Welcome to the Netherlands!
Mitsuki's tips to prepare for your trip!
The Netherlands or "Holland" as we Dutch people more commonly refer to, is a country on the west side of Europe, bordering Germany and Belgium on the east and south side. Located west of the Netherlands is the United Kingdom. Amsterdam is the nation's capital, though the parliament is seated in the Hague.
As of 2010, about 16,5 million people inhabit this small country (roughly 42.000km2). The Netherlands is also one of the more densely populated countries in Europe.
About 20% of the Netherlands is located below sea level and another 50% is less than 1 meter higher than sea level. Because of this, and a major flood in 1952, dikes and polders have been built to help keep the water away from mainland.
Best times to visit!
The Netherlands has four seasons, like every country, but it can feel like we've only got winter and summer here. The Netherlands is widely known for its rainy days and we've got a lot of them. Summer time (and usually the best time to visit) starts around the end of april/beginning of may, when temperatures start rising. Summer time usually ends around september, when temperatures start to drop drastically.
Ideally the best time to visit The Netherlands would be from May to August. Temperates are good around these months and you can sit outside and bask in sunlight while looking over a small canal and watching the boats pass by.
DATE DUTCH NAME ENGLISH NAME
2 Apr Goede vrijdag Good Friday
5 Apr Tweede Paasdag Easter Monday
30 Apr Koninginnedag Queen’s Day
13 May Hemelvaartsdag Ascension Day
24 May Tweede Pinksterdag Whit Monday
25 Dec * Eerste Kerstdag Christmas Day
26 Dec * Tweede Kerstdag Boxing Day
Other special days in 2010 are:
DATE DUTCH NAME ENGLISH NAME
01 Jan * Nieuwjaar New Year
14 Feb Carnaval Carnival
14 Feb * Valentijnsdag Valentine’s Day
08 Mar * Vrouwendag Women’s Day
01 May * Dag van de arbeid Labour Day
04 May * Dodenherdenking 1945 War Dead Remembrance
05 May * Nationale Bevrijdingsdag Liberation Day
09 May Moederdag Mother’s Day
20 Jun Vaderdag Father’s Day
15 Aug * Einde Tweede wereldoorlog Armistice Day WW2
21 Sep Prinsjesdag Princes’ Day
04 Oct * Wereld dierendag World Animal Day
11 Nov * Sintmaarten St Martin’s Day
05 Dec * Sinterklaas St Stephen’s Day
15 Dec * Koninkrijksdag Kingdom Day
TRAIN: If you're going outside Amsterdam, the train is the way to go. All trainways reach the major cities and unless you're going to a really small town in Frisia, you won't need to transfer to any buses to get to your destination. Buying train tickets is very easy-- there's a machine at every station where you simply select your destination, pay, receive your ticket and board your train. Inside the train your ticket will be checked. You can buy one-way tickets, retour cards and even day passes at every NS (National Station) in the Netherlands.
To be adviced though: when leaving for the airport to catch your flight back home, please go with a lot of time to spare. The Netherlands' railways are good, but sometimes delayed. Even more so in winter, where, due to heavy storms, trees often drop onto the tracks.
BUSES: Bus connection throughout the Netherlands is good, but I would recommend using the train more if you're planning to go outside of the city. Every city has their own networks (Amsterdam has GVB, the Hague has HTM), but since the OV Chipcard has launched, most major cities accept those as a primary transportation card. When traveling inside the city, the buses (and trams) are often the best choice for transportation.
TRAMS: Yes we've got trams! In Amsterdam and the Hague (Rotterdam and some other cities as well) trams are another primary transportation to get around the city. In Amsterdam, lines 1, 2, 5 & 17 stop along the major sights, such as the flower market, Dam Square, Leidsesquare etc. You can buy day passes for these trams, or even 48 hours or 72 hour cards for a good price.
SUBWAYS: Subways are a good way of getting to one place if you have to be on the other side of town quickly. While the buses and trams usually require some transfers, subways usually take you to your destination in a direct line or one transfer. The OV Chipcard is also valid here and even required when entering the subway station.
Note: The Netherlands is also known to be a very bicycle friendly country. Amsterdam alone has a population of about 750.000 (1mil. if you count the small towns around it) and there are about 2 mil. bikes to be found around the city (whether they're stolen, bought as an extra or just forgotton, nobody knows!) A large number of people commute on a daily base per bike, so it's not unusual to see a man in a suit riding his bike around 8am. You can rent a bike in a lot of shops in the Netherlands. For some more information and rates on renting bikes, you can go to: http://www.rentabike.nl/
Holland has a wide range of housing options-- Youth Hostels and cheap hotels seem to be the most popular choices. There's also the chance to stay at a pension, or just to camp outside (a risingly popular and cheap option!). There are a lot of B&Bs in the major cities as well as the smaller ones.
