There are so many beautiful towns in the Netherlands, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in that city life. Here are seven stunning options for you to check out while escaping from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.
Whether you’re a tourist or just living in the Netherlands, we are always on the lookout for some beautiful Dutch towns in the Netherlands to visit. If you’re new here and are after something that isn’t just Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, then you’re in luck. There are plenty of other beautiful places to go and this is why I deliberately left Amsterdam off the list this time around (sorry Amsterdam).
Giethoorn is known as ‘the Venice of the Netherlands’, due to its beauty, the large concentration of canals and everybody boating. The place itself is literally postcard-perfect, with everything incredibly clean, the lawns of people’s houses perfectly trimmed and all the houses matching. The only issue is in the summer months the place is heaving! Like, really. Giethoorn is especially popular for Chinese tourists and other tour group agencies, so if you’re looking to hire your own private boat, do it well in advance!
So, what can I do in Giethoorn? There are a few things to do in this tiny place. One of these is of course boating (private boat or tour boat). You can also walk around the area on foot. There is also a few little museums around.
Zutphen, on the Berkel and IJssel rivers, is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands and has one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in northwestern Europe. Nicknamed the Torenstad because of its large, historic buildings and variety of towers that form the city’s skyline, this Hanzestad has a rich and storied history going back to the days of the Romans 1,700 years ago.
So, what can you do in Zutphen? We’d recommend the wine house, the museum, and its unique library: more detail in this Zutphen-focused article!
Amersfoort is one of my personal favourites. The whole place is incredibly picturesque and drenched in history. The iconic ‘koppelpoort‘, which was built in 1425 dominates most pictures and especially looks good at night. However, there is a lot more to Amersfoort than just this.
So, what can I do in Amersfoort? Apart from the koppelpoort, all around the city centre is beautiful as well, so it’s the perfect place to go for a walk and explore. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and museums located within Amersfoort, so it’s the perfect place to go for a short day trip.
Zierikzee is a small port town with a dynamic, storied history and a few legends. There are 568 national monuments in and around the city centre, which places Zierikzee in the top ten Dutch cities with the greatest number of monuments. It is the most historically preserved town in the province of Zeeland.
What should you do in Zierikzee? Honestly, we’d first of all just recommend wandering around. It has beautiful squares and alleyways that you can get lost down. After that, head to the former town hall for some history, or do some shopping in the local boutiques.
The serene island of Texel has had a rich, dynamic and turbulent history, which includes a brush with the American Revolution and the location of WWII’s last battlefield. Now it’s a paradise for hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, artists and sheep.
Texel has something for everyone, from historians and nature lovers to sheep and birdwatchers. It even has a Bird Information Centre. No sheep information center, but it does have its own breed of sheep, the Texelaar. You can read more in depth about Texel and its WWII history here.
Delft is a beautiful little Dutch town located between Rotterdam and Den Haag. It’s your typical Dutch town, with beautiful architecture and lots of little independent cafes and shops. It’s the perfect place if you want to spend the afternoon somewhere truly Dutch and sit on the terrace with a coffee or beer. Or… if it’s too cold and it’s snowing instead, then just walking around is more than sufficient, it’s beautifully coated in snow.
So, what can I do in Delft? Delft has little markets on the weekends, plenty of little independent shops and lots of places to get a bite to eat or have a coffee. This is THE place to buy Delft blue too (of course). You can explore Nieuwe Kerk (church), go to a botanical garden or walk around the parks. There is also a lot of free stuff to do in Delft, check them out here!
Are you eager to venture off the beaten track? And to explore less touristy destinations? Consider visiting Bunschoten-Spakenburg, two neighbouring towns with a buzzing history and culture. Never heard of them? Here’s your chance! Spakenburg is the most famous fishing village along the southern area of the former Zuider Zee, which is now broken up into two big lakes, Ijsselmeer and Markenmeer. Next door is Bunschoten, a farming village with a rich history and culture that dates to pre-history. The two villages prospered, added residents and grew closer toward each other. They merged in 1965 to become Bunschoten-Spakenburg.
