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When we say the Netherlands, it is obviously Amsterdam that comes to mind first. Its canals, along which it is good to stroll during the day, its houses with large windows that light up at nightfall, its cafés with long wooden tables, and its cosmopolitan atmosphere give it an undeniable charm. It is of course a must-see, starting the long list of destinations as attractive as the others offered by the 12 provinces that make up the country. And all of them are within easy reach by train, or almost. From Amsterdam, it takes less than 25 minutes to get to Utrecht.
Also crisscrossed by pleasant canals, it is often considered as a small Amsterdam but much less touristy. Don't miss the Saint Martin's cathedral with its huge tower that proudly dominates the city. Inside, you can even have a little coffee if you feel like it. From there, it's only 45 minutes to Rotterdam, itself only 25 minutes from The Hague. Both have their own character. Rotterdam has many faces: it is a port in its raw state, a concentration of architecture, and a beautiful playground for those who like shopping.
More discreet, The Hague is worth a visit. This elegant city is home to the Binnenhof, a magnificent architectural ensemble and a major venue for discussing the country's political affairs, and the long and very popular Scheveningen beach. In less than two and a half hours, you can also travel to the eclectic and lively city of Groningen in the north of the country or to the beautiful beaches and resorts of Zeeland in the south. Some cities can even be visited on a day trip. How do you get there? By pedaling, of course. Just hop on a bike and discover the surroundings "Dutch style". It is easy to reach Delft from The Hague or Rotterdam, Haarlem from Amsterdam...
It's true! The Netherlands has the highest density of museums in the world. There is something for every taste and every age. Their diversity is a real invitation to travel through the country's history, culture, and traditions. Long under Spanish rule, the Netherlands experienced a period of great prosperity between the 17th and 19th centuries. This "Dutch era" was marked by strong artistic, scientific, and commercial development, notably thanks to the creation of the famous Dutch East India Company. It gave the country its masterly painting, its beautiful historical cities, which we have just mentioned but also a wealth and a power, partly acquired by those darker facets of oppression and slavery.
Like every European country, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, formed in 1815, has also known the dark hours of the wars of the 20th century and paid a heavy human toll during the Nazi occupation. So push the doors of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Mauritshuis in The Hague to enjoy the masterpieces of Rembrandt or Vermeer. If the paintings of Van Gogh museum give you the shivers, you can also go to the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo (Gederland province). Don't forget to visit the Anne Franck House in Amsterdam and the Royal Blue Earthenware Factory founded in 1653 in Delft. With children, go to the Railroad Museum in Utrecht, the Marine Museum in Rotterdam, or Batavialand, the museum dedicated to the history of the province of Flevoland, which was raised from the sea in 1986 thanks to reclamation.
In spring, you will not tire of admiring the fields of tulips in bloom at the Keukenhof Gardens between Haarlem and Leiden or the windmills of Kinderdijk near Rotterdam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And for design lovers, the Netherlands is a land of choice. Known throughout the world, Dutch Design continuously infuses Dutch culture. To get a taste of it, we recommend the incredible Schröder House by architect Guerrit Rietveld in Utrecht, the exhibitions at the Duhrkirche Museum, and the magnificent collection of fashion, photography, and design at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam.
The gastronomy of the Netherlands is traditional Dutch cuisine with international flavors and a touch of avant-garde. Each region and city has its specialty, but in every corner of the country, there are great classics you must try to eat like a Dutchman. For example: bitterballen, fried meatballs that are eaten as an aperitif or to satisfy a late-night hunger; stroopwafel, a waffle filled with caramel syrup; rwtensoep, a split pea soup with sausages; the excellent stamppot stew and oliebollen, fried doughnuts with or without raisins. And to digest all this, we take a drop, a small traditional licorice candy. But the most important thing is that on the plate, it is fresh products, coming directly from local producers and cooked in respect of the seasons: seafood from Zeeland, fish from the North Sea, asparagus, strawberries and anchovies from North Brabant, lamb from Texel, herrings, cheeses, homemade cider... Both healthy and responsible...
A new wave of creative cooks has taken over the national culinary scene to spotlight Nordic cuisine and Dutch flavors through their dishes.
This picture of the Netherlands would really be incomplete without mentioning gezellig. This adjective is a small, typically Dutch word for which a translation is almost impossible. A subtle mix of "friendly" and "warm", it is used in every sentence in conversation. For example, spending an evening in front of the fireplace when it rains hard outside is gezellig. Sitting in a softly lit café reading the newspaper is still gezellig. Sharing a plate of bitterballen with friends while enjoying a glass of natural wine is still gezellig. Similar to the Danish hygge, this concept is fundamental in Dutch society. For the traveler, it perfectly illustrates what one feels in the Netherlands: a well-being linked to what one discovers, what one has on one's plate, and the pleasure of the shared moment. And we are looking forward to it...
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