There are so many beautiful towns in the Netherlands, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in that city life. Here are 21 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’re always on the lookout for beautiful Dutch towns 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 we deliberately left the capital off the list this time around (sorry Amsterdam).
Coronavirus update: Be aware that some attractions may have different opening criteria due to coronavirus. Take care to avoid crowded areas, follow the current government guidelines, and choose less busy times to go out.
With its picturesque atmosphere, a large concentration of canals, and a countless number of boats, Giethoorn is known as “the Venice of the Netherlands.” The place is literally postcard-perfect — everything is incredibly clean, people’s lawns are perfectly trimmed, and all the houses are matching.
The only issue is that in the summer months, the place is heaving! Like, really. Giethoorn is especially popular with group tour agencies, so if you’re looking to hire your own private boat, do it well in advance.
Located on the Berkel and IJssel rivers, Zutphen 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 history going back to the days of the Romans 1,700 years ago. Some of the things you definitely shouldn’t miss on your visit include the wine house, the museum, and Zutphen’s unique library.
Amersfoort is one of our personal favourites. The whole place is incredibly picturesque and drenched in history. The iconic Koppelpoort, which was built in 1425, dominates most pictures and looks especially good at night. However, there is a lot more to Amersfoort than just this.
Apart from the Koppelpoort, the entire 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, making it an ideal place for a short day trip.
Zierikzee in Zeeland is a small port town with a dynamic history. 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.
The first thing we recommend doing when you come here for a day trip is just to wander around. Zierikzee has beautiful squares and alleyways that you can easily get lost down. After that, head to the former town hall for some history or do some shopping in the local boutiques.
While technically not a town, the serene island of Texel has had a rich and turbulent history, which includes a brush with the American Revolution and the location of WW II’s last battlefield. Today, 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 centre though, but it does have its own breed of sheep — the Texelaar.
Delft is a beautiful town located between Rotterdam and The Hague. It’s your typical Dutch town, with beautiful architecture and lots of little cafés and shops. Delft is the perfect place if you want to spend the afternoon somewhere truly Dutch and sit on the terrace with a coffee or a beer.
There are also plenty of free things to do in Delft, including strolling through the weekend markets or walking around the parks. We also recommend checking out Nieuwe Kerk or heading to the botanical garden. In case you didn’t know, Delft is THE place to buy Delft blue porcelain (duh).
Are you eager to venture off the beaten track and explore less touristy destinations? Consider visiting Bunschoten-Spakenburg — two neighbouring towns with a buzzing history and culture. You may have never even heard of them.
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 Markermeer. Bunschoten is a farming village right next door. As time went on, the two villages prospered and grew closer toward each other, and they eventually merged in 1965 to become Bunschoten-Spakenburg.
Located close to Amsterdam, Haarlem is always recommended for people who aren’t keen on the hustle and bustle of the big city but still want to enjoy pretty canals and a quintessential Dutch city. It’s the perfect place to walk around if you’re after great architecture, windmills, shops, and all things Dutch.
Make sure to explore the markets in the giant market square, visit the cathedral (it’s beautiful!), climb a windmill, or check out the array of shops and restaurants.
Gorinchem is the Netherlands’ largest and most beautiful fortified city. It’s 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, Castle Loevestein, and Fort Vuren, form the Vestingdriehoek (The Fortress Triangle) — a critical part of the Old and the New Dutch Water Lines that defended Holland for centuries from invaders.
Wander around the harbour and enjoy the flower displays by the water or take the five-kilometre self-guided fortress walk (Vestingwandeling) which takes you over the earthwork ramparts past barracks, artillery sheds, old tollhouse, Dalempoort gatehouse, the caponier, two flour mills, and many other fascinating buildings with a military purpose.
Valkenburg in the southern province of Limburg is a place rich in history. It’s home to Valkenburg castle, which offers beautiful ruins that you can go and explore. Walking around the centre, in general, is also beautiful. It’s definitely one of those forgotten places to visit and we highly recommend you go!
Apart from wandering around looking at all of the beautiful architecture (check out the train station!), there is a variety of different museums, shops, restaurants, and cafes. Christmas is an especially nice time to visit as they have a Christmas market in Valkenburg caves! It’s a very unique experience.
Exploring Willemstad is quick and easy. You can take a leisurely walk through the streets lined with attractive houses. Some of the entrances to the front doors are over little wooden bridges crossing a narrow channel of water. There is a wide choice of restaurants with outdoor terraces under a row of trees in the middle of a divided main street.
