Last year, Lonely Planet placed Rotterdam in their top 10 cities to visit in 2016. The Lonely Planet has lost it. I’m not sure what they were smoking or got paid to give Rotterdam such a high ranking, but I want some of it. Rotterdam is boring, bland, run-of-the-mill, too damn sober (NOT in the literal sense), with the occasional noteworthy, sometimes even great, scene or sight. In other words, it’s exactly like the Netherlands.
I’m not overly fond of my home country, but then again, I’m not exactly the patriotic type (why do you think I prefer to travel around?). There are plenty of things I appreciate about the Netherlands; the cheese, the beer, the national football team (despite their disgrace of not making it to the EC this year), Dutch athletes in general. But when it comes to that flat-as-a-pancake country as a place to visit? Sorry, Holland. It’s not me, it’s you.
Actually, it could be me; I’ve lived here all my life, my perspective on this place has been warped in too many ways. Though I could argue it makes me an expert. Calling it as I see it. Hey, I’m also a critic when I’m not in transit. Still, I suppose I should do a little representing.
What, where, how, when
Should you find yourself in the land of cows and tulips, but are uncertain on where to go, there are various directions you could travel in, depending on your tastes and preferences. Are cities and culture your things? Head west. Prefer forests? East is the place to be. Rather spend time in the hills? Travel down south. Or, just visit all of it. The Netherlands isn’t that big a country. Transportation could be a problem though; buses have terrible connections, taxis are expensive, and our railroad system is a national joke. I’m not sure how expensive renting a car is down here (my guess: very), but it offers the most freedom without sacrificing speed. The Netherlands doesn’t exactly offer the most scenic routes, but our roads are A-Oh-Kay. Whatever you do, don’t head north. It’s not worth it. Sorry Groningen, Friesland, but it’s definitely you.
If you do head north, make sure you head north all the way and visit the dutch Wadden islands. Used to hate them, learned to appreciate them. The only one I’m familiar with however, is Terschelling. Despite it being a very Dutch island, and lacking the more tropical climate, it still has that relaxing island atmosphere. Things all seem to be slower, easier going down there. Of course, normally you’d want to visit an island when the weather is at least decent, and decent weather is a rare thing in the Netherlands. Be sure to visit the island(s) during the off season; during holidays the islands are packed with loud, noisy, drunk and horny teens. I’m drunk and horny all the time. But I don’t have to ruin an island for it. Must be the teen part.
Don’t want to visit islands but still enjoy beaches? You’ve come to the wrong country (many Germans disagree with me on this one). The Netherlands certainly has beaches but none of them truly interesting. If you’re looking for a hip beach, try the one at Scheveningen, The Hague. For a more quieter one, try Noordwijk.
If you plan to go city tripping, or get a general taste of dutch culture, stay in the west. As mentioned, Ignore Rotterdam, regardless of what Lonely Planet says. Rotterdam isn’t terrible, but all the supposed greats aren’t great at all. The architecture? Ugly or boring. Usually both. The harbor? I prefer the one in Ijmuiden. I get it, you can’t always have the same ten cities in your top ten, but Rotterdam probably wouldn’t even make it in the top ten dutch cities.
Amsterdam, our most famous city, is definitely worth a visit. It can be a smelly place, and it certainly is overrated, but it’s interesting. If you’re looking for slightly less hectic, try Utrecht. It’s a bit of a student-city, though, whatever that means. Thanks to it’s central location in the country and the large train station, it’s one of the easiest cities to visit.
I’ve heard the town of Volendam is really fun to visit. Due to it giving birth to musical monstrosities such as Jan Smit, and Nick & Simon, I have never bothered visiting it. Some crimes just can’t be forgiven.
Arguably, the most beautiful landscapes of the country can be found in Limburg, the very southern part (it’s probably between this part, and The Veluwe, in the east). Squashed in between Belgium and Germany, Limburg can have a bit of a un-Dutch look to it. It’s genuinely a great place to visit. If you’re uncertain where to be in Limburg, just go to Maastricht, and find your way from there. I’d like to point out however, that the tripoint (at Vaalserberg) there is boring.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that, that’s about it.
The Netherlands has a bit of everything. But almost none of it is outstanding. “Acting normal is crazy enough” is how a dutch saying goes. A saying shaped much of the country in terms of culture and architecture. That saying goes right out the window however when there’s a big event (read: party) or football tournament. Then we go insane. Even the people who weren’t born then remember it when the Dutch won the Euro Cup in ’88. it’s not that the Netherlands is boring, it’s just… bland. The country is as flat as a pancake, they say. And there’s nothing remotely special about a pancake. That doesn’t mean pancakes can’t be tasty, however. With the right stuff on top of it, they can even be amazing. Sort of. Would I recommend it? No. I wouldn’t recommend the Netherlands, either. But should decide to stay here for a week, (I wouldn’t stay here for more than two weeks, tops) there’s plenty to see and do to have yourself a great time. Be sure to visit one of our pancake houses if you do.
- Traveling with public transport requires an OV chip-card, these can be purchased at train- and bus stations, and various shops. Each traveler will need his or her own card.
- Want to see the nation at it’s most orange? Visit it during king’s day (April 27th).
- Don’t speak the language? No worries, (bad) English should be enough to communicate.
- We do have silly accents.
- Weather in the Netherlands can be somewhat unpredictable. Take a rain coat or something with you, should you visit.