25 Best Towns and Cities in the Netherlands to Visit in Your Lifetime

If you’re looking for the best towns and cities in the Netherlands to visit in your lifetime, you’ve come to the right place.

The first things that come to mind when you think about this country are probably canals, windmills, tulips, museums, and stroopwafel, but it is so much more than that.

It’s also where I found kind locals, a welcoming atmosphere, and an abundance of charm I cannot explain in words. So if you’re ready to learn more about this incredible destination, here’s a must-save bucket list.

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Looking for beautiful places in Holland? Here are the best cities in the Netherlands to visit at least once!


TOWNS AND CITIES TO VISIT IN THE NETHERLANDS’ WESTERN PROVINCES

AMSTERDAM

Starting with the obvious, a trip to the Netherlands has to include at least a couple of days in Amsterdam.

Beyond its picturesque canals, internationally famous museums, and historical landmarks, people fall in love with its laid-back vibe and inviting atmosphere.

The highlights of this beautiful city include the Royal Palace, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, and Oude Kerk (a 13th-century church/art center and the oldest building in Amsterdam), but you’ll literally find dozens of museums in Amsterdam and other fun things to do and see.

Amsterdam also offers a fantastic food scene and buzzing nightlife, and it’s a great base for exploring other towns and cities in the Netherlands.

Last but not least, it might seem like it’s only a popular destination for groups of friends, but you can also visit Amsterdam with kids.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam. Photo: Rachel’s Ruminations

VOLENDAM

By Kat from Wandering Bird

Volendam is a tiny but popular village built on the shores of Markermeer Lake and is one of the most charming places in the Netherlands. 

It’s famous for the colorful wooden houses along the lakefront and the cute shops. There’s a museum – home to paintings, sculptures, and pottery from the past 200 years, as well as a mosaic made from millions of cigar bands!

It’s also known for the local cheese – be sure to try some from one of the stores which make and sell it. 

You can get to Volendam by public transport or tour on a day trip from Amsterdam, but the best way to visit is with your own vehicle.

This will allow you to stay longer and enjoy the evening atmosphere once the crowds have gone, as well as watch the beautiful sunset from the beach by the lake.

If you’re motorhoming in the Netherlands, there’s a wonderful campsite right on the beach. There are also several hotels and BnBs to choose from.

Volendam
Volendam. Photo: Wandering Bird

ZAANDIJK

By Sam from My Flying Leap

When you think of the Netherlands, tulips and windmills are the iconic images that come to mind.

The best place to see windmills is Zaandijk, a village in the Dutch countryside that’s just a short train ride north of Amsterdam.

Zaandijk is known for its specialty museum, Zaanse Schans. It’s a recreated Dutch village with picturesque windmills and brightly painted wooden homes. In Zaanse Schans, you can step back in time to the 17th and 18th centuries and tour the windmills. 

Go on a canal cruise, learn how to make the famous Dutch wooden shoes, tour a bakery and cheese shop, and try a freshly-made stroopwafel with coffee. One taste of the melted caramel, and you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.

Zaandijk
Zaandijk. Photo: My Flying Leap

GOUDA

Though there’s much more to the town of Gouda than just cheese, if you decide to visit this charming place, you have to immerse yourself in some cheese-related activities.

These include learning about it at the Gouda Cheese Experience, visiting the De Goudse Waag (the weighting house), and witnessing the rituals of the traditional Cheese Market (taking place in front of the old City Hall on Thursday mornings from April to August).

Other visit-worthy places in Gouda are the Sint-Jan Church, Syrup Waffle Factory (perfect for stroopwafel addicts like me), and Museumhaven – an open-air museum preserving old Dutch ships (located in one of the city’s canals).

HAARLEM

By Samantha from Sam Sees World

Haarlem is one of the best city breaks in the Netherlands for its beauty and unmistakable charm.

It has been dubbed a “mini Amsterdam,” and it offers a welcome escape from the busy streets of the Dutch capital. The less-touristy environment makes Haarlem the perfect place to visit if you want to see a real and vibrant Dutch city.

