Summer sightseeing in the Netherlands: our favourite tips for tourists
The Netherlands is a great place for a summer holiday, and you get to avoid the crowds at Schiphol as well.
Visit the Efteling. I spent a substantial chunk of my childhood summers in the theme parks that populate Southern California, so I actually get wistfully nostalgic for standing in long lines in the hot sun just to get zipped around while surrounded by herky-jerky animatronics of varying degrees of quality. Efteling is easily one of top three destinations on the continent for this sort of stuff.
The very anticipation of summer in the Netherlands is something I enjoy a lot. Seeing people in shorts and flip-flops when it’s really not that warm is funny. I also like to discover tiny café terraces that only open up on sunny days.
I love hiking on the islands of Texel and Terschelling, ideally without a phone or at least internet connection. The nature there is very pretty and it’s a great place to rest. This year, I’m also super excited about the European Conference of Science Journalism, taking place in Leiden.
You don’t have to put up with the crowds in Amsterdam – try any of the provincial towns that are just as pretty but smaller, cheaper and with fewer hawkers. Haarlem, Delft, Dordrecht and ‘s-Hertogenbosch are all good options. Once you get beyond Utrecht the countryside is set up for walking and cycling, as well as the classically Dutch challenge of wadlopen: wading across the shallow Waddenzee to the islands at low tide (tip: invest in a pair of cheap shoes, because you’ll never want to wear them again).
For a car-free trip to Zeeland, take the train to Middelburg, the provincial capital. Its pretty pavement cafes, medieval architecture and bric-à-brac shops are all just a short walk away from the Cityhotel Wood, where we found reasonably priced, smart, spacious rooms and an excellent breakfast. Take bus 56 to Pauwenburgweg and stroll through the beautiful Van Woelderenpark. Cross the dunes and you’ll eventually arrive in the huge unspoilt beaches just west of Vlissingen.
If you are not from the Netherlands, come and visit. It’s great in the summer, and not too hot. If you live here, take a weekend break away to places like Dordrecht or Breda and Leeuwarden. They are all close by, they have quaint museums and really good food. Be a tourist even if you live here.
Rent a boat, wherever you are, and just potter around on the water. Forget the organised canal tours with the obligatory white wine and kaasblokjes (aka Trip Advisor’s best holiday experience in the world), and rent your own. If you do it with a small group, it won’t cost more than a few euros each. Don’t forget to pack a picnic.
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