What associations does Holland evoke in you? Small gingerbread houses, mills on the banks of the canals, tulip fields, wooden shoes and cheese are the expected response from the lips of those who have visited this wonderful country at least once. Meanwhile, it was the Netherlands that managed to combine centuries-old traditions and modern trends. Sit back as you embark on an exciting tour of a country that deserves to fall in love at first sight.
The history of this country dates back to the Paleolithic era. The remains of human settlements found here date back to this period. In the first centuries of our era, these territories were constantly conquered by someone — the Romans, Saxons, Franks and Frisians. Then the lands of the Netherlands were alternately part of the empire of Charlemagne, the East Frankish kingdom, Spain, and at different periods were occupied by the troops of France and Germany. Active participation in the political arena during the war period allows us to speak of the Netherlands as one of the founders of the EU and the Benelux trade union. The result of the difficult formation of Holland as a country has become one of the strongest economies in Europe.
Tourism in the Netherlands is developed at the highest level — rest here promises travelers only positive emotions and colorful photos. A high level of organization, a favorable creative environment, a lot of historical monuments, friendly people and liberalism in all its manifestations will make you feel like you are in an ideal world. By the way, an interesting fact about the country is that it is not entirely correct to identify the name of the Netherlands and Holland. In the second case, we are talking about two specific provinces, and there are a total of 12 of them.
Political and geographical structure
The Kingdom of the Netherlands (namely, this is how the full and correct name of Holland sounds) on the world map is located in the western part of Europe, where its borders are washed by the North Sea. The territory of the country borders on Belgium and Germany. The form of government of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, the official language is Dutch, and the official currency is the euro. Holland still has colonies to this day. We are talking about the Caribbean Netherlands — the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, which are endowed with the right of self-government, but their inhabitants are full citizens of the country and have the right to vote.
The official capital of Holland is Amsterdam. Here the monarch takes an oath of allegiance to the state and the Constitution. In fact, the entire political life of the country is concentrated in The Hague, where the government, parliament and the official royal residence are located.
The coat of arms of the Netherlands is depicted as a blue shield with a crown and heraldic lions on the sides, and the flag combines red, white and blue horizontal stripes. The royal motto approved the phrase, translated meaning «I will stand.»
The area of the European part of the Netherlands is 41.5 thousand square meters. km, and the population is just over 17 million people. Holland is divided into 12 provinces, which, in turn, are divided into communities and communal areas. The basis of local administrations is municipalities, of which there are 647.
A developed economy, a rich historical past and high technologies of the future attract tourists from all over the world to the Netherlands, but you should take care of a visa in advance. Holland is a member of the Schengen agreement, so you can’t get here without preliminary paperwork.
Climate and nature of the Netherlands
The geographical position of the Netherlands determines some features of the climate. Slightly less than half of the country’s territory is located below sea level. Mountains in the Netherlands are out of the question, because the highest point is only 321 m. At the same time, artificially reclaimed land, fixed with a complex system of dams and canals, is widespread. Most of the Netherlands is anthropogenic, that is, landscapes modified by man, therefore, natural areas of land are especially valued and protected by law.
As for the climate, it is moderately maritime here. In simple terms, the Dutch winters are warm, and summers are not swelteringly hot. The average temperature in the warm season is +17 °C, in the cold season +2 °C. In winter, sleet often falls, and the channels are sometimes covered with a mirror-like surface of a crust of ice.
Cities and resorts
Holland is listed as one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Depending on which aspect of Dutch life you are interested in, you should plan your travel itinerary. At the same time, there is a «holy of holies» — a category of cities and resorts, without visiting which the Netherlands will not be able to fully reveal its culture.
Perhaps it is worth starting from the capital. Amsterdam is a city that will introduce you to the contrasts of the Netherlands. Being the center of paid love and drug pleasure, he managed to maintain a sense of decency. Rotterdam is the largest port city in the Netherlands, all important political events are held in The Hague, all the country’s railway lines pass through Utrecht, and Eindhoven is known as a high-tech center. By the way, the first three settlements, together with the capital, form the Ranstad agglomeration. No less interesting to visit will be Leiden, Haarlem, Arnhem, Groningen, Tilburg, which will clearly show the life of ordinary people and students in the Netherlands.
Attractions and entertainment in the Netherlands
You can talk about the tourist sites of the country for a long time and with taste. Here they honor art in all its manifestations, love modern installations and carefully preserve the legacy of past centuries. So, what should you pay attention to:
- In Amsterdam, on Dam Square, where many architectural monuments have gathered, among which the Royal Palace and the Gothic Nieuwekerk Cathedral stand out. You can book a boat trip, popular in the Netherlands, and look at the beauty of the city from a different angle. Experience the originality of the Blauburg and Magere Brug bridges, smell the flowers in the Keukenhof Royal Park or visit the many museums in the Dutch capital.