One of the top things to do in Haarlem is to visit the famous Grote Markt. It is located in the center of the city and is full of great restaurants, charming cafes, and stunning landmarks.

After this, you can walk to Molen de Adriaan, which is an iconic Dutch windmill in the city center. As one of Haarlem’s most famous landmarks (that has been around since the 18th century), it is a must-visit!

Haarlem
Haarlem. Photo: Sam Sees World

KINDERDIJK

By Emma from Emma Jane Explores

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO-listed village in Molenlanden, located near the city of Rotterdam. This gorgeous area is famous for the rows and rows of windmills that pump water and essentially stop the region from flooding.  

The windmills here are also home to the village residents and have been on the land at Kinderdijk since the 1700s.

There are many walking and cycling trails that make the town easy to explore at your own pace, and for those wanting to take a peek inside, there is even a museum in a preserved windmill that gives a sense of what life is like here.

Here, you’ll see glimpses of real Dutch life, from millers working hard with wooden clogs on their feet to farm animals and livestock in the fields, all against the backdrop of the remarkable windmills. It’s hard to imagine a more quintessentially Dutch scene.

Top cities in the Netherlands - Kinderdijk
Kinderdijk. Photo: Emma Jane Explores

LISSE

By Nicole from Bucket List Lists

One of the best towns to visit in the Netherlands is Lisse! Visiting this town is something you can easily add to your Amsterdam bucket list because of how close it is, about 16 miles (25.5 km) away.

Getting to Lisse is quite easy if you are based in Amsterdam. You can take the bus, and the ride is just under an hour, or take a car for about 30 minutes, traffic dependent.

Lisse is notable as the most beautiful place to see tulips in the springtime. There are millions of tulips to see here in the famous Keukenhof Flower Garden, usually from the end of March to the middle of May.

Other places to visit in Lisse include Castle Keukenhof and Sint-Agathakerk.

Keukenhof Gardens
Keukenhof Gardens. Photo: CosmopoliClan

ROTTERDAM

By Nichola from Globalmouse Travels

Rotterdam is a great city to visit at any time of the year. Extensively bombed during WWII, Rotterdam can’t rely on picturesque beauty like Amsterdam, Utrecht, and so many other Dutch towns.

So it has imaginatively reinvented itself, and everywhere you go, there are interesting buildings and quirky architecture to delight in.

There’s plenty to see here from Mini World to the Maritime Museum, and if you’re visiting the Netherlands with kids, don’t miss the wonderful Plaswijckpark, which is huge and full of fun activities and play equipment to enjoy.

There’s a great emerging foodie scene in Rotterdam too, making it the perfect place to linger over meals and try different food. It’s somewhere very different from the usual offerings in the Netherlands, and there’s so much to enjoy here.

Rotterdam
Rotterdam. Photo: Globalmouse Travels

WASSENAAR

By Jennifer of Family Trip Guides

The town of Wassenaar is just 14 miles (22.5 km) from The Hague and 33.5 miles (54 km) from Amsterdam, but it feels like a world away.

In the spring, you can drive and walk around the beautiful flower and tulip fields that are protected from the ocean by the dunes surrounding Wassenaar.

The main attraction in the town is the delightful Duinrell Holiday Park. It was opened in 1935 but has been modernly updated. It is located in a beautiful forest near the dunes, a kilometer from town.

There is an endless supply of fun for all ages at Duinrell. It has the largest waterpark in the Benelux with 21 slides. Also, the amusement park includes over 40 different attractions.

On your way back, make sure to drive through the most expensive street in the Netherlands, Groot Haesebroekseweg, just south of Duinrell.

flower field in Wassenaar
Wassenaar. Photo: Family Trip Guides

LEIDEN

By Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

Leiden is a quaint college town, located approximately 40 minutes away from Amsterdam by train. Home to Leiden University, it is famous for being Rembrandt van Rijn’s birthplace, as well as its plethora of museums. 

As Rembrandt’s hometown, you’ll find Rembrandtpark in Leiden, which includes a statue and a mural commemorating the life and work of the great Dutch artist. It is a relaxing spot for a short stroll and is the perfect place to eat lunch or take in the views of the nearby windmill, Molen de Put. 

