Things to Do in Netherlands
Amsterdam’s Red Light District (aka De Wallen) has been a familiar haunt for pleasure seekers since the 14th century. Though certainly not an area for everyone, the Red Light District has more to offer than just sex and liquor. For underneath its promiscuous façade, the area contains some of Amsterdam's prettiest canals, excellent bars and restaurants, and shops of all kinds. It also consists of windows with sexy girls, dressed in eye-popping underwear.
The best places for window-watching are along Oudezijds Achterburgwal and in the alleys around the Oude Kerk (Old Church), particularly to the south. The atmosphere throughout is much more laid-back than in other red-light districts. Families, lawyers, young couples, senior citizens - all types of locals live and socialize here, in stride with the surrounding commerce. You’ll probably find yourself on Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk at some point, both commercial thoroughfares chock-a-block with shops and restaurants.
The Rijksmuseum, or National Museum, is the premier art museum of the Netherlands, and no self-respecting visitor to Amsterdam can afford to miss it. Though most of the building is closed for renovations until 2013, key paintings from the museum’s permanent collection can be viewed in the Philips Wing.
The collection includes some 5,000 paintings, most importantly those by Dutch and Flemish masters from the 15th to 19th centuries. The emphasis, naturally, is on the Golden Age. Pride of place is taken by Rembrandt's Nightwatch (1650), showing the militia led by Frans Banning Cocq. Other 17th century Dutch masters include Jan Vermeer (The Milkmaid, and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter), Frans Hals (The Merry Drinker) and Jan Steen (The Merry Family).
Other sections include Sculpture and Applied Art (delftware, dolls' houses, porcelain, furniture), Dutch History and Asiatic Art, including the famous 12th century Dancing Shiva.
It is one of the 20th century's most compelling stories: a young Jewish girl forced into hiding with her family and their friends to escape deportation by the Nazis. The house Otto Frank used as a hideaway for his family kept them safe until close to the end of World War II.
The focus of the Anne Frank House museum is the achterhuis, also known as the secret annex. It was in this dark, airless space that the Franks observed complete silence during the day, before being mysteriously betrayed and sent to their deaths.
The Anne Frank House is pretty much intact, so as you walk through the building, it's easy to imagine Anne’s experience growing up here as she wrote her famous diary describing how restrictions were gradually imposed on Dutch Jews.
Amsterdam might be most famous for its winding canals and pretty locks, but it’s the Amstel River that the city was first built around, even deriving its name from its early settlement at the ‘Amstel Dam’.
Today the river runs through the center of the city, lined with landmark buildings, stately mansions and colorful houseboats. A walk along the riverside pathway takes in a number of key sights: the regal Carré theatre, still a popular performance house; the post-modernist Stopera city hall and opera house, with its contemporary glass facade; and the neo-baroque domes of the St Nicolas church, all face the river front. A number of landmark bridges also cross the river, the most famous of which is the Magere Brug, or the ‘Skinny Bridge’, a white painted bascule bridge, rebuilt in the early 1900s. Don’t miss out on renowned tourist attractions like the Hermitage Museum, the Amsterdam Museum and Waterlooplein, either – all lie along the shores of the Amstel.
More Things to Do in Netherlands
Better known by its affectionate local nickname of “the Swan,” Erasmus Bridge crosses the River Nieuwe Maas with its elegant white spines, constructed in 1996 to link north and south Rotterdam across the harbor. Designed by Ben van Berkel, the bridge is an iconic landmark in Rotterdam, and its 456-foot (139-meter) single pylon supports 32 steel cables from which the half-mile (800 m) roadway is suspended. The southern side of the bridge includes Europe’s heaviest bascule, which lifts in order to let shipping transport through. It’s best seen at close quarters from the water on a harbor tour, from above on the viewing platform of Euromast or from the walking and cycling trails around the Port of Rotterdam.
The Swan is beautifully illuminated at night and often provides an eerie backdrop for Rotterdam’s festivals and fireworks displays. In 2005, several planes flew beneath the bridge as part of the daring “Red Bull Air Race.”
The Frans Hals Museum is known for its collection of paintings by the Dutch Golden Age masters. Nearly all the pieces date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when Haarlem was known as the “City of Painters,” and as you make your way round the museum exhibits you’ll see works by the likes of Ruisdael, Jan Steen, Saenredam, Van Goyen, Heda, and of course, Frans Hals. Fifteen of Hals’ enormous civic guard pieces are showcased here and are a highlight of any visit. In particular, look out for Hals’ famous twin portraits, Regents and Regentesses of the Oudemannenhuis.
Built in 1609, the attractive building changed purpose from almshouse (where Frans Hals lived out his final years) to orphanage before becoming the art museum you can see today in 1913. On a visit to the Frans Hals Museum, it’s worth looking out for the separate section containing a replica of a 17th-century Haarlem street.
