From heather fields to eagles – seven Dutch national parks to visit

From heather fields to eagles – seven Dutch national parks to visit

The first national parks in the Netherlands were established in the 1930s and they now cover over 130,000 hectares nationwide. Esther O'Toole takes you on a tour through seven of the Netherlands' natural treasure troves. If you have been led to believe that the natural landscapes of the Netherlands are flat, grey, largely rainy and agricultural then you have been mistaken. There are hills, dunes, forests and a beautiful coastline to explore; where you may encounter, wildlife as diverse as wild boar, beavers, seals, birds of prey and even… flamingos Most National Parks in Holland are now looked after by the Dutch forestry commission (Staatsbosbeheer) and their regional partners. As well as preserving the integrity of each area's unique character and maintaining a healthy environment for indigenous species, they also operate a great outreach programme, such as guided night-time walks with the forester. You can even stay on or very close to many of the 20 parks across the country. Choose from 22 small-scale nature campsites (with just the basic facilities like toilets, showers, bins and a fire hut) and associated B&Bs or small holiday homes. Best of all are the 'pole sites' - designated areas within which 'wild' camping is still allowed for adventurous and environmentally minded folks. Find them by GPS. 1 Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht) A high point in the middle of the country, this naturally undulating landscape gets its name from the glacial ridge at its centre. The hills range from the Gooimeer near Huizen down to the Grebbeberg by Rhenen. Founded in 2003 and extended in 2013, the park now covers 10,000 hectares of dunes, heath, forests, grasslands and floodplains. Loved by hikers and bikers for obvious reasons; but you can also join the forester to look for rare butterflies, learn about the edible plants of the area, or take an evening walk to spot one of the 100 bird species resident here - the rare, night-swallow. 2 Alde Feanen (Friesland) One of the youngest National Parks, Alde Feanen in Friesland is also a Natura 2000 European Special Area of Conservation. Formed in 2006 it covers 25 square kilometres of morass, meadow, peat bog, forest and waters including the Princenhof lake area. The park is popular with white storks who are making a resurgence, in part thanks to the work of the stork breeding station at It Ebertsheim. You can visit there or head to the park´s information centre in Earnewâld to hire boats to explore, take a drive on a tractor, or play in a haystack and find details of walks (with hired kit like magnifying glasses, tree measure, and pond nets for the kids). They also have a small agricultural museum here. 3 Veluwezoom (Gelderland) The oldest National Park in the country, Veluwezoom was set up in 1930. It sits on the southern edge of the Veluwe and takes up 50 square kilometres of (by Dutch standards) high country: the highest point in the park, is a full 110 metres above sea level! You can see highland cattle, badgers, and red deer here; and if you're lucky a wild boar, or rare pine-marten. Veluwezoom is one of a number of parks managed by the Dutch natural heritage conservation group Natuurmonumenten who, under the name Oerrr, provide fun, educational materials and events around the country. All of which are aimed at getting children familiar with, and out into, the wonders of nature for just €1.25 a month. 4 Drents-Friese Wold (Drenthe/Friesland) A mix of woods, sands and morass greet you in this 61 square kilometre park which crosses the border between the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland, home to unusual plants like bog-rosemary and diverse fauna including newts, lizards and snakes. You can also spot megalithic tombs, or hunebedden. 5 Maasduinen (Limburg) Some 4,200 hectares of heath and forest run along the German border here. You can keep walking for miles and straight from one country into the other, surrounded on all sides by banks of glorious, purple bell-heather. Alternatively, pick up the PieterPad, the longest continual walking route in the Netherlands which passes through here, between Pieterburen, in the province of Groningen, down to Sint Pietersberg near Maastricht. Watch out for the highland cattle, large goats and sheep employed to manage the moors! De Biesbosch (Zuid-Holland) Near Dordrecht lies this haven for water lovers - you can boat or canoe through its network of rivers and creeks, and moor up at the little islands dotted about. Locals say beware of getting stuck on the sandbanks though, or you may be there overnight! You would, however, be surrounded by the stillness of the willow forests and be able to watch kingfishers, sea eagles and possibly beaver in one of the last areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in north western Europe De Weerribben-Wieden (Overijssel) Another one best enjoyed by water, perhaps a canoe or a 'fluisterboot' (literally whisper boat) you can lose yourself in the maze of reed-bordered waterways while looking for the local residents: otters. Don't worry about getting lost though as you will soon find your way back to the Kalenbergergracht, the main artery running through the park. There are gorgeous little villages nearby, such as Giethoorn - which has become very popular indeed with coachloads of tourists. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, try Blokzijl or Vollenhove with their pretty town centres.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: go Dutch with a holiday in the countryside

