From the Dutch ‘Stonehenge’ and a 44-acre open air museum, to a living-room planetarium and dolphin station: here are the top undiscovered places recommended by the Dutch.
Expatriates and tourists are not the only ones who like to enjoy the sights in the Netherlands. Whether you’re an adventurer looking to get off the beaten track or want to discover the Netherlands a little deeper, who better to turn to for advice than the locals themselves.
Here is a guide, as recommended by the Dutch, on the top places to visit in the Netherlands that are undiscovered by the masses. Be sure to check opening times as some places are closed certain days, for example, on Mondays.
Teyler’s Museum in Haarlem
Aside from being the very first museum in the Netherlands, Teyler’s Museum was the third museum in Europe, following in the footsteps of the Oxford Ashmolean and the British Museum. It was once a living theatre; a place to discuss the inventions of the times with colleagues, to hear speakers and chew over the discoveries of science and art, as well as a laboratory for experiments and demonstrations. Today we can peer into the past through the collection of microscopes and telescopes, Newtonian measuring equipment, fossils, rocks and gems and, of course, paintings, drawings, etches and sketches. You can also visit its library with its travel journals and important documents such as the Diderot Encyclopedia (the first in Europe), James Cooks’ travel journals, Darwin’s scribbles and the works of others of world-renown.
Spaarne 16, Haarlem | T: 023 516 0960 | www.teylersmuseum.eu
Biesbosch National Park
Located near Dordrecht, imagine 7,000 hectares of winding gullies, deep creeks and fields of rushes. The park was created in 1421 when the St Elizabeth flood washed away 16 villages and turned a prosperous agricultural region into a freshwater tidal area. Today, visitors can explore the park on foot or by boat and observe a unique range of plants, animals and birds.
The Singer Museum
Laren (near Hilversum in the province of North Holland) became fashionable with painters in the 1870s, notably those of the Impressionist Hague School. The Singers, an American couple who moved to Laren in 1901, collected the paintings of visiting artists. This delightful museum – situated in the residential area of a very chic town – is based on their collection. Upscale local shops complete the experience.
Oude Drift 1, Laren | T: 035 539 3939 | www.singerlaren.nl
In 1774 Eise Eisinga, an amateur scientist, built a planetarium in his living room in order to calm the villagers’ fears about the end of the world. Despite his limited knowledge about the conjunction of the planets, the planetarium is a masterpiece of engineering that still functions perfectly after 200-something years, making it the oldest in the world.
Eise Eisingastraat 3, Franeker (Friesland) | T: 051 739 3070 | www.planetarium-friesland.nl
Recreational Area Spaarnwoude
In 1969, the government, five municipalities and the province of North Holland decided to keep the area between Amsterdam and Haarlem ‘green’. Thus the recreational area ‘Spaarnwoude’ was launched, covering a total landmass of more than 6,178 acres. Spaarnwoude has become one of the most popular recreational areas in North Holland. It is considered a pocket of peace and tranquillity, offering its visitors the opportunity to hike, cycle and inline skate, while taking in the area’s natural beauty. But that’s not all: other activities and attractions include parks, play areas, a golf course, a scaling wall, an educational farm, canoe courses, ‘adventureland’ and the opportunity to go skiing at Snowplanet.
Thorn is a favourite subject for posters advertising the province of Limburg, but still a village relatively undiscovered by foreign visitors. Thorn, located near Roermond, is a wonderfully picturesque town with cobbled streets, white-washed houses and farms that intrude right into the main or ‘high’ street, giving the town a very rural atmosphere. The local abbey was founded towards the end of the 10th century.
Panorama Mesdag is a cylindrical painting, more than 14 m high and 120m in circumference. The vista of the sea, the dunes and Scheveningen village was painted by one of the most famous painters of the Hague School, Hendrik Willem Mesdag. It is the oldest 19th-century panorama in the world in its original site, and a unique cultural heritage.
Boschplaat Nature Reserve (Island of Terschelling)
Situated on the marshy land of the southern shore of Terschelling, one of the five Wadden islands, this is where thousands of waterfowl and migrating birds gather. Nearby you’ll also find lovely beaches where the sand is golden and the water clean.
