Dutch destinations: enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek

Dutch destinations: enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek

Most famous for its Sneek Week, a week long sailing competition and festival, the Frisian city of Sneek (Snits in West Frisian) has plenty to offer during the other 51 weeks of the year. Molly Quell goes north (again) to check out to eat more suikerbrood and see what the city has to offer. The area around Sneek has been inhabited since Roman times and received its city right in 1456, joining the other 10 Frisian cities that make up the Friese elf steden or Frisian eleven cities. They may be more famous for the ice skating race, the Elfstedentocht. Or if your preference is for unfrozen water, Sneek Week. The city itself is the only of the Frisian cities to be walled, an expensive and difficult project due to the surrounding geography. Today, all that remains of the undertaking is one picturesque bridge which has become the symbol of the city. Sneek is now home to around 30,000 people and both C&A and Tonnema (a sweets factory known for its brand of King mints) were founded here.   Wander about town The city itself is lovely and offers your typical canals and cute canal houses. The city centre isn’t large so start your trip by wandering around. You will want to check out the Waterpoort, which is the remaining part of the original city wall as well as the symbol of the city. Then you can visit the fountain, installed as part of the European Capital of Culture, which Leeuwarden/Friesland is in 2018. Other notable architectural features include the Stadhuis, built with a Rococo facade in the 15h century, and the Martini church, whose bells were confiscated by the Germans during World War II. Take in some history and culture Sneek offers two museums, the Fries Scheepvaart Museum and the Nationaal Modelspoor Museum. Both accept the museum card and both are in the city centre. The former ostensibly focuses on the shipping, though it also includes exhibitions about the history of Sneek and the Elfstedentocht. If land based transportation is more to your liking, then the miniature train museum offers a lot of exactly what the name suggests. Both museums are kid-friendly and small enough to negotiate on the same day. Drink some Weduwe Joustra Beerenburg, an herb-infused gin, was created in Sneek and used to be popular with sailors. It was brewed originally at Weduwe Joustra which is now a liquor store and museum. There you can find plenty of versions of this local spirit for sale, as well as take a tour of the museum which, of course, is followed by a tasting. The building is one of the oldest in the city, dating from 1484. Take a boat tour The city is famous for its water and offers plenty of options for boat tours. You can see the city from a whole different angle and, if you choose a small enough vessel, even travel under the Waterpoort. Where to eat De Walrus is one of the more famous cafes in the city, with a beautiful terrace when the weather is nice and good sandwiches year round. The cafe offers both lunch and dinner as well as high tea and high wine. If you want a slightly more adventurous menu, Stadscafe Dubbels is a trendy spot with an interesting menu configuration: everything is the same price and you order two dishes. The portions aren’t large, so in total you end up with a good and varied meal. Friesland is famous for its suikerbrood and Sneek offers some of the best. Try it at Bakkerij De Haan, which also counts oranjekoek and vanillestafjes among its specialities. It’s famous enough that you can even purchase a miniature of the building for your Christmas village. If all that food has you thirsty, find your way to Bier Cafe 3B. They have 25 beers on tap and 200 bottles, including many local brews from the city and the surrounding area. It also offers from finger food, in case you need to balance out the beer. Where to stay If you don’t want to stray too far from the beer, you can try Logement 3B. Located directly next to Bier Cafe 3B, it’s a funky and modern hotel located in the city centre. Run by a family, it’s walking distance to the train station if you choose to come by public transport and as it’s connected to the bar, so plenty of good beer options. For a more traditional hotel option, there is the Hotel Stadsherberg Sneek. The building was built in 1845 and reopened as a hotel in 2014. It overlooks the water and is located about 30 meters from the Waterpoort. There’s a cafe on the premises should you get hungry. How to get there Sneek is small and easily walkable. You don’t need a car for the weekend and you can get there by train. Trains run regularly to Leeuwarden and Stavoren. However, if you go by car, you can see the Wooden Bridges, which were built to resemble old ships using sustainable wood.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: get a taste of the south in Venlo