DutchNews.nl destinations: go Dutch with a holiday in the countryside

Looking for good weather, green woods and excellent beer? Head to the Dutch countryside for a summer break. Esther O’Toole takes you south to the small towns of Overloon and Venray, on the Brabant/N. Limburg border. There is plenty of history down this neck of the woods. The St Peter ad Vincula church in Venray has a large collection of medieval wood sculpture and the area in and around Venray and Overloon saw heavy fighting during WW2, as it lies right next to the river Maas, by the German border. Now an area rich in natural tourist attractions it is popular with the Dutch for holidaying at home Things to do Overloon If you’re after outdoor activities, whether mountain biking, hiking, swimming or fishing then this is a great area for all of the above. Explore the Overloonse Duinen by bike or on foot, or head to t’Schaartven, a pretty, well-maintained swimming lake with amenities; there you can also climb up the ‘uitkijktoren’ for panoramic views. Museum Park, Overloon: In the woods of Overloon, once the frontline in WW2 where one of the biggest tank battles of the war took place, there is now a park. Here you will find the acclaimed War Museum (Oorlogsmuseum Overloon) with interesting, interactive exhibitions for international visitors as well as Dutch speakers, and an array of original war-time vehicles. During the summer months, you will also find family-friendly Open Air Theatre there. It has gained a very good reputation since its inception and, though most shows are Dutch language, you can enjoy a lovely summer’s evening in their secluded amphitheatre, in its shady woodland setting. This year they kick off the season with The Little Mermaid Zoo Parc Overloon is pretty well known down south. It’s a welcoming, open air park with large enclosures, excellent educational materials and is a good size - big enough to fill a whole day, not so big that you have to rush to see everything or have to skip parts. They have a wide variety of animals, 71 species in total including: red pandas, black-footed penguins, and big cats (cheetahs, lions and this year white tigers). Pretty affordable as wildlife parks go: prices start at €13.50 p.p when bought online, and the food on offer is good quality too. Venray Escape Room - These seem to have caught on up and down the country. Venray is no exception, if the weather is less clement, then head to their escape room which has three unique themes: Noah’s Ark; Forest Mystery and Mayan Temple. There’s options for both children and adults… but you’ve got only 60 minutes to get out! In search of unusual experiences or fun for the grown-ups instead? Then why not be daring and try a visit to Altocumulus Ballooning, who have regular balloon flights from Venray. If you’re scared of flying, stay grounded by soaking at the thermal spa in nearby Arcen or head to Venray’s beloved Oda Park; an open air art and sculpture park where you can enjoy the exhibitions and follow a workshop. Eat & Drink If you haven’t stuffed yourself on sundaes at Overloon’s international prize-winning ice cream parlour, Clevers, then there are really cosy, welcoming independent bars and restaurants up the road in neighbouring Venray.  Not open long but already an established favourite with locals and visitors alike is De Goesting. A haven for artisanal beer-lovers, it has over 300 different varieties, without the big city markup, and on Monday nights they now have live music. Alternatively, there is Het Klokkenluiden up the road, which is a cafe as well as beer specialist, and has a lovely, little terrace on the Grote Markt. For proper dining try BRL, or the Beejekurf in Venray for great food in a chic and relaxing atmosphere. Or Brasserie Anno 54 for something a bit more casual on the terrace, or with a set menu. You’ll find great ingredients in use lots of local produce in use at all of these places, as well as at the new restaurant in Overloon, De Boompjes, where local and seasonal produce is at the heart of their kitchen. Where to stay If you're tired of the industrial size campsites of the Med, or working to a budget, then like the Dutch you too can try something ‘gezellige’ closer to home. In the vicinity of Overloon there are plenty of laid-back options for staying in beautiful countryside, without the crowds or the massive drive. Small, often family run, well maintained campsites such as the Ullingsebergen would be a good start. This dog-free site in St Anthonis has large pitches, small playgrounds, some good organised activities for children and a pool. Other well-equipped, small scale sites in the area include: D’n Twist, who provide camping spots, B&B, group accommodations and cute little camping huts all in one place; and Bosrijk de Kuluut, which offers a small number of deluxe holiday homes, near to the golf course and village centre - if you’re looking for a bit more luxury. How to get there Overloon and Venray are both just off the A73 between Nijmegen and Venlo. If you’re coming by train, get a connection from either of those cities to Venray, it will only take an extra 35 minutes from Nijmegen and 15 from Venlo. From Venray, Overloon is easily reached by bus (the bus station is right next to the train station) or by bike. When to visit The schools break up earlier in the south of the country, so from the beginning of July the areas around Overloon and Venray are in full on holiday mode!  Alternatively, if you like things quieter, head over at the end of August; the weather is at its peak but the normal school schedule, both Dutch and German, has resumed.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Groundhog Ophef Edition – Week 28

DutchNews podcast – The Groundhog Ophef Edition – Week 28

With the summer break looming, we decided to pick out our favourite examples of 'ophef' - those tornados of outrage that blow up on social media only to be forgotten within 24 hours - from the year so far. It was also a week in which Mark Rutte got caught up in another Trump whirlwind at Nato, Frisian water engineers proved to be more useful than Elon Musk, the king faced a possible fine for flying drones in his back garden and a Dutchwoman reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon for the first time in 40 years. Top story Rutte pledges to raise Nato budget contribution as Trump raises stakes News Junior finance minister presses ahead with plans to restrict 30% tax rule Dutch water engineers on standby to rescue boys trapped in Thailand caves Anne Frank's family may have been denied US visa by bureaucratic failure Island of Schiermonnikoog tells visitors to leave their drones at home Sport Kiki Bertens' run at Wimbledon ends at quarter-final stage  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: there’s more to Delft than blue and white china

DutchNews.nl destinations: there’s more to Delft than blue and white china

Best known for its pottery, the city of Delft offers plenty of quaint streets to wander through and some delicious places to eat. Molly Quell lives there and tells you why you should visit. Delft's reputation is one of polar opposites. It’s picturesque, quaint and adorable, but it also boasts the oldest and largest university of technology in the Netherlands and the largest start-up incubator in Europe. You can’t walk through the city centre without bumping into houses from 1500 and multiple PhDs. With a population of just over 100,000, Delft teeters between being a city, like its close neighbours The Hague and Rotterdam, and a village. You’ll bump into your boss, your friend and the dentist's assistant in Albert Heijn, but you can always get home from a late night in Amsterdam with the night train. With its rich and interesting history, Delft's beautiful cityscape offers plenty to look at as you wander. But there’s also an active nightlife, interesting museums and lots of good beer. Five great things to do Take a boat tour To get an overview of the city, start off with a boat tour. Unlike the impersonal tours in Amsterdam, the only boat company in the city employs local students as guides, which can mean you pick up some interesting tidbits about the city. The tour passes through most of the old city centre and even takes you on a jaunt out onto the Schie. You can find the Rondvaart Delft on the Koornmarkt; tickets costs €8.50 for adults and €4 for children. The tours operate every day from April to October. Walk Once you have familiarised yourself with the layout of the city and taken in some of the basic history during the boat tour, disembark for a stroll. Delft received its city charter in 1246 and was mostly untouched during World War II, leaving the centre as quaint as a Vermeer streetscape. Speaking of which, checking out the location of The Little Street is a good first stop on your tour. Take a picture in front of the Delft Blue Heart and move on to the Markt Square, where you can see both the New Church and the old city hall. Other highlights include the Oostpoortbrug, the last remaining city gate; the still functioning windmill; and the statue of Hugo Grotius. Climb the Nieuwe Kerk The Nieuwe Kerk, built between 1396 and 1496, is the final resting place of the royal family. You can walk through the church itself and, if you can screw up the courage, climb the 376 steps to the top of the tower. On a clear day you can see both Rotterdam and The Hague. The new church is the newer of the two large churches in Delft, the other obviously being the Oude Kerk - that's the church with the leaning tower. The tower is closed to visitors are not permitted to climb that tower, but you can go inside and see where Johannes Vermeer is buried. Tickets for both churches and the tower cost €8 for adults and less for children, depending on their age. Visit the Prinsenhof The next stop is the Prinsenhof Museum, where William of Orange was assassinated. Yes, you can still see what they tell you is the bullet hole in the wall. The museum also has a collection of Delft Blue pottery with a good explanation of its history. For a more in-depth view and to see craftsmen hand painting the pottery, head over to Royal Delft. After a tour of the museum, take a stroll in the garden, which was formerly the garden back in the days when the building was used as a convent. Then venture across the courtyard to the Shop van Kouwenhoven, an old-fashioned candy store. Drink beer You might think the whole craft beer thing has taken over, but the number of breweries is nowhere close to its 15th-century peak, when Delft had some 200 beer producers. These days, there's an extensive choice of beer cafes. De Klomp is the older cafe in the city, and, though it specialises in the most famous Dutch drink, jenever, it also offers a wide selection of craft beers. Other options include the Doerak, the Klooster, Proeflokaal or Locus Publicus. If you’re looking for something to take back home with you, check out Flink Gegist, which has one of the largest selections of beer in the country. If you’re looking to combine your drinking with something a bit more educational, Bierhistorie Delft offers tours explaining the history of the industry in the city. Where to eat Delft has a pretty good selection of restaurants, so long as you stay away from the tourist spots on the Markt Square. For an inexpensive dinner, Malee, a Thai restaurant, serves a delicious prix fixe menu, while De Beierd has a daily menu option ranging from around €8.00 to €18.00, with generally Dutch cuisine plus the occasional Indonesian dish. Stick to the daily menu there, it’s better than the regular menu. For a more formal meal pop into Cafe Einstein, just outside the city centre, which offers an Italian-inspired menu, or De Pelicaan with its Mediterranean menu. Both are delicious. Try the fish at the former and the meat at the latter. If you really want to treat yourself, Le Vieux Jean is a French restaurant in the shadow of the Oude Kerk with an amazing French menu and a fabulous wine list. For lunch or a coffee, Kek is a local favourite. It’s also a great place to get a gift for someone back home.  Michel’s, a French bakery is another top tip. Delft even has its own cat cafe, the Kattenkop Cafe, which has some very sunny outside seating if the weather is nice. Where to stay At the Hotel de Emauspoort you can have your pick of any number of themed rooms, such as the Johannes Vermeer, the William of Orange. For an even more unusual experience you can stay in one of the hotel’s two caravans. There are also more conventional rooms, all of which are cosy and come with breakfast included. An alternative is the Hotel Grand Canal, which, as you can guess from the name is located directly on a canal (though Hotel de Emauspoort is located on a canal as well.) The rooms are a bit more modern and spacious. How to get there Parking in Delft may not be quite as bad as the city centre of Amsterdam, but it is not easy. The city has a number of parking garages on the outskirts, which are your best bet if you’re going to drive. However, now that the renovation of the train station is finished, the most convenient way to reach the city is by train and on foot.  More >


