The Netherlands - general information for travellers
The Netherlands is considered one of the best countries for a family holiday, thanks to its great variety of family attractions. It has big amusement parks, water parks, zoos, interesting museums, fishing villages, boating, biking, and more. The selection of lodging in the Netherlands is also great and includes lovely holiday villages (which you won’t want to leave), farm houses and vacation homes. Thanks to its small size, The Netherlands is an ideal destination for star trips. It may not have breathtaking views like Switzerland or Norway and it doesn’t have amazing natural sites with caves or waterfalls, and the weather is rather fickle. However, it has plenty of charm and interesting attractions. For curious children who love activities, it is a paradise.
Full name of country:
The Netherlands (Nederland in Dutch)
41,848 square kilometres
31% Catholic, 20% Protestant-Calvinist, 6% Muslim
System of government:
Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Dutch. Many Dutch people speak English as well.
International country code:
Amsterdam (Population: 737,900). However, the seat of the government is The Hague (Population: 465,900).
The Netherlands is
located in Western Europe. It borders Germany on the
east, Belgium in the south, and the North Sea in the
north and the west. The country is divided into 12
provinces. The Netherlands is a flat country, over a
quarter of which is below sea level.
The Netherlands is slowly sinking at a rate of about two millimetres a year. Its lowest point is north of Rotterdam at seven metres below sea level. Its highest point is south of Maastricht, at 323 metres above sea level. The shoreline of the Netherlands is 451km long. In order to prevent being flooded by the sea, the Dutch built an incredible system of dams (at a total length of 2400km) which open and close according to water levels and the seasons of the year. Also, many sections of sea and swamps were dehydrated in order to protect the country from floods and increase agricultural areas. These dehydrated sections now make up a quarter of the country. Holland has three major rivers: Rhine, Maas, and Schelde, all originating outside the country.
The Dutch are known for their dairy products, especially their hard cheeses. Their most famous cheeses are Gouda and Edam. Popular foods in the Netherlands are salted fish, especially herring and matias, which are sold in many a street market around the country; fries, usually accompanied by mayonnaise; croquettes; and pancakes. The most popular soup in the Netherlands is pea soup. Dutch cuisine is based primarily on potatoes and is not considered to be that great. Luckily, The Netherlands is full of Italian, Chinese, and Indonesian restaurants. The most popular alcoholic drink in the country is beer.
The Netherlands has a strong, stable economy despite the constant battle with the sea threatening to flood it, all thanks to the Dutch people’s efficient and hardworking nature. The Netherlands has an advanced sea-based transport system and a big navy. Dutch agriculture, with is based primarily on dairy, flowers, fruit and wheat, is one of the best in the world – even though only 3% of the workforce deals in agriculture. Another traditional branch of economy is fishing. 16% of the country’s citizens work in industry. The most major branches of the industry are steel, chemicals, food products, electronics, and micro-electronics. The biggest and fastest-growing sector in the Netherlands is servicing, which 81% of the work force does.
January 1st – New Year’s Day
March/April – Easter
April 30th – Queen’s Day
May 4th – Remembrance of the Dead
May 5th – Liberation Day
40 days after Easter – Ascension Day
7 weeks after Easter – Pentecost
December 5th – Saint Nicholas’ Eve
December 25th-26th – Christmas
Cycling is the most popular physical activity in the Netherlands. It’s not just a sport; it’s an important means of transportation and a whole way of life. The Dutch are also known for their love of football (soccer), rugby, and various water sports such as boating, fishing and surfing. Ice skating is popular in wintertime.
The weather in the Netherlands is known for its fickleness. The country’s proximity to the North Sea has a strong influence on the country’s climate. Keep an umbrella and coat handy every season of the year. In the summer, it may be hot and humid one day and cold, windy and rainy the next. Winter is cold; sometimes there are snowstorms and strong northern winds, while other times it is sunny.
More information about weather can be found here.