DutchNews.nl destinations: get a taste of the south in Venlo

Venlo's strategic position on the river Maas, right on the border of Germany and the Netherlands, has made it a travellers' and merchants' crossroads since Roman times, and a central point in the final battles of WW2. Esther O'Toole has been checking out this very southern Dutch town. The urban regeneration after the war has allowed Venlo to grow into a bustling city today with a strong local culture and sense of place. And despite the wartime damage, it managed to preserve many historical buildings, like the imposing 'stadshuis' on the main square that dates from the end of the 1500s, and overlooks many welcoming cafe terraces in the summer. The city itself now has nearly 40,000 residents, with a similar number in the greater Venlo area since neighbouring Blerick and Tegelen were incorporated into the council region after the war. Currently, the city's most famous son is notorious Dutch politician Geert Wilders and the town has brought forth many a politician over the years, alongside singers, poets, footballers and philosophers. Things to do There are a few good museums in Venlo. The biggest, with a good range of activities for young and old, is the Limburgs Museum. Here you can take a deep dive into the cultural history of the borderland region from neanderthal times to the present day. The High Tech Romans interactive exhibition is on until January 2019. For something on a more intimate scale you could also try the beautiful Jean Laudy Museum Chapel - housed in a former orphanage chapel, the museum showcases the fine art of one of the city's most well-known portrait painters. For small adventurous types, all sorts of things to climb on and get into can be found at Playpark Little Switzerland*, an amusement park just to the south of the city, including (according to the Guinness Book of Records) Europe's highest swing and longest tubular-slide. It's large, affordable and they have special Halloween activities on all through October! So, for all those Halloween fanatics who think Sint Maarten just doesn't cut the spooky autumnal mustard - this could be just the thing. Open till the end of the first week of November. Want to make the most of the late autumn sunshine? Then head out of town to the south-east and, just across the border, you enter Het Brachter Wald. An area of natural, wooded, beauty that crosses between Holland and Germany. It is shut off to cars and perfect for a long walk, bike or horse ride. If you want to stick closer to town, then you can also try a nice long stroll along the river in the some 70 hectares of walking and biking terrain between Venlo and Velden. Theatre and music Alongside the touring Dutch theatre shows, de Maaspoort has a good range of musical acts for non-native speakers including regular appearances by the South-Dutch Philharmonic. This large, modern theatre, right in the centre of town, was completely renovated in 2013 and offers bars, restaurants and even overnight stays via the Theaterhotel If you're after something a little more contemporary you can head over to Poppodium Grenswerk* on the Peperstraat where, in addition to their workshops and regular dance parties, they have a lively performance scene with blues, jazz and rock acts. You´ll get visiting international artists such as US Blues/Rock icon Popa Chubby, popular Dutch radio stars like Nielson and er… the odd Rage Against the Machine tribute act. Eating Out There are plenty of options for dining, to suit all budgets. If you're making the most of the city shopping centre, then take a quick break at Beej Benders*, a boutique restaurant where all the produce is purchased directly from local farmers/producers. After eating you can buy ingredients in their grocery shop to take away and replicate your lunch at home. In-house pizza and sushi are some of their specialities. Looking for a craft beer and accompanying bite, then try De Klep*; in local dialect a so-called Preuf and Praotlokaal (taste and talk bar). You will definitely hear more of the local dialect around you while you sample some of their more than 100 beers. If however, you're looking to escape the bustle for a bit, or if you want to go upmarket, then you could try the Michelin star Hotel and Restaurant-Brasserie Valuas. Right on the riverside, just between the city and a nature reserve it´s a high-end, family run place with a lovely sunny terrace over the water; and, they too specialise in regional ingredients Where to Stay In addition to the two hotels already mentioned, the Maashof, Hotels & Suites just across the river in Blerick offers a range of different kinds of rooms, including family rooms; and you can book trips to amusement park Toverland (Sevenum) as part of your stay. For reasonable, comfortable and well-looked after b&b you could try Het Venloosplekje which has some modern twin rooms, also in the town centre; or the considerable offering on Airbnb if you like staying with locals. How to get there Venlo lies just off the A73 motorway, which runs south from Nijmegen to Maastricht. It's about an hour's drive from either of these. By rail: it is on the line from Nijmegen to Maastricht, and the stop-train in either direction also takes about an hour. When to visit The famous German beer festival, Oktoberfest (which usually runs in Munich from around 22nd Sept - 7th October turning the city into a mecca for lovers of beer and Bavarian hats) also means many spin-off events in the south of both Germany and the Netherlands. Between October 19 and 21 there is a massive Oktoberfest party in nearby Arcen for instance, and in Venlo itself there is a big, Oktoberfest, pub-crawl on October 20. If you are a craft beer enthusiast with a loud singing voice it may be for you, if not… you have been warned!  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: enjoy art and cream pastries in Den Bosch