You’ll also find a few interesting museums in Leiden, including the National Museum of Antiquities, Naturalist Biodiversity Center, Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, and Museum of Ethnology.

The National Museum of Antiquities has an especially large collection of antiquities from Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome. It is well worth the visit if you’re a history buff. 

You’ll definitely want to add Leiden to your Netherlands itinerary

Leiden
Leiden. Photo: The Adventures of Panda Bear

THE HAGUE

Although it’s the third-largest city in the country, the Hague might not come to mind when thinking about beautiful places to visit in the Netherlands. But, in fact, it can be a wonderful day trip from Amsterdam.

First of all, the city is home to must-visit art museums like Mauritshuis, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, and Escher in Het Paleis.

It’s also where you’ll find unique museums like the Children’s Book Museum, Prison Gate Museum (Museum de Gevangenpoort), and my favorite – Madurodam – an impressive open-air miniature park.

In the Hague, you can also wander the streets of the city center and visit places like the old town hall, Peace Palace, and Noordeinde Palace.



BEST CITIES TO VISIT IN THE NETHERLANDS’ CENTRAL PROVINCES

AMERSFOORT

Thanks to a compact yet utterly enchanting historic city center, Amersfoort is a must-visit on a trip to the Netherlands.

Some of its highlights include the Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren (the third-tallest church tower in the Netherlands), Koppelpoort (a picturesque medieval watergate), St George’s Church, and Mondriaan House.

To enjoy Amersfoort’s true charm, take your time and roam its maze of streets, alleys, and canals, which will make you want to move there. Don’t miss out on the circular street of Muurhuizen, which is where the city walls used to stand.

Best cities in the Netherlands - Amersfoort
Amersfoort. Photo: Wanderlustingk

UTRECHT

By Nichola from Family Hotel Expert

The picturesque city of Utrecht is just a forty-minute drive south of Amsterdam, and here you will find an incredible selection of activities to entertain everyone.

Start at the Nijntje Museum (or Miffy Museum), which celebrates the work of illustrator Dick Bruna who created the bright and colorful rabbit Miffy, perfect if you’re on a family holiday to Holland.

Take a stroll along the canals and over the bridges of Utrecht to take in the city’s uniquely sedate way of life before climbing the Dom Tower in the heart of the old town (where you can get spectacular views of Utrecht’s historic architecture).

Seek out the Museum Speelklok, where ancient mechanical musical machines sit alongside Dutch street organs, before grabbing a pancake or two at De Muntkelder, one of the finest local pancake houses.

End your day with a peaceful pedalo ride along the canals for a unique view of this endearing city.

Utrecht
Utrecht. Photo: Family Hotel Expert


BEST CITIES IN THE NETHERLANDS TO VISIT IN ITS SOUTHERN PROVINCES

MAASTRICHT

By Daniela from Exploring the Netherlands

They call Maastricht “the pearl of the South,” and indeed, Maastricht is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands. It’s also a popular day-trip destination among the locals.

One of the most famous attractions in Maastricht is the Dominicanen Bookstore, located in a former Gothic church. For the best views of the city, climb the tower of St John’s Church.

Afterward, relax at one of the cafés on the famous Vrijthof Square. In the winter, the most magical Christmas market in the Netherlands takes place in this square, and in the summer, the world-famous conductor André Rieu and his orchestra are having performances.

Stroll along the cobbled streets and discover the small squares scattered around the old town. Take a look at the ramparts, and walk along the oldest bridge in the city – St Servatius Bridge. If you love modern art, visit the lovely Bonnefanten Museum.

Best cities in the Netherlands - Maastricht
Maastricht. Photo: Exploring the Netherlands

MIDDELBURG

Super scenic and rich in history, Middelburg has to be on your Netherlands bucket list.

It’s one of the oldest cities in the country and home to countless landmarks, including the Long John Abbey Tower, Town Hall, and Middelburg Abbey.

