If you had to throw out some words about The Netherlands, you would probably say things like: tulips, bikes, windmills and cheese. If you ask the Dutch, you would most likely get a very different response. When I asked my husband (who happens to be Dutch) what there was to do in The Netherlands, none of these things were on his list. In fact, he had not done the majority of these things before I came along. However, I’d say they are quintessentially Dutch for the first-time visitor.
Check out these touristy, but fun things to do in The Netherlands:
GO SEE WINDMILLS
This is one of my favorite things to do in The Netherlands and it drives my husband crazy. Windmills are everywhere and Dutch people are so used to seeing them that they don’t think there’s anything special about them. To me, they are super cute and picturesque, so I love getting out to see them. There are two places you can go to that have several windmills to see. Otherwise, you can drive around most towns and find them somewhere along the way.
Zaans Schans is located just outside Amsterdam and is the more touristy of the two. The windmills and houses were actually relocated here to recreate the look of an old village. There are walking paths with little bridges, shops to go into and giant wooden shoes you can take pictures with.
Kinderdijk is another place with lots of windmills, though very different from Zaans Schans. This place is more of a park and has many walking trails and bike paths that go around the windmills. It’s a great place to relax, walk around and enjoy the outdoors.
VISIT THE CHEESE MARKET IN GOUDA
This might blow your mind, but Gouda is actually pronounced “HOW-da”. And now that you know that, you’ll never be able to look at that word the same. At least I haven’t been able to. Gouda is a city in South Holland known for its Gouda cheese and seasonal cheese market. It takes place every Thursday morning from April to August. The town itself is very cute and the market has reenactments of cheese trading and picture ops with cheese wheels.
WALK AMONG THE TULIPS AT KEUKENHOF
This is always a big draw for tourists because many people have seen the photos of never ending tulip fields. Those tulip fields were most likely the ones at Keukenhof. This place has been on my bucket list for awhile and my trip finally coincided with Keukenhof’s opening. HOWEVER, just because Keukenhof is open, doesn’t mean the flowers are in bloom. We were devastatingly 1 week too early to see the tulip fields in bloom. They did have other flowers that were in bloom but…it wasn’t great. Obviously the huge draw is the endless tulips, but it is hard to time a visit just right!
TAKE A PICTURE AT THE IAMsterdam SIGN
Surprise! There are actually TWO IAMsterdam signs in the city. One is just outside Schiphol Airport and the other is in front of the Rijksmuseum. I’d say the one at the Rijksmuseum is definitely more popular because the museum is an incredible building and makes for a great background. In the winter, they also have an ice rink right in front of this sign.
DRINK DUTCH BEER AT THE HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE
First of all, (to my husband’s major disappointment), I did not even know that Heineken is a Dutch beer. I have been reminded quite often since learning that, lest I forget. It is a very important piece of information to know before going to The Netherlands: Heineken is DUTCH people. Now, there are brewery tours and then there’s the Heineken Experience. It is one of the coolest beer tours because everything is interactive. There were things projected on the floor that moved when you walked on them, tables that had digital beer coasters appear when you set your glass down, plus really cool photo ops and games. You get two free beers at the end and another beer at the star bars where there’s an opportunity to win more beers if you can answer some questions about being Dutch (a little unfair bringing a Dutchman along, but make sure you know the Dutch word for ‘cheers’: prost!)
TAKE A BOAT RIDE THROUGH THE CANALS
A boat ride through the canals can definitely be a little touristy. Luckily, we didn’t have to jump on one of the designated tourist boats, but instead got asked out on the water by one of my husband’s friends. We had a gorgeous day and Amsterdam by boat is a really fun thing to do, especially if you can bring your own drinks and get off wherever you like! Either way, getting on a boat gives you a different view of the city and a relaxing break from walking everywhere (bike at your own risk. Actually, walk at your own risk too).
Though some of these things were definitely touristy, I had fun doing them all!