Amsterdam is probably the first stop on anyone’s trip to the Netherlands—and for good reason. But there is so much more to this small country (about one-third the size of Pennsylvania) than its capital city. Think rows of windmills, fields of tulips, and cities bursting with culture and charm. Luckily for you, it’s all just a short drive or train ride away from that main city hub. Here’s a list to get you started.
Many people flock to Delft for its eponymous blue pottery, but don’t overlook the unspoiled town’s Renaissance architecture and Vermeer Centre museum (the Dutch painter, famous for such works as Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Milkmaid, was born and died here).
Often dubbed “little Amsterdam,” Haarlem has all the appeal of the capital city with none of the crowds.
Whether I’m at home or on the road, it’s people that often find themselves the subject I’m focusing on. Our fellow time travelers interest us, their customs, their moods, their space.
Emerging from Amsterdam’s Central Station, I melded with the press of pedestrians. Soon some branched off to the Metro, others to the trams, but my destination was the Western Canals. As foot traffic thinned, I began to notice something new to my senses—an increase in the volume of bicycle traffic.
Bicyclers young and old were plying the streets, while toddlers bumped along in child seats. In this historic part of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, parking for automobiles is at a premium. Streets, often narrow and paralleling the canals, are the playground for bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians.
When we think of the Holland, the image of quaint Dutch windmills readily pops up in mind. In fact, these iconic windmills are so popular that the Dutch village of Kinderdijk, housing 19 windmills, has recently been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So, we all know that these huge windmills featuring lattice-shaped blades were not powering up the neighborhood. But then, why were these wind farms used?
Infact, these windmills were used as a flood control system by the ancient Dutch in the 15th century. As one-fourth of the Holland is below the sea level, the country is prone to floods. As the climate change threatens the world, more countries are adopting the Dutch flood control mechanisms that are refined over the centuries to protect cities from the risk of flooding.
Viking’s Christmas river cruises offer the best of Europe’s medieval castles, cathedrals, and storybook towns, with festive Christmas markets in every port.
I was a guest of Viking River Cruises, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
VIKING CHRISTMAS RIVER CRUISES
NOTE: This is a long form, photo-intensive post intended for readers who want to cruise vicariously, as well as travelers seeking detailed information before booking a Viking Christmas river cruise of their own.
It is no secret that I love Viking river cruises.
Our Viking content on Backroad Planet includes some of our most popular posts, especially our 24 Viking River Cruise Insider Tips and Top 11 Viking River Cruise Ship Amenities posts.
As a Viking fan, I heard about their European Christmas river cruises long before I had the privilege of doing one.
KINDERDIJK, Netherlands (AP) — The windmills at Kinderdijk were built in the mid-1700s as a way to clear water from the low-lying landscape of the western Netherlands.
Sometime in the 1950s, the millers and water board members started seeing visitors in sneakers carrying cameras.
The Dutch embraced the visitors and the Kinderdijk windmills have since become one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations while continuing to help manage the Netherlands’ ongoing fight to stay above water.
There are some windmills north of Amsterdam that “were built for the tourists, but we’re a historical site where tourists come, so it’s the other way around,” said Kinderdijk communications manager Peter Paul Klapwijk. “Tourism is a means to uphold our site.”
The tidal flats of the Dutch Wadden Sea run a very real risk of becoming permanently submerged because of sea level rises and subsidence caused by gas and salt extraction, a report by the region’s lobby group Waddenvereniging shows. It is unlikely that the process of sedimentation – or bringing in new sand and mud – will keep up with the rising sea levels and the Wadden Sea eco system may be a thing of the past by the end of this century, the report says. The Wadden Sea stretches from Den Helder to Denmark and is a Unesco world heritage site. The area is an important breeding and overwintering ground for birds and has a rich fauna and flora while the Wadden Sea islands are popular Dutch holiday destinations.
Let’s face it, Utrecht hardly sounds like an attractive destination – the word is like something urban, industrial and grimy.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong because Utrecht is possibly the prettiest canal city in Europe.
It reminded me of a cross between Bruges and Amsterdam, but without the heaving crowds.
The medieval city centre is small enough to explore on foot, but large enough to attract world-class festivals, hip shops and cafes, fascinating museums, inspiring architects and designers.
In the spring, the squares and green spaces are filled with flowers and it makes Utrecht a refreshing destination for a weekend break and a great place to recharge your batteries after the long winter.
This year is the ideal time to visit as Utrecht is celebrating 100 years of the De Stijl art movement.
“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” _ World Heritage Center – UNESCO
World Heritage Sites are natural or built landmarks, from all over the world, which have been deemed valuable to humanity by the UNESCO. The UNESCO selects these sites based on a list of 10 selection criteria. If the building satisfies just one of them then it can be included in the World Heritage List. The 10 selection criteria are divided into cultural and natural criteria. The cultural criteria, for example, include points like: “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;” and “to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.”
Amsterdam’s biggest draw may be its UNESCO World Heritage-listed canals, first dug in the 17th century. Dubbed the Venice of the North, the Dutch capital also boasts stately historic architecture—some of which is set right on the waterfront.
For those looking for a (massive) pied-à-terre in this charming city, look no further than this nationally-listed, 1672-constructed beauty located on Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), Amsterdam’s widest canal.
Measuring a width of five windows with a floorspace of 14 by 14 meters (46 by 46 feet), the elegant manse, which is currently divided into three units, features a grand stone staircase, main parlor floor with stunning period details and canal views, a conservatory, and a gorgeously landscaped, private garden that is protected by historic ordinances.
The Wadden Sea coastal ecosystems join 9 cultural sites celebrating centuries of rich Dutch culture and history.
The Wadden Sea coastal ecosystems join nine cultural sites celebrating centuries of rich Dutch culture and history. Most of the Dutch heritage sites revolve around the use of water. Throughout history, the Dutch people have reclaimed swamplands, built a strong maritime trade, used water for defense, and to harness power.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites In The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s 17th Century Canal Ring Area Inside the Singelgracht
This heritage site, inscribed in 2010 as a cultural world heritage site, is a network of intersecting waterways built in the 17th century, otherwise known as the Golden Age. The canals were built to expand the medieval city of Amsterdam, which was then growing into a wealthy maritime trade center.
Come join Scot and Maurine Proctor July 10-24, 2017 on the fantastic Viking River Cruise’s 15-day Grand European Tour. Of all the cruises we have ever done, this was our favorite! And we want you to come with us. Our agents at Morris Murdock Travel have reserved the entire boat (168 passengers!) for this journey so it’s a unique trip where you’ll find many friends of your same values and background. This is rare to have the entire rivers of Europe cruise to ourselves. 15 days, 12 guided tours, four of the most picturesque and romantic countries in Europe including The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary. You won’t believe it until you do this. Even the stunning pictures below do not do justice to this spectacular, never-to-be-forgotten cruise.
Imagine gliding down a river while you pass mountain-top castles, quaint windmills and majestic cathedrals.