Which are the most beautiful places in the Netherlands? This post contains a selection of the most beautiful cities, little towns and villages, castles, gardens and nature parks in the Netherlands. It provides inspiration for everyone who wants to visit the country but doesn’t know what are the must-sees and where to start. Discover the Netherlands with these 25 amazing places!
I have divided those charming places in 5 categories. I thought it would be fair if I include 5 entries per category, thus I can show you the diversity the Netherlands can offer to all visitors.
You can scroll through the list or you can choose a category from the drop-down menu that’s of interest to you. There is also a handy map, with all places indicated on it, which will help you to better plan your stay in the country.
- 5 most beautiful cities in the Netherlands
- 5 most beautiful villages in the Netherlands
- 5 most beautiful national parks in the Netherlands
- 5 most beautiful castles in the Netherlands
- 5 most beautiful parks and gardens in the Netherlands
- Final Words
5 most beautiful cities in the Netherlands
Amsterdam with its spiderweb of canals and the stepped-gable houses alongside the water is perhaps the most visited place in the Netherlands and undeniably one of the most beautiful cities not only in the Netherlands but in the world. When you visit the Netherlands for the first time, the Dutch capital should be on your bucket list. Take a boat trip along the canals (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and visit a museum or two if you have more time. If you are a fan of Van Gogh, you won’t be disappointed, as the Van Gogh Museum has the biggest collection of the artist’s works. The Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank Museum are also a must.
Tip: When planning your visit to Amsterdam, check out these 4 walking routes in the Dutch capital. The post contains also a map for an easy self-guided tour.
Den Bosch, or ‘s-Hertogenbosch, is the major city of North Brabant – the Dutch province that’s famous for the good food and the joie-de-vivre life style. Admire the majestic St. John’s Cathedral (Sint-Janskathedraal) and take a boat tour in the old city sewerage (De Binnendieze). Don’t miss to take a beer on De Parade (a square near the cathedral) and if you are fan of the Medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who was born there in this city, visit the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre, where you can find all his works (in reproduction) at one place.
Utrecht is absolutely charming with its canals and the cafes at the water level. When in Utrecht, visit the beautiful Dom (the cathedral of Utrecht). You can climb to the top of the cathedral for some amazing views or get underneath it for some Roman ruins. If you want to get off-the-beaten path, visit the quirky Museum Speelklok, where you can admire their unique collection of self-playing instruments.
Maastricht is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands and is often called the Pearl of the South. The locals just love a day trip to Maastricht combined with some first class shopping. When in Maastricht, visit the beautiful Vrijthof Square with the St. Servatius Basilica (Sint-Servaasbasiliek) and the St. John’s Church (Sint-Janskerk). A fan of classic music? Then a concert of Andre Rieu on the Vrijthof Square in the summer is a must. This is a once-in-a-life-time experience and I can vouch for it from first hand.
Rotterdam is like no other city in the Netherlands – it’s modern, it’s hipster and it’s full of life. It’s one of the few places in the Netherlands where the skyline is dominated by high-rises. When in Rotterdam, take a boat tour in the harbour. Europort used to be the biggest one in the world, but it lost its first place some years ago, now being only the biggest in Europe. If you love great views, climb to the top of the Euromast and if you need a bit of an adrenaline rush, you can go down with a zip-wire. Oh, and fan of quirky architecture? Take a look at the famous Cube Houses or the Markthal.
5 most beautiful villages in the Netherlands
They call it the little white town and for a reason. All the houses are white in this little place, something quite unusual for the Netherlands. Thorn has unique historical heritage. It started as a cloister and turned into a prosperous Abbey-State, a dwarf state in the 15th-18th centuries, ruled by women. The town is a popular tourist destination among the Dutch. The best Dutch pancakes restaurant has there a branch, so I can’t help it but recommend paying a visit to the Pannekoekenbakker for the most delicious Dutch pancakes.
When you travel to the Netherlands, you should visit at least one of its walled towns, which are part of the so-called Southern Defense Line (De Zuiderwaterlinie). Heusden is one of them – a little town in the shape of a star, surrounded by water. It looks as if time has stopped in Heusden, but instead of being just and open-air museum, the little place is actually a regular small town with a great dose of charm and lots of cuteness. When in Heusden, take a walk alongside the bulwarks, thus you can make a complete circle around the town. For some great Dutch pancakes, stop at the Pannekoekenbakker.
