10 Ways to Explore The Netherlands Beyond Amsterdam
It's not all canal tours, red lights and coffee shops in the Netherlands, although you can certainly find a lot of that. If you're looking for the real Dutch experience, head out of tourist-packed Amsterdam and into something a little different.
1. Get a history fix at Kasteel de Haar - Utrecht
Behold Kasteel de Haar - one of Europe's top historic homes. Take a tour and explore the neo-gothic Dutch monolith that belonged to the well-to-do van Zuylen family from the 1400s to the year 2000. Climb the towers, soak up the art and walk around the surrounding park.
2. Get happy in the heather fields - Veluwe, Gelderland
Calling all outdoor enthusiasts - you won't be able to resist a pleasant stroll through the purple paradise that is the heather fields of Veluwe. Each Autumn, the flowers light up the hilly landscape, making for an extra colourful experience, although it's beautiful all year round.
3. Beat your hunger in style at Markthal Rotterdam - Rotterdam
The fresh food offerings from each stall at Markthal are all top quality and you won't find a marketplace like this anywhere else on the planet. Look up at the impressive ceiling with its shiny glass archway and try not to feel too envious of the people who live in the luxurious built-in apartments.
4. Cruise around a car-free village at Geithoorn - Overijssel
Welcome to 'the Venice of the Netherlands.' Even the mailman delivers his packages by boat in the car-free village of Geithoorn, where 176 arched wooden bridges connect idyllic homes. Hire a boat and steer your way soundlessly through the metre-deep canals or people-watch from cute waterside cafes.
5. See swamps and wild horses in Oostvaardersplassen, South Flevoland
Deer, foxes, hares and wild horses all roam this pristine nature reserve, created on reclaimed land like the rest of Flevoland province. Look out for geese, bats, butterflies, spoonbills and cormorants too as you hike or bike the numerous trails. Bring the binoculars.
6. Mingle with the monkeys at Apenheul Primate Park, Apenheul
There's no other zoo in the world with this many primates roaming and swinging around freely. This park is less than 45 minutes by car from Utrecht and Nijmegen and is home to over 200 primates of all kinds, all of which will grab your belongings unless you use their 'monkey-proof bags.'
7. See a stack of houses at Hotel Inntel Zaandam, Zaandam
The quaint and surreal Zaandam looks strangely like a giant model village. The Hotel Inntel Zaadam, by the train station, is worth the trip alone. Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting of the blue house of Zaandam, it's a messy stack of 70 little houses on top of each other, sporting bright red roofs.
8. Get literary at Book Mountain, Spijkenisse
Love reading? This oddly-shaped building near Rotterdam boasts 9,300 square meters of stairs, over 70,000 books, tons of glass and a huge space for reading at the top. Far from a boring old library, Book Mountain with its five-story pyramid-like structure is completely unique and it looks pretty impressive at night, too.
9. Cycle or walk the Van Gogh Bicycle Path, Eindhoven
This mind-boggling public art project started as a celebration of the 125th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's death. Energy efficient stones in the ground soak up the sun and at night create a swirling homage to The Starry Night. Cycle or walk the glowing green galaxy and you'll wish all sidewalks looked like this.
10. Walk in a world of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse
Only open for 7 weeks a year, Keukenhof is the place to see tulips, as well as orchids and a host of other stunning flowers in bloom. It will take you 4-5 hours to explore what is one of the world's most magnificent gardens. Look for people in traditional costume, benches with views, local foods and of course, a windmill.
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