Haarlem is located close to Amsterdam and is always recommended for people who aren’t keen on the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam but still want to see the canals and Dutch architecture. It’s the perfect place to walk around if you’re after great architecture, windmills, shops and all things Dutch. My favourite time to go is at Christmas – they have a giant tree in the market square and lots of lights. It’s so festive!
So, what can I do in Haarlem? You can visit the markets in the giant market square, visit the cathedral (it’s beautiful!), you can climb a windmill, visit the array of shops, restaurants and explore the city centre in general.
Gorinchem is Netherland’s largest fortified city located along the Waal river, an extension of the Rhine, in the province of South Holland. This historic town together with the village of Woudrichem, Loevestein Castle and Fort Vuren form the Vestingdriehoek (The Fortress Triangle). The threesome was a critical part of the Old and the New Dutch Water Lines that defended Holland for centuries from invaders.
So, what can you get up to in Gorinchem? Wander around the harbour and enjoy the flower displays by the water. The 5km self-guided fortress walk (Vestingwandeling) takes you over the earthwork ramparts past barracks, artillery sheds, ye old tollhouse, Dalempoort gatehouse, the caponier, two flour mills and many other buildings with a military purpose.
Valkenburg in Limburg is a place rich in history. It’s home to Valkenburg castle, which are beautiful ruins that you can go and explore once arriving here. Walking around the centre, in general, is also beautiful. It’s definitely one of those forgotten places to visit and I highly recommend you go!
So, what can I do in Valkenburg? Apart from wandering around looking at all of the beautiful architecture (check the train station out!), then is also the ruins of Valkenburg castle, a variety of different museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. Christmas is especially good as they have a Christmas market in Valkenburg caves! It’s a very unique experience.
Exploring Willemstad is quick and easy. There is no shopping district. You can walk leisurely through the streets lined with attractive homes. Some of the entrances to the front doors are over little wooden bridges crossing a narrow channel of water. There is a choice of more restaurants with outdoor terraces under a row of trees in the middle of a divided main street. A walk on the town’s rampart takes about 45 minutes.
Along the way, you encounter several historic remnants such as a military gunpowder house built by Napoleon when the French occupied the town in the early 1800s. He liked the fortified town so much that he stockpiled gunpowder there. No fear, it’s empty now, but the building remains.
Not only is the place great in every way, because of its small quaint streets and lots of canals, but it’s also the home of DutchReview! Trying not to be biased here, but Leiden is actually a beautiful place. It actually has the most canals in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. It’s also home to a variety of great museums (which beat Amsterdam any day!) It’s also a great biking city.
So, what can I do in Leiden? You can visit the Leiden markets, visit a variety of different museums (such as The Museum for Antiquities and the Museum of Ethnology), take a boat trip, or hire one yourself, shop and sit on the terraces with a beer. There is so much to do in Leiden (some of which is free too!)
Maastricht is often forgotten, seeing as it is so far away from the capital. It shouldn’t be though! Maastricht is a beautiful place, with lots of medieval-era architecture and lots to do. It’s especially popular with students and is so close to Belgium and Germany, that it’s the perfect place to go if you’re wanting to just hop over the border and try somewhere new.
So, what can I do in Maastricht? You can take a walk around (the architecture is gorgeous), visit the flea markets, go to the market square, shop, visit some museums, drink on the terraces… there are plenty of things to do in Maastricht.
I absolutely love ‘s-Hertogenbosch AKA Den Bosch! You’ll find this beautiful place in Noord Brabant. The city is a mix of old and typically medieval architecture, canals, a beautiful cathedral and also very modern and trendy architecture. It’s also the home to the bulb houses, which have been sat there since the 80s. It definitely was the hub for innovative architecture! As you can see, Den Bosch has it all.
So, what can I do in ‘s-Hertogenbosch? You can take a boat trip along the canals, minus the hoards of tourists like you get in Amsterdam. You can take a visit to St. John’s Cathedral, take a walk or cycle to see all of the amazing architecture or sit on the terraces with a beer in one of the many cafes.
Naarden is a small town that is found close to Amsterdam. The town is pretty well known, due to those popular done pictures showing the shape of the town. From above you can see the place is shaped like a star, as the whole town is surrounded by moats. It looks this way because historically it was part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. It makes this fortified town even more beautiful than it was already.
