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    Discover the lesser-known corners of the Netherlands


    Discover the lesser-known corners of the Netherlands


    Amsterdam, tulips and coffee shops. That's what most people conjure up when they think of Holland. Tourists usually only come to this small coastal country for a long weekend in the capital. Yet the Netherlands, and especially the Dutch people, are a fascinating and very welcoming nation that is well worth spending a lot more time in. Let's take a look together at the places that are not on the radar of mass tourism, yet will be remembered for a long time to come.

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      The Royal Palace and Castle Garden

      First, visit the town of Apeldoorn. A mix of nature and culture awaits you, which can be done in a packed day, but is better enjoyed with an overnight stay.

      The 17th-century royal Paleis Het Loo was until recently a private residence. In 1962, Queen Wilhelmina gave it to the state. However, should the Netherlands ever become a republic instead of a kingdom, the state must return the palace to the noble Oranje-Nassau family. Here you can see the magnificent historic interiors and the stunning baroque gardens.

      Plan your next stop at De Hoge Veluwe National Park. In a Netherlands that has almost no nature, this area is a refreshing oasis. Best enjoyed from the saddle of a bicycle. De Hoge Veluwe is privately owned, so you'll be able to admire its dunes, pine forests and deer after paying admission. The same goes for the Kröller-Müller Museum, located in the middle of the park. In its tasteful building, you'll find the second largest collection of Van Goghs, in addition to an outdoor sculpture exhibition of Picasso, Gauguin and Mondrian.

      View of trees and a road in the De Hoge Veluwe National Park in fall

      Nordic villages and a rugged island

      The regions of Friesland and Flevoland offer two charming destinations: the island of Ameland and the villages of Giethoorn and Staphorst.

      From royal heights, head to the simple folk in villages where time has stood still. Giethoorn is criss-crossed with canals, delightful bridges and, above all, stands out with its thatched-roof cottages. Staphorst, on the other hand, opens the door to another world: this orthodox Calvinist village has one of the highest birth rates in Western Europe and one of the lowest vaccination rates. Here, in short, life is lived by different rules. Explore Staphorst on a Sunday, when you can admire the traditional clothing and the interlaced bicycles that locals ride to church.

      View of houses, canal and bridges in Giethoorn

      The next stop is Ameland, belonging to the West Frisian Islands. Every hour there is a ferry from the mainland, and you don't even need to take a car, because you can just cycle around Ameland. Head to the island for endless dunes, incessant wind and rugged Nordic life. To get back to the mainland, try wading: at low tide and with a guide, the return journey can be made on foot (ask for waadrinnen).

      Cross into central Netherlands from the north via the Afsluitdijk embankment corridor. The sea view from both sides is best enjoyed by stopping at the Vlieter monument.

      Central classics

      Other stops include the obligatory Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and Naarden. In the capital, don't miss the hilarious Eye Film Museum or the side streets of the red light district (Oude Kerk). If you fancy trying marijuana, Siberia offers organic quality material and a classy interior. As for the more famous attractions, such as the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum, expect to have to buy tickets in advance online. They tend to sell out on the spot, or you may face really uncomfortably long queues.

      If you're lucky enough to experience A'dam on King's Day (27 April), make sure you take the chance. It's the King's birthday, when the whole city parties in the streets and there's basically nowhere to move. Outdoor festivals, open air concerts and street food must be attended in orange to fit in.

      The last mass attraction you should visit around the capital is the Keukenhof flower park. The hefty entrance fee will be returned in the form of countless colourful photographs. But again, you have to hit the right season – the tulips usually bloom from late March to mid-May.

      View of a windmill in the middle of a tulip field in Keukenhof flower park

      From April to August, the cheese market in Gouda is worth a trip. This takes place every Thursday morning between 10:00 and 12:30 (except on public holidays). For cheese, try the traditional Dutch caramel waffle, which you can try baking yourself at the Van Vliet bakery.

      At the International Judges

      If you have time, take a detour to historic Leiden, where you'll enjoy the peace and beauty of a smaller city alongside the thousands of students at the renowned university here. Then it's on to the Hague: a conservative metropolis that's home to both major international institutions and the Royal Palace.

      In the Scheveningen district, rent a bike and ride out onto the vast sand dunes. On your return to the city, devote at least an hour to the Peace Palace Museum, or the International Criminal Court. The courthouse itself can only be toured a few times a year, and tickets must be purchased well in advance.

      View of the Peace Palace surrounded by nature

      Dance and culture lovers may appreciate the rare opportunity to see a performance by the Czech Republic's most famous choreographer Jiri Kylian. He is the artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater. The renowned company is based inHague and choreographies of this level can be seen in few other places in the world.

      Another cultural gem is the Escher Museum. The famous illusionist is guaranteed to boggle your mind and make you think. You can then recharge your energy at the De Haagse Markt food market, which takes place every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

      Unlike the capital's ornate prostitution, Hague's red light district is somehow more rustic in nature. In the Geleenstraat, women of all sizes and degrees of use are sold. Tourists don't come here, so it’s possible to soak up the real atmosphere of the industry.

      World-famous porcelain

      Just eight kilometres from Hague lies the cute little town of Delft. Set aside at least one afternoon to visit it. At the De Delftse Pauw porcelain factory, see the world-famous blue-and-white ceramics or even book a workshop on their production. Enjoy coffee and ice cream in the main square, then climb up the church tower. The romantic views across Delft city centre might lull you to sleep, then there's the sloping roof of the TU Delft University Library for a nap. You can take a look inside too, it's an architectural spectacle even to the layman's eye!

      View of a busy marketplace on the Delft square

      A modern farewell

      The city of Rotterdam has turned the devastation of war into an economic and building boom. Welcome to the most modern municipality in the Netherlands. Business skyscrapers alternate with original architectural feats and various entertainment opportunities.

      An enlightening and incredible experience is a ride through the largest port in Europe. The modern Erasmus Bridge provides a striking contrast to the historic terminal of the first ever steamship to cross the Atlantic.

      View of the white Erasmus Bridge, sea and buildings in the background

      The cube houses of architect Piet Blom will trick your senses. It's not enough to see them from the outside; it's only when you're inside that you appreciate the originality and sophistication of these buildings. A few steps away, the Markthal is another unusual building that offers refreshments.

      For a cultural highlight, visit the Kunsthal Museum. Their exhibitions change periodically, but whatever the theme, you can be sure of the curatorial quality.

      End your roadtrip in the little-trafficked Kinderdijk. The canal with its photogenic windmills will be just the right end to an expedition through the rich Netherlands.

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