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Known for its tulips, windmills and bicycles, the Netherlands stretches out over a predominantly flat landscape. Sleepy rural towns and sophisticated cities lie within its expansive vistas, broken here and there by dikes, walls, canals and castles. The country is also home to one of Europe's most densely populated regions, which is located in an urban hub called Randstad. The area radiates in a circle from Amsterdam and includes The Hague, Utrecht, and Rotterdam, as well as the smaller towns of Delft, Haarlem and Leiden. Visitors will find vibrant art scenes, cultural activities, seasonal festivals and excellent pubs and restaurants in these destinations.
Historically speaking, the country's global influence stretches back centuries. That is, the Dutch East India Company established trading links with the East and West Indies in the 1600s, bringing a wealth of merchandise and cultural influences back to Europe. The Netherlands' Golden Age reached its zenith in the artworks of its master painters, namely, Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Johannes Vermeer. Today, their paintings hang from the walls of the country's many world-class museums and galleries.
Tourists generally visit the Netherlands to experience its capital city, Amsterdam, though nature lovers may enjoy the south's undulating landscapes of heath moors and shifting sands. They're best explored within the Hoge Veluwe National Park. The historical city of Maastricht is tucked between the Belgian and German borders, and is definitely worth seeing.
Regarding global conflicts, the Netherlands has largely taken a neutral stance since the collapse of Napoleon's empire in 1814. That said, it suffered severely in World War II, when the Nazis invaded. Its neutral position and tradition of tolerance and liberalism would make it the logical location for the International Court of Justice, which is situated in The Hague.
Time is a multi-layered luxury in the Netherlands, where centuries-old windmills and visionary architecture accent the famously flat landscape, pushing and pulling the imagination in delightful ways. Visitors can look backwards at Golden Age art, or glimpse the future through cutting-edge design with equal ease.
Amsterdam dominates the tourism scene, though cities such as Delft and Rotterdam have undeniable appeal. The Red Light District, world-class museums, marijuana 'coffeeshops' and lovely natural landscapes are all part of the experience. History-buffs, culture-lovers and pleasure-seekers will all enjoy their stay in the country.
This museum is dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank, whose famous diary describes the experiences of a Jewish teenager during World War II. The Franks and others hid in part of the house (today's museum) to escape Nazi persecution. Visitors can explore the concealed attic where eight people lived, and get some sense of the cramped and fearful existence described by Anne Frank. The original diary is on display as part of the permanent exhibition and there is plenty of information on the lives of the people involved. With the exception of Anne Frank's father, Otto, the occupants were discovered and sent to their deaths in concentration camps. Visitors need not have read the diary to appreciate the museum. Admission queues get excruciatingly long, especially in peak tourist season. Booking online will enable visitors to use a separate entrance.
The Van Gogh Museum is a definitive tourist attraction in Amsterdam. Situated in a modern building, the simple architecture subtly underscores the artist's colourful and extraordinary work. The museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's work in the world, comprising more than 200 paintings, 437 drawings and 31 prints. Many of his most famous and recognisable paintings are on display. The collection is organised according to three criteria. The first of these is the artist's work, which is divided into five notable periods. Then there is the display of other artists' work, including pieces from his friends and contemporaries. Finally, the third section showcases the museum's history. The written information provided is good and sufficient for many visitors, but the audio guide is definitely worth hiring for Van Gogh fanatics who want a more in-depth analysis. Photography of the art itself is not permitted, though visitors can take pictures in the main hall. Large bags will have to be left in the cloakroom facilities as they are not permitted in the museum.
The Rijksmuseum opened in 1885 and is best known for its collection of 17th-century Dutch Masters, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The most notable of these paintings is Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch, which has pride of place. The museum contains thousands of other paintings spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, in its Asiatic collection, Print Room, Dutch History, and Applied Arts sections. The collection also includes stunning furniture, jewellery, ceramics and other artefacts, though it is most coveted for its paintings. Visitors should consult a map or purchase an audio tour to help navigate the extensive collection. They should also allow at least a few hours to explore thoroughly.
The Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art closely traces art-world developments that took place in the second half of the 20th century. Art lovers should note that it showcases the most impressive collection of modern art in Amsterdam. The institution's permanent exhibition focuses on De Stijl, Cobra, Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art, Color Field Painting, Zero and Minimalist Art, while temporary exhibitions on design and applied art are housed in the new wing. Many masters of modern art have a presence in the museum, including Cezanne, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Pollock and Lichtenstein. The building is cool and artistic and seldom crowded, which makes it a breath of fresh air after some of Amsterdam's packed tourist spaces. Tourists may also want to time their visits to coincide with one of the many workshops, book launches or other events the museum hosts. They will find a shop, library and restaurant on the premises. Audio guides are available in six languages, and free guided tours take place weekly. They're conducted in Dutch and English and cannot be booked in advance.
The museum provides insight into the life and times of the famous Dutch master, who lived in this house between 1639 and 1658 - which was the pinnacle of his career. Rembrandt went bankrupt in 1656 and a list of his possessions was drawn up to pay his debts. This list has allowed historians to faithfully restore the house with exactly the kinds of furnishings the artist owned. Visitors can view a permanent collection of paintings done by Rembrandt's teacher, Pieter Lastman, as well as some pieces completed by his pupils. The painting studio holds daily demonstrations on how etchings and paintings were made in the 17th century, including an interesting demonstration on Rembrandt's use of colour.
Housed in a lovely 17th-century building and formerly an orphanage, the museum explores Amsterdam's development from a small medieval settlement into a thriving modern city. Its galleries showcase the progress made in each century, particularly Holland's Golden Age. Visitors can enjoy a showpiece of glass, gold, silver, earthenware and other artefacts, as well as Dutch Masters' paintings, and archaeological discoveries. Seeing the large exhibition will take at least two to three hours. The entry fee also covers the glass-roofed Civic Guards Gallery, which is lined with portraits of Amsterdam's Civic Guards dating back to the 17th century. A pleasant museum café sells refreshments.
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a stroll around the Red Light District (De Wallen). The area's prostitutes are part of a legal and regulated industry that includes compulsory health checks and taxable income. Tourists also visit the district to admire its attractive architecture, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Waterlooplein, Zeedijk Street and Nieuwmarkt Square are all worth exploring. The modern-day City Hall and Muziek Theatre are both located in Waterlooplein. Nieuwmarkt Square was once home to a thriving community of mainly Portuguese Jews, who had fled from persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. The area's cultural diversity extends to Zeedijk Street, which is often referred to as Chinatown. On a cautionary note, visitors should be respectful and recognise that photography in and around the actual brothels is frowned on, and could lead to confrontation.
Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands between May 1940 and May 1945. The museum covers how the invasion affected the Dutch population's everyday lives, as well as the resistance movement. Visitors will learn details about the movement's extraordinary espionage activities, and view maps, photographs, weaponry, everyday objects, and false documents used by the resistance. The collection also personalises the history by including individual stories and experiences. The permanent exhibition is bilingual, catering to both Dutch and English visitors, and there are free audio guides available in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch. Guided tours are available by appointment only and reservations must be made a few weeks in advance.
Although the Royal Palace is the official royal residence, it's mainly used for functions and is but one of the royal family's three palaces. Visitors should check the calendar on the official website to ensure it isn't closed for an event during their time in the Netherlands. It's open most days, though. The building dates back to 1648 and was originally designed for use as Amsterdam's City Hall. A large collection of furniture from this period adorns its magnificent interiors and there is also some valuable art on display. The palace is comparatively small by European standards and only part of it is open to visitors. That said, exploring it is still a fantastic experience, enhanced by an excellent free audio guide. Guided tours are offered to visitors (although they must be booked two weeks in advance) and they are conducted by qualified art historians or art history students in Dutch, English, German, French and Spanish. Official tours take about an hour, but those who are exploring alone with the audio guide may take up to three hours if they linger and listen to all the information provided. Photography is permitted in the palace, but not flash photography.
