Netherlands- When most people think of the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam with its famous red lights and “coffee” shops. (And probably tulips, too.) But there is much more to the country than those three things. The Netherlands is a country filled with historic brick filled and cobblestone lane cities, an interconnected canals, beautiful and vast farmland, iconic windmills, and even some pleasant beaches. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world. Most travelers come to the Netherlands and only party in Amsterdam for a few days, but by doing so, they miss much of what the country has to offer. Spend time exploring get out of the cities and you’ll discover the country that keeps us coming back every year. The Netherlands, a country in northwestern Europe, is known for a flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII. Canalside mansions and a trove of works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the city's 17th-century "Golden Age."
Belgium- a small nation with a big role to play in European life and world history. If you are interested in either of the world wars, Belgium has a million sites to keep you busy during your visit. If you want to learn about government, it’s the home to the European Union. But what most travelers come for is the beer, chocolate, and fries. There are over 1,000 breweries in this little country and Belgium brewers were some of the first to perfect beer brewing. Belgium’s chocolate rivals the Swiss, and the frites will make you look at French fries differently for the rest of your life. This country usually just gets glossed over as travelers – a day in Brussels, Bruges, and maybe a trip to Ghent – and then onward, but when you look deeper, you see this country has a great many medieval towns, historical sites, and parks worth sticking around for. Belgium, a country in Western Europe, is known for medieval towns, Renaissance architecture and as headquarters of the European Union and NATO. The country has distinctive regions including Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north, French-speaking Wallonia to the south and a German-speaking community to the east. The bilingual capital, Brussels, has ornate guildhalls at Grand-Place and elegant art-nouveau buildings.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the Schengen countries. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the respective consulate or through their respective website. When traveling to multiple Schengen countries it is best to apply in the country of the first entry or the country you will stay the most. Netherlands & Belgium are part of the 26 Schengen State Countries.
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options. Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette, and how shoppers can take advantage of VAT refunds.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things do & see:
Amsterdam-The capital and center of tourism in the country, Amsterdam is as beautiful and serene as it is crazy. There’s the famous canals, beautiful and historic houses, tons of parks, museums, foodie scene, art, coffee shops, and, of course, the infamous red light district. Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the city’s 17th-century Golden Age. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are numerous bike paths.
Rotterdam-is one of the busiest shipping ports in all of the world. It may not get all the attention Amsterdam does but this city is a great place to go if you want good shops, great architecture (though most of the old building were bombed in WW2), and a chance to learn about the famous harbor locks.
Leiden-Head to this small town and see where the Pilgrims lived before they left for America. It’s a very historic city and filled with beautiful 17th-century buildings and parks. There’s a small museum in the city that has sporadic opening hours but if you’re nice, usually the owners let you roam through even if it’s closed.
Hague-is a hub of international life as it’s a center of European justice. You can see the Queen’s office here and visit the old castle and palace. The Hague is also located right on the beach, so lounging on the sand and strolling the boardwalk are popular summer activities. The Hague is a city on the North Sea coast of the western Netherlands. Its Gothic-style Binnenhof (or Inner Court) complex is the seat of the Dutch parliament, and 16th-century Noordeinde Palace is the king’s workplace. The city is also home to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, headquartered in the Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court.
Maastricht- a university city on the southern tip of the Netherlands, is distinguished by its medieval-era architecture and vibrant cultural scene. In its cobbled old town, is the Gothic-style church Sint Janskerk, and the Romanesque Basilica of St. Servatius houses a significant collection of religious art. On the banks of the Maas River, bisecting the city, lies futuristic-looking Bonnefanten art museum. One of the southernmost towns in the Netherlands, this city is famous for having the country’s only “mountain.” It’s really more of a hill though and doesn’t take long to climb.
Utrecht- is a city in the Netherlands, known for its medieval center. It has tree-lined canals, Christian monuments and a venerable university. The iconic Domtoren, a 14th-century bell tower with city views, stands opposite the Gothic Cathedral of St. Martin on central Domplein square. The Museum Catharijneconvent shows religious art and artifacts in a former monastery.
