the artist and many additional art pieces.
- Castle De Haar: Located in Utrecht, this castle is beautiful, and it’s possible to step within to walk through its corridors to see the way people lived throughout history, including exploring the furniture of the time and the many amenities here.
- Royal Palace of Amsterdam: The Royal Palace is perhaps one of the most recognizable of the country’s landmarks, but it’s also one of the best ways to learn about the history of this region.
See Related: Famous Landmarks in Amsterdam to Visit
What You Should Know Before You Leave for Your Trip
Before you explore all the Netherlands has to offer, there are a few things to remember.
- There’s a lot to see! Create a Netherlands itinerary, but expect to need time to explore the entire area. The key to remember is that overbooking yourself will cause you to miss out on what Dutch life is like – peaceful and lighthearted.
- Tipping is appreciated, but you don’t have to do so. The cost of the service you receive is factored into most of the purchases you make.
- Look for the museum card if you plan to be there for an extended period or purchase an I Amsterdam card and other tourism-based savings opportunities. There are a lot of packages and tour guide deals here that can help you save some money while seeing more of what you want to experience.
- The weather changes often, and rain is common. You’ll want to prepare for that by bringing raingear with you. It’s the best way to stay dry and still see the cities.
- Ask for help. The people of just about every town in this country are friendly and more than willing to offer insight and smile at you as they do so.
What is local cuisine like in the Netherlands?
When you visit the Netherlands, eat local! Dutch people have all of the conveniences of the rest of the world, but they also have their own food and a passion for scratch-made, high-quality food. Most people find this makes sense since the Netherlands is a location of culture and tradition.
Many people prepare their meals, but you’ll find some favorites throughout the country. Dutch food is far more than just cheese and beer. Some popular foods to try while visiting the Netherlands include:
- Gouda cheese (prepared locally)
- Dutch apple pie
Is the Netherlands Worth Visiting?
Simply, yes. There are many reasons to visit the Netherlands. This smaller country has fabulous outdoor amenities, exceptional vacation shops, excellent adventure trips, and many tourist attractions. The people are welcoming and friendly.
The food is outstanding, and the city’s capital, Amsterdam, is quite the modern destination. The question you may have, then, is when should you visit. This Netherlands travel guide aims to provide options, including several trips you’ll want to take in this area of Europe.
What is the best time to visit the Netherlands for backpacking?
When should you do some Netherlands backpacking? There’s no bad time, but going from May to June is best, followed by a trip in September through November to avoid tourists and for more enjoyable weather. This is also the best time for Amsterdam hiking and most Dutch outdoor activities.
The cost of backpacking in the Netherlands is really up to you. You could say in one of the more upscale hotels in the area, but most will choose the hostels in the Netherlands for backpackers. Here are some recommendations to take into consideration:
- The Bee Hostel in Amsterdam City Centre (right in the heart of it all!)
- Sparks Hostel in Rotterdam
- Pink Flamingo Boutique Hotel (a bit more upscale than the average)
- The Green Elephant Hostel & Spa (when you want a bit more)
These Netherlands hostels are just the start of the options. Don’t forget that you can also go to the Netherlands camping. This is just a brief travel guide for backpacking in the Netherlands.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the visa requirements for traveling to the Netherlands?
Americans and those in the European Union do not need a visa to visit the Netherlands.
What should I pack for a trip to the Netherlands?
Pack clothing that you can wear in layers since temperatures can change randomly. You’ll appreciate having access to some raingear, too. You don’t have to pack too many unique items since this is a modern city with plenty to offer.
Remember, though, that there are many areas where prices are inflated due to tourism. You may want to avoid purchasing too many souvenirs in the bigger cities near the tourist areas.
Whether you come to see a single town here, such as exploring all that Amsterdam has to offer with its excellent museums and modern room amenities, or you come to tour all of the small towns, see the sand dunes along the North Sea, and visit King’s Day, one thing is for certain. Taking your time, working with one of the city guides, and enjoying the Dutch culture is a great idea.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.