A walk along the town’s rampart takes about 45 minutes. Along the way, you’ll 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 Leiden great in every way, because of its small quaint streets and abundance of canals, but it’s also the home of DutchReview! Trying not to be biased here, but Leiden is a beautiful place. It has the most canals in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and it’s home to 15 great museums (which beat Amsterdam any day!)
We recommend you visit the Leiden markets, the different museums — such as The Museum for Antiquities and the Museum of Ethnology, take a boat trip, shop, or sit on one of the terraces with a biertje.
We absolutely love ‘s-Hertogenbosch a.k.a. Den Bosch! You’ll find this beautiful place in Noord Brabant. The city is a mix of old and typically medieval buildings, canals, a beautiful cathedral and also very modern and trendy architecture. It’s also home to the bulb houses, which have sat there since the 1980s.
On your next visit, take a boat trip along the canals and enjoy the absence of hoards of tourists that you usually see in Amsterdam. You can also visit St. John’s Cathedral, and take a walk or cycle to take in all of the amazing architecture.
Maastricht is often forgotten, seeing as it’s so far away from the capital. It shouldn’t be though! Maastricht is a beautiful city, with lots of medieval architecture and plenty 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.
Marvel at the gorgeous architecture as you take a walk around the city, visit the flea markets, go to the market square, visit some museums, drink on the terraces… there are plenty of things to do in Maastricht.
Naarden is a small town close to Amsterdam. It’s 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, making this fortified town even more beautiful and interesting than it was already.
Apart from taking a drone shot, or maybe not — the residents may find that a bit annoying at this point — you can check out Vestingmuseum (dedicated to the town’s defence history), visit one of the oldest churches in the Netherlands, just walk around and take in the sites, or go for food and drink in one of the many cafés and restaurants.
The beautiful little town of Hoorn is located in Noord-Holland, near lake IJsselmeer. Not only is it picturesque, but it’s also close to a lake, sand dunes and the countryside. This makes Hoorn a popular place to go for water sports — staycation here we come! Hoorn is great to walk or cycle around and there are museums, a shopping area, restaurants, and cafés — what more could we want?
Utrecht is a beautiful and typically Dutch city that is often forgotten (Amsterdam and Rotterdam seem to rule the roost). Once the religious capital of the Netherlands, this quaint, medieval city radiates around the Dom Tower — the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. With beautiful old houses, bridges, and canals that ring the city, Utrecht is often regarded as a little Amsterdam — just without as many tourists. There’s no shortage of interesting things to do and see in this historic city.
Roermond is a town in Limburg, located very close to both Germany and Belgium. 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 on the east bank of the Meuse River — so it’s a beautiful destination to visit for the day.
If you’re a shopaholic, you’re in luck. Roermond has a designer outlet, a variety of popular high-street shops, cafés, and restaurants. Not only is wandering around the town beautiful but it’s only a stone’s throw away from the lake districts, offering lots of walks and loads to do. If water sports are your thing, then this is the place to be.
19. The Hague
The Hague is an immensely popular place to be for internationals — to live, work and visit. Once you’ve gone there, you can see why. The Hague is a hub for innovation, business, and multiculturalism. It’s both modern and historical, so it’s a great mix. It’s also home to the government and the International Court of Justice.
You can walk around the Binnenhof grounds (the Dutch parliament), explore the Peace Palace, visit Scheveningen long sandy beach and iconic pier, check out many different museums, shop in the large high-street, and — you guessed it — eat and drink in the hundreds of different cafes and restaurants.
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 16th and 17th centuries.
Veere is definitely worth a visit. The center square may be small but the atmosphere is soaked with history along with the small streets — a reminder of the town’s glory days. The town’s charming shops offer clothing, culinary delicacies, decorations, and of course souvenirs.
You may have heard of Alkmaar because of the Alkmaar cheese market. But Alkmaar isn’t just great because of all of the cheese (even though that definitely is a big bonus). It has a historical city centre and is filled to the brim with things to do.
Walking or biking around the historical centre should definitely be on your to-do list too. There are loads of shops, restaurants, and cafés 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.
Have you visited any of these gorgeous towns? Which Dutch town is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Michel_van_der_Vegt/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2018, and was fully updated in September 2021 for your reading pleasure.