So you think you know the Netherlands? Here are 13 Dutch ‘streken’

So you think you know the Netherlands? Here are 13 Dutch ‘streken’

The Netherlands has plenty of well defined provinces, towns, cities and regions. But there is also such a thing as a streek, an area whose borders are very often much more difficult to pinpoint. Here’s a list. Achterhoek Many people only have a vague idea about the Achterhoek (literally back corner) except that its main export was a band called Normaal whose performances usually ended in total mayhem. It lies at the eastern end of the province of Gelderland, with Germany to the south and east, but its borders are fluid and local spats are rife. So ‘that bit in the corner of Gelderland’ it remains. Refoband The Bijbelgordel, or Refoband, is the Dutch Bible belt. It roughly cuts a swathe across the centre of the Netherlands, beginning in Overijssel and ending in Zeeland. It is defined by the voters of the fundamentalist Protestant political party SGP, the party which believes women should not vote and the Netherlands should be governed by the word of God. Randstad The Randstad! At least here we know exactly where we are, don't we? The Randstad includes the Netherlands' four biggest cities, Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam and all the towns and villages in between. The cities have started promoting themselves abroad as the Holland Metropole, to further complicate the issue. Kop van Noord-Holland The Kop van Noord-Holland, or simply the Kop (head) is conveniently bordered by water on three sides: the North Sea to the west, the Wadden Sea to the north and the IJsselmeer to the east. The Wadden island of Texel, more like a bump on the Kop, is also part of the area. The local authority boundaries have been redrawn and the area now consists of Texel, Den Helder, Schagen and Hollands Kroon or Holland’s Crown (which sounds historical but is actually a newly invented name). Westland For many Dutch people Westland, in the province of Zuid-Holland, is synonymous with the city of glass, as it is home to the Netherlands’ vast array of greenhouses. Fly over the Netherlands at night and that orange glow is Westland. But it is actually a combination of the municipalities of Westland and Midden-Delfland, plus Hoek van Holland, Monster and Loosduinen. Westland itself forms part of another streek called Delfland. Well, it's somewhere near The Hague anyway. Veenkolonieën The Veenkolonieën or peat colonies refer to the communities that sprung up in the peat cutting areas – the most important of which are in the eastern parts of Groningen and Drenthe and an area called the Peel, on the border of Noord-Brabant and Limburg. The turf that came out of these areas was instrumental in turning the 17th century into the Golden Age by allowing the Dutch Republic to produce its own energy. The Veenkolonieën later became famous for their workhouses, where antisocial families were sent to be reformed. Duin and Bollenstreek The Duin and Bollenstreek, or dune and bulb region, takes in the Zuid-Holland municipalities of Katwijk, Noordwijk, Noordwijkerhout, Lisse, Hillegom and Teylingen. Lisse rings a bell with most people because it's the home of the Keukenhof, with its world-renowned flower shows. If you come in spring you won't be able to miss the endless fields of brightly coloured blooms, especially if you're stuck in the traffic jams that build up around Lisse in the flower season. Kleistreek De Kleistreek is named after its soil: clay. It’s in the province of Friesland and refers to a band of sea clay on the coast to the west and north of Leeuwarden. It’s mostly used for agriculture and tourism. The expression ‘Uit de klei getrokken’ or ‘formed from clay’ refers to people from rural areas, implying that they are sturdy, no-nonsense types. Twente Most people have some idea about where to locate this very picturesque corner of the Netherlands. It is the easterly bit of the province of Overijssel that backs onto the border with Germany. The Tukkers, as the inhabitants of Twente are called, are famous for their dry wit, their university, their football club, based in Enschede, and their dialect, which is part of Dutch Low Saxon, an officially recognised streektaal. Groene Hart You'll have heard of this one: it's the patches of green in between the cities of the Randstad (see above) that property developers and local councils are always itching to get their hands on. The Green Heart is protected against too many encroachments by law, but local councils strapped for homes are constantly trying to see how far they can push the boundaries. A famous Dutch poet once said that what is left of nature in this country is a strip of woodland the size of a newspaper, and that was in 1945. Heuvelland Meaning 'hilly land', you can't go far wrong with this one: it is in the province of Limburg, the only area of the Netherlands with any hills to speak of. Heuvelland in Limburg is not to be confused with Heuvelland in Belgium, which is just over the border. In order not to confuse the two the Dutch version also goes by the name of Limburgs Heuvelland. We could also mention the Utrechtse Heuvelrug – the ridge of low sand dunes near Utrecht – to further confuse the issue. Streek Last but not least is a streek which is actually called the Streek, in the province of Noord-Holland. The Streek is the epitome of a streek because it is the most ill-defined of them all. It started out as an area east of Hoorn in the late Middle Ages, then took in the area between Hoorn and Enkhuizen and now encompasses the villages of Blokker, Westwoud, Hoogkarspel, Lutjebroek, Grootebroek and Bovenkarspel. Poor old Lutjebroek, has become synonymous in colloquial Dutch with 'any insignificant speck on the map'. A bonus streek: HollandCity HollandCity is really a streek but in the other sense of the word, ie a bit of a prank which is being played on unwary tourists. It is, simply, a marketing trick to try to lure tourists away from Amsterdam and into other parts of the country. The HollandCity strategy basically involves promoting the Netherlands as a single metropolis with lots of districts, such as Lake District Friesland and Design District Eindhoven. Bona fide streken such as Twente, the Groene Hart and the Bollenstreek don't get a look in.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Did You Spill My Coffee Edition – Week 23