Transformed from a complex for the elderly to a department of Saint Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum in 2009, a visit to the Hermitage Amsterdam starts with marveling its the impressive exterior. The sprawling Amstelhof building, designed by architect Hans Van Petersom, dates back to the 17th-century and stretches 105m along the Amstel riverfront, featuring a central courtyard garden shaded by chestnut trees.
Hermitage Amsterdam is now one of the largest museums in the country and features some of the country’s most captivating temporary exhibitions. The collections, rotated each 6 months, feature selections imported from the Russian museum’s enormous treasury of artifacts, including its famously expansive collection of French 19th and 20th century paintings. Past exhibitions have included Modernist and expressionist artworks; sizable exhibits on ‘Peter the Great (1672–1725), the modernizer of Russia’ and ‘The Immortal Alexander the Great’.
Leiden's Museum De Lakenhal and the building it is housed in (the Laecken-Halle) are considered to be one of the best examples of Dutch Golden Age architecture in the Netherlands. For centuries, the building served as the inspection hall and the bustling center for Leiden's famous fabric trade, the products of which were exported to all corners of the world. The original façade of the 17th-century palace remains intact, although the interior has undergone quite a few changes over the centuries.
The site welcomed the Museum De Lakenhal in 1874, bringing in a diverse collection of works by Leiden-born master painters including Rembrandt van Rijn, Lucas van Leyden and Theo van Doesburg. With a focus on fine arts and Leiden history, the museum hosts visiting exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection.
Conveniently located right in central Amsterdam, Jordaan is one of the city's most important, and most interesting districts. Never short of things to do, it is the location of the famous Anne Frank house, where renowned holocaust victim Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during WWII.
Currently, the district is bustling with life, with tons of opportunities to visit one of its many specialty shops, soak in Dutch culture at an art gallery, or try some of the local delicacies at its street markets.
Prideful of its early 20th-century music culture, this central district also features wonderful music festivals and has scattered statues throughout, commemorating the likes of local hero and Dutch patriot Johnny Jordaan. Not dead, you can go check out Jordaan's lively modern music scene at many of its bars and club venues, these days mainly featuring alternative, punk and grunge music.
One of the Netherlands’ most famous buildings and the crowning glory of The Hague, the Peace Palace, or Vredespaleis, serves as a symbol of the country’s key role in international law and order. Built between 1907 and 1913 by Andrew Carnegie, the grand palace is home to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Law Academy and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), making it an important center of global peace.
The building itself, an imposing neo-renaissance structure constructed from Belgian stone and Dutch red brick, is notable for its opulent interiors, designed to embody the ‘grand idea of world peace’ and featuring an exquisite art collection and furnishings imported from around the world. Guided tours of the palace make popular day trips from nearby Rotterdam and Amsterdam, whisking visitors around the chambers, the Peace Palace Library, the palace museum and the picturesque gardens.
Micropia is a unique museum in Amsterdam dedicated to microbes and microorganisms. These microscopic organisms make up two thirds of all living matter. As soon as you enter the museum, you'll start to learn about the invisible organisms living all around us. An animation in the first elevator tells you about the mites that live on your eyelashes and the bacteria and viruses that live on those mites. Other exhibits include a body scanner that tells you what type of microbes live on your body and a Kiss-o-meter that counts the number of microbes transferred during a kiss. There are Petri dishes with bacteria in them that show you what lives on everyday household objects.
Another exhibit shows a collection of animal feces and a preserved human digestive system. There are also films showing different animals decomposing. In a real-life working laboratory, visitors can view technicians preparing the exhibits through a window.
Some 20,000 works of art can be found at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands. The art and sculpture museum (which opened in 1938) was founded by collector Helene Kröller-Müller, an early admirer of Vincent van Gogh. Although today Van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists, he received little recognition while he was alive. Kröller-Müller regarded Van Gogh as a ‘great spirit of modern art’ and was a prolific collector of his works. In fact, the attention she gave to his work contributed to his recognition as an artist. The Kröller-Müller Museum has the second-largest collection of Van Gogh’s art in the world (around 90 paintings and 180 drawings). In addition to the large collection of works by Van Gogh, the museum is home to masterpieces by artists including Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, and Piet Mondriaan. The museum also has one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe.
- Things to do in Amsterdam
- Things to do in Rotterdam
- Things to do in The Hague
- Things to do in Eindhoven
- Things to do in Dordrecht
- Things to do in Leeuwarden
- Things to do in Zaandam
- Things to do in Maastricht
- Things to do in Belgium
- Things to do in Luxembourg
- Things to do in South Holland
- Things to do in North Holland
- Things to do in Zaventem
- Things to do in Flanders