For lodging inquiries, I'd reccommend to go to the Tourist Office (VVV) which is located in every city to see what fits your budget and your liking best!
The Euro is the local currency of the Netherlands. Though interest rates are fluctuating rather severely right now, it's usually a very stable currency. Though the Netherlands (Amsterdam as well) might be quite pricy sometimes, it pays off to look for the cheaper bargains.
For a breakfast in a medium class restaurant or bar, you would be able to eat to your hearts content for about 10 euros. When doing this cheap (a sandwich or so) it could be 4 euros. Same goes for lunch and for dinner, well, everything goes. When visiting the popular Chinese restaurant Nam Kee (famous because of a Dutch movie) you could be eating for 15 euros p.p. When eating pancakes, you could have a gigantic pancake and a drink for as little as 10 euros.
Though credit cards are accepted at a lot of places, it's usually Mastercard and/or Visa only. American Express isn't usually accepted. When withdrawing money, if you get a 100 or even 200 euro bill, try to get to an exchange office or a bank and change it for smaller bills (50 or lower) since 99,9% of the stores out there do not accept these bills.
PLACES TO VISIT
Amsterdam - Capital city, historic little houses, canals, flower markets, tons of museums and lots more.
Volendam - A very traditional town north of Amsterdam where you can travel back in time and see what the Netherlands used to look like.
Haarlem: A short train ride from Amsterdam; Haarlem makes a good day trip for those tired of the city. Haarlem's city center is an architectural delight and the city's museums are worth a look. Be sure to visit the impressive St. Bavo's Cathedral and its famous Muller organ, played by Mozart and Handel.
Delft is one of the best-preserved, "historic" towns in the Netherlands. It is known for its canals, walkways, and Delft Pottery. Most visitors spend time at the Koninlijke Porceleyne Fles (the Royal Dutch Delftware Factory).The Markt features many shops selling pottery of various quality (beware of imitations) and a number of good restaurants.
See both the Oude Kerk (Old Church) and Nieuwe Kerk (with the tomb of William of Orange). The city's best museum is the Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenof (Municipal Museum Het Prinsenof) that features a fine collection of Dutch decorative arts.
You will also find a Vermeer Trail, named after the famous artist who was born and painted in Delft
A historic university town, Leiden has an attractive "Old Town" that hugs its main canal and a number of small but interesting museums. Leiden is, also, the birthplace of the famous artist Rembrandt. If you have time, take a boat trip on Leiden's scenic canals.
If you are in The Netherlands at the time of the Spring Bulb Festival at Keukenhof , you may want to use Leiden as your base. The Keukenhof, billed as the most beautiful spring garden in the world, is open for touring only from mid-March through mid-May. In 2011, Keukenhof season runs from March 24th to May 20th.
One of Europe's major ports, Rotterdam is a working city that has been rebuilt since the devastation of World War II. The boat tour of the harbor is popular but the real draw is the Netherlands' best art museum, the Boymans van Beuningen Museum, in the Museumpark section of the city.
he Hague has a scenic core with a well-preserved history. The city has a slower pulse than Amsterdam and its gentrified neighborhoods make for great touring. Den Haag (The Hague) is "Royal" Netherlands as the royal family lives here. In addition, The Hague is the center for government and diplomacy in the Netherlands. ;
The Hague has several interesting museums, including the Municipal Museum of the Hague, which features a significant collection of painting by Piet Mondrian.
The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery is housed in a beautiful building that contains paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Masters.
A notable place in history, Utrecht has a pleasant "Old Town", fine canals, good restaurants and interesting antique stores. Be sure to see the Domkerk featuring the highest and oldest church tower in the country. The Dom Tower was built in the 14th century and you can climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city
If you are a fan of the Modern Movement in architecture, Utrecht provides the Rietveld- Schröderhus, designed by Gerrit Rietveld who also designed the furniture for the house. In addition, the Central Museum in Utrecht has the world's largest collection of Rietveld, along with a fine collection of painting from the Caravaggists (known as the Utrecht Masters) from the 16th and 17th century.
Maastricht's importance has grown since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 that laid the groundwork for the adoption of the Euro. If you are driving south through The Netherlands, this fortified medieval town is a pleasant stop; however, unless you are in the area, there is little reason to place Maastricht on your itinerary.
Maastricht's Old Town is a great place to take-in this city. Visit the Bonnefantenm Museum (for painting by the Dutch Masters) and the St. Pietersberg Caves (take a sweater) that underlay the city.
Next, visit Fort St. Pieter and the town's casemates to see how historical Maastricht gained the reputation as a regional stronghold.
The local V V V tourist office provides tours of all the attractions mentioned