The 8 greatest forests in the Netherlands for a nature escape

The Netherlands is full of stunning forests, perfect to get into some Dutch nature. A leisurely walk around a forest in Holland is the ideal way to relax, breathe, and see insects, birds, and animals. 

Better still, forests in the Netherlands can be experienced all year round. Visit in the summer to cool down, in the autumn to see the stunning foliage change, in the winter when there is frost (or snow!), and in the spring to hear the birds.

In this article, we’ve selected our eight favourite forests in the Netherlands. They’re all worth a visit, but for different reasons. You might fancy a long hike through the woods one day, or a relaxing afternoon sitting by a pond in the middle of a forest another day: either way, this article has something for every forest lover.

TIP: Not a forest lover? No problem. Take a squiz at the best Dutch beaches, the nicest national parks, or the top outdoor swimming spots instead.

Veluwe National Park: the largest forest in the Netherlands

Forests are always a bit mysterious, don’t you think? Image: Artheos/Pixabay.

This is the oldest national park of the Netherlands, and honestly, also the best. It’s located in Gelderland, and was formed during the last ice age, so its landscapes have been created by glaciers.

It’s a haven for wildlife, the type of place you wouldn’t really believe could exist in the Netherlands. Not only can you find your usual fungi, insects, and birds, but also wild horses and deer. There’s lots of trees here, but also open spaces, so you really get variety. The park is big enough for you to take day-long hikes in it.

📍 Where to find it: There are multiple entrances, but head towards De Hoge Veluwe.
🧭 How to get there: Train to Otterlo Station, then a short bus ride

Amsterdamse Bos: Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park

photo of green trees and birds sitting on a forest path in Amsterdam Bos, a Dutch forest
The Amsterdamse Bos is the ideal break from the city. Image: Mabel Amber/Pixabay

The Amsterdamse Bos is one of the largest city parks in Europe, covering almost 1000 hectares. As the name would suggest, it’s situated just a bit south of Amsterdam Centraal, and can be easily reached from the city centre by bike, tram or metro.

It has a huge amount of wildlife, as well as over 150 species of indigenous trees. I think a lot of us forget what Dutch nature looks like, as so much of the country is urbanised. But heading over to the Amsterdam Bos after a day in the city is, both literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air.

📍 Where to find it: Amsterdamse Bos
🧭 How to get there: Walk, bike, or take the tram or metro from Amsterdam city center

Haagse Bos: the Dutch forest steeped in history

photo of a pond, walking path, and trees in The Haagse Bos nature reserve in the Netherlands
The Haagse Bos is packed with walking paths, rivulets, and ponds. Image: Jensbn/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Again, you wouldn’t expect a forest slap-bang in the middle of a city, but the Haagse Bos is right in the centre of The Hague, and stretches from Den Haag Centraal almost to the seafront. It’s a very historic place: during WWII, the Germans used it to launch their V1 and V2 rockets. The Allies tried to bomb the forest but accidentally got the nearby Bezuidenhout instead.

The forest is perfect to walk, jog or cycle in, and it also has lots of nice spots where you can sit down and have a picnic, or read a book. It also has some big ponds that are crisscrossed by bridges.

📍 Where to find it: Haagse Bos
🧭 How to get there: Walk or cycle from the city centre

The Wandelbos: Tilburg’s nature escape

How pretty is this bridge! Image: Evelien Oerlemans/

Right between the centre of Tilburg and the Reeshof lies the gorgeous Wandelbos. Tilburg has loads of nature on offer, but if we had to choose, the Wandelbos would have to be our favourite wooded spot in this area. This is the perfect family location, with picnic benches for an outdoor lunch, and hiking trails of varying lengths. There’s also plenty of waterside spots to relax, which as you may have noticed, we have quite the soft spot for.

📍 Where to find it: Wandelbos Tilburg
🧭 How to get there: Bus, cycle, drive — or about an hour walk from the city centre

The Mastbos: Breda’s forest with a backstory

You can really see how some of these trees would make the perfect ship mast. Image: doortjekl/Pixabay

Stepping again outside of the Randstad, the Mastbos is situated in Brabant, near the pretty city of Breda. This forest is 500 years old, with loads of beautiful mature trees. Like the Haagse Bos, this woodland has lots of little lakes for you to relax by. It also has a nearby castle called Bouvigne, so if you’re planning on visiting this forest, then you might as well plan in a little castle trip as well.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the name “Mastbos” comes from, here’s the story: the tallest trees in this forest used to be used to build masts for ships.

📍 Where to find it: Mastbos Brabant
🧭 How to get there: Walk, cycle, or drive from Breda. You can also take the #6 bus!

Park Sonsbeek: Arnhem’s walk in the park

photo of a grand house and pond in Park Sonsbeek, a nature reserve in the netherlands
The white villa at Park Sonsbeek. Image: inkennis/Pixabay

All forests are magical, but Park Sonsbeek feels like something straight out of a fairytale. As the Netherlands is pretty flat, waterfalls are few and far between in this country. But Park Sonsbeek has a beautiful meandering stream that bubbles over several waterfalls.

It’s also quite near to Veluwe National Park, so if you’re looking for a nature-centred holiday, then finding a spot near these two parks is definitely not a bad idea. There are often art exhibits in Park Sonsbeek, so keep your eyes open for those while you visit as well.

📍 Where to find it: Park Sonsbeek
🧭 How to get there: Only an eight-minute walk from Arnhem Centraal, or hop on the bike

Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park: the natural landscape of the Netherlands

photo of trees and grassland in Utrechtse Heuvelrug nature reserve in Holland
Step back in time at the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.Image: Jantenhaaf/Wikimedia Commons

The Utrechtse Heuvelrug is another stunning landscape created by glaciers about 150,000 years ago. The glaciers deposited sand as they moved across the landscape, and that sand became the rolling hills we can see at the Utrechtse Heuvelrug park today. Heuvelrug translates to “hill ridge”, so if you’re craving a (gentle) uphill hike, then this is the spot to head to.

If you’re from a country with actual mountains, these hills probably won’t look like much to you, but once you’ve lived in the Netherlands for a few years, you’ll take what you can get.

📍 Where to find it: Utrechtse Heuvelrug
🧭 How to get there: Car is quickest, but bus or bike is also possible

Waterloopbos: a forest water wonder in Marknesse

photo of a water scale model in Waterloopbos, a forest in the Netherlands
One of the water scale models at the Waterloopbos. Image: Dominicus Johannes Bergsma/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

The Waterloopbos is a stunning forest, but like the Haagse Bos, it’s also worth visiting for its history. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Waterloopbos was actually the location of the Dutch water laboratory. The laboratory used scale models to figure out the effects of water currents and the best place for a port or a harbour.

Now, the laboratory is gone, but the models remain. They’re magically overgrown with plants, and the mix of shadow from the trees and running water makes this an excellent spot to go dragonfly watching in the summer months.

📍 Where to find it: Waterloopbos
🧭 How to get there: Drive, or get to Marknesse first, then cycle or take the bus.

Got any other must-see forests for us in the Netherlands? Drop them in the comments below, we’re always looking for more woody places to wander in.

Feature Image: doortjekl/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2020, and was fully updated in May 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.


    • Spending time outdoors with your own family/household while social distancing from others is a great way to take care of your mental health. We need to get outdoors in a smart and healthy way.


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