This article introduces the reader to the Netherlands or Holland. Highlights of the major cities of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam are described, and attractions of less well-known areas.
The Netherlands is a relatively small Western European country of 16,164 square miles, bordered by Belgium in south, Germany in the east, and the North Sea in the north and west. The country is often referred to as Holland, as its western provinces are named North and South Holland.
The capital city, Amsterdam, is well known for its many attractions, the most notorious of which is its red light district. A good way of orienting yourself and seeing the main sights is to take a trip on a canal boat.
For a moving sense of history, visit Anne Frank’s House, the home of the young Jewish girl who, together with her family, hid from the Nazis for several years in the back of their house. During that turbulent time, Anne Frank wrote her famous diary.
If you enjoy art, the Rijksmuseum, housed in a fine Renaissance building, has a large collection of paintings including “Night Watch” by Rembrandt. In the Van Gogh Museum, you can view the world’s largest collection of works by the Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh.
The Hague (Den Haag) is the seat of the Dutch government. Admire the historic buildings as you walk through the Binnenhof Parliament complex One of the largest panoramic paintings in the world can be viewed at the Panorama Mesdag and a wide variety of works of art by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Holbein and other artists are on display at the Mauritshuis museum.
Rotterdam is the largest port in the world and the second largest city in the Netherlands. It was largely rebuilt after World War II and its most notable modern buildings include cube-shaped houses and a pencil-shaped office building. Enjoy breath-taking panoramic views of the city and its surroundings from the top of the revolving, 350 feet-high Euromast tower.
Other Dutch towns worth visiting are the university town of Leiden; the historic town of Delft where the famous blue and white pottery is still made; Dordrecht for its historic architecture, antique stores, museums and quayside; Gouda for its cheese market, pipe museum and impressive stained glass windows in the St Janskerk church; and Utrecht with its fine selection of Renaissance and Gothic buildings.
Although it is the most densely populated country in Europe, there are still many wide open spaces in the Netherlands, which can be explored on foot, by bicycle or by car. At Keukenhof, near Lisse, you can admire colorful carpets of tulips and displays of beautiful flowers in April and May every year. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines at the gate.
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