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5 Great Reasons to Visit The Netherlands

Flat it may be – the highest mountain in the Netherlands is just 322.7m high – but this diminutive, cycle-loving country is perfectly formed, with vibrant cities, iconic landscapes, strewn with iconic windmills and bisected by a network of canals, interesting architecture, world-class art, good cheese and some of the friendliest (as well as the tallest) people in the world.

What’s not to love? But if in doubt, here’s a few more great reasons why this fun-loving, laid back destination ought to be in your plans for 2022.

Keukenhof Gardens

Its beautiful blooms…
Its tulips are of course world-famous, but even if you’re not coming for the legendary bulb season when fields of dazzling blooms in glorious technicolour, stretch into the horizon as far as the eye can see, the Netherlands is famed for its horticulture. Every ten years the Netherlands hosts the World Fair of horticultural shows, the largest public event in the country and a showcase for a myriad of blooms, shrubs, fruit and vegetables from all over the world.

The Dutch climate is well suited to many green and flowering plants, with mild winters, very little snow, and a good combination of plenty of sunlight and rain all year round. As the Netherlands is also one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural and food products, the Dutch seem to have agriculture in their bones too. Though it has less than half the land area of the island of Ireland, and is bereft of almost every resource thought necessary for large-scale agriculture, it is second only to the USA, a country that’s more than 200 times larger, in worldwide agricultural exports.

Its canals…
Built for transportation, irrigation, water removal as well as defence, Dutch canals are a fascinating legacy of the 17-century Golden Age and nothing beats a serene trip in a glass-topped canal cruiser, along the network of 165 canals in the unique city of Amsterdam. Taking to the water really is the very best way to immerse yourself in the city’s history and culture and you’ll get an interesting perspective as you drift between the cobbled streets, admiring the quintessential merchants’ houses, tall and slim with their instantly recognisable attractive gables, the decorative bridges and the colourful quirky houseboats. There’s likely to be a local guide aboard too who will bring your cruise to life, imparting a wealth of knowledge about life, past and present, as you relax and enjoy the ride.

Its windmills…
Windmills are symbolic of Dutch history and their connection with the past makes them eternally fascinating. Many of the historical windmills in the Netherlands once served as drainage stations, reclaiming the marshland all over the country as they pumped the water away, in a never-ending battle with the sea. Over hundreds of years, these iconic ‘work-horse’ machines, helped to create the Dutch landscape we see today. Lining the canal-banks of Kinderdijk’s beautifully stark, pancake-flat marshland, you can witness some of the most perfectly preserved windmills in the country, and it’s something truly spectacular to watch the huge powerful sails of these mighty UNESCO-listed structures in motion.

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Its art…
You don’t have to be an expert to know that the Dutch school of painting during the early seventeenth century is one of the most extraordinary periods in art’s long history. Though they were still recovering from a very long and hard-fought war against the Spanish, the Dutch success in overcoming such a mighty adversary and gaining independence, resulted in a huge sense of national pride.

In the years that followed the Netherlands experienced a ‘boom’ economically and culturally – an influx of trade boosted commerce and a rising middle and merchant class wanting to buy new art that celebrated Dutch life and identity, resulted in a Golden Age for Dutch art. You can marvel at masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid as well as newly exhibited works from female Dutch artists of the period, together with several thousand other priceless paintings, at the exceptional and world-famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Its stately homes…
William, Prince of Orange and later King of England, Scotland and Ireland built the exquisite Place of Het Loo in 1685. Set in the lush countryside of Apeldoorn, this magnificent Dutch Baroque building is truly a sight to behold, it’s hardly surprising to learn it’s affectionately termed the Versailles of the Netherlands. Open to the public since 1984, and recently having undergone a huge restoration, this beautiful palace is set in several hundred hectares of glorious parkland and it’s a delightful spot to while away an afternoon.

The palace’s internal decoration alone is worth a visit, but the manicured gardens are simply stunning; beautifully symmetrical and designed by Claude Desgotz, you’ll be able to wander admiring the colourful blooms in pots modelled on 17th-century originals, fruit trees, old scented roses and historical shrubs as well as a host of spectacular fountains. Stroll the queen’s garden enjoying the scent of orange blossom hanging in the air. Visit the stables to admire the splendid carriages and superb collection of antique cars.

Royal Palace Het Loo

Discover the Netherlands on our brand new cruise Amsterdam, Cologne and the Best of Holland & Flanders.

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