The Amsterdam Alternatives – Places to Visit in The Netherlands

Places to Visit in The Netherlands

Where to go in The Netherlands

Love The Netherlands, but only visited Amsterdam? There are so many more beautiful places to discover in The Netherlands and it’s only an hour flight across the pond.

In this post, I’m going to suggest some alternative towns and cities which will definitely be worth your while to make your trip to The Netherlands a special one!


My Top 5 Places to Visit in The Netherlands

Gronnigen

1. Groningen

Things to do:
Visit the Martinitoren (the highest church steeple in Groningen and built between 1469 and 1482), get sucked into the Art & Culture Scene and visit the museums and theatres. Cinemas will also always play movies with Dutch subtitles, so you won’t have any problem understanding what the actors might say.

If you feel a bit adventurous, you may want to climb the tallest climbing wall in the world, called Excalibur, which is conveniently also located in Groningen and 121 feet high (36.8m)! I think you should also try “eating out of the wall” (literally pulling fast food, like burgers, out of a vending machine fitted into the walls) at snackbars around the city.

Personal experience:
I’ve studied in this city for most of my student life. It has a great atmosphere and people are generally very friendly. Going out is also highly recommended if you enjoy that sort of activity. Every time I’m back in The Netherlands, I will visit Groningen and go to have lunch at Bagels & Beans with my friends. Delicious bagels combined with matcha latte, can’t go wrong!

Fun Facts:
Groningen is called the “World Cycling City” as 57% of trips are taken by bicycle. It has also been chosen as the Top Bike City of the Netherlands in 2002.

The University of Groningen (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) is the second oldest university of the country and has educated the first Dutch astronaut, the first female student and even a Nobel prize winner (Physics).

Gronnigen BagelGronnigen Sculpture


harderwijk

2. Harderwijk

Things to do:
Visit the Dolfinarium! It’s a big water park where you can watch dolphins and other marine mammals, like seals, swim around. Shows are also being held here and it’s the largest park of this kind in Europe! The SOS Dolfijn foundation is based inside the park and they save stranded porpoises, dolphins and whales, let them recover in the park and then release them back into the wild.

If you’re not into dolphins and water, you might want to see some of the beautiful architecture this city has to offer. Plus there’s also a windmill (not sure why, but you tourists love them!).

Personal experience:
When I was a tiny child, I loved visiting the Dolfinarium with my parents. You can walk around for hours without getting bored. If you’re interested, you can follow synchronised swimming lessons at the local pool – I did this when visiting my friends, but I was so awful that I was too ashamed to ever go back.

Fun Fact:
The city holds an annual “Eel Day” (Aaltjesdag), to highlight how important the fishing industry used to be for them. I’m saying “used to be”, because in 1932 part of the Southern Sea (now IJsselmeer) was cut off from the North Sea so now they don’t depend on fishing anymore. You can still buy fresh fish if you want, but not during the winter months.

harderwijk dolphinsHarderwijk buildings


Giethoorn

3.Giethoorn

Things to do:
Have a wander through the nearby national park, called Weerribben-Wieden. Spot the typically Dutch farms with their thatched roofs in this idyllic village or if you want to pretend that you’re actually in Venice – why not take a gondola ride? If you feel a bit more adventurous, you might want to try some archery! There really is plenty to do here!

Personal experience:
None yet, but this village is standing high on my “To-Visit-List” once I’m back in the homeland! I’ll definitely be trying everything I’ve mentioned above.

I’ve also read that you can eat pancakes here, so I’m looking forward to those. Dutch pancakes are amazing (in case you haven’t tried one yet)!

Fun Fact:
This village is known as the “Venice of the North” or “Venice of the Netherlands”, as they have over 150 bridges and it’s best not to be accessed by car as there aren’t really any roads. I hear nowadays there are some cycling paths so if you’d like to visit: walk or rent a bike or canoe!

 Giethoorn pancakes Giethoorn archery Giethoorn scenery


Arcen

4.Arcen

Things to do:
Visit the Hertog Jan brewery and take a tour! Don’t like beer? Don’t worry, there’s also a distillery inside a water mill – here you can try local gin, bitters and liquors! You could also visit the beautiful castle and their gardens or maybe you’d prefer to chill out in the thermal bath? Again plenty to do and if you like it fancy, stay in one of the holiday parks!

Personal experience:
Beer there, done that! But seriously… it’s a great brewery. I personally thought it was really interesting to learn about the process of making beer and what goes into it. From what I remember, the locals were really friendly as well. It’s a great village for families and I’d recommend the holiday parks where we once rented a whole house/barn.

Fun Fact:
There is a pipe, high up above the road, which connects the local pub with the local brewery. It says “Hier stroomt Hertog Jan”, which means “Hertog Jan (the Dutch beer) flows here”.

Arcen Scenery Arcen Fountain Arcen Beer Factory


Renesse

5.Renesse

Things to do:
Relax on the beach and watch the seals sunbathe, walk the North Sea Trail which goes through this village, visit the castle or watch the traditional Straô, an annual farmers holiday where decorated horses are being led into the sea to wash their feet. This tradition is going back since 1643 and according to popular belief, it’s also a good ritual to get rid of nightmares. Who knew that all you had to do was ride a horse into the sea?!

Personal experience:
A lovely place to relax and unwind, I think I mostly enjoyed the beach and we’ve also visited the summer market, which is held every Wednesday in the summer. Friendly locals and also very tasty ice cream!

Fun Fact:
In the summer months, this village offers a free bus service from the centre to the beach!

Renesse Beach Renesse Seal Renesse Donkeys


Well, I hope I’ve inspired you to visit my beautiful home country again and discover some of the alternative places to Amsterdam (not that it’s not nice there with all their canals)! As you can see on the map below, you could easily hire a car as well and spend a week driving from one destination to the next as The Netherlands is only a small country! It’s like driving from Bristol to Penzance with pit stops and without all the traffic…

 You can also save direct with one of Holland’s best travel experts with KLM Airlines – and get the true Dutch experience from door to door!

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