You’ll also fall in love with its picture-perfect old harbor, historic center packed with restaurants and shops, and weekly market, taking place on Thursdays.

On paper, it might seem similar to other cities in the Netherlands, but Middelburg has its own charm, and visiting it is a great way to explore the country off the beaten path.

Middelburg
Middelburg. Photo: With Love from Far Away

BREDA

Located in the province of North Brabant near the border with Belgium, Breda is one of the top cities in the Netherlands. From the city center’s bustling streets to museums to historical buildings, there’s plenty to do and see here.

Visit landmarks like the Breda Castle, Bouvigne Castle, and Great Church, explore the quirky Bierreclame Museum (Beer Advertising Museum), and have a cup of coffee or a beer at one of Breda’s many restaurants and cafes.

Located about half an hour by car and less than 45 minutes by public transport from Breda, you should also visit the incredible Efteling theme park. It’s where beloved fairytales come to life in the most majestic way, and even as an adult, I guarantee you’ll get excited like a kid!

EINDHOVEN

By Frans from Ask the Dutch Guy

Eindhoven is the fifth biggest city in the Netherlands. Besides the Philips Museum, which is one of the most renowned attractions in the city, it’s also a vibrant center of creative design.

There are a lot of museums and modern architecture worth seeing when you’re in this part of the Netherlands, and Eindhoven was even named as the world’s most innovative city by Forbes. 

Eindhoven is also a foodie paradise! There are many places to eat here, and you can find almost anything here, whether you fancy Dutch food or you’re looking for some Asian fusion. 

While you’re here, make sure you stop by at the Strijp-S, a former warehouse turned into a creative area filled with independent shops and quirky architecture to enjoy. Indeed, there’s something here for everyone, and you should definitely experience it!

Most beautiful cities in the Netherlands - Eindhoven
Eindhoven. Photo: Ask the Dutch Guy

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PRETTIEST TOWNS AND CITIES IN THE NETHERLANDS’ NORTHERN PROVINCES

LEEUWARDEN

By Lotte from Beste voor Kids

Leeuwarden is the capital of the province of Friesland, found in the north of the Netherlands. As the European Cultural Capital of 2018, it should come as no surprise that Leeuwarden has plenty to offer!  

The historic city center is very walkable, and there are several worthwhile attractions to be found here. Climb to the top of ‘de Oldehove,’ Leeuwarden’s very own tilted tower.

Families with young kids are advised to park their stroller at the bottom of the tower and carry their children up. While there is an elevator to the first floor, you’ll have to climb some stairs to get to the next level, which has the best views.  

Follow the Miniature People Route and discover little puppets hidden all around the city center. Or visit the Natural Museum of Fryslân where you can learn more about the history of the area and the surrounding nature.

Leeuwarden
Leeuwarden. Photo: With Love from Far Away

GRONINGEN

By Victoria from Guide Your Travel

Groningen is a mid-sized Dutch city located in the north of the Netherlands.

This is a popular student city with vibrant nightlife and plenty of things to do (and surprisingly, even some expats choose to live in Groningen). You should come here for beautiful architecture, a laid-back atmosphere, and great bars and restaurants.

Definitely stop by the Groninger Museum, which has an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures.

For an experience closer to nature, head to the Lauwersmeer National Park, which lies just outside the city. This is a beautiful spot to watch wildlife and enjoy hiking or bike rides.

You’ll also love the city’s many landmarks like the Aa-Kerk, the Groningen Synagogue, the Martinikerk, and the impressive Martinitoren.

You should spend at least a weekend in Groningen if not more to see all the important sights. Don’t forget to pack your camera!

Groningen
Groningen. Photo: Photo: With Love from Far Away


MOST BEAUTIFUL TOWNS AND CITIES IN THE NETHERLANDS’ EASTERN PROVINCES

NIJMEGEN

By Paulina from Paulina on the Road

The protected city of Nijmegen is the oldest in the Netherlands and will remind you of Roman times. It is a great place to visit as it is full of magnificent historic buildings and plazas that are centuries old.

Plus, it is the home to the country’s oldest shopping street, the Lange Hezelstraat. It also offers a bunch of things to do and see. 