Keukenhof is one of the country's top attractions and the best reason to visit in the spring. The huge garden is home to millions of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, and is a sea of colour and fragrance. Visitors will also see many works of art scattered among the blooms in this creatively designed site. They can stop for refreshments at one of the area's many cafes and restaurants, and shop at stalls that sell seeds, bulbs, gardening equipment and a range of other souvenirs. Tourists can view demonstrations around flower arranging and the latest trends in gardening as well. Boat and cycling tours are an option; photographers are in for a treat.
Het Scheepvaartmuseum (the National Maritime Museum) gives visitors a glimpse into the country's seafaring past. The exhibit covers four centuries of history and includes paintings, ship models, antiquarian maps and navigation instruments, creating one of the world's most extensive collections of maritime memorabilia. Visitors will learn about fishing and whaling, naval combat, and the maritime trade in the Netherlands, as well as its journeys to places such as modern-day India, South Africa and Indonesia. Visitors can also explore a life-size reconstruction of a Dutch East India Company ship. The exhibition on the slave trade may not be suitable for children, though other displays are dedicated to younger age groups, and include fun, interactive activities.
As one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands, the Heineken Experience is not to be missed. Housed in the original brewery, guests will learn about the Heineken Company's history and its unique process, visit cutting-edge interactive exhibits and enjoy free beer at two pit stops along the way. Visitors will also take a gift of Heineken memorabilia home with them. The site's layout is impressive and the tour unfolds in a sophisticated manner, meaning its appeal extends beyond the interest of beer lovers. Travellers can avoid queues and potentially pay reduced ticket prices by booking online.
Coffeeshops are one of Amsterdam's most iconic features. They openly sell cannabis and welcome their patrons to smoke it on the premises. 'Cafes', on the other hand, sell cakes, tea and coffee. Coffeeshops range from the laid-back and mellow to the loud and psychedelic. The expectation is that customers will consume a snack or beverage along with whatever they order off the hash menu. Staff can give advice on the different strains and strengths. Regarding regulations, coffeeshops can only carry controlled amounts of marijuana for sale to adults over the age of 18. The substance is also illegal in the Netherlands. Recreational use is simply tolerated if it isn't socially disruptive.
Locally known as the Plantage, the Artis Zoo is something of an oasis in the centre of Amsterdam, and a must for children and animal lovers. Boasting more than 700 species of animals and 200 species of local and exotic trees (many of which are on the verge of extinction), the institution will captivate visitors of all ages. The grounds are huge and can easily keep visitors busy for hours, with the aquarium, butterfly house, planetarium and a handful of museums all featuring as part of the experience. Visitors will also find several restaurants and a shop selling souvenirs such as books, toys and postcards. Tickets can be bought online to avoid queues at the entrance.
Built in the 1950s and still one of Europe's leading theme parks, Efteling is a must for children of all ages. Kids are sure to relish its special attractions, which include a maze, water show, bobsleigh course, creepy ghost castle and swinging-ship ride. They will also find theme-park classics, such as several roller coasters, carousels and playgrounds. Games, activities, restaurants and refreshment stands are also on offer. Queues get very long, particularly in peak tourist season (summer), so it's best to arrive early.
Located around 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam and first opened in 1952, Madurodam is quite literally the smallest city in the Netherlands. The park features hundreds of miniature houses and factories that reflect real Amsterdam architecture, exact replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, and transport systems such as ships, airports and railways. Children and adults alike will enjoy the attraction, and will find many tremendous photo opportunities as they stroll around. Visitors can also activate parts of the park for a small cost, setting trucks moving down highways, or getting planes to land. Otherwise, visitors can buy souvenirs in the park's shop, and purchase refreshments at one of its restaurants.
Amsterdam's canal tours are an essential experience for visitors. The UNESCO-listed features were crucial to the city's transport and defensive strategies in the 17th century but, today, are a pleasing way to appreciate the historic and picturesque destination. Tourists who are interested in tours have two main options. They can go for the large, glass-topped canal boats, which can accommodate hundreds of passengers, and travel along predetermined routes. Or, they can choose the more personal and traditional tuindersvletten boats, which used to carry animals and vegetables around Amsterdam, and hold 10 people per tour. Tuindersvletten boats can navigate the tiniest canals and fit under the city's lowest bridges.