When to visit:
The optimal time for a family holiday is between April and October. Flowers bloom beautifully between April and May, attracting lots of visitors. Summer months are the warmest, though with the highest chance for rain. These months are most busy with tourists and lodging rates are high. The advantage to this season is that opening hours for sites are significantly longer and the sun stays up until late. From the end of August to October the weather is still relatively comfortable, prices are lower and visitors are fewer. Open hours are shorter and open days are fewer, but with good planning you’ll be able to see almost everything quite comfortably. Winter isn’t a good time to visit the country (except for big cities like Amsterdam) as the weather is cold, there is a chance of snowstorms, strong winds from the North Sea will chill you to the bone, water in the canals may freeze, and many family attractions are closed.
How long to stay:
Despite its small size, The Netherlands is full of varied family attractions. In order to see all the major ones you will need at least a week. If you would like to see the country without any rush and combine active vacation with visiting amusement parks, zoos, windmills, open museums, fishing villages and big cities, you can definitely visit for two whole weeks.
(Initials: AMS), Amsterdam’s International airport, is
located 18km southwest of the city and connected to it
with excellent public transport.
You can also fly to Brussels in Belgium, 200km south of Amsterdam and only 100km from the border with The Netherlands, particularly if you are staying in the south of the Netherlands or visiting both countries on one trip.
The Netherlands has a dense and efficient network of railways covering the entire country. Amsterdam is an important crossroads of railways not just to Holland but to all of northern Europe. Over 1000 trains stop at Amsterdam’s central station every day.
You can purchase tickets called Euro Domino which allow for unlimited use of trains for a period of three, five, or seven days. Another card, the Euro Domino Plus, allows for unlimited use of all other public transport as well (buses, trams and the metro). The national railway company is called NS.
I do not
recommend visiting Amsterdam with a car. Its roads are
busy and congested and parking is expensive. Public
transport, however, is excellent and fast. I suggest
arriving in the city by train or parking in a parking
lot outside of the city and taking the metro in.
Amsterdam aside, the easiest and cheapest way for a vacationing family to see Holland is by rental car, which you should rent right at Schiphol Airport. Driving in the Netherlands is easy and safe. The roads are excellent, there are many freeways, and road signs are clear and easy to follow.
The speed limit on the freeways is 110kmph, 100kmph on intercity highways, 80kmph in motorways crossing suburban areas, and 50kmph in built-up city areas.
Bicycles are a
popular method of transportation in The Netherlands
thanks to its flatness and its many excellent bike
trails. As tourists, it is more likely that you and your
family will use bikes as more of an attraction on your
vacation than as actual transport. If you don’t cycle
professionally I recommend renting a bike in a small
town or village. It’s best to rent a bike for your
entire stay in a holiday village or at one of the train
stations. You can rent bikes for two hours, for a day or
for several days. The longer the time period, the lower
the price per hour/day. In the summer, I recommend
booking ahead. In any case, get a lock for your bike and
don’t leave it unattended without locking. Bike theft
rates, especially in big cities, are very high. This is
the reason for the fairly high safety deposit required
along with the rental fee. In many places you can rent
bikes for all ages, including bikes with training wheels
or a baby seat and even a tandem bike.
In De Hoge Veluwe National Park, bike rental is free.
10 interesting facts about The Netherlands:
More than a quarter of the country is below sea level.
The Netherlands has about 1000 traditional windmills in operation today.
The Netherlands has more than 15,000km of bicycle trails.
The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe.
The Netherlands is one of the six founding nations of the European Union.
Rotterdam Harbour is the second biggest harbour in the world.
The Netherlands has 4,400km of rivers, canals and lakes.
Amsterdam is the country’s capital, but the seat of the government is in The Hague.
The highest point in The Netherlands is 323 meters above sea level, while the lowest is 6.7 meters below sea level.
The Netherlands has one of the highest
concentrations of museums in the world. In Amsterdam
alone there are 42 museums.
‘Good morning’ – ‘Goedemorgen’‘
Good night’ – ‘Goedenacht’‘
Hello’ – ‘Dag’‘
Goodbye’ – ‘Tot ziens’‘
Thank you’– ‘Bedankt’‘
Please’ or ‘here you go’ – Alstublieft‘
Yes’ – ‘Ja’‘
No’ – ‘Nee’‘
Where?’ – ‘Waar?’‘
When?’ – ‘Wanneer?’‘
How much does this cost?’ – ‘Hoeveel kost dat?’
Information on pronunciation can be found here.