When visiting The Netherlands, most people head straight for Amsterdam… and with good reason too. There’s always something to do in such a big city – endless shopping, little cafes, coffee shops, the red light district, museums and churches – so it’s easy to forget about the surrounding quaint little Dutch towns.
On my six month study exchange to The Netherlands, day trips to little unheard of cities became a norm. We would find a map at the train station, pick a random town that we had never heard of and venture forth.
Here are ten little Dutch towns worth a visit on your next trip to The Netherlands.
Arnhem forms the capital of the Gelderland Province and is a pretty large Dutch city located east of The Netherlands. There are tons of things to see here: Burgers Zoo, The Openlucht Museum which features many Dutch traditions and customs, The Airborne Museum which is dedicated to the battle of Arnhem, the Wine and Water Museums as well as Saturday and Wednesday markets near the Eusebius Church.
The quaint town of Deventer is located in the Dutch province of Overijssel. Lying mostly on the bank of the Ijssel River, this is a gorgeous place with beautiful squares and old museums. Be sure to stop by for the Charles Dickens festival which runs annually in December when the entire town is transformed into a 19th century novel. Over 950 Dickens characters wander the city – you’ll see vagabonds and thieves, elegant ladies and gentleman with top hats, you’ll smell roasted chestnuts and see Christmas carol singers wander around the streets. It’s purely magical!
Amersfoort, also known as the Holland of yesteryear is located a few km’s from Utrecht, on the banks of the river Eem. Walking down the streets, it will seem as if you’ve been transformed into a little medieval city with beautiful canals, historical monuments and maze of narrow streets and little alleyways.
Located about 80 kilometers east of Amsterdam, Apeldoorn is a little city in the Gelderland province with a population of approximately 150 000 people. It’s perfect for a day trip to wander through picturesque little parks and through old churches. It is also well known for the Palace of Het Loo, which was built in the 17th century and formed the home to William the 3rd, King of England.
More commonly known as Den Bosch and located south, this is one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands. It is named after Henry I – The Duke of Brabant and also forms the capital of the province North Brabant. The name ‘s-Hertogenbosch literally translates to ‘The Dukes Forest’ although it’s more affectionate name translates to ‘The Forest’. The beauty of this city, as with many smaller Dutch cities is that everything is reachable by foot. There are sidewalks everywhere and you will find that most places in the city center are pedestrian only.
Another quaint city with a population of approximately 71 000; Gouda is named after the Van der Goude family who built a castle on the Gouwe River in the 11th century. Despite being well known worldwide for its delicious gouda cheese, there is so much more on offer here – beautiful historic city centers, monumental buildings, ancient canals and attractive terraces. Visit the Gouda cheese market and learn about the history of Gouda cheese or wander around the historic Sint Janskerk and admire the beautiful stained glass windows. If you’re visiting over the festive season, don’t miss the ‘Gouda by Candlelight’ Christmas festival held in mid-December where Christmas trees are lit in the market place, carols are sung and the windows of the Old City Hall and surrounding houses are lit by candles. Beautiful!
One of the most picturesque and peaceful places in The Netherlands, Kinderdijk is a little village belonging to the municipality of Molenwaard, South Holland. Here you will find some of the oldest windmills still present in the Netherlands which have become one of the most photographed Dutch tourist sites. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
You can’t visit The Netherlands without stopping over at Delft and buying some gorgeous Delft blue pottery. It is also the city where the famous painter Johannes Vermeer (known for his painting entitled Girl with a Pearl Earring) and scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek was born. Be sure to stop by the Vermeer Centrum Delft Museum which is an information center dedicated to the life and work of Vermeer.
Located near The Vaal River and being approximately 2000 years old, Nijmegen forms the oldest city in the Netherlands. Primarily a student town, this city has an active international population and is always buzzing with things to do. If you’re in need for some peace and quiet wander around beautiful parks, meandering dykes and stunning woodlands. It’s also my favorite city because I spent six months here back in 2011 and absolutely loved every minute of it.
Another beautiful city located south of Holland and on the River Meuse, Maastricht forms the capital of the Limburg Province and is surrounded by Belgium and Germany. If you’re looking for a city with different architecture, thousand year old basilicas and Michelin star restaurants, then this is the place to visit.
One of the liveliest cities around, Utrecht was built around the Dom Tower which is currently visible from any point in the city. Wander around beautiful canals, historical monuments and tons of arts and culture. And… if you’re lucky… you’ll find an amazing little Lindt chocolate shop in the heart of the inner city.
Venlo is a city in the south eastern Netherlands, near the German border. It is situated in the province of Limburg and is more commonly known as a center for industries and trade. Despite this, it still has several hiking routes, a busy shopping district with many major chain stores and beautiful historical Romerhuis with a delightful little chocolate shop.