Start with visiting the Museum De Bastei to discover the nature and the phenomenal history of the river region, from ice-age animals to water management. Followed by it, soak up centuries of historical stories at the Wijchen Castle.

Apart from the popular landmarks, the city also has exciting nightlife offers from cozy pubs to hip clubs. Don’t miss out on shopping for hemp clothing brands from the city’s oldest shopping streets. Surround yourself with lively parks, squares, and cafes.

ZWOLLE

By Dymphe from Dym Abroad

One of the best cities to see in the Netherlands is Zwolle. It is a wonderful place to visit with its historic center and the interesting buildings within it. Its houses have a beautiful architectural style, and the city’s history goes back almost 1200 years!

What’s also fun is that Zwolle is a smaller city that is not visited by many tourists. That means that you can better experience what local life in a Dutch city is like here.

There are some great things to do and see in the city, including the Grote Kerk, the Sassenpoort Gatehouse, and Museum de Fundatie. Besides that, Zwolle is home to many restaurants serving delicious food!

Zwolle
Zwolle. Photo: Dym Abroad

GIETHOORN

Also known as the Dutch Venice, Giethoorn is what dreams are made of. Seriously, I would pack my bags and move to this picture-perfect village if it hadn’t become such a popular touristic place.

Packed with adorable houses, narrow canals, and colorful boats, Giethoorn’s beauty is best enjoyed in spring and summer, but if you’re looking for tourist-free spots in the country, this is not it.

DEVENTER

By Cosette from KarsTravels

Deventer is an old city situated in the Northeastern of the Netherlands. Being one of the oldest cities in the country and one of the most important cities in the Hanseatic League, Deventer has a rich history.

You can discover it at Museum de Waag, a monumental building from the Middle Ages that now functions as a museum.

On a city walk, you can admire other historical buildings, like the oldest park (Worpplantsoen), the oldest stone house, and the oldest scientific library (the Athenaeumbibliotheek).

Other things you shouldn’t miss in Deventer are the Speelgoedmuseum Deventer (Toys museum) and a visit to the famous Deventer Koekwinkel, where they sell Deventer koek – a cookie made with a recipe from the Middle Ages.

When visiting in December, don’t miss the Dickens Festival, when Deventer turns into a village from a Dickens story.

Best cities to visit in the Netherlands - Deventer
Deventer. Photo: KarsTravels

STEENWIJK

By Frans from Badass2go

As a born citizen of Steenwijk, I know every ins and outs of the city. It lays down in the middle of the Weerribben National Park with the beautiful villages of Giethoorn and Kalenberg next door.

The biggest attractions in Steenwijk include the square market with all its restaurants and shops, the Hildo Krop Museum, and of course, our own Sint Clemens Church.

This church is 87 meters high, and you definitely need to climb this one because from up there, you have a superb view over Steenwijk and its surrounding. The entrance fee is €2,50.

An insider tip is to rent an electric scooter by Badass2go to explore the city and its surrounding. This electric scooter looks like a Harley Davidson, and riding a bike like this is an experience on its own.

Steenwijk
Steenwijk. Photo: Badass2go

ARNHEM

By Shobna from Just Go Places

Arnhem has to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Netherlands. Right when you come into the Arnhem train station directly from Amsterdam, you can admire the station itself, which is an award-winning architectural marvel.

Many sites in the town center are within walking distance. Make sure you see the Eusebius Church, which has recently been rebuilt after heavy bombing during WWII. There is a glass elevator that whisks you up to the top of the church tower, which has fabulous views over the surrounding countryside.

Much of the medieval town center was destroyed during WWII because the Allies launched an attack on the Nazi forces in this town. Called Operation Market Garden, the attack failed because the Nazis heavily defended the town since Arnhem is located at the border near Germany.

The story of Operation Market Garden is told in two war museums, including a small one near the John Frost Bridge, which was the primary objective of the attack.

Arnhem
Arnhem. Photo: Just go Places

MAP

Click here to access the My Maps interactive map that includes all of these places in the Netherlands.



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About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

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