Land of iconic windmills and charming tulips, the Netherlands has long captured the world’s imagination. Rather small compared to other European nations, the Netherlands nonetheless holds it own, especially when it comes to art. It has produced Rembrandt and Vermeer, Dutch masters whose masterpieces are some of the most valued in the world. Present-day Holland, as The Netherlands is also called, also has many ways to keep its visitors interested: this generally flat land is ideal for cycling, or walking without too much exertion; its big cities are known for their festive spirit; and the Dutch themselves are a fun-loving, amiable people.
Amsterdam, the beautiful capital of the Netherlands, has the wonderful atmosphere of a 17th-century city combined with the contemporary character of a modern metropolis. It is a treasure chest of superb architecture: Amsterdam’s waterways create a very special ambience, and the delightful buildings that line the canals only add to the city’s charm.
Ijmuiden is your gateway to Amsterdam.
- The Anne Frank House, the former hiding place where she wrote her diary during World War II.
- A glass-topped canal boat ride through the town center, to discover the elegant merchant mansions and rows of waterside warehouses, which once housed the riches brought from the Far East. The tour also leads you to the 17th-century "Skinny Bridge" and Amsterdam's narrowest house, beautiful old churches, and the Anne Frank House.
- Jordaan, the old French Quarter that is now a popular artists' haunt with a wide assortment of cafés, antique shops, boutiques and galleries.
- The world's largest flower auction in the city of Aalsmeer.
- Zaanse Schans, an authentic old village in the countryside with quaint windmills.
- Rembrandt House, home to the master from 1639 to 1660. It has a collection of his engravings and drawings and some of his personal belongings.
The world's largest port, Rotterdam is the perfect starting point for excursions to the cities of Holland. Few cities rebounded as quickly as Rotterdam following the Nazi invasion, which leveled the medieval heart of town, burning down most of it. Today, some of Europe's most bold contemporary architecture can be found amid classic 18th- and 19th-century buildings in this gateway to the Netherlands.
- Gouda, a city just outside Rotterdam, known the world over for its delicious cheese. Encased in its signature bright red packaging, this exquisite cheese makes for a delicious snack during an afternoon of sightseeing.
- Royal Delft Factory in the nearby river town of Delft, to witness the 400-year old tradition of crafting Delftware, the blue-and-white earthenware that is a hallmark of Dutch design. You can buy samples on the premises.