Eindhoven- is a city in the province of North Brabant in the south Netherlands. Known as a technology and design hub, it’s the birthplace of Philips electronics, which built the Philips Stadium, home to the PSV soccer team. The Philips Museum traces the company's design history. Nearby, the Van Abbemuseum focuses on art and design. Northwest, the former industrial complex Strijp-S houses design shops and restaurants.
Delft- a canal-ringed city in the western Netherlands, is known as the manufacturing base for Delftware, hand-painted blue-and-white pottery. In its old town, the medieval Oude Kerk is the burial site of native son and Dutch Master painter Johannes Vermeer. Once the seat of the royal House of Orange, the 15th-century Nieuwe Kerk houses the family's tombs and overlooks Delft's lively market square.
Haarlem-Take a stroll through the old & historic, upper-class homes of the rich and famous and visit the old homes of the merchant class that helped build the city. This city is a short bike or train ride from Amsterdam. There’s not much to do here but the town center has a good market, the central church is phenomenal and awe-inspiring, and it’s a low-key alternative to the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.
Groningen- is a city in the northern Netherlands. Its central Grote Markt square is home to the centuries-old Martinitoren clock tower. The adjoining Martinikerk is a large Gothic church with frescoes and a baroque organ. Set on a canal, the futuristic Groninger Museum showcases modern and contemporary art, plus ceramics. The Northern Maritime Museum traces the history of shipbuilding and shipping in the region.
Arnhem- is a city and municipality situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of Gelderland and located on both banks of the rivers Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek, which was the source of the city's development.
Alkmaar- is a city and municipality in the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland. Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market. For tourists, it is a popular cultural destination.
Almere- is a planned city and municipality in the province of Flevoland, Netherlands, bordering Lelystad and Zeewolde. The municipality of Almere comprises six official areas that are the districts of Almere Stad, Almere Buiten and Almere Pampus, and the boroughs of Almere Haven, Almere Hout and Almere Poort.
Gouda- is a Dutch city south of Amsterdam in the province of South Holland. It’s known for its namesake cheese and seasonal cheese market, regularly held on the medieval Markt square. Anchoring the square is the 15th-century town tall, a Gothic building with red and white shutters. Also on the square is the 17th-century Goudse Waag, once a cheese-weighing station and now home to the Gouda Cheese Museum.
Middelburg- is a city and municipality in the south-western Netherlands serving as the capital of the province of Zeeland. Situated on the central peninsula of the Zeeland province, Midden-Zeeland, it has a population of about 48,000.
Apeldoorn- is a municipality and city in the province of Gelderland in the centre of the Netherlands. It is a regional centre. The municipality of Apeldoorn, including villages like Beekbergen, Loenen, Ugchelen and Hoenderloo, had a population of 162,445 in 2019.
Lelystad- is a municipality and a city in the centre of the Netherlands, and it is the capital of the province of Flevoland. The city, built on reclaimed land, was founded in 1967 and was named after Cornelis Lely, who engineered the Afsluitdijk, making the reclamation possible.
Canal tour-Whether in Amsterdam or in another city, make sure you take a canal tour and see the canals that made the area famous and inhabitable. The Dutch practically perfected canal-building and it’s such an integral part of life here, that you can’t really understand the country until you spend time boating on the canals.
Kings day-Every year on April 27th (April 26th if the 27th is a Sunday), the Dutch used to celebrate the birthday of their queen Juliana. However, in 2013, Queen Beatrix passed the throne to her son, Willem Alexander and Queen’s Day became King’s Day. It’s a national holiday filled with outdoor concerts, lots of orange (the national color), lots of drinking, and insane celebrations on the canals.
Edam-A picture-perfect town with windmills, farmland, and quaint houses where the famous Dutch cheese gets its name from. It’s one of the more quintessential Dutch towns. Basically, come here to eat and be as Dutch as possible!
Keukenhof-is the largest flower garden in the world, with 32 hectares’ worth of spectacular floral displays. The garden is open between March and May of each year when the tulips are in season.
Hoge Veluwe National Park-is the largest national reserve in the Netherlands. It is home not only for drift-sands, wild deer, and other animals but also to the Kröller-Müller Museum, the repository of Helene Kröller-Müller’s art collection. You can rent white bicycles in three designated regions and hope you will never get lost in the sea of green.