DutchNews podcast – The Did You Spill My Coffee Edition – Week 23

This week's podcast asks if Amsterdam can hold back the rampant spread of tourism in the age of Airbnb and stag weekends. We also look back at a week in which Mark Rutte's handiness with a mop broke the internet, universities once again asked if English is taking over on campus, AD's fishy judging panels kicked up a stink and two fallen giants of world football went through the motions in Turin. Ophef of the week Frosty reception for Leidschendam ice-cream salesman's 'healthy option' AD scraps 'taste tests' in row over alleged bias and vitriol Top story Rutte to meet Trump at White House in July – reports Prime minister goes viral after cleaning up own mess \   News Minister says English at Dutch universities 'must not compromise standards' Deal struck on teachers' pay but strikes will still go ahead Dogs and cars top list of neighbourhood nuisances Sport Netherlands and Italy play out 1-1 draw in battle of World Cup absentees (FourFourTwo) Dumoulin will be on start line for Tour de France Ajax 'rejects offer from AS Roma for Justin Kluivert' Discussion: Too many tourists spoil the capital Amsterdam faces radical measures to reverse 'theme park-isation' Tourism sees fastest growth in 10 years (CBS) Tourism in Netherlands increases by 40% in 15 years (2015) Economic benefits of tourism in Amsterdam are overrated, say experts Tourists spent nearly €40 billion in Italy last year (The Local Italy) Madrid brings in Airbnb restrictions to curb mass tourism (CNN)  More >


Dutchnews.nl destinations:  explore 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen

Dutchnews.nl destinations: explore 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen

Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, started life as a Roman military encampment in the 1st century BC. Esther O'Toole spent a weekend exploring. Despite its location on the Waal river, Nijmegen is not the prettiest of Dutch cities - much of it was bombed in World War II and planners in the 1960s and 70s helped finish the job. So, although the charming main square retains a sense of history and the centre is welcoming to visitors, if you are after long strolls through medieval streets you will be largely disappointed. However history buffs, whether young or old or favouring ancient or modern periods, will have lots to explore. Politically Nijmegen is a progressive stronghold in the Netherlands, so much so that it’s sometimes referred to as Havana on the Waal. Its liberalism is tangible in the laid-back, terrace culture that has developed over time; a strong vibe of intellectual curiosity in the events scene, which has lots of ties to the student life of the Radboud University; and the great independent shopping scene. If you've had enough of the city itself, nature lovers can hike, cycle and join the forester for tours of the many surrounding national parks and forests: check out The Ooijpolder-De Vlietburg nature reserve, the Overasseltse and Hatertse fens and,half an hour south, the Maasduinen National Park. Things to do Experience war For visitors whose countries didn’t experience occupation in World War II, the Dutch wartime experience is a revelation of practicalities that you may not have been taught in high school back home. For surprising exhibitions and workshops, in espionage skills or radiography, head to the beautiful grounds of Nijmegen’s Liberation Museum. They have a large permanent collection and also a series of special events throughout the year. Or, head over to the Radboud University's newly opened Escape Room. A unique educational experience for groups, it uses the wartime stories of then rector Bernard Hermesdorf (who shut the campus rather than work with the Germans) and Jozef van Hövell (leader of the student resistance) to give visitors an experiential understanding of life under occupation. If you’re particularly interested in this period of history, you may also want to go a little further south to the War Museum at Overloon too. Experience blindness Another curious museum to see, or in fact not see, is the muZIEem. A unique place dedicated to sight, muZIEM offers you the chance to actually experience for yourself what it is to be blind. They provide tours in English as well as Dutch which are guaranteed to be eye-opening. Go dancing If you’re looking for nightlife the legendary Doornroosje is still going strong. A breeding ground for youth culture since 1968, the venue has expanded in recent years but still has the intimate feel that first made it popular. They have independent indie gigs, dance nights and more. Shop If you want a range of shops and activities all in one place, you could head to the Honigcomplex. The old industrial building is full of independent traders and concept stores. Or try Hezelstraat. It’s a little gem, the oldest shopping street in the entire country! Full of gorgeous independent shops and cafes. You can find anything here; art from around the world, herbs and spices, artisanal cheese, vinyl records - you name it! Stargaze If you should visit in the winter months, head to the Huygens building at the Radboud University, which now houses the biggest telescope in The Netherlands. In the winter months (up to the end of March) they host regular star watching nights. With the telescope’s exceptionally large lens, on a clear night, you may be able to see planets or other galaxies with your own eyes and it’s free! Where to eat After you have shopped yourself silly on Hezelstraat you can rest up at The Yoghurt Barn. No it’s not just yoghurt - though their range of yoghurt-related treats is truly exceptional! They have super quality coffee, uber-healthy lunches and brunches, high tea and even picnics (available to order). Catering or hiring their food truck for your event is also possible. Burger lovers rejoice! Restaurant Wally’s has everything covered for you. It’s local! It’s sustainable! It’s beefy, or veggy or occasionally wild goose! Very child friendly and yet trendy too, Wally’s near the river is a great spot for a late lunch or long dinner. Open 15.00 - 22.00. Ice cream parlours are popular throughout this sunny, summertime city; whichever part of town you’re in you shouldn’t be too far away from a good gelato. Try Vincenzo, Ghiani, or Spinnato which also does good Italian meals. If cocktails are your thing then you will get as far as Cafe Demain and go no further. Every sort of cocktail imaginable can be shaken or stirred for you here, you can learn to do it yourself with their regular workshops, compete with the best in the land in one of their cocktail mixing contests, and do all of this while listening to great live music. Where to stay Prikkels and Blue are hotels located bang in the middle of town, with gorgeous details in the rooms and restaurants full of local produce. If you want to have your own space though, try and get a spot at luxuriant little B&B, Le Charme. They have two very comfortable apartments and both are perfectly situated to enjoy all of Nijmegen’s city-centre charms, or use as a base for exploring the region at large. How to get there Nijmegen is a central train hub for this part of the country, so there are direct trains to Amsterdam, Utrecht and other major cities. By car it is about an hour and a half from Amsterdam, and is connected by the A15, A50, and A73 to other parts of the country. If you’re prepared to do some long distance trekking you could even arrive on foot! The Pieterpad, the longest uninterrupted walking route in The Netherlands (498 km) also passes through the woods outside of town. When to visit Recently Nijmegen has branded itself as The Summer Capital of Holland, and with good reason. There are masses of things to do all throughout the summer months. The city boasts a wide range of summer festivals between July and September including Festival De Oversteek (The Crossing), on the river island of Veur Lent, which offers a rich and eclectic mix of music, literature, theatre and kids stuff. However, unless you are a fan of enormous crowds, avoid the second week of July, when the Nijmegen Vierdaagse, or four-day march, takes place.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: go north to Leeuwarden