Valkenburg is a lovely small town in South Limburg. It’s famous for the chalk quarries (mergelgrotten) and the Castle Ruins (Kasteelruinen) perched on a hill above the town. Numerous cafes and restaurants line up the streets of this small place. It’s a very popular holiday destination among the Dutch and it’s always thriving with life. Well, after all, it’s one of the two places in the Netherlands where there are caves. Moreover the landscape around Valkenburg is quite pretty with the rolling hills and the cattle grazing on the meadows, and the occasional castle here and there.
Once an important harbour, this cute little place turned into an inland town after the sea was drained in the 17th century to make place for more land. The regained land from the sea is known as polder, and the area around De Rijp – De Beemster Polder, is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the last years most of the houses have been beautifully restored and the little town is full of charm. You can find there some of the oldest wooden houses in the Province of North Holland.
They call it the Venice of the North or the Dutch Venice and indeed Giethoorn completely deserves its nickname. Imagine an idyllic small village with no streets but canals instead. Beautiful houses, mostly farms, with thatched roofs, lots of green and flowers and the willows hanging above the crooked bridges. Unfortunately the last years Giethoorn has been discovered by the tourists and is suffering from overtourism. Nonetheless, the place is simply gorgeous and too cute not to see it.
5 most beautiful national parks in the Netherlands
If you are in a search of a quiet place with gorgeous sunsets, green waters and vast sand beaches – you’ll find it all on this small West Frisian island. Not to forget the little quaint villages, the pastoral landscapes and the great local food. Oh, and a part of the island is a protected area as one of the 20 National Parks in the Netherlands. When travelling to Texel, just leave your car on the mainland, as you won’t need it on the island. However taking your bike with you is a great idea.
Read more: Best things to do on Texel island
De Biesbosch is probably the most unique national park in the Netherlands. The land that was reclaimed from the marshlands in the past centuries is now given back to nature. De Biesbosch is one of the biggest freshwater tidal wetlands in Europe – a network of interconnected rivers and creeks, a kind of an inland delta. The best way to discover this beautiful area is by boat.
Loonse en Drunense Duinen
This Dutch National Park looks totally out of place – moving sand dunes in de middle of the country. The Dunes of Loon and Drunen are actually the biggest sand-drifting area in Northern Europe. For a country with hardly any hilltops, leave alone mountains, the Dunes are great for hiking and even sleighing in the winter (if it happens to snow). In the late summer when the heath is in bloom, the dunes turn into a magical purple haze.
De Meinweg is another one of the 20 National Parks in the Netherlands. This park is characterized by terraced landscape with steep transitions between the plateaus. You can walk there through forests, marshlands and lakes. There’s also this lovely trail that goes along a boardwalk through a flooded forest. As the National Park is located at the border with Germany, you might just pop up there without noticing it.
De Alde Feanen National Park is the youngest National Park in the Netherlands. It was added in 2012 as the 20th National Park. It’s a bogland area located in Dutch Province of Friesland near the capital city Leeuwaarden. The bog is home to more than 450 plant species and over 100 bird species. The most popular inhabitants of the Alde Feanen are the white storks. You can spot them everywhere. It’s a peaceful area where you can go for walking, biking or boating. It’s so quiet there that you will feel absolutely disconnected from the rest of the world.
5 most beautiful castles in the Netherlands
De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle (Kasteel De Haar) near Utrecht is perhaps the most famous and most visited Dutch castle. If it’s the most beautiful one, that’s pretty subjective, but it’s for sure quite imposing. The castle was restored in 1892 by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers in a Gothic Revival style. The original castle dates back to the end of the 14th century. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful park and gardens. You can visit both the castle and the park.
The Hoensbroek Castle (Kasteel Hoensbroek) is a lovely castle in the southern province of Limburg. The first fortress on this place dates back to 1360. Through the years the castle has been expanded many times. It belonged to the van Hoensbroek family, the one that built it for nearly 6 centuries. In 1927 the castle was sold to a foundation which still manages it as of present. Today, the castle can be visited and it gives an idea of how life was in 17th and 18th centuries. The furnishings are back from the period. You can do a self-guided tour of the castle and in each room there are interactive stories told in various ways.