DutchNews.nl destinations: enjoy art and cream pastries in Den Bosch

Whether you call it Den Bosch or s-Hertogenbosch, the capital of North Brabant is a great place to spend a weekend. Its museums and quirky cafes are truly one of a kind. Here’s Brandon Hartley’s rundown on just a few of the city’s attractions. s-Hertogenbosch means ‘The Duke’s Forest’ in English but learning how to properly pronounce it if that’s your native language could take hours or longer. This is why many people opt to use ‘Den Bosch’, the city’s colloquial and much less tongue-twisty nickname. Once upon a time, Duke Henry I of Brabant and his family owned a large estate in the area. When he was still in his 20s, he decided that a nearby marsh with a few dunes would be a positively fantastic place to start building a city. He established Den Bosch in the late 12th century but it was allegedly all part of a scheme to protect his family’s land holdings from encroachment. The duke envisioned the city as an impenetrable fortress but his efforts all came to naught when soldiers from the nearby regions of Gelre and Holland stormed in and raided the place in 1203. Much of the fledgling city was destroyed. Amazingly enough, Den Bosch bounced back and later became the home of Hieronymus Bosch, the legendary artist. His vivid and often nightmarish depictions of the Christian afterlife may or may not have been inspired by a devastating fire that tore through the city in 1463. In the centuries that followed, Den Bosch endured wars and sieges from the French, the Spanish, and the Prussians, earning itself the nickname ‘Marsh Dragon’ along the way due to the marshes that surrounded the city’s ramparts. Nowadays, Den Bosch is known for its music and theatrical festivals in addition to being one of the wildest places in the Netherlands to head for Carnival. The annual event attracts thousands of attendees as the city is briefly renamed ‘Oeteldonk’ for three straight days of drinking, singing, and merriment galore. Things to do Journey to hell and back Den Bosch is home to several museums but this one is definitely the strangest. Housed inside an old church, the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre is devoted to the life and works of Hieronymus Bosch. It contains life-sized reproductions of many works from his oeuvre along with sculptures of a few of the weirdest inhabitants from his often downright hellish paintings. Along with a recreation of his workshop in the basement, visitors can ride a glass elevator to the top of the church for stunning views of the city. There’s also an astronomical clock that features some grim depictions of Judgement Day. Check out the Van Goghs If Bosch’s paintings are just too dang creepy for your tastes, there’s also the Noordbrabants Museum. It’s devoted to the art, culture, and history of Noord-Brabant. Vincent van Gogh was born in the province and the museum currently houses several of the artist’s paintings. It’s also home to artifacts from the region’s Roman period along with art collections that date from the 16th century all the way to the modern era. Wander the streets Den Bosch wasn’t heavily damaged during World War 2, which means much of its architecture dates back centuries. One of the best ways to explore the city is by following this pedestrian route through its historic centre. The route features seven statues, arguably the most famous of which honours Dieske, a young boy who reportedly loved urinating in Den Bosch’s canals back in the 15th century. One night while answering nature’s call, he noticed enemy troops on the move. He quickly notified the city’s guards and became a hero in the process. Heaven’s hotline If you’re in the mood for more statues, you’ll find over 96 of them on the exterior of the Sint-Janskathedraal, the city’s famous gothic cathedral. During an extensive restoration project that was completed in the early ‘10s, over two dozen new angels were added, one of which has a modern twist. She can be spotted dressed in blue jeans and holding a cell phone that, as the story goes, allows her to make calls to heaven. At one point, there was a phone number that allowed visitors to contact the angel and leave messages for her. On a far more somber note, the elaborate interior of the cathedral also features an intense stained glass window that depicts the apocalypse and includes a panel showing the September 11th attack on New York City. Explore the sands of the ‘Sahara’ If the weather’s behaving and you’re looking for an outdoorsy adventure, consider a trek out to Loonse en Drunense Duinen. This national park, which is nicknamed the ‘Brabant Sahara’, was established in 2002 and is located about 19 km outside of the city. The ever-changing landscape is perpetually being shaped by the wind and it’s an interesting place to roam while on foot, bike, or horseback. Where to eat Den Bosch’s Bossche bollen have become world famous and, if you enjoy pastries, digging into one is considered something of a prerequisite if it’s your first trip to the city. Roughly the size of a tennis ball, the chocolate-covered puffballs are stuffed full of whipped cream and go great with a cup of coffee. You can find them pretty much all over the place but Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot often winds up on various 'best of' lists. Salon De Roosekrans, which dates back to 1794, is a great cafe that also serves Bossche bollen along with various lunch items and a selection of cookies and chocolates. Drab is a cool cafe to stop for a flat white or a more traditional cup of joe and they use beans from the acclaimed Blommers micro-roastery in Nijmegen. It’s also a great place to people watch at the window-side table (which is held up by ropes attached to the wall). For lunch, visitors often rave about Visch, a seafood market with a few tables that offers simple and freshly-made meals. Nom Nom is an adorable cafe with a more relaxed vibe and both lunch and dinner menus. The San Juan Cantina is where to go if you enjoy Latin American cuisine. 7evenden Hemel also typically receives top marks from lovers of seafood and meat dishes. If you’ll be up and about for breakfast, Buurt is one of the best spots to head in town. It’s a vibrant neighbourhood cafe with a few unique items on the menu. Their ontbijt pizza (breakfast pizza) comes covered in créme fraiche, bacon, fried eggs, cheese, and spring onions. They also serve American-style pancakes and worstenbroodje (sausage bread), a local favourite. If you can’t make it over there in time for breakfast, Buurt has lunch and dinner menus as well. Where to stay For a truly heavenly experience, book a night or two at De Soete Moeder. It offers comfortable rooms that recall its holier days as a monastery. Each room has retained its original details right down to the home stoups. Their restaurant also serves unique regional dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients that can be hard to find outside of Noord-Brabant. The always dependable Golden Tulip chain has a hotel in Den Bosch but, for a more unique experience, you could also try CubaCasa. This bed and breakfast has furnishings and decor that recreate the vibe and zest of the Caribbean island in the 1950s. There’s also an on-site sauna. How to get there Getting to Den Bosch is fairly easy. By car from Amsterdam, it’s around a 75 minute drive down the A2. Getting to Den Bosch by train from the country’s larger cities also isn’t too terribly daunting. Anything else? Carnival is a very big deal in Den Bosch. The annual festival is filled with local traditions and renaming the city for three days is just one of them. If you like to party, you can do worse than celebrate here. But if not, avoid the the weekend before the start of Lent.  More >