DutchNews.nl destinations: go north to Leeuwarden

It's the capital of Friesland, in which case its name is spelt Ljouwert . The elfstedentocht starts and finishes here. It’s home to Mata Hari and Escher and the 2018 European Capital of Culture. Molly Quell has been checking out Leeuwarden. Leeuwarden is north. Like any well-integrated person in the Netherlands, I consider any place more than 20 kilometres far. So the two hour train trip (from Amsterdam) seems like an eternity. But the trek was worth it to spend a weekend in this small city in Friesland with unexpectedly great cocktails and really interesting museums. Things to do People having been living in the region continously since the 10th century and Leeuwarden was granted city status in 1435. As such, it boasts a tremendous amount of history, as well as 617 national monuments. Walk Leeuwarden is a walkable city, so set out for a walking tour of the city centre. Visitors should start with the Blokhuispoort, a former prison. You can head inside to check out the prison cells turned artist spaces or just take a good Instagram picture. Then head over to the Kanselarij, a former hospital; the neo-gothic Sint-Bonifatiuskerk and end at de Waag, the former weigh station. Visit the Princessehof National Ceramics Museum This former palace was built in 1693 and occupied by Marie Louise, dowager Princess of Orange, who acquired a large ceramic collection during her life. Upon her death, the palace was split into three houses and, in 1898, MC Escher was born in the middle house. The houses were recombined in 1917 and turned into a museum. The permanent collection contains a variety of ceramic objects from around the world including a large assortment of Frisian pottery and a tempting gift shop. Check out the Fries Museum The museum's permanent collection brings you the history of the region through art, pottery, costumes and domesticity - check out the 'mother of all Hinderlooper rooms' for full-on Dutch tiles, chintz and hand-painted furniture. There's also a cinema, which regularly shows art house films. The museum accepts the national museum card but if you don't have one, you can get a discount on both tickets if you purchase a package for the ceramics museum as well. Climb the Oldehove.  After heaving yourself up the 183 steps, there's a nice view of the city from the top of Leeuwarden's own leaning tower. The 40 metre high medieval church tower was supposed to be 120 metres in the original planning, but started to sag and was never finished. The locals will remind you that it leans further than the Tower of Pisa and there’s even a saying about it: 'A'k de Oldehove niet siën ken, dan foël ik my onwennich' or 'If I don’t see the Oudehove, I’m uncomfortable' - meaning real locals don’t want to stay away for too long. Get in some cultural events Leeuwarden is the 2018 European City of Culture and has a packed programme of events. The blockbusters include exhibitions about MC Escher at the Fries Museum; a play involving 100 Frisian horses called De Stormruiter; French street theatre company Royal de Luxe which performs with 15-metre tall marionettes and the tall Ships Races Harlingen 2018. Welcome To The Village, a musical festival, takes place from July 19 - 22 while the Northern Film Festival takes places from November 5 - 9. Where To Eat Leeuwarden has a surprising number of very good restaurants. You can find a really nice bite at Sjoddy, a wine bar which also offers chorizo bitterballen and oysters. For a more substantial meal, try Eindeloos, which offers a prix fixe menu using seasonal ingredients. The fixed menu concept is popular in the city, as another highly regarded restaurant, By Us, offers the same concept. Skip the tearoom at the Princessehof museum and head around the corner to Barrevoets for a sandwich or a smoothie. And if you want a stroll before your meal, walk outside the city center to Wannee, which also offers a substantial and inexpensive breakfast. Where to stay The former post office has been converted into a hotel and restaurant, now known as the Post-Plaza Hotel & Grand Café. The hotel is lovely and includes a variety of room types, including some designed for parents. The hotel also offers spa services and has an excellent restaurant and bar, which will make you a tasty gin and tonic, among others. The aforementioned Wannee is attached to the Stenden Hotel which is located a bit outside the city center, but offers luxurious rooms. For something less expensive, ‘t Anker is an efficient and centrally located option. How to get there Leeuwarden itself is small and walkable, so go by train. You get to admire the countryside on the way.  More >


The adventures of young Rembrandt; follow in his footsteps in Leiden

The adventures of young Rembrandt; follow in his footsteps in Leiden

Centuries before The Night Watch would go on to become one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Amsterdam, Rembrandt was just another struggling artist living down in Leiden. Here is Brandon Hartley’s rundown on his time in the city and various local attractions you can visit if you’d like to learn more about his early days. A stroll through the centre of Leiden can lead you past the historic Beestenmarkt, several picturesque canals, and more than a few friendly ducks that will happily relieve you of any unwanted bread you’ve brought along. If you point yourself in the right direction, you may also find yourself in a small square dominated by a solitary, enigmatic figure. It’s a boy standing in front of a bronze portrait of Rembrandt, perhaps contemplating his own ambitions and potential future as an artist. A few steps from the statue is the spot where his childhood home once stood. These are just two of the landmarks and other attractions devoted to the Golden Age artist that you’ll find in Leiden/ The benefits of a classical education Before we get started, there’s the spelling of Rembrandt’s first name. Scholars say he was born ‘Rembrant’ and later added the silent D for reasons unknown around 1633. He signed many of his paintings with this spelling but, oddly enough, several historical documents from his lifetime feature the original version. We’ll stick with the better known ‘Rembrandt’. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden on 15 July, 1606. He was the ninth of eventually ten child in the busy household of Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck. By all accounts, the family was solidly middle-class. Rembrandt’s father worked as a miller who specialised in grinding malt for beer breweries and his mother was the daughter of a well-to-do baker. This meant that they had enough money to send him to study at the nearby Latin School when he was 10, which served as a stepping for many of its all-male alumni (no girls were allowed) to attend university. Along with studying Latin and Greek, he likely received a classical education and would have become well versed in history and literature. Most importantly, it was here that Rembrandt received his first lessons in drawing. University He later enrolled at the University of Leiden at the young of age 14. Weirdly enough, most incoming freshman would have been 17 during this era. The reasons for Rembrandt’s perhaps premature enrolment have been lost to the ages but he may have never even attended classes. He had instead fallen in love with the idea of becoming an artist. But studying to become one was hardly cheap in those days and Rembrandt, even though he was still just a teenager, was no spring chicken when it came to art. Most painters got started when they were pre-adolescents. Nevertheless, his parents covered the cost of him becoming an apprentice to Jacob Isaacszoon van Swanenburg, a Leiden-based artist best known for some pretty grim religious paintings reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. Van Swanenburg was also pretty great at city scenes and depicting historical battlefields. Rembrandt studied and worked with him for three years. While he never wound up emulating his mentor’s hellscapes, scholars have theorised that the artist’s near lifelong fascination with replicating natural and artificial light may have been inspired by Van Swanenburg’s skills at painting some pretty fearsome flames. Sometime around 1624 or 1625, Rembrandt likely opened a studio in Leiden with a colleague named Jan Lievens, who was something of a child savant when it came to painting. He got started at the age of eight, nearly a full decade before Rembrandt, and had begun working as a professional artist at around age 12. However, Rembrandt's time at the Latin School eventually proved useful when it came time for him to choose some intriguing subject matter for his later paintings. The young Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam for six months to serve as an apprentice for artist Pieter Lastman. In those days, going to Italy to study was all the rage for artists-in-training. Curiously enough, Rembrandt resisted the urge, even though he might have been able to convince his parents to cover the costs. Whether or not he ever tried is now long forgotten. Perhaps stranger: Rembrandt never spent time outside of the Dutch Republic during his lifetime. Big break Fortunately, Lastman and Van Swanenburg had journeyed to Italy and brought the mastery of Italian Renaissance artists back north where they passed them onto Rembrandt. Rembrandt later returned to the studio in Leiden in 1625 to rejoin Lievens and even accepted his own students. They included Gerrit Dou, an artist who would go on to become one of the Leiden Fijnschilders, a group of Golden Age artists that strove to replicate everyday scenes as realistically and accurately as possible. Then Constantijn Huygens showed up about five years later and provided Rembrandt with his first big break. Huygens was a poet and composer who also spent time working as a secretary to two of the Dutch Republic’s princes. He helped Rembrandt arrange a series of important commissions for political leaders and royals in The Hague. In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam where his career, needless to say, really took off. Here’s how you can retrace Rembrandt’s early years in Leiden There are a few Rembrandt-related attractions and monuments in Leiden that fuel an interesting day trip to the city. You can start with a stop at the Young Rembrandt Studio, a new exhibition that opened earlier this spring. Located inside a 17th century house at Langebrug 89, the exhibit features a seven minute video projection that offers a whirlwind journey through the artist’s years in Leiden. There’s also a gift shop that features Rembrandt-themed products, in addition to information about other attractions around the city. There’s also the Rembrandtwandeling (‘The Rembrandt Walk’). This walking route will lead you past Rembrandt’s birthplace, the Latin School, and several more of the artist’s former haunts in Leiden. There are informational boards along the way that offer additional details about each historic site. Informational booklets about the route, which are packed with tons of facts about Rembrandt’s early years and what the city was like in the early 17th century, can be purchased at the VVV Leiden tourist centre at Stationsweg 26. Park The picturesque Rembrandtpark is a nice place to stop for a snack or a lunch if the weather’s cooperating after you pass over the Rembrandtbrug and snap a few photos of the Molen de Put, a nearby windmill. Be sure to check out the mysterious statue in the nearby Rembrandtplein. Is the boy looking at the portrait supposed to be Rembrandt himself? No one quite knows for sure. Sculptor Stephan Balkenhol made it for the 400th anniversary of the artist’s birth in 2006, but left the boy’s true identity a secret. Nearby, there’s the former location of Rembrandt’s childhood home. It was torn down in the early 20th century to make way for the extension of a printer’s office. A commemorative plaque can now be found on one of the exterior walls. You can also stroll over to view a large bust of the artist depicted in his later years along the Witte Singel. A wreath is placed on it at the stroke of midnight every year on Rembrandt’s birthday. Art Finally, Leiden’s Museum De Lakenhal is due to reopen after an extensive refurbishment in the spring of 2019. It will host an exhibit titled Young Rembrandt from 3 November 2019 to 9 February 2020. Along with works by the artist himself, it will also feature paintings by Lievens, Lastman, and Van Swanenburg. ‘It will be a quite large exhibition with over 120 works of art’, curator Christiaan Vogelaar said. ‘Some of them will be coming over from the UK, Berlin, and the Louvre in Paris. Visitors can also enjoy our historical collections and 20th century art. The De Stijl movement was founded in Leiden and we have a beautiful collection’.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: take the train for a weekend in Rotterdam

DutchNews.nl destinations: take the train for a weekend in Rotterdam

With Eurostar now running a three-hour service from London to Rotterdam, the city's fortunes as a tourist hub are set to boom. So, get over there now and appreciate the fantastic views, great museums and excellent cocktails before the British stag parties take over, says Molly Quell. Only slightly smaller than Amsterdam by population, Rotterdam is the Netherland's second largest city. It is home to the largest port in Europe, a fact which is partially responsible for its diverse population - more than half of the city’s residents have at least one parents who was born abroad. Rotterdam was granted city rights in 1340 but was, famously, nearly totally destroyed during World War II, leaving the city with a much more modern skyline than the capital. Get walking The city is too large to do a walking tour of everything, but you can easily get around with the city’s bus and tram system, but also the water taxi system. It’s fast, efficient and just a lot of fun. Go up the Euromast, go under (and walk over) the Erasmus bridge, check out the Witte Huis, snap a photo of the Kabouter Buttplug, marvel at the Cube Houses, grab a snack at the Markthal, wander down the Witte de Withstraat and see the Van Nelle factory. If you’re really up for a walk, walk the Fire Boundary Line, which demarks what parts of the city were destroyed during the bombing and subsequent fire. Check out a museum Rotterdam offers a wide variety of museums and the Netherlands Photo Museum is one of the best. The permanent collection contains the archives of over 160 historical and contemporary photographers. A lot of the works focus on the Netherlands, but the exhibitions often come from all over the world. If you can’t make it to the actual museum, you can view some of the collection online. You can book a tour, free on Sundays, and the museum is part of the Museum Card, so if you have that, entrance is free. Have a cocktail at sunset Like any good city these days, cocktails are on offer and Rotterdam is a good city. It’s got several options for a tasty beverage. The Suicide Club, near the central station, is an eclectic bar with a nice view of the city from their 8th floor location. Another choice would be the Aloha Bar, in a former indoor swimming pool. Or make an appointment with the Doctor, which can give you a prescription for anything that ails you. Take in a show Take in a show at one of the many theater and performance venues in the city. There’s the Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra, which performs at De Doelen, which is also the home of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. There’s lots of smaller venues as well, such as the Luxor, Theater Rotterdam and the Ro Theater. (The last two merged together under one name but in two separate venues.) The Luxor is, at the time of publication, showing Fiddler on the Roof while the Ro has Woof Side Story, West Side Story but with dogs. For something (even) more out of the box, try the Worm, which hosts everything from musical acts to live performances. Go for a sail Since you’re in the city with the largest port in Europe, you should take a good dip into the city’s maritime offerings. You can book a boat tour of the harbour, including the aforementioned port. Or if you want a shorter trip, take a water taxi around to the SS Rotterdam, the former flagship of the Holland-America line. You can wander around the ship and have a drink at the bar. The Maritime Museum, also a Museum Card member, highlights the port and shipping in general. And if you want to get out of the city a bit, check out the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier. It’s part of the Delta Works and you can get an explanation of how this engineering marvel keeps the country dry. You’ll even get to touch the barrier itself. Where to eat You can easily find a full meal at the Markthal, the fairly recently opened food hall whose building has a unique profile. The same goes for the more hipster Fenix Food Factory. But consider just snacking on the various bites (the croquette stand at the Markhal and the butcher at the Fenix Food Factory are especially delicious) on offer and spending your limited meal times at one of the other delicious restaurants. V11, a converted English ship, will give British visitors a taste of home, including an excellent Sunday roast. Or the De Matroos en Het Meisje, a fish restaurant with a prix fixe menu. For an upscale option Parkheuvel boasts a Michelin star and a French-inspired menu. For breakfast, go to The Bazaar and get the full breakfast spread (and bring your appetite.) If you’re just looking for a coffee and a snack, try De Zeeuwse Meisjes. The fenix Food Factory also has a good coffee place. And, if you want something sweet, try Baker’s Dough, a cookie dough restaurant. Where to stay The famous Hotel New York, which previously served as the launching point for the Holland-America line, is now a fantastic hotel with a lot of charm and a great restaurant and cocktail bar of its own. Get a room on the water side to enjoy the view. For a less expensive, but more adventurous option, Stay Ok offers rooms in Rotterdam’s famous cube houses, a slightly disorientating but architecturally interesting experience. How to get there Londoners, hop on the direct train and be there in three hours. For the rest of us the train is also a good option. Rotterdam is large but the city offers good local public transport, so you can get around by bus, tram, metro and even, as mentioned water taxi. Many thanks to Suus Peet, my Rotterdam expert, who gave me a list of things to do and see in the city that will take me years to work through.   More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