The Concertgebouw (literally, 'concert building') is one of Amsterdam's top-rated tourist attractions. Widely regarded as one of the world's finest concert halls, it is easily comparable to the Vienna Musikverein or the Moscow Conservatory. Classical-music lovers in particular will enjoy the superb resident orchestra and matchless acoustics, though the venue hosts some jazz and pop concerts too. Visitors can enjoy 'behind the scenes' tours of the graceful 19th-century building, and possession of an 'I Amsterdam' card can get them up to 25 percent discount on ticket prices.
Amsterdam's Vondelpark allows visitors to experience the city as locals do. The relaxed and beautiful public space dates back to 1865 and features several notable attractions. These include an impressive statue of Joost van den Vondel (the author for whom the park is named), a playground, a film museum, an open-air theatre, and many cafes and snack bars. Travellers can exercise in the park, which has well-kept and extensive pathways for cycling, jogging and walking. The tranquil space also hosts free concerts and performances from time to time, and is an exceedingly charming setting.
Along with a certain fame for legalised prostitution, Amsterdam is also home to the world's oldest sex museum. Open since 1985, the institution has grown from being a shaky idea, to becoming one of the most popular museums in a city full of interesting museums. Exhibits range from bawdy to particularly graphic, with examples of ancient and modern art, historic sex symbols and photographs all featuring. Visitors will also find a walk-through model of the famous Red Light District, and an extensive collection of modern paraphernalia. Displays are a mixture of art and porn, and different aspects of it will appeal to different people. Visitors must be at least 16 years old to enter.
Dutch Phrase Book
|Dank u||Thank you||Dahngk ew|
|Mijn naam is...||My name is...||Mean naam is...|
|Hoeveel is...?||How much is...?||Hu-feel is...?|
|Waar is...?||Where is...?||Var is...?|
|Spreekt u Engels?||Do you speak English?||Sprekt ou En-gels?|
|Ik begrijp u niet||I don t understand||Ik be-greep ou neat|
|Één, twee, drie, vier, vijf||One, two, three, four, five||Ayn, tvay, dree, veer, vayf|
|Ik heb een dokter nodig||I need a doctor||Ik hep ayn dok-ter no-duhg|
The Netherlands' fairly temperate climate is very similar to the UK's. There are four distinct seasons but the temperatures are variable year-round and rain occurs throughout the year. The weather is particularly changeable on the coast, where it is influenced by the ocean. The Netherlands experiences cool summers, between June and August, and mild winters, between December and February. The average summer temperatures range between 53°F and 72°F (12°C and 22°C), and the average winter temperatures range between 34°F and 43°F (1°C and 6°C). Snow can fall anytime between November and April, although the country only experiences an average of about 25 snowy days a year. Rainfall can occur at any time of year, but is marginally more common in summer and autumn. Tourists should ensure that they pack a rain jacket whatever time of year they visit the Netherlands.
Despite the hordes of tourists, the best time to visit is over the summer (June to August), or in spring (April and May) when the famous tulips are in bloom. However, the country is a year-round travel destination, as enjoyment of the cultural attractions, like museums, galleries, restaurants and historic buildings is mostly not weather dependant.
Blauw aan de Wal (Blue on the Quay) is one of Amsterdam's most delightful secrets. Located in the city's Red Light District, this charming establishment occupies a 17th-century former herb warehouse, and serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The menu changes seasonally, service is first rate and reservations are necessary.
The 'Five Flies' oozes an old-world charm that befits one of the world's most famous restaurants. Original Rembrandt sketches decorate the walls of its attractive, country-style dining rooms, and brass plagues on its chairs remind guests that the likes of Orson Welles and Walt Disney have patronised this establishment. All dishes are prepared with fresh Dutch products.