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 >


Blogwatching: Cycling through Limburg history (and a message to the countess)

Blogwatching: Cycling through Limburg history (and a message to the countess)

Welcome to Waking Up on the Roof, where Kim Stokes share stories, thoughts and photos from her bicontinental life, her travels throughout Europe and Canada, and her road-trips in Electric-Blue, her trusty VW van. About two years ago I invested in a bike with battery power. Very un-Dutch, I know, but we live in a very un-Dutch part of the Netherlands. A hilly part. And since I bought that bike (and Arthur followed suit), we’ve been spending an increasing amount of time discovering our surroundings on two wheels. The Dutch make sightseeing by bike super easy. All over the Netherlands, maps and markers called Fietsknooppunten, (translated, bicycle junctions), route cyclists through the most scenic landscapes that an area can offer, but beware! It’s easy to be lured far afield by the beauty. Just yesterday afternoon Arthur looked up from his scores and called in my direction. Hey! Is it time for a glass of chilled chardonnay at Kasteel Schaloen? Twist my arm. Castle Schaloen is about 10 kilometres away as the bird flies, perfect for a short break by battery-bike. We peddled through pretty villages and forested laneways to arrive in the lush Geul Valley where several castles and manor-farms still stand after hundreds of years. We followed the meandering river, to a courtyard terrace where we sat sipping in the shadow of the fairy-tale fortress.  Motivated by the sunshine (and the wine), we chose a different path back home, and arrived at sunset, some 40 kilometres and five hours after opting for our 'short break'. Landscape Our European home is in Zuid-Limburg, that little tail of the Netherlands that sticks down between Belgium and Germany. The landscape here is so different from the rest of the country that even the Dutch come down here in full holiday mode to walk, cycle, and sit on sunny terraces. South Limburg has an international feel, and there’s good reason; the borders here, formed just 180 years ago, are a new development compared to the castles, farmhouses and half-timbered villages flanking fields and filling valleys. Cycling through the rolling hills, it’s easy to flow across borders, and hardly know you’ve left one country for another. When we moved into this neighbourhood over a decade ago, Arthur’s son loved to play this game with our Canadian company; Will you go for a little bike ride with me? He’d ask innocently enough. Who wouldn’t say yes to a 12-year-old Dutch boy using his best English? Off they’d peddle through our village, past the Janssenmolen, a windmill built in 1870, around stately Kasteel Doenrade, the oldest castle sight in Limburg dating from 1117, and down a country-lane to the village of Hillensberg, where a few minutes after leaving home he would stop, turn to them and announce with delight. Haha! We are in Germany!! I’m a history buff. It’s not that I know so much about history, but rather, that I am astounded by it. The concept that the castle in my village (yes, I do have a castle in my village) has foundations from 1310, a tower from 1609, and has been owned by the same family since 1779 has me peddling past the front gate several times a week. At the edge of the driveway, I get off my bike and gawk at the setting, doing my best to imagine the golden-age of grand houses. I ponder who has peered out those stately windows over the hundreds of years past. I never tire of the idea that this chateau has stood as the centre pillar to village life for generations. Okay, I’ll even admit to something of an obsession with my local castle. I’m reasonably sure I could recite to you the lineage of the counts and countesses who have called Kasteel Amstenrade home for 700 years. The 11-hectare English gardens are open daily for the public to enjoy, but the castle is privately owned, and I’ve never been inside. Bygone era More than 100 castles from a bygone era remain in Limburg. Some are open to the public as boutique hotels, restaurants, or museums, but most are still privately owned. So, it will come as no surprise, that my favourite day of the year is Open Monumentendag. In order to keep the interest of the people whose tax dollars go to the upkeep of thousands of Dutch historical monuments, once a year a select few castles, and manor-farmhouses throw open their doors for the public. When I’m in residence in Limburg during Open Monument Day, I’ll be peddling along in search of open doors where I can take my gawking inside, and for a few short minutes, be the face looking out. (Dear Countess de Marchant et d'Ansembourg of Kasteel Amstenrade, I live just up the road and I would be available for tea at your convenience.) This blog was first published on Waking Up on the Roof.  Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