So, what can I do in Naarden? Well apart from taking a drone shot (don’t keep doing that, the residents probably get really annoyed), there is the Vestingmuseum (dedicated to the towns defence history), you can visit one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands, you can walk around the town and take in the architecture or go for food and drink in one of the many cafes and restaurants there!
The beautiful little town of Hoorn is located in Noord-Holland, near Ijsselmeer lake. Not only is it picturesque, but it’s close to a lake, sand dunes and the countryside, what more could you want? Because of this, it’s popular to go to Hoorn and the surrounding areas for water sport activities. In general it’s just a great place in an equally as good location.
So, what can I do in Hoorn? Well like I just mentioned, it’s the perfect place for water-sports and any sort of beach activity. Hoorn is great to walk or cycle around and there are museums, a shopping area, restaurants and cafes. So there is plenty to do to cater to everyone.
Utrecht is a beautiful and typically Dutch city and is often forgotten (Amsterdam and Rotterdam seem to rule the roost). It’s definitely underrated, to say the least. The city is surrounded by typical Dutch architecture, canals and ‘the Dom tower’, which is a church tower that can literally be seen from all corners of the city. It’s becoming increasingly popular with tourists and expats – so go there before it gets too busy. 😉
So, what can I do in Utrecht? You can climb the Dom tower (it’s a pretty great view up there), take a walk or a bike ride through the streets and along the canals (it’s a picturesque city) and enjoy the many shops, restaurants and cafes than Utrecht has to offer.
You can also check out our guide on 18 things to do in Utrecht for more.
Roermond is a town in Limburg, located very close to both Germany and Belgium. So it’s the perfect place to go if you’re visiting from outside of the Netherlands, or if you’re looking to try somewhere new afterwards. The town is located on the lower Roer at the east bank of the Meuse river, so it’s a beautiful destination to visit for the day.
So, what can I do in Roermond? If you’re a shopaholic, you’re in luck. Roermond has a designer outlet, so your euros won’t last long! Roermond also has a variety of popular high-street shops, cafes and restaurants. Not only is wandering around the town beautiful but only a stone’s throw away in the lake districts, offering lots of walks and loads to do. If water sports are your thing, then this is the place to be.
Ah, The Hague! An immensely popular place to be for internationals, both to live, work and visit. Once you’ve gone there, you can see why. The Hague is a hub for innovation, business (as a whole) and multiculturalism. It’s both modern and historical, so it’s a great mix. The Hague is home to the government and the International Court of Justice, so it’s a pretty big deal here in the Netherlands. If you haven’t been before, now is the time to go!
So, what can I do in The Hague? You can walk around the Binnenhof grounds (the Dutch parliament), explore the Peace Palace, visit Scheveningen to go to the beach, visit many different museums, shop in the large high-street, eat and drink in the hundreds of different cafes and restaurants. There’s plenty to do.
The small town of Veere (pop. 1,650) has a rich history. Located in the province of Zeeland, it is unique for its strong kinship to Scotland. No other European town played a more important economic role for Scotland than Veere once did in the 16thand 17th centuries.
Veere is worth a visit. The center square may be small, but the atmosphere is soaked with history along with the small streets. They are a reminder of the town’s glory days. You can go shopping there any day of the week. The charming shops offer clothing, culinary delicacies, decorations, and of course souvenirs.
You may have heard of Alkmaar because of the Alkmaar cheese market, a hugely popular and traditional cheese market. But Alkmaar isn’t just great because of all of the cheese (yet that is definitely a big bonus). Alkmaar has a historical city centre and is filled to the brim with things to do.
So, what can I do in Alkmaar? Visit the cheese market, that’s a must. Walking or biking around the historical centre should definitely be on your to-do list too. There are loads of shops, restaurants and cafes to keep you occupied on your visit. There are also a few museums in Alkmaar (did someone say cheese museum and beer museum?!) that are worth a visit.
So there you have it, 21 beautiful Dutch towns in the Netherlands that you must go and visit! See, it’s not always all about Amsterdam.
What is your favourite Dutch town? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2018, but was updated in June 2020 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: Michel_van_der_Vegt/Pixabay