The Tropen Museum
Not as crowded as Amsterdam’s other large museums, here you can discover the culture of New Guinea; learn about art, culture and colonialism; travel through the world of Islam, from Morocco to Pakistan; visit the children’s exhibition on China; or visit Latin America and the Caribbean, discovering a world apart. An excellent restaurant serves unusual dishes from around the world, and temporary exhibits, such as on The Qi of China, are also featured. The adjacent Tropentheater presents a mind-boggling selection of cultural performances from around the world.
Waterland Neeltje Jans (The Delta Project)
In a fascinating exhibition and tour, find out about Zeeland’s endless fight with the sea and the pragmatic Dutch response – a massive dam and flood barrier that literally closed off the sea. From April to October you can visit a dolphin station and make a round-trip on the Oosterschelde (a portion of the sea that once stretched into the province of Zeeland, but now, due to the dikes, has become brackish water and a unique nature area). Don’t miss the hurricane simulator!
Popular with Dutch hikers, this tiny village located near Maastricht nestles cozily in a valley (yes, they do exist) in Limburg. It still retains its authentic atmosphere with tractors chugging down the high street to deposit hay in the lofts above the farms.
For more information, contact VVV Zuid-Limburg | T: 0900 555 9798 | www.noorbeek.nl
This living museum of 130 buildings built on the banks of the IJsselmeer provides a snapshot of life between 1880 and 1932. The original houses, school, church and shops have been transported from 39 locations in the IJsselmeer region.
Wierdijk 12–22, Enkhuizen | T: 022 835 1111 | www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl
Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openlucht Museum), Arnhem
A 44-acre park represents a time capsule of Dutch provincial life with all the inherent customs and traditions in a living history setting, complete with a cross-section of real historic buildings and houses literally transported from their actual settings. Windmills, fully furnished thatched-roof farmhouses and craft shops complete the melting pot.
Schelmseweg 89, Arnhem (northern outskirts of town) | T: 026 357 6111 | www.openluchtmuseum.nl
FOAM Fotografie Museum, Amsterdam
FOAM is described as ‘a museum for photography for a city like Amsterdam: inspirational, accessible, uncomplicated, yet critical’. It includes major exhibitions and discussion forums.
Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam | T: 020 551 6500 | www.foam.org
EYE Film Institute Netherlands
EYE Film Institute is completely dedicated to film and the moving image. Film is exhibited as art, entertainment, cultural heritage and a conveyor of information. It offers exhibitions, programs, films for children, educational programs and activities for all ages.
This eclectic museum juts out into the canal and defies description, with exhibits ranging from arts and crafts to fashion. If the drawbridge entrance happens to be raised for a passing boat, be sure to look at the tongue-in-cheek tiles underneath. A zany place through and through.
Museumeiland 1, Groningen |T: 050 366 6555 | www.groningermuseum.nl
One of the largest concentrations of Stone Age boulder formations exist in the idyllic province of Drenthe in the northeast, where 54 dolmen configurations, one with a capstone weighing an incredible 20,000kg, are scattered throughout the countryside. They are believed to be the megalithic skeletons of burial tombs used by farmers in this most ancient area of the Netherlands. Amazingly, these Fred-Flintstone-like structures are almost 2,000 years older than the famous Stonehenge in England, and 1,000 years older than the pyramids in Egypt. Even more amazing is how they were transported and lifted into place. The Nationaal Hunebedden Informatie centrum (National Dolmen Information Center) in Borger, where you can also see the largest hunebed, is the perfect place to get the lowdown on theories.
Information centre: Bronnegerstraat 12, Borger (between Assen and Emmen) | T: 059 923 6374 |
Reproduced from The Holland Handbook by kind permission of XPat Media.
Photo credit: www.teylersmuseum.eu (Teylers Museum), Elgaard (Franeker Planetarium), Free Photo Fun (Spaarnwoude), Rosemoon (Thorn), Ferditje (Panorama Mesdag), d_vdm (Island of Terschelling), rs-foto (The Delta Project), viëtor (Noorbeek), janebelindasmith (Open Air Museum), Charles HTM (Open Air Museum train), rick ligthelm (EYE Film Institute Netherlands), jack_of_hearts_398 (Groninger Museum), DymphieH (Hunebedden (Dolmens).