Essential excursions for visitors to The Netherlands
Holland is tulips, windmills, cheese, dikes and the masterpieces of the golden age. We have a lot more to offer, but most tourists visit us to see Rembrandt, flowers, wooden shoes and windmills. Your Dutch visit is not complete without the following five sites:
1. Rembrandt's De nachtwacht (Night watch)
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam houses some of the greatest masterpieces of the Dutch golden age, including Rembrandt's Night watch and Jewish bride, Little street and The milk maid by Vermeer, and The feast of St. Nicholas and The merry family by Jan Steen.
2. The windmills at Kinderdijk
Holland is windmills. There are almost a thousand of them left, most of them in the provinces Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. When travelling through these three provinces, you will see windmills everywhere. Still, a visit to the group of nineteen windmills at Kinderdijk (a village just outside Rotterdam) will be one of the highlights of your Dutch visit. Kinderdijk is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1997.
3. Blooming tulip fields in April
The Keukenhof is a flower park with visitor centre in the heart of the so-called bollenstreek (bulb region), the region famous for its flower agriculture. In April, the blue, yellow, pink, purple and red fields with tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are a spectacular sight.
The Keukenhof is well worth a visit, but there is a better (and cheaper) way to enjoy the flowers: A bicycle trip through the bulb region. Rent a bicycle in Haarlem, then head south along the canal Haarlemse Trekvaart until Voorhout, than go north again via the villages Sassenheim, Lisse and Hillegom.
The flowers bloom around April.
4. The canals of Amsterdam
You can take canal cruises from several places in Amsterdam. There are many special cruises and other canal events - have a look at the offerings of companies like the Canal Company, Aemstelland or Kooij.
Most canals originated in the 17th century, the Dutch golden age. They were used for transport: Many canals are still lined with warehouses built in the golden age. The (daily) Amsterdam flower market is floating on one of the canals - a relic from the time goods (including flowers) were brought in by barges.
For more information see the Amsterdam heritage site.
The Binnenhof (litt. Inner court) is a court in the centre of The Hague, home to the Dutch parliament and the heart of Dutch democracy.
The Binnenhof is dominated by the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights). The Ridderzaal was once build as a palace for the mediaeval counts of Holland. Today, it is mainly used for representative functions, like the opening of the parliamentary year by the Queen, or the reception of foreign dignitaries.
Around the Binnenhof is a mix of ancient and modern buildings. Most of them are offices and meeting rooms used by parliament.
Just outside the Binnenhof is the Torentje (Little Tower), the office of the prime minister. His department is also housed at the Binnenhof.
The Binnenhof is (usually) open to the public, but as the area is in use by the parliament, the prime minister and sometimes the queen, it will occasionally be closed (sometimes without notice). Guided tours are available to some of the buildings, including the Ridderzaal.