Go cycling-As one of the most popular activities throughout the country, you would almost feel out of place not on a bike. The country is covered in over 20,000km of paths, dedicated to the two-wheeled transportation. Hoge Veluwe National Park is a particularly beautiful place to ride, but the entire landscape of the country is quite scenic as well.
Visit “Venice of the North”-Slow-paced Giethoorn is a charming place with lots of picturesque canals. With no cars allowed in the city center, this peaceful town is a good change of pace from the busyness of the Netherlands’ bigger cities.
Historic Netherland-At The Netherlands Open Air Museum, Themapark Archeon, and Zaanse Schans, you can see what life like in the low countries a few hundred years ago. With antique windmills, houses, farms, and shops, you can feel a part of Holland of old.
Brussels-is the administrative center of the European Union – and an awesome city. Visit the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts for its paintings, the magnificent Grand Place, historic Town Hall, cafes, expansive parks, cobblestone streets, amazing beer, and more. The City of Brussels is the largest municipality and historical centre of the Brussels-Capital Region, and the capital of Belgium. Besides the strict centre, it also covers the immediate northern outskirts where it borders municipalities in Flanders.
Bruges-Key attractions include the 14th-century town hall, the Belfry Tower, the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour, its market squares, and canals. It’s beautiful. Go visit, though keep in mind it is a bit touristy and can be boring if you are there alone for a few days! Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.
Ghent-is often overlooked compared with other cities in the country, but this university town is charming. To visit the city at its liveliest you should go in July when the largest cultural outdoors festival in Europe, the “Gentse Feesten”, takes place with food, music, and street entertainment. Ghent is a port city in northwest Belgium, at the confluence of the Leie and Scheldt rivers. During the Middle Ages it was a prominent city-state. Today it’s a university town and cultural hub. Its pedestrianized center is known for medieval architecture such as 12th-century Gravensteen castle and the Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbor.
Antwerp-The country’s second largest city, Antwerp is an excellent shopping location and offers an extraordinary variety of local food and beer for visitors to enjoy. For those interested in art, the Royal Fine Arts Museum houses the world’s best collection of the Flemish Masters’ works, including the largest group of Rubens masterpieces in existence.
Antwerp is a port city on Belgium’s River Scheldt, with history dating to the Middle Ages. In its center, the centuries-old Diamond District houses thousands of diamond traders, cutters and polishers. Antwerp’s Flemish Renaissance architecture is typified by the Grote Markt, a central square in the old town. At the 17th-century Rubens House, period rooms display works by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.
Liège-a city along the Meuse River in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, has long been a commercial and cultural hub. Its old town is filled with landmarks dating to the medieval era, including the Romanesque Church of St. Bartholomew. The Grand Curtius museum houses archaeological treasures and art within a 17th-century mansion, while Opéra Royal de Wallonie has staged operas since 1820.
Leuven- is a city east of Brussels, Belgium, known for its breweries. On a central square is the 15th-century town hall, with its tall spires. The building is decorated with hundreds of statues of local figures, biblical characters and saints. Opposite, the late Gothic St. Peter’s Church houses a “Last Supper” by the Flemish Primitive painter Dieric Bouts. Nearby, Oude Markt is a long square lined with bars and cafes.
Mechelen- is a city between Brussels and Antwerp in northern Belgium. Inside the 13th-century St. Rumbold’s Cathedral is an imposing altar and a work by Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck. The attached St. Rumbold’s Tower offers 360-degree views of the city. Deportees to WWII concentration camps were held at Kazerne Dossin military barracks, where a museum and memorial commemorate the Jews and Gypsies who passed through.
Mons- is the capital of Hainaut province in Belgium’s Walloon Region. At its center is the Grand Place, a large cobblestone square dotted with cafes. It’s lined with buildings in a mix of architectural styles, notably the centuries-old Town Hall. Nearby is the 17th-century baroque belfry, with sweeping city views. The belfry is on the edge of verdant Parc Château, home to the 11th-century Saint-Calixte Chapel.
