The Netherlands is one of the most urbanised and densely populated countries on the planet with a huge range of great places to visit in a relatively compact area.
Known for its flat landscape, canals, tulip fields, windmills and a love of cycling, the Netherlands is also home to some of the most striking coastline in Northern Europe. For such a small country the Netherlands boasts impressive cultural prowess, laying claim to the likes of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Mondrian, amongst others.
The vibrant capital Amsterdam, renowned for its network of canals, beautiful architecture, bustling markets and hazy coffee shops, is a hugely popular European city attracting millions of tourists every year. Other places as historic as Amsterdam with a similar feel, but are smaller in size, include Edam, Haarlem, Delft, Deventer and Leiden which have changed little over the centuries.
Towards the south is the industrial port city of Rotterdam which has benefited from a complete makeover in recent years. As you head back towards the coast, the Netherlands becomes more stereotypically Dutch, with traditional windmills interspersing the colourful fields of tulips.
The North Sea beaches of Zeeland stretch for almost 650km and some great coastal cycling trails can be found here. Zeeland also receives more sunshine than anywhere else in the Netherlands.
Passport & Visas
Citizens of the EU/EEA, including the UK and Ireland, as well as citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US do not need a visa in order to enter the Netherlands if they are staying for ninety days or less.
Residents from other nations will need to check visa requirements with their home countries Dutch embassy.
For stays in the Netherlands that are longer than 90 days, EU/EEA citizens shouldn’t encounter any problems.
When to go…
Mid Season: Apr & May, Sept & Oct
Is a good time of year to visit the capital Amsterdam as there are less crowds and most attractions remain open. The weather is changeable and could be sunny one day and raining the next so bring some warm clothes. Accommodation is usually cheaper than in high season.
Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, is by far the largest international airport in the country and one of the biggest in Europe with flights landing here from most places in the world.
Some budget Airlines also fly to the Netherlands with the likes of Jet2 and Easyjet serving Schiphol from other spots in Europe. Flying to and from the UK can be especially cheap however one should take into account additional baggage fee’s and Airport taxes.
Other international airports include Rotterdam – The Hague Airport, Maastricht/Aachen Airport, Eindhoven Airport and Groningen – Eeide Airport. These smaller airports are mainly served by regional flights and low cost airlines.
Linked with all of its European neighbours by high speed rail, traveling by train is a comfortable and easy way to reach the Netherlands from elsewhere on the continent.
London St Pancras Station is connected to the Netherlands by the Eurostar high speed train.
The Netherlands is connected to France and Belgium by the Thalys high seed train and although tickets can sometimes be on the expensive side, if you book a return in advance or are under 26 you can find good deals.
The German ICE high speed trains run from Frankfurt to Amsterdam via Cologne, Dusseldorf, Arnhem and Utrecht. Intercity trains also connect Berlin and Hannover to Amsterdam Central and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
Euronight and CityNightLine trains also provide direct overnight connections between Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Prague, Warsaw and Moscow.
By Ferry / Boat
There are three ferry services which connect the UK and the Netherlands:
Stena Line from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.
DFDS Seaways from Newcastle upon Tyne to Ijmuiden (situated on the outskirts of Amsterdam).
P&O Ferries from Kingston upon Hull to Rotterdam Europoort.
More information, including timetables and ticket prices is available at AFerry.co.uk
The Dutchflyer combination is also an option and includes a train ticket to Harwich from anywhere on the Great Anglia network (includes London and Norwich), your ferry ticket to the Hook of Holland and a train ticket from here to anywhere on the NS Dutch Railway network.
Key Routes / Getting Around…
The Netherlands has a well organised, far reaching public transport system. Almost any village can be reached by some kind of public transport. The train network is at the heart of the Dutch public transport system, extended with a network of local and regional bus services.
Travelling all the way from the north of the country (Groningen) to the south (Maastricht) by train takes around 4.5 hours.
Amsterdam’s tram network is well known and trams are also present in Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht. Amsterdam and Rotterdam also have a metro network.
Peddle power is one of the most popular forms of transport in the Netherlands so do remember to watch out for cyclists when walking around the bigger cities and keep clear of the dedicated bike lanes.
The website 9292.nl is very useful and features the OV Reisplanner – a journey planner that covers the entire Dutch public transport network.
Find out more about transport in the Netherlands, including various ticket types, costs and booking information, here.