The 10 quirkiest locations to eat dinner in Amsterdam

The 10 quirkiest locations to eat dinner in Amsterdam

The Dutch have a long history of turning old buildings into something else. Think of the Kruisherenkerk (church) in Maastricht that is now a hotel. Or the old tram depot in Amsterdam that’s now the Foodhallen. So it’s no surprise that there are some weird and wonderful places to eat dinner in Amsterdam and its environs… Here are 10 of the quirkiest, for next time you feel like dinner with a difference: 1 Revolving office block: Moon When the old Shell building across the IJ River was transformed into the A’DAM Tower, restaurant Moon was one of the first new inhabitants to open. Any why? Because of the spectacular view diners are treated to from 360 degrees of revolving glass. Given that the restaurant is on the 19th floor, and the full rotation takes 90 minutes (just about long enough for a proper meal), it’s definitely a dining experience worth saving up for. And the food isn’t bad either: Chefs Jaimie van Heije and Tommy den Hartog have dreamt up a fine dining menu that presents classic dishes 'remixed' with international flavours. Dinner will set you back a pretty penny, but you’re paying for the view as much as the meal. https://restaurantmoon.nl/ 2 An island fortress: Pampus Forteiland Pampus is only accessible by boat – which is logical given that it’s a tiny island in the middle of the IJmeer that was built between 1887 and 1895 to defend Amsterdam against invaders. And while it’s no longer being used as a defence fort, the building itself remains largely unchanged save for what goes on inside it. Nowadays, you can take tours, attend festivals, and even get married there. But more importantly, you can reserve the Zomerlicht (summer light) experience during the warm months or the Winterlicht (winter light) experience during the cold months – both of which are culinary adventures in their own right. Either way, you’ll board an atmospheric boat in IJburg, and the rest of your evening will be taken care of for you – expect seasonal, local Dutch produce in a magical setting. https://www.pampus.nl/ 3 A moving train: Dinner Train Doing what it says on the tin, the Dinner Train is a restaurant housed in a train that runs from Amsterdam Centraal via Haarlem and Leiden to The Hague, and then back again via Gouda and Woerden. The entire experience takes around three hours, including a four-course dinner with wine. Although the food isn’t incredible, the kitchen does a decent job given the train’s obvious limitations, and freely flowing wine is certainly a plus. Whatever the time of year, you’ll look out over Holland’s fields and villages – although I’d imagine that it’s particularly spectacular in spring when the flowers are in full bloom between Haarlem and Leiden. http://dinnertrain.eu/ 4 A television studio on stilts: REM Eiland From the waters of the Houthavens, TV Nordzee broadcast to thousands of Dutch viewers for just a few months back in 1964. When the TV station was shut down by the government, the broadcasting station – essentially a platform built on stilts – fell into disuse until it was reborn as a restaurant several years ago. Nowadays, you can eat a modern European menu of meat, fish and vegetarian options while gazing out over the industrial terrain of the Houthavens (which is itself now being revived as a gentrified area to live and work). The terrace on the top deck is particularly sought after on sunny days – so long as you have a head for heights. https://www.remeiland.com/ 5 Water pumping station: Café-Restaurant Amsterdam When a city is four metres below sea level, water management is of paramount importance. So it’s no surprise that since the 1900s, the Westerpark area has had its own water pumping machine, water tower and engine room. While these have evolved in the intervening years, the disused engine room was converted into a café and restaurant in 1996. Unfortunately it seems they couldn’t think of a more creative name for it, but at least you know what you’re