Slot Loevestein was built in the 14th century by the knight Dirc Loef but soon after it was taken by the Count of Holland. In the 17th century the castle was turned into a state prison. One of the greatest legal scholars, the father of the modern international law – Hugo Grotius (Hugo de Groot in Dutch), was imprisoned there but he succeeded to escape. How did he manage to escape? I won’t tell you. Visit the castle to find out.
Ammersoyen Castle (Kasteel Ammerzoyen) is a beautiful castle surrounded by water in the province of Gelderland. The construction of the defensive castle near the Meuse River started in the 12th century and it was finished in the 13th century. The Ammersoyen Castle was completely restored to its medieval glory in the 1970s and is open for visitors.
There aren’t many palaces in the Netherlands, but from the few that are still there, Het Loo Palace (Paleis Het Loo) is undoubtedly the most beautiful one. And not only the palace is worth the visit. The meticulously manicured and kept Baroque gardens contrast with the natural and a bit wild beauty of the English park. Let’s say Het Loo Palace is the Dutch Versailles, but not because it looks like the palace near Paris, it’s because of its significance and role through the centuries as the palace of the House of Orange-Nassau (the Dutch Royal House).
5 most beautiful parks and gardens in the Netherlands
Tulips! Lots of tulips! Everywhere! You can’t find a place more Dutchy than that. Unfortunately, being a spring garden, Keukenhof is open only in the period March-May. It’s a perfectly manicured garden, where each year they plant more than 7 million spring flower bulbs. Hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, and daffodils in most amazing shapes and colors create intricate patterns and stun the visitors.
Read more: Everything you need to know about visiting Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands
The Gardens of Appeltern
The Gardens of Appeltern (De Appeltern Tuinen) started as a company project and evolved into the biggest and most beautiful garden park in the Netherlands. The park was created in 1980s as a series of show-model gardens and today it features more than 200 different inspiration gardens on 23 ha.
The Castle Gardens of Arcen
If you are visiting the Netherlands and the Keukenhof gardens are closed your best bet will be the Castle Gardens of Arcen (Kasteeltuinen Arcen). A meticulously manicured park with gardens and a lovely castle – the Castle Gardens of Arcen won’t disappoint you. The best time to visit the park is June-July when all flowers are in bloom. Beside the gardens, you can also visit the castle.
The Castle Garden of Oud-Valkenburg
The Castle Garden of Oud-Valkenburg (Kasteeltuin Oud-Valkenburg) is a lovely small scale garden in South Limburg. Once it used to be the kitchen garden of the Schaloen Castle. Today, it features a herbal garden and a heritage garden, which shows local traditional flora. There’s also a watermill at the garden. You can combine a visit to the garden with a walk to the castle. The Schaloen Castle is not open for visitors, but there is a nice cafe outside where you can enjoy the beautiful view with the castle and its gardens.
Botanical Garden in Kerkrade
The Botanical Garden in Kerkrade (Botanische Tuin Kerkrade) has a very interesting history. It opened in 1937 as a recreational garden for the mine workers of the State Mines (Staatsmijnen). Mining was booming in South Limburg and lots of facilities were created for the equally booming population in the region. The centerpiece of the Botanical Garden is the Open-air Cathedral – the trees are arched and arranged in such a way that they remind of the framework of a cathedral. There are 195 varieties of plants and trees found today in the Botanical Garden.
Although flat as a pancake, the Netherlands can offer some amazing places, from the capital city of Amsterdam with its UNESCO-listed canals and stepped-gable houses, to the quaint little village of Giethoorn with no streets. For an explosion of colors yous should visit the famous Keukenhof tulip gardens and if you want to escape the world, you can do so in one of the National Parks. Chasing castles? No problem. You will find an abundance of them!
Do you need some extra help to plan your trip to the Netherlands? Join the dedicated Exploring the Netherlands Facebook Group, where you can get tips from other travellers and locals. Or perhaps you have questions or comments? Join the group and I’ll be happy to answer them.