Ostend- is a city on the Belgian coast. It's known for its long beach and promenade. Docked in the marina, the Mercator is a 3-masted 1930s ship that now acts as a floating museum. The Mu.ZEE displays Belgian art from the 1830s onward. The neo-Gothic–style Church of St. Peter and St. Paul has soaring spires and distinctive stained-glass windows. Near the harbor, Fort Napoleon is a 5-sided fortification built in 1811.
Kortrijk-also known in English as Courtrai or Courtray, is a Belgian city and municipality in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It is the capital and largest city of the judicial and administrative arrondissement of Kortrijk.
Flanders-was the site of half a million deaths during World War I. There are numerous military cemeteries and ‘Missing Memorials’ commemorating those of all nationalities who fell in battle. At the museum in Ypres, visitors can discover what it was like to be a soldier in the trenches.
Ypres (leper)- is a town in the Belgian province of West Flanders. It's surrounded by the Ypres Salient battlefields, where many cemeteries, memorials and war museums honor the battles that unfolded in this area during World War I. After being destroyed in the war, many important buildings were carefully reconstructed, including Gothic-style Sint-Maartenskathedraal (St. Martin's Cathedral) and its soaring spire.
Charleroi- is a Belgian city in the Walloon province of Hainaut. On the central Place Charles II, the art deco City Hall has a belfry with a carillon chiming fragments of Belgian folk songs. Also on the square, St. Christopher’s Church is known for the large gold-leaf mosaic in the choir. Nearby, the Museum of Fine Arts focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Belgian painters and has a sizable René Magritte collection.
Roeselare- is a Belgian city and municipality in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Roeselare proper and the towns of Beveren, Oekene and Rumbeke. The name of the city is derived from two Germanic words meaning "reed" and "open space", i.e., a marsh in a forest glade.
Hasselt- is a Belgian city and municipality, and capital and largest city of the province of Limburg in the Flemish Region of Belgium.
Castles-There are more castles per square mile in Belgium than anywhere else in the world, and with over 3000 to explore, it’s hard to know where to start. Castle of Bouillon in the Ardennes is one of the most interesting ones. Other must-sees are Beersel and Gravensteen.
Waterloo-At the site of the famous battle, there is a memorial in the form of a statue of a lion (looking towards France) on a hill, with 226 stairs, called La Butte du Lion. Other attractions related to the battle are the Wellington Museum and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph.
Ardennes Forest-Ardennes Forest is the place to go for skiing or hiking. Aside from sporting pursuits, there is a lot of good meat here: game, wild boar, venison, smoked ham, the region’s famous paté, as well as the world-renowned Trappist beers.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame-The Cathedral of Our Lady in Tournai is one of the most striking examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral has five towers, magnificent stained-glass windows, and paintings by Rubens and Jacob Jordaens.
Mannenken Pis & Jeanneken Pis-These two iconic sculptures can be found in Brussels and are considered by many as a ‘must see’. There is always a group of people checking them out. They are simple, nude male and female children’s figures, peeing. The male is often dressed up in costumes. They are pretty weird tourist attractions.
Antwerp Zoo-Located in the center of Antwerp next to the train station, this zoo is a full afternoon attraction. Open since 1843, it is one of the oldest and most famous zoos in the world. There are several exhibits and unusual garden features to be seen, including crazy animal sculptures.
Oostende Fish Market Visserkaai-This is where the Ostend fishing fleet sells their catch. If you’re a fan of seafood, this is an awesome place to check out. There are numerous restaurants along the seafront, and you are guaranteed to get a fresh meal.
Cinquantenaire-This museum complex started in 1880 and has continued to expand over the past several years. It lies on the Southeast side of Brussels and is host to the Army Museum, the Auto World Museum, an art museum, and more.
Basilique de Koekelberg-The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the 5th largest church in the world. In addition to its amazing architecture and impressive art deco, the height offers beautiful views of the city and the surrounding area. The church is very close to the center of town and inexpensive to see.
Canal tour in Bruges-Take a canal trip down the arteries of Bruges. A half hour boat trip on the waterway takes you around secret gardens, picturesque bridges, and ornately designed medieval buildings. This is a perfect way to capture the magic of the city.