The 8 greatest forests in the Netherlands for a nature escape

The Netherlands is full of stunning forests that offer the perfect escape from the rush of the Randstad. 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.

These eight magnificent forests reflect that variation and are 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 β€” either way, this article has something for every forest lover.

Psst: 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.

1. Veluwe National Park: the largest forest in the Netherlands

You didn’t think the Netherlands could look like this, did you? Image: Depositphotos

This is the oldest national park in 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 are lots of trees here, but also open spaces, so you really get to experience a variety of sceneries. The park is big enough for you to take day-long hikes in it.

πŸ“ 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.

2. Amsterdamse Bos: Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park

During the spring, part of the forest turns into cherry blossom heaven! Image: Depositphotos

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.

READ MORE | Hiking in Amsterdam: top 7 places for wandelen near the city

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.

πŸ“ Where to find it: Amsterdamse Bos
🧭 How to get there: Walk, bike, or take the tram or metro from Amsterdam city centre.

3. Haagse Bos: the Dutch forest steeped in history

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.

READ MORE | Hiking in The Hague: 11 nature spots for the outdoor adventurer

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.

πŸ“ Where to find it: Haagse Bos
🧭 How to get there: Walk or cycle from the city centre.

4. 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 are also plenty of waterside spots to relax, which as you may have noticed, we have quite the soft spot for.

πŸ“ Where to find it: Wandelbos Tilburg
🧭 How to get there: Bus, cycle, drive β€” or about an hour walk from the city centre.

5. The Mastbos: Breda’s forest with a backstory

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

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

6. Park Sonsbeek: Arnhem’s walk in the park

One of the smaller waterfalls. Explore on your own to find the big one! Image: Depositphotos

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.

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

7. Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park: the natural landscape of the Netherlands

Step back in time and enjoy the raw nature. Image: Jantenhaaf/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

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.

πŸ“ Where to find it: Utrechtse Heuvelrug
🧭 How to get there: Driving is the quickest, but taking a bus or grabbing your bike is also possible.

8. Waterloopbos: a forest water wonder in Marknesse

How many old lab setups can you spot on your walk around the forest? Image: Depositphotos

The Waterloopbos is a stunning forest, but like the Haagse Bos, it’s also worth visiting for its history. Between the 50s and the 90s, 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.

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

What’s your favourite forest in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2020, and was fully updated in July 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Pixabay
Ailish Lalor
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.

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    • 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.

  1. How about de Stropersbos tegen de Belgische grens? Nowhere a formal park as far as I know but I loved biking through it. I always found myself the only human there with only the company of rabbits and stories of smugglers and the world war one electrical death wire that once ran through.


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