getting with Café-Restaurant Amsterdam. Nowadays, they serve a simple but well executed menu of sandwiches at lunchtime and classics like steak-frites or mussels at dinnertime. It’s also known for its child-friendliness. http://www.caferestaurantamsterdam.nl/ 6 An island: Vuurtoreneiland Yup, another island (that’s what happens when a city is built on water). This time, a lighthouse island originally built over three centuries ago and holding various functions since then. Now, you can take a boat from the Veemkade to the island just off Durgerdam for a Dutch fine dining experience that varies according to season. In summer, you eat in a giant greenhouse from which you can see the nature around you and (hopefully) the sunset. In winter, you eat in the converted fort – think open-hearth fireplaces, romantic candles and sheepskin rugs. As the island has no electricity or running water, food is cooked using old-school wood and fire, while cutlery and glasses aren’t changed between courses to save on water usage. And the menu has a clear local, seasonal message that’s heavy in vegetables and sustainable protein throughout its six courses. An intimate dining experience that’s well worth the waiting list. http://vuurtoreneiland.nl/ 7 The ground floor of a multi-storey car park: Waterkant Underneath a multi-storey carpark, Waterkant is now the place to be on sunny days in Amsterdam thanks to its expansive terrace stretching along the Singelgracht (the canal between Nassaukade and Marnixstraat, not to be confused with the Singel itself). Waterkant’s menu has much to offer in the realm of snacks and beers, but the focus of the main meals is Surinamese. Be sure to try one of their roti rolls (filled flatbread), gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), or bakkeljauw (salt cod) – preferably washed down a Parbo beer. https://waterkantamsterdam.nl/ 8 A greenhouse: De Kas Housed in an enormous greenhouse and surrounded by plentiful gardens in the Frankendael Park is restaurant De Kas – a long-loved favourite in Amsterdam. The chefs pluck much of their menu from the greenhouse and gardens themselves, and what isn’t grown in their own backyard comes from nearby farms. So this dining experience is about as local as you can get. Dishes are small but you’ll eat five or six of them at dinnertime, and they change daily depending on what’s available. Expect Mediterranean flavours, impeccable service, and beautiful surroundings. https://www.restaurantdekas.nl/ 9 A ferry: Pont 13 Anyone who’s spent even just a day in Amsterdam will have noticed the public ferries that trek back and forth across the IJ River at various points. While most of these are for pedestrians and two-wheelers only, there are a couple of small car ferries – and what happens when one of these reaches the end of its ferrying life? It gets turned into a restaurant, naturally! Pont 13, just down the pier from REM Eiland, was one such ferry that’s now permanently moored for its guests. The dinner menu is simple – featuring a selection of antipasti to start, simple grilled fish and meal for main, and a few signature desserts (don’t miss the cheesecake!). It’s also an excellent option for group dining and large events. https://www.pont13.nl/ 10  A railway bridge: Wolf Atelier Housed on an industrial railway bridge from the 1920s that rotated to let boats pass through the Westerdok, Wolf Atelier may no longer move physically but it certainly buzzes with atmosphere. Chef Michael Wolf’s innovative cuisine has earned him a great reputation among the city’s gastronomes, and diners can choose from fixed chef’s menus as well as a la carte dishes. In fact, the bridge saw a few iterations of restaurants before its current version – but Amsterdammers are hoping this one’s here to stay. https://www.wolfatelier.nl/ Vicky Hampton blogs about the capital’s eateries on AmsterdamFoodie.nl – for more dining recommendations, download the Amsterdam Foodie’s Restaurant Guide.  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: exploring the shores of Ameland