- Rotterdam will delight you with progressive views on the modern architecture of the Netherlands, and you can even spend the night in one of the famous cubic houses. In addition to futuristic buildings, the city is worth visiting the St. Laurentskerk Cathedral, the monument to Peter I, the Historical Museum in the palace of the 17th century.
- Hague will introduce tourists to the Dutch architecture of the XVII-XVIII centuries. in the style of classical baroque and renaissance, periodically diluting the landscapes with houses of the 19th century, typical of the art nouveau direction. A visit to the Peace Palace, where sessions of the International Court of Justice are held, will remain unforgettable. In addition, tourists are waiting for the Binnenhof Palace, the building of the Tribunal Ridderhall and the Museum of the Inquisition, located in the building of the ancient Gewagenport prison.
- Volendam — a small fishing village in Holland, which has been turned into an attraction. Here you can fully experience the spirit and traditions of the Dutch people, try on the role of a simple fisherman, try traditional cuisine, enjoy the view of folk costumes and just have a good time.
- Zaanse Schans — an open-air museum, which is valuable because old mills, one of the symbols of the Netherlands, have been preserved here. Surprisingly, they are in working condition, and tourists can see with their own eyes the process of grinding flour and whipping butter.
- Numerous museums. In the Netherlands, even just visiting exhibitions and viewing expositions will not seem boring, because it is impossible to resist the interactive Museum of the Human Body, the collection of retro cars in the Automobile Museum, the Diamond Museum and even the Hemp Museum. But connoisseurs of art should pay attention to several other institutions. The Stedelek Museum, the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum — this is where your inner esthete will shed a tear of happiness, as he will be able to enjoy the paintings of the great masters of the brush.
- tulip fields are incredibly popular among tourists in Holland. From mid-March to the end of May, you can enjoy a bright carpet of flowers. The bulk of the tulip farms are located in the Nordostpolder community.
- flower festival. At the height of flowering, from the end of March to the end of April, one of the main holidays takes place in Holland. This enchanting procession is associated with the arrival of spring. Local residents build flower sculptures, decorate the city squares with them and enjoy the fun. The route of the parade participants passes through the Keukenhof park and finishes in Haarlem.
Most often, cheeses, tulip bulbs and wooden clogs are brought from Holland as souvenirs. Also, local shops are filled with all sorts of knick-knacks depicting windmills. If you are looking for a more prestigious gift, pay attention to Delphi porcelain, and tourists who are not limited in funds can buy more expensive dishes from the Royal Factory as a keepsake. Original souvenirs can also be found in sex shops in Amsterdam. Legalized and sold in countless coffeeshops, soft drugs, unfortunately for the majority, cannot be exported.
The Dutch appreciate tasty and nutritious food. For the most part, traditional cuisine is simple country food. Potatoes are most often used as a side dish. It is served with haring — lightly salted herring with onions. This version of the traditional dish is served not only in cafes, but also as street food. Herring is loved here both baked and even raw. In addition, fish is also consumed in the form of meatballs.
Against the backdrop of such an abundance of seafood, a very small niche is allocated to meat. At the same time, everything is used in cooking, up to offal and meat trimmings.
Hot sandwiches are another popular dish in the Netherlands. Their filling can be very diverse, only the main ingredient remains unchanged — Dutch cheese.
Where to sleep?
Hotels in the Netherlands should be chosen in advance. As a rule, international exhibitions and other events are often held in large cities, so there can be problems with housing without a reservation. Sometimes you should pay attention to the reviews — the service in most hotels in Holland is at the proper level, especially in large cities where there is a larger flow of tourists, but annoying troubles happen. In addition, be prepared for the Dutch price level, and it is an order of magnitude higher here than in other European countries.
The following hotels enjoy good reviews from tourists in the Netherlands: Ambassade Hotel, Hotel Estherea, Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam, Hotel Sebastian’s.
Features of the transport system
In the Netherlands, bicycles are kings of the road. The organization of the movement of cyclists is so perfect that the injuries associated with this type of transport are at a minimum level. Statistics say that there are even more bicycles here than people.
As for public transport, the Netherlands has a single system that includes trams, buses and trolleybuses, and in the capital and Rotterdam there is also a metro. This means that by purchasing a single ticket, you will be able to use it within an hour, and it does not matter which mode of transport you are traveling in.
The most convenient way to travel between cities in the Netherlands is by train. Here they are divided into two types — high-speed and ordinary, and they go even to the most remote cities of the country.
Air traffic is well developed in the Netherlands. Among the largest airports in the country are Schiphol in Amsterdam, Elde in Groningen, Eindhoven airports, Maastricht-Aachen and Rotterdam-The Hague.
Aeroflot operates regular flights from Moscow to Amsterdam. It is better to fly to Rotterdam and The Hague using the services of Vueling Airlines.