Get to know your Dutch neighbors in a whole new light by discovering these popular sports in the Netherlands.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands, getting to grips with the local sports culture might not be on your list of things to do during your first week. However, there are few better ways to understand the culture of your new home than through sports. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an armchair fan or like getting sweaty yourself, the Dutch have plenty to offer. Read on to discover more about popular sports in the Netherlands.
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An overview of sports in the Netherlands
Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands definitely punches above its weight on the global sporting stage. The country has a rich history of sporting achievements and the locals like nothing more than donning their famous orange and cheering along. You can even visit some monuments to Dutch sporting history, such as Amsterdam‘s famous Olympic Stadium. Dating from the 1928 Olympic Games, the stadium is a fine example of the Amsterdamse School architectural movement.
How to watch sports on Dutch TV
Whatever your favorite sport, there are plenty of ways to watch it in the Netherlands. While nothing comes close to seeing the action live, if you can’t get down to the stadium why not tune in on TV instead? The biggest home telecom companies in the Netherlands all offer sports channels as part of their TV and internet packages, including:
When choosing your Dutch TV package, be sure you know what channels you’re getting. This is especially true if you’re a fan of a particular sport (such as golf or tennis), or a certain competition (such as the Indian Premier League or Super Bowl). For more information, read up on Dutch TV and radio.
You won’t need to spend long in the Netherlands to discover how seriously the locals take their football. The game is played throughout the country by men, women, and children of all abilities. If you have kids, it won’t take you long to find a local team that’ll welcome them in. Alternatively, if you want to play yourself, you’ll find expat teams in many large cities. These can be a great way to boost your social circle.
However, for many locals football (voetbal) means following one of the teams in the Eredivisie, the highest level of the men’s game. The league consists of 18 teams hailing from all corners of the Netherlands. The most successful teams in Eredivisie history are the so-called “Big Three” Amsterdam’s Ajax, Eindhoven’s PSV, and Rotterdam’s Feyenoord. The top teams qualify for the UEFA Champions League. The most recent Dutch club to be crowned European Champions was Ajax back in 1995. The highest level in the women’s game is the Vrouwen Eredivisie.
For an unforgettable Dutch footballing experience, be sure to check out the men’s national team, nicknamed Oranje. The team does not have a designated home ground, although they play most matches at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff Arena, the country’s largest stadium. While the Netherlands are yet to win a World Cup, the men’s team brought home the 1988 European Championship trophy and the women’s team won it in 2017.
Live through your first Dutch winter and you’ll soon discover just how much the locals love ice skating. As soon as the mercury drops below zero, they dust off their skates in the hope the country’s many kilometers of waterways will freeze over. And they often do, from historic city-center canals to countryside fields – just check local reports before heading out to ensure you stay safe on the ice. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see the famous Elfstedentocht, a 200km race across the icy landscape of Friesland. However, the race only occurs when the ice is thick enough – the last was held in 1997.
However, even if the Dutch waterways don’t freeze over, there are still plenty of ways to indulge your inner short-track star. Most Dutch cities have an ice rink (ijsbaan), offering open sessions, children’s lessons, and more. If you like a little more puck with your ice skating, you might want to check out the local ice hockey leagues. The top tier is the Eredivisie, but there are clubs located throughout the Netherlands so you’re never too far from the action.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about popular sports in the Netherlands, but the Dutch absolutely love their field hockey. In fact, the Dutch women’s team, Oranje Dames, is the most successful in Olympic history, collecting a record nine medals, including four gold. As of 2021, they are also European and World champions and attract big crowds to their games. Check their latest fixtures for your chance to see the team in action.
As you might expect, there are national and regional leagues at all levels of the men’s and women’s games. Whether you want to catch your local side in action or would like to join a club, you’ll be surprised at just how many teams there are in the Netherlands. Field hockey is the second-most popular team sport in the country, and most clubs also have youth teams. This can be a great way to get your kids integrated into the local community while getting some all-important fresh air.
Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, so it should come as little surprise that the Dutch like nothing better than hitting a few balls. Unlike their neighbors, the Netherlands doesn’t have a strong heritage of successful tennis players. Indeed, Richard Krajicek is the only Dutch player to ever win a grand slam, taking the 1996 Wimbledon title. However, the new generation of players currently making their way up the rankings will hope to change that stat.
If you want to watch the stars from home and abroad play in the Netherlands, you have a few options. The Rotterdam Open (indoor) is a men’s ATP 500 event held every winter, while both men and women feature at the Rosmalen Championships (grass), held as a pre-Wimbledon tournament in June. Anyone for tennis? Then search online to find your nearest courts. Most players in the Netherlands are part of a club. However, public courts are available in most towns and cities.
When you think of the Dutch, you might picture them being more interested in pedal-powered sports than anything with a motor. Indeed, locals in the Netherlands love cycling, whether it’s heading down to the local supermarket or watching the professionals at the velodrome. However, in recent years, much local attention has been caught by the glamorous and fast-paced world of Formula 1.
The reason for this is a certain Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver has been one of the stand-out stars of the sport in recent years and clinched his first World Championship in the hotly-contested 2021 season. Recent years have also seen the Netherlands welcome the sport back to Dutch shores for the first time in decades. Although the opening was met with significant opposition, the first Dutch Grand Prix at the historic track in Zandvoort was held in 2021.
New arrivals in the Netherlands might be surprising to know just how many unique sports the Dutch enjoy. These range from the kooky – paalzitten sees participants sit on poles for hours – to the downright absurd – in fierljeppen competitors pole vault over canals. However, one Dutch sport that enjoys a solid community of players and growing international attention is korfball (korfbal).
Korfball is a high-intensity team game that is similar to both netball and basketball. The game is typically played with mixed-gender teams and sees competitors try to get a football-type ball through a hoop. Korfball was invented back in 1902 by Dutch teacher, Nico Broekhuysen. However, since then the game has spread throughout the world, and there is even a four-yearly World Korfball Championships. If you’re looking for a uniquely Dutch sporting experience, find your nearest korfball team.