DutchNews.nl destinations: exploring the shores of Ameland

Whether you’re in search of nature, cosy inns, history, kitsch, or just a few good meals, you can find all of them on the Wadden Sea island of Ameland. Brandon Hartley recently visited the often overlooked island. Ameland is sort of like a kid sister to its more popular southern siblings. Texel and Terschelling tend to hog all the attention but there’s plenty to do and explore along its shores and further inland. Centuries ago, Ameland stood apart from the mainland in more ways than one. It used to consist of three separate islands. They were ruled over by a private lordship until 1704 when they were sold for 170,000 Guilders to Johan Willem Friso, the heir regent of Friesland. The construction of drift dikes fused the islands together in the 19th century and it was invaded by the Germans during World War II in 1940. The Allies never bothered to liberate Ameland, since it was hardly a strategic landmark, leaving the troops stationed there to eventually surrender a few weeks after the conflict ended. Nowadays, about 3,700 residents live on the island year-round but the population greatly expands during the summer months when tourists arrive to soak up the sun and invade its holiday homes and hotels. Ameland is definitely quieter during the off-season and it’s a great destination for storm-watchers, intrepid cyclists, and anybody feeling adventurous. Five Things to Do Hit the beach Many people head to Ameland to walk, relax, or swim along its shorelines when the weather is behaving (or stoutly defy it when the skies are dark and cloudy all day). The island has 10 beaches that routinely win awards for their cleanliness. They’re also considerably more laid back during the summer than the ones you’ll find in popular towns along the mainland or the other islands. Stroll, bike, or ride through the dunes About 60 different bird species can be spotted on Ameland at various times throughout the year and there are several nature areas that are great for hikers and birdwatchers alike. The biggest is the roughly 1,000 acre Nieuwlandsrijd, located east of the village of Buren. It’s home to sheep and cattle along with plenty of geese. Elsewhere around Ameland, there are trails and paths that are suitable for horse riders, walkers, and cyclists. Bikes, including ones that are powered via a treadmill-esque system for the brave and the bold, can be rented at Nobel Fietsverhuur. They have five locations on the island. Nobels Nostalgisch Museum This somewhat peculiar museum is located in Ballum, a village on the western side of the island, and it’s curated by Tjeerd Nobel (the gent who owns all those bike rental shops). It will take you on a trip through time from the late 19th century when candle-powered bike lamps were all the rage to the early 20th when Model Ts ruled the road. The museum consists of a series of walk-through storefronts, complete with mannequins dressed in old-fashioned outfits, along with Nobel’s collection of vintage cars and random objects that range from old bikes to tea tins. Some might find the place creepy but it’s a treasure trove of delights for history buffs and kitsch-lovers alike. If it doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, there’s also several other museums on the island devoted to Ameland’s history and wildlife. Climb up Bornrif The official name for Ameland’s lighthouse is Vuurtoren Ameland but everybody calls it ‘Bornrif’, a nickname it acquired in the years following its construction in 1880. A climb to the top of ol’ Bornrif will lead you up 236 steps all the way to an enclosed observation deck with stunning views of the island and the surrounding sea. You’ll also get to meet another gang of mannequins, this time dressed as deep sea divers and sailors, that inhabit various floors along the way.  Watch equine lifeguards save the day The days of horses racing through the streets of Ameland to save drowning swimmers and sailors is long gone. Nevertheless, the tradition continues during demonstrations on certain dates throughout the year and they often attract hundreds of spectators. Click here to view the 2018 schedule and you too can watch these stouthearted horses do their thing. They begin their daring journey at a boathouse in the village of Hollum before they rush over to a nearby beach to dash into the sea. Where to Eat There are a fair amount of cafes that cater to tourists, especially those with kids who will probably love Neighbours, a ‘50s style American cafe that serves hamburgers during lunchtime in Buren village. Their evening menu is more sophisticated and it offers steaks, fish dishes, and vegetarian options. The cheekily named Nes Cafe over in Nes is also kid-friendly. Het Witte Paard, also in Nes, is a charming spot for dinner. It’s housed inside a building that dates back to 1734 and was named after a famous ship that never returned from an ill-fated journey to Greenland. Nearby Rixt, which takes its name from a local legend, is a great for fans of ribs, steaks, and other meaty dishes. In Hollum, there’s Cantina Delores, a large cafe with an adjacent hotel that serves dishes that are better than much of what passes for Mexican fare back on the mainland. The adorable Eeterij Tante A'n is a great spot for lunch or just a leisurely latte on a rainy afternoon. If that isn’t enough, it’s also worthwhile tracking down locally made food and spirits like Amelander Commandeurtje, a sweet liquor that will brighten up even the stormiest winter day. You can find bottles of it at TopSlijter De Jong, a well-stocked shop in Nes. Where to stay Ameland has a wide array of hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and holiday homes  and the island's VVV website is a good place to start looking. Pension Bakema Ameland is a small inn with friendly owners in Nes that won’t break the bank. Hotel de Jong, also in Nes, is charming with a large lobby and restaurant. The comfy chairs by the fireplace are a great place to sit out a storm. If they’re full, there’s also plenty of tables or one you can play billiards on in the adjacent lounge. How to get there A ferry leaves several times a day from a terminal in Holwerd and you can find the schedule here. The journey takes about 45 minutes but, if you’re travelling by car, here’s a rundown on the parking lots located on the island. Three companies also run water taxis that go to and fro and you can learn more about them by clicking here. If you have a small plane available and know how to fly it, you can reach the island by air and land at its tiny airport outside of Ballum. Believe it or not, the truly daring can reach Ameland during certain times of the year by marching over there on foot. Everything you need to know about making a ‘mudflat trip’ to the island can be found at the website for Wadloop Centrum, just one of the organisations that arranges these treks. It’s strongly advised to go with a guide because the tides can roll in quick and the weather can change at the drop of a hat, even during the summer. Anything else? Johannes de Jong spent his childhood years on Ameland. The Dutch cardinal famously ordered his priests to refuse sacraments to Nazi-sympathisers during World War II and opposed Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands. A statue in his honour can be found in a park in the centre of Nes. Many a brave sailor from Ameland attempted to strike it rich in the 17th and 18th centuries by going whaling. Several of them never made it back to shore and their memorials can be found at cemeteries on the island. Also keep an eye out for gigantic whale jawbones from this era that serve as archways outside of a few historic homes on Ameland in addition to the school along the Ballumerweg in Nes.  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 >


Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

The Dutch are keen on walking and the countryside is riddled with signposted walks to encourage you to get out and about. Here's a few suggestions to help you walk off the effect of all that festive food. De Rijp - 7 to 22 km The pretty village of De Rijp in Noord Holland is famous as a place to go boating, but it also offers several walks past tiny villages and, outside the breeding season, across fields into the big wide open. Pick up a map at the VVV in the heart of the village. De Rijp has plenty of choice for lunch at the end or start of your walk. Website Zwanenwater - 4.5 km In Noord-Holland province close to the Callantsoog seaside village, Zwanenwater is a small nature reserve. The walk takes you through birch woods and over dunes around the edge of the lake, with a stop-off at a bird hide. In the spring, the grass is full of purple orchids. Website De Zilk - 9.4 km There are lots of signposted walks in the dunes west of Amsterdam but this is our favourite. It's not as busy as the others but that may be due to the lack of a cafe. The walk (follow the blue route) takes you through woods, past the gliding club and across high dunes with great views (a perfect spot for a picnic). Excellent for spotting deer. Website Oostvaardersplassen - 1-7 km This nature reserve on the 'new' province of Flevoland is the home of a pair of breeding sea eagles - so if its bird life you are after, this is the place to be. You'll also spot deer and wild ponies. Website Lage Vuursche - 2-4 km There are lots of walks to suit all tastes through the heaths and woodlands near Hilversum that make up Lage Vuursche. Set your route planner for Drakenstein where most of them start. Dogs welcome on many walks. Website Round Marken - 6 km Marken was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by a road over a dyke. Park as soon as you cross the water and hit the dyke path heading east. You'll pass typical houses with great wooden constructions in the water which keep the ice at bay during big freezes and a light house with an inviting little beach in summer. Lots of bird life for bird watchers. The route conveniently hits the village itself about 3/4 round, so its a good point to stop of for a break. Best avoided in strong winds. Website St Pietersberg, Maastricht - 10 km If you visit the marl mines on the outskirts of Maastricht, build in time to take in a walk across the Netherlands' highest hills. The 10 km (red) route takes in spectacular views over the quarry, winds through woods and past old mine entrances, and dips into Belgium. It ends with a bit of a boring walk back to Maastricht up the river. Website Oisterwijk - 9.4 km This is a charming walk through woods and past little lakes left by peat extraction between Den Bosch and Tilburg. Pick up the route (follow the blue arrows) at the Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen nature centre. The cafe is a good option for lunch but can be somewhat overwhelmingly full of children if you are after a quieter time. There is another stop off cafe around half way. Website Oppad, near Hilversum - 9.3 km The Oppad is an old path followed for hundreds of years by churchgoers across the fields and past the peat workings between Kortenhoef and ‘s-Graveland. Pick up the path next to the church and you will find yourself striding out into the fields. Just keep going in a straight line. Rich in wildlife, you might even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher. Website Lange Afstands Wandelpaden (100 km +) If you are very keen walkers, the Netherlands also has its share of long-distance footpaths or LAWs. Like the grand randonnee in France, they use red and white stripes on signs to indicate which way to go so you may well come across them while out on the shorter strolls listed above. The Netherlands has 35 LAWS, which have to be over 100 km to qualify. Website  More >


11 of the prettiest Dutch villages which aren’t too over-run by coach parties

11 of the prettiest Dutch villages which aren’t too over-run by coach parties

Cobbled streets, waterways, tiny thatched cottages covered with roses, secret gardens and wooden bridges - Dutch villages can be a delight. So this is a totally subjective compilation of places we think worth checking out - and which (we hope) won't be totally full of coach loads of tourists. Appingedam Appingedam first evolved on the banks of the Delf river in around 1200. With open access to the sea, it was somewhat prosperous and second only in importance in the region to Groningen. It enjoyed a resurgence as an industrial centre in the late 19th century and was home to the Appingedammer Bronsmotorenfabriek, which made ships motors until 2004. Appingedam's most famous attraction is the hanging kitchens above the Damsterdiep. Bourtange The leafy star-shaped fortified village of Bourtange in Groningen province has pretty houses, a charming central square and several museums and fortifications to poke around in. Totally renovated in the 1960s, Bourtange was built way back in 1593 to control the only road between Germany and the city of Groningen. It is now a big draw to German tourists from just over the border - so avoid public holidays. Bronkhorst Bronkhorst, in Gelderland, is technically a city but only has around 170 inhabitants. It used to be a lordship and its earliest known lord - Gijsbert - was first mentioned in 1140. Bronkhorst is just a stroll from the banks of the river Ijssel and has a nice little museum devoted to Charles Dickens which was set up by local fanatics. If you make a day trip of it, there are lots of castles to gawp at in nearby Vorden. De Rijp Less than an hour north of Amsterdam, De Rijp is a village of cottages with some grander buildings in between. You can rent a little electric boat and tour the waterways of the Beemster polder and there are some nice walks across the fields, if you really want to go off the beaten track. Information at the tourist office in the town hall. Popular with Dutch day trippers, there are lots of nice places for lunch. Doesburg Granted city rights in 1237, Doesburg has a strategic position along the Oude IJssel and Gelderse IJssel rivers, which helped boost its prosperity. Top attractions include the Doesburgse mustard factory and weighhouse (de Waag). The town also has a museum dedicated to the work of René Lalique with some 250 items of jewellery and glass and a cafe devoted to Elvis Presley. Durgerdam The dyke village of Durgerdam to the north east of Amsterdam dates from the 15th century and has a splendid view over the Buiten IJ - even though Amsterdam is encroaching on its skyline.  Of the 100 or so wooden houses, 73 are listed buildings. There is nothing much to do apart from walk or cycle along the waterfront, watch birds and admire. The sunsets can be particularly fine. If you are a cyclