Ferie i Nederland
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, The Netherlands in short, (Dutch: Nederland, also commonly called Holland in English, in reference to the provinces North-Holland and South-Holland) is a Benelux country and a founding member of the European Union. The Netherlands border Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. To the west, the country faces the North Sea and the United Kingdom. The people, language, and culture of the Netherlands are referred to as "Dutch".
The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. No matter where you go, you are never far away from civilization. Cities can be crowded especially in the Randstad area, where congestion is a serious problem. Much of the country is flat and at or below sea level making it an ideal place to cycle. Hills can only be found at the Veluwe and Southern Limburg. Much of countryside is dominated by highly industrialized farming - despite its population density, the Netherlands are one of the largest food exporters in the world. Though there are some beautiful spots scattered across the country, the tourist expecting a countryside full of picturesque villages, tulips and windmills may be in for a bit of a shock. The villages, tulips and windmills are there for sure, you just have to find them (for example, in the Waterland and Zaan Region). The most beautiful places are most of the times the places only known by the Dutch themselves. Asking a Dutch(wo)man for some ideas of what to see could be helpful. Otherwise just visit local 'tourist shops', known as the VVV, they can be found in all the larger towns.
The geography of the Netherlands is dominated by water features. The country is criss-crossed with rivers, canals and dikes, and the beach is never far away. The western coast of the Netherlands has one of the most beautiful North Sea beaches that can be found, attracting thousands if not millions of people every year, among them a lot of Germans as well.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, administratively divided into 12 provinces (provincies). Even though the Netherlands is a small country, these provinces are quite diverse and have plenty of cultural and linguistic differences. They can be divided in four regions:
Western Netherlands (Flevoland, North-Holland, South-Holland, Utrecht)
Commonly called the Randstad, this is the heart of the Netherlands with it's four biggest cities as well as the typical Dutch countryside.
Northern Netherlands (Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen, West Frisian Islands)
The least densely populated area, mostly unexplored.
Eastern Netherlands (Gelderland, Overijssel)
Historic cities and forests to go about.
Southern Netherlands (Limburg, North-Brabant, Zeeland)
Divided from the rest by its Catholic history.
The Netherlands has many cities and towns of interest to travelers. Below are nine of the most notable ones:
Amsterdam — traveller magnet due to its impressive architecture, lovely canals (grachten), museums and liberal attitudes.
Delft — historic unspoiled town with the world famous blue and white ceramics.
Groningen — student city with a relaxed atmosphere and nightlife till the sun gets up.
The Hague (Den Haag) — seat of government, royal family, judicial capital of the world and Madurodam.
Leiden — historic student city with the country's oldest university and three national museums.
Maastricht — fortified medieval city showing the different culture, style and architecture of the south.
Nijmegen — oldest city of the country, known for its forest marches, left-wing politics and large student population.
Rotterdam — modern architecture, good nightlife and the largest port of Europe.
Utrecht — historic center, nice antique stores and the Rietveld-Schröder House.
These are some interesting destinations outside of the major cities.
De Biesbosch National Park — one of the last freshwater tide areas in Europe.
Efteling — renowned theme park with fairytale elements like elves and dwarves.
Hoge Veluwe National Park — largest national park with heathlands, sand dunes and woodlands.
Keukenhof — millions of tourists visit these enormous flower fields each Spring.
Kinderdijk — these windmills show the typical Dutch landscape in all its glory.
Schokland — old island evacuated in 1859, a well-preserved ghost village remains.
Texel — largest island suited for cycling, walking, swimming and horse riding.
Waterland and Zaan Region — typical Dutch countryside villages with polders, clogs and windmills.
Zaanse Schans — popular well-preserved historic windmills and houses.
Amsterdam's canals and traditional architecture.
Windmills, such as Kinderdijk and Schiedam.
Picturesque countryside villages, such as Broek-in-Waterland, Marken and others in the Waterland and Zaan Region.
Flower fields in the Bulb Region, such as the Keukenhof.
Delta Works in the province of Zeeland and South-Holland.
A wide range of accommodation is available, concentrated on the major tourist destinations. They include regions popular for internal tourism, such as the Veluwe. In non-touristed areas, accommodation may be very limited.
Vacation rental homes are popular in The Netherlands, and many Dutch city dwellers own a home in the country side (even though that country side is often only an hour or less from big cities). Traversia has the largest collection of vacation rentals in The Netherlands, by Dutch owners.
The hackneyed phrase "They all speak English there" is in fact pretty accurate for the Netherlands. Education from an early age in English and other European languages (mostly German and French) makes the Dutch some of the most fluent polyglots on the continent. Oblivious travelers to the major cities should be able to make their way without learning a word of Dutch. Dealing with seniors, however - or finding yourself in a family atmosphere - will probably require learning a bit of the native tongue.