Once considered a broken down, blue-collar burg, Leiden has shed this reputation in recent years to become a sort of ‘mini Amsterdam’. Brandon Hartley shares a glimpse at one of the most often overlooked cities in the Randstad. At first glance, it might be easy to mistake the canals of Leiden for those in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. They’re lined with picturesque houses, arched bridges, and the occasional house cat snoozing in the sun. While the city lacks the world famous museums and bustling nightlife of the real deal, it’s also a welcome refuge from the stag parties and tourist hordes that have laid claim to the nation’s capital. It’s also a city rich with history. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt and was once home to the American Pilgrims before they hightailed it to the New World. In 1574, its brave citizens managed to withstand a months-long siege by the Spanish. They were later rewarded by King William of Orange with their very own college. Leiden University’s alumni list includes prime minister Mark Rutte, former Queen Beatrix and her son, Willem-Alexander. Albert Einstein also lectured there in the 1920s, which is why one of Leiden’s most popular taverns was named in his honour. The city was in decline and unemployment was high throughout much of the 20th century. Over the past generation, however, Leiden has bounced back and it’s a great place to visit for both history buffs and those looking for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s larger communities. Things to do Hortus Botanicus Leiden Dating back to 1590, this botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands. You’ll find gigantic water lilies among the 60,000 plant specimens among its indoor and outdoor exhibits, which include a small Japanese garden. One of the Hortus’ ‘crown jewels’ is a Titan arum, a rare plant that’s native solely to western Sumatra in Indonesia. It gives off a notoriously foul smell when it’s in full bloom. Burcht van Leiden Located on a man-made hill in the centre of the city, this fortress dates back to the 11th century. It’s a great place to take in a 360 degree view of the city and the nearby Hooglandse Kerk, a gothic church built in the 15th century. Over the years, the Burcht has served as everything from a water tower to a stronghold for Ada van Holland, a 12th century countess who got into a bitter battle with her meddlesome uncle over her title. These days, the hill and the fort are used for public events, picnics, weddings, and sledding whenever it snows. Wander the streets Leiden is home to a series of gorgeous canals and cobblestone streets. The ones near the Pieterskerk, the final resting place of several American Pilgrims, served as stand-ins for Amsterdam in The Miniaturist. Pop into the nearly unpronounceable 't Suppiershuysinghe for a koffie verkeerd if you need a break. This centuries-old cafe is the very definition of gezellig but the adjacent public square’s blood-soaked history is anything but (it was used as an execution grounds for the neighbouring prison). Also keep an eye out for Leiden’s wall poems. At the last count, there are 110 of them all across the city. Naturalis This research centre and natural history museum is best known as the home of Trix, one of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons. At the time of  writing, she’s on tour and will be making stops at museums in Barcelona and Paris before returning to Leiden in 2019. Naturalis is also undergoing renovations but it’s open to the public and currently hosting an exhibit about poisonous animals. De Valk Fully restored in 2000, this majestic 18th century tower mill currently serves as both a museum and Leiden’s centrepiece. It’s another great spot to take in a panorama of the city or learn more about the inner workings of windmills. De Valk also features living quarters that contain original furnishings and decor. Where to Eat It’s tough to find a decent bagel in the Netherlands but Leiden is home to the country’s first traditional bagel bakery. Proprietor Frank Zweerus and his crew at Better Bagels specialise in making them fresh each day and often break out themed-ones inspired by everything from Pokemon to Maria ‘Goeie Mie’ Swanenburg, the notorious serial killer who killed dozens of innocent Leideners in the late 19th century. It’s a great place to stop for lunch but, if you’re on the go, Mamie Gourmande is another option. This authentic French bakery is one of the very best in the lowlands. Stop here for a delicious sandwich or a take-away quiche along with a frosty Orangina. There are also plenty of freshly-made croissants, macarons, and eclairs up for grabs. If it’s a Saturday, check out Leiden’s nearby outdoor market, which has been going strong for over 900 years. Vishandel Atlantic owns a stand and they’re among the top contenders for the coveted ‘best herring’ award every year. The Bishop, a bistro located in an historic building that once served as a brothel, is where to head for ‘hip’ international cuisine. For more family-friendly fare that won’t break the bank, there’s Oudt Leyden, a beloved cafe stuffed full of ‘Old Dutch’ decor that’s been around since 1907. Over the past century, they’ve served Dutch-style pancakes to Charles de Gaulle, Sir Winston Churchill, and members of the royal family. Where to Stay The Golden Tulip owns two side-by-side properties near Leiden Centraal station; the four star Hotel Golden Tulip and the more low-key Hotel Tulip Inn. For a more unique experience, book a few nights at the historic Nieuw Minerva. Located inside a 16th century canal house, a few of its rooms feature some truly extraordinary beds. The Rembrandt Room contains an exact copy of a gorgeous box bed once owned by the artist himself. How to Get There Leiden is easy get to by train and you can be standing in Leiden Centraal within 15 minutes of departing from Schiphol Airport. Making the journey by car along the A44 from Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes. If it’s springtime and you’re feeling limber, you can also cycle down from Amsterdam through the tulip fields outside the city and make a pit-stop at the world famous Keukenhof. A non-stop journey via bike from the nation’s capital takes a little over two hours. When to visit? Much like the old cliché claims, just about anytime is a great time to come to Leiden. Every spring, the SieboldHuis museum hosts an incredibly popular Japanese market to honour a visit made by the country’s emperor in 2000. The annual springtime Lakenfeesten feature a whimsical boat parade that’s always guaranteed to be a hoot. The Leiden International Film Festival, which takes place in the autumn, keeps getting bigger and better with each passing year. The city also hosts a floating Christmas market with an ice rink during the holiday season on a canal located mere footsteps from its monumental stadhuis. But Leiden is best avoided during its notorious 3 Oktober celebrations. The city is invaded for several days by rowdy crowds on the prowl for carnival rides, ear-splitting dance music, and tons of cheap Amstel pilsner. Some people love it, some people loathe it and, if you can’t stand drunken revelry, stay away.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: getting windblown in winter on Texel

