The Dutch are some of my favorite people. Every time I’m there, they are always smiling. Always laughing. Of course, this could be because almost every time I have been to The Netherlands (or Holland) has been to visit one of my very best friends. Smiles and laughter go with the territory.
This friend and I went to high school together in Florida, and lived in the same neighborhood. Upon graduation, she moved to Boston for school while I attended Rollins College in Orlando. She met a Dutch guy, and eventually moved to Utrecht to continues her master’s studies and to be with him. This was the beginning of what we call my “Dutch family.” At the time she had moved to Utrecht, I had moved to London. How convenient is that for visits? Needless to say I made that jump from Heathrow to Schiphol in Amsterdam many a times. Her friends became my friends, and it felt like a family reunion every single trip. Our birthdays are both in October, so every year I traveled to Almelo (the small town she now calls home) for a joint birthday/Halloween party. This tradition held up when I moved to Paris, and was only broken when I moved to Australia, which decidedly is a tad too far to travel for a birthday party.
But what to do if you don’t have this built-in network of locals to make your experience spectacular? Luckily, I can help you out with my top impressions.
1. The Netherlands is great during summer, but equally beautiful in winter. Sure, everyone loves the warmer weather and endless days, but you’re not actually guaranteed great weather if you go during the summer months. A more northern European summer is a fickle thing, and I find particular charm in donning a warm coat and walking these old streets on colder days. Could be because I’m from Florida and the concept of winter is fascinating to me, could be because the buildings and landscapes just lend themselves perfectly to a blanket of snow. Can you argue that fact?
2. Speaking of buildings, the architecture is beautiful. Did you know that some of the most well-known architects and designers are Dutch? And that Amsterdam is easily considered an epicenter for cutting edge design? Names such as Marcel Wanders and Rem Koolhaas are internationally recognized, keeping The Netherlands more than relevant when discussing creative industries.
3. Queen’s Day, or now King’s Day. Held at the end of April each year, this unique holiday celebrates the day of the queen’s birthday. Everything starts the night before for Queen’s Night, with the celebrations continuing all throughout the next day. Amsterdam is the main hub of activity, but there are events and parties held throughout the country. Revelers of course deck out in orange, the national color. In January 2013, Queen Beatrix did in fact abdicate in order for her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, to become king. Hence the celebration will now be called King’s Day and will be held on April 27 of each year.
4. The cafe scene. Yes I know, The Netherlands is not exactly known for its cafe culture. Paris has the wraps on that. But nothing beats a lovely sunny day spent on a terrace, sipping on a cold beer (or coffee if it’s cold) and people watching. Believe me, the hours can pass just as pleasantly as those spent along Boulevard Saint-Germain, or perhaps more so because the crowds are decidedly less.
5. The countryside. Every time I say I went to The Netherlands people ask me if I went to Amsterdam. There is more to this beautiful country than the capital! The Dutch countryside is gorgeous, and you can easily explore by bicycle or by taking advantage of their extensive rail system. Get out and see more than the inside of a coffee shop!
Those are my top five impressions for one of my favorite countries I’ve visited thus far. And there’s so much more that keeps more going back, time and time again. Now I realize that my list may not help you in planning any specifics for your trip. For that, I point you toward my friends at Netherlands Tourism to help you find any information and details you could possibly want to know about Holland*. Do give them a look – they are a wealth of information. And definitely put this country on your bucket list. Who knows, maybe you’ll make an adopted Dutch family all your own.
*Sponsored link brought to you by Netherlands Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.