Café de Jaren is both stylish and contemporary, with its chief attraction being a waterfront terrace that overlooks the Amstel River. The establishment is a great setting for pre-dinner drinks, sampling a superb bottle of wine, or enjoying a strong coffee. The menu is varied and attractive, with fare ranging from soups and sandwiches to steaks and pastas.
Amsterdam is well supplied with Asian restaurants, particularly in its rejuvenated Chinatown district. Dynasty is one of the more popular institutions, and serves a mix of Thai, Chinese, Malay, Vietnamese, and Filipino cuisine. Its themed interior is exceedingly beautiful. Reservations are essential.
The lively restaurant's waiters and bartenders sing opera arias while they tend tables, creating a jovial atmosphere. Pasta E Basta's excellent wine list and superb Italian fare make it a must for foodies spending time in Amsterdam. Bookings should be made well in advance.
Amsterdam's most popular Mexican-style bar buzzes with warm Latin-American ambience, and serves up notoriously potent margaritas. The menu includes regular Mexican favourites like burritos, nachos and enchiladas. Fillet steak and burgers are also available and are well complimented with Mexican beer. Open daily from 5pm.
The elegant Silveren Spiegel (Silver Mirror) is one of Amsterdam's best-known traditional restaurants. Set in two historic houses and characterised by beautifully decorated, candlelit rooms, its menu includes meat and seafood dishes done in a traditional Dutch manner.
Café Luxembourg is an established eatery and a definite must for foodies looking to experience Amsterdam's famous café culture. Its superb food, affordable prices and traditional atmosphere are appealing in any season. Reviewers have called Café Luxembourg 'spacious, elegant and unhurried', and quite simply 'one of the world's great cafés.'
Located in a district that includes many beautiful old buildings, Greetje is an essential experience for foodies looking to enjoy authentic Dutch cuisine. It's known for having some of the best service in Amsterdam, and offers traditional Dutch recipes with a modern flair. The restaurant is open for dinner only (6pm), seven days a week.
This two-man operation serves up savoury and sweet pancakes at reasonable prices. There are only four tables in this charming eatery, and hundreds of teapots hanging from the ceiling. The service can be slow, but locals swear it's worth the wait.
The official currency is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, post offices or bureaux de change (usually indicated by the letters GWK). Banks are closed on weekends but bureaux de change are open. ATMs are widely distributed and most are open 24 hours a day.
Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken. Frisian (as well as Dutch) is spoken by the people of Friesland Province.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.
US nationals: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of US passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.
UK nationals: Most British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the duration of their stay in the Netherlands, although some endorsements require three months' validity beyond the period of intended stay. Passport exemptions apply to holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'. A visa is not required for passports endorsed British Citizen; nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'; nor for holders of passports endorsed British Overseas Territories Citizen (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and British Subject (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom). No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a 180 day period, for holders of British passports with any other endorsement.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of Canadian passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of Australian passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. A visa is required. Note that entry will be refused to holders of temporary South African passports.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in the Netherlands. No visa is required for holders of Irish passports.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of New Zealand passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All of these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple-entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, non-EEA visitors to the Netherlands must hold confirmed return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country.
It is recommended that a traveller's passport has at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no vaccinations are required for entry into the country. The water is safe to drink. The standard of health care is very high, but the necessary health insurance provisions must be made before travelling. A reciprocal agreement exists with other EU countries, which entitles nationals to low-cost emergency medical treatment. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is necessary for this purpose. Although medication is widely available in the Netherlands, it is always best to take along any prescribed medication, in its original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at about 15 percent. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters about 10 percent.
Travel in the Netherlands is fairly safe and the vast majority of trips are trouble-free. Travellers should, however, always exercise caution in empty streets at night and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in central Amsterdam and at Central Station. There have been several incidents on trains from Schiphol Airport where heavily laden passengers have been targeted by thieves. As in all Western countries, there is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.
Travellers should also watch out for a scam whereby tourists will be approached by 'plain clothes policemen' who claim to be investigating credit card fraud and counterfeit currency. Tourists are shown fake identification in the form of badges, and asked to hand over credit cards and money. If approached, travellers are advised to ask for proper identification or to accompany them to the nearest police station.
In the Netherlands, the use of cannabis is tolerated in designated 'coffeeshops' in major cities. This policy exists to prevent the marginalisation of soft drug users, thereby exposing them to more harmful drugs. However, the trafficking in hard or soft drugs outside licensed premises is illegal and the possession of soft drugs in public places will incur a prison sentence. Travellers should note that the rules are somewhat different for foreigners, with the Netherlands tightening up drug laws in recent years: Amsterdam is the only city still fighting for the right of tourists to smoke cannabis in 'coffeeshops' and this has become a bit of a grey area with laws not always enforced on the ground. Everybody from the age of 14 is required to show a valid identity document to law enforcement officers on request. Tobacco smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants is prohibited.
Business in the Netherlands is conducted in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important, dress is usually formal (suits and ties are standard), business cards are exchanged and greetings are made with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. Women tend to be well received in Dutch business and it is not uncommon for women to hold high positions. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 5pm.
The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Duty free items for travellers to the Netherlands include 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 2 litres spirits or aperitifs made of wine or 2 litres of sparkling wines, liquor wines or still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; 500g of coffee; 100g tea. Prohibited items include the import of all birds.
Netherlands Tourist Office, The Hague: +31 70 3705 705 or www.holland.com
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 244 5300.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7590 3200.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 5031.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 26 220 9400.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 425 4500.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 269 3444.
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 471 6390.
United States Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 2209.
British Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 427 0427.
Canadian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 311 1600.
Australian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 8200.
South African Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 392 4501.
Irish Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 363 0993.
New Zealand Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 346 9324.
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Perched peacefully on the banks of the Maas River, it's among the sunnier spots on the country's southern-most point. The once humble Roman settlement now boasts a high number of national heritage sites. It's also the birthplace of the European Union and the single European currency, the Euro. Regarding attractions, ancient fortifications provide pleasant walking routes, and the Bonnefantenmuseum allows visitors to trace the city's historical origins. The Basilica of Saint Servatius is a medieval cruciform basilica that houses a significant collection of religious artefacts. Visitors will find a selection of old shops and department stores in the old centre of Maastricht, where they can savour the destination's fine food and wine. The university town's large and vibrant student community gives it a sense of energy.
The deliberately named Peace Palace is a significant place for arbitration, and for the maintenance and promotion of world peace. Situated in The Hague, the building houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Justice and The Hague Academy of International Law. The International Court of Justice's first session took place here in 1946. Regular guided tours reveal the palace's wonderful gardens and impressive interiors. Visitors will also see a beautiful art collection, which various countries gifted to the Peace Palace. Tour dates appear on the official website, and must be booked in advance online. Visitors are not allowed to take photographs inside the palace, and cannot enter with luggage - including handbags. Lockers are provided, though. The Visitor's Centre (which is more of a museum) does a free audio guide and is a good option for anyone who can't go a tour.
Visiting the Hoge Veluwe National Park is a fantastic way to enjoy the Netherlands' (somewhat limited) great outdoors. The site's topography features heathland, peat bogs, woodland and even sand dunes. Its wildlife population includes badgers, foxes, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and mouflon (a kind of wild sheep), and provides ample cycling and walking opportunities. The area also houses the beautiful St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge, and the Kroller-Muller Museum, which contains artwork by luminaries such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Mondrian. Site visitors can walk through a Sculpture Garden as well.
The quaint city of Haarlem lies 15-minutes away from Amsterdam by train, and has the distinction of boasting more museums per capita than any other city in the Netherlands. Its cosy, small-town feel and cheaper accommodation rates mean that many tourists are choosing to make it their base while vacationing in the Netherlands. A bustling market and a wide array of bars, cafes, restaurants, and live music venues means that Haarlem is an attractive choice for a variety of travellers. Its mix of historic sights and youthful energy is tremendously appealing. Haarlem's list of must-see attractions includes the Grote Markt (Market Square), where 10 streets converge around the town's 700-year-old centre, and the Saint Bavo Church, which contains an organ that dates back to 1738 and was once played by the great composer, George Frederic Handel.
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