DutchNews.nl destinations: getting windblown in winter on Texel

In the winter, a wander along a blustery Texel beach is a popular way to blow the cobwebs away - lekker uitwaaien, as the Dutch would say. Robin Pascoe visited the biggest of the Wadden Sea islands. Just a few minutes by ferry from the navy town of Den Helder, Texel's regular population of over 13,000 is constantly inflated by a steady stream of holidaymakers all year round, mainly from the Netherlands and Germany. Texel is a something for everyone kind of place. The dune landscape is a haven for bird life and around one third of the island is a designated nature reserve. In the summer, tourists flock to its enormous sandy beaches, and the popular west coast villages of De Koog and De Cocksdorp, where most of the holiday villages and hotels are located. Despite Texel's popularity, it is easy to escape the crowds - but you will need to book the more popular restaurants in the evening. The local tourist office, which is extremely helpful, has a very comprehensive website in English. Things to do Museum Kaap Skil Oudeschild, the little fishing port on the south east coast, is home to the Museum Kaap Skil. The story of the Texel adventurers is told in vivid detail in the basement, while upstairs is case upon case of 'treasure' reclaimed from the surrounding seas. Outside, you can visit a working mill, several traditional fishermen's cottages and a warehouse containing part of a massive collection of finds made by beachcombers which is truely bizarre. Lots to entertain children as well. The Slufter The Slufter is a nature reserve on the west of the island, covering a large area of dune, marsh and sandbanks and populated by a huge variety of bird life. In total, the Slufter covers about 700 hectares, but that includes a huge stretch of tidal flats. There are several guided walks of different lengths and a wheelchair ramp down to the walkway for the less able bodied. Lighthouse The red lighthouse nestling in the dunes at the northern end of the island is open to the public, if you can climb the 118 steps to the gallery. The view, even on a rainy day, is stunning. There are two nice restaurants nearby where you can escape the wind and have a big bowl of pea soup instead. Wezenspyk A dairy farm with a cheese shop, plus a short guided walk across the polder to a traditional and restored Texel barn - you will see these distinctive barns all over the south of the island - so its interesting to get a peek inside. Wezenspyk has won prizes for its Texel sheep and goats cheese and we did, of course, buy them on the premises to bring home. Ecomare This combination of a sea life rescue centre and natural history museum is situated on the western side of the island and is a permanent home to two porpoise and some 15 seals which can no longer be released into the wild. The aquariums have a wide variety of native sea life - see how many flat fish you can spot - while the museum section includes the skeletons of several whales and other strange creatures which have washed up on the shore. Great for kids. Where to eat Texel has its fair share of snack bar/pancake/burger and chips joints, as any holiday destination, but it also has some highly rated eateries as well. Top of the bill is fish restaurant T' Pakhuus on the harbour front in Oudeschild which is described by Lekker magazine as a 'culinary pearl' but was fully booked when we were on the island. We had a perfectly respectable, if somewhat noisy, steak and chips dinner De Kastagneboom in Den Burg, the main town, and a very good four-course meal with local fish and lamb - and  their own liqueurs - in Topido, De Cocksdorp. We can also recommend lunch at beach bar Paal 17, even in winter. Where to stay There are hotels galore and the Texel tourist office has a wide range of privately-owned holiday houses and an easy to use website in English. We stayed at Vijverhof on the edge of a forest, which has a large, secluded garden, solar panels and sleeps up to 12. If you are renting a holiday house, check whether the price includes final cleaning, sheets and towels and energy costs. These are often added on as extras.  How to get there Drive, take the train or a bus to the ferry terminal in Den Helder, then take the ferry. It's an hourly service - every 30 minutes in peak periods - and you can't book. A return ticket costs €2.50 per person and €18.20 for a car of less than 2.5 metres. If you do take a car buy a parking ticket online for your whole stay - it saves a lot of money! If you are fit and love cycling, you don't need to take a car at all - there are lots of places to hire bikes - but it can get heavy going cycling into the wind so don't under estimate the long trip back after a day out. Anything else? Combine a visit to Texel with a boat trip over to neighbouring Vlieland from De Cocksdorp or island hop up the entire Wadden chain.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Unfortunate Train Name Edition – Week 44

DutchNews podcast – The Unfortunate Train Name Edition – Week 44

This week's podcast has a transport theme as a judge calls time on Amsterdam's beer bikes, the Anne Frank Foundation cries foul on Germany's national rail operator and Russia has a hissy fit over air cargo slots at Schiphol. We also tackle the mystery of the cat that travelled 150km to a Belgian town with an appropriate name. In our discussion we analyse the two-day debate in Parliament to welcome the new Dutch government. Top story Government 'will ignore result of Big Brother referendum' News Russia threatens to close airspace in Schiphol row Sint Maarten agrees to Dutch conditions for reconstructing Amsterdam wins long-running war on beer bikes Migrants from Europe and America boost Dutch population Anne Frank Foundation objects to name of German train Max Verstappen triumphs in Mexican Grand Prix Missing cat turns up in Belgian town called Muizen And if you want an expat insight into what goes on in Dutch neighbourhood meetings... 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨The boyfriend has jumped into the fray. This is not a drill. He's now arguing with the Gemeente guy. 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨 — Molly Quell (@MollyQuell) November 2, 2017   More >


DutchNews podcast – The Shoes That Should Be Sterilised Edition – Week 43

DutchNews podcast – The Shoes That Should Be Sterilised Edition – Week 43

In this week's we give you the lowdown on who's who in the new Dutch government and find out why the health minister's shoes made a splash at the swearing-in ceremony. Others to make a splash this week were the protester who disrupted a dolphin show in Japan and the students who came up with a novel way to stop green roofs leaking. In sport, we find out why Max Verstappen is still angry about being pushed off the podium and which Dutch player is officially the world's best footballer. Top story New government takes office after marathon coalition talks conclude News MeToo campaign on sexual harassment spreads to Netherlands You can read Gordon's blog post The Weinstein Spectrum here Students win award for roof coating made from old condoms and tampons Traffic jams to get worse despite roadbuilding plan Illegal bird killing worse than suspected Sport Max Verstappen fuming as overtaking penalty costs him podium finish Lieke Martens named FIFA's footballer of the year      More >


DutchNews podcast – The Bus Baby Eagle Edition – Week 21

Our latest podcast features the mother in Breda who checked in for one on the bus but checked out for two, why a Dutch-trained American eagle is minding Donald Trump in Brussels, and how a court decided an Iraqi refugee was 'not gay enough' to stay in the Netherlands. We also discuss the fall-out from Ajax's defeat in the Europa League final and whether we're any closer to a new Dutch government. Top story Work starts on Amsterdam Eurostar terminal News Gay refugee refused asylum Baby born on bus in Breda Wageningen tree takes to Twitter Record traffic jams on Ascension Day Police hunt 14-year-old boy playing with toy guns (NOS) Ajax lose Europa League final Drone eagle patrols skies over Nato summit Discussion: where now for the coalition talks? Dutch coalition talks reach stalemate as D66 picks up some of the blame Schippers warns party leaders that a minority cabinet looms All at sea: Rutte and Pechtold discuss the formation problems at a beach bar  More >