Holland's Hidden Gems- Cities and Villages - Global Storybook

Holland’s Hidden Gems: Cities and Villages

Isa Lamers

Isa Lamers

Isa Lamers is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Netherlands).

I'm Isa, a Dutch girl traveling through South-America for 7 months while learning Spanish and doing some volunteer work. I love to write and share my experiences and stories with anyone willing to hear or read them. I also love to meet new people from all over the world, as well as play my guitar.
Isa Lamers

When you think of Holland, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is Amsterdam.  While musing over the coffee shops, the Red Light District, and the beautiful moats, many don’t realize that Holland has so much more to offer than just its legendary capital!  Though I do agree that Amsterdam is a beautiful city to spend a few unforgettable days in, we have some other places that are even prettier, with many more exciting things to see.  Besides, they are much less touristic!

Here are my top five personal favorite gems, where I take my foreign friends to once they come to Holland.

Giethoorn

The stunning Giethoornhis is definitely worth a visit.  This whimsical little village looks like it came out of a dream.  It has more water, canals, and moats than land to live on — hence its famous nickname ‘Little Venice,’ or ‘Venice of the Netherlands.’  It’s not a big place, so a day trip or even an afternoon tour should be enough to explore it in full.

Local tip: A boat tour through the village is one of the most magical experiences that you can have in Holland, especially in late Spring or early Summer, when everything is in full bloom!

Giethoorn, Netherlands - Global StorybookNijmegen

By Dutch standards, the city of Nijmegen is quite big, though it only has a population of about 175,000.  It’s primarily famous for its incredible location, right along the banks of De Waal river.  Among the numerous exciting things, Nijmegen has the most beautiful quay, which is especially enjoyable in July, and August.

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In the Spring, you will find the locals enjoying a nice cold drink, with a delicious lunch underneath some beautiful trees blooming with colorful flowers, while admiring the scenic landscape on the other side of the river.

About five years ago, the township decided to use the vast space on the other side of the river as a recreational zone, and as living quarters for the locals.  Around three years ago, they started building an artificial island on the river.  Nowadays, it’s a beautiful place to go for a walk, a run, or even a bike ride, fully integrating yourself into the Dutch culture.

Local tip: make sure to explore the historic city center of Nijmegen, which is also a great place for shopping!

Nijmegen, Netherlands - Global StorybookZaanse Schans

If you are ready to see something different while in Amsterdam, but are not prepared to travel through the whole country (though it’s not that big), visit the ‘De Zaanse Schans’!  It’s only 20-25 minutes away from the city, and it has some of the most picturesque windmills in the region.

You will also have a chance to visit the various small, authentic shops selling Dutch candy, ‘stroopwafels’ (delicious Dutch cookies), as well as local souvenirs (including our famous wooden shoes, magnets, t-shirts, and other fun items).

Lastly, there’s more cheese there than you have probably seen in your entire lifetime.  Every sort and kind, every color, flavor, and shape that you can think of — you will find it in the Zaanse Schans.  In addition, you can explore its famous local houses in their original, indigenous styles.  Some of them function as museums, displaying the machinery which we use to produce the wooden shoes, textiles, and even cheese.  It’s an idyllic location for a nice getaway from Amsterdam!

Zaanse Schans, Netherlands - Global StorybookVolendam

If you want to experience the Dutch culture, see our typical houses, dine in authentic restaurants, or maybe try on some folk costumes then definitely go to Volendam.

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Take a stroll through its narrow streets, explore its historic center, savor it’s popular freshly cooked fish in one of the local cafes located along the harbor offering an enticing view of the cute little fisherman boats.  Then, if you still have some time on your hands, I’d recommend trying on some traditional costumes.  Don’t worry about where to find the shops, there are signs everywhere.  It might sound like a cheesy activity, but trust me — it’s so much fun.  The people of Volendam are very friendly and welcoming.  They will be eager to share our culture and customs with you.

Local tip: one day is enough to explore this small town in full.  Plus, it’s only a 40-minute ride by train from Amsterdam.

Volendam, Netherlands - Global StorybookUtrecht

Utrecht is a typical Dutch city.  It has one of the biggest universities in all of Netherlands, so the nightlife here is particularly bubbly.  While in Utrecht, anywhere you look — you will always spot more bicycles than cars.  It’s one of the cheapest transportation modes, and since the entire country is notoriously bike-friendly, everyone goes from point A to B by bike.

Some students and bike-fanatics even use their bicycles as a decoration.  For example, they hang them on the walls of their living rooms, mount a tire on the front door or even tie the noisy bells to the drawers.  Some shops or cafes even have a “bicycle theme,” where the furniture and tableware are decorated with bicycle parts, helmets, and many other details that you can’t even foresee.

Local tip: my favorite place is the Blackbird Coffee & Vintage.

Utrecht, Netherlands - Global StorybookPin Me:Holland's Hidden Gems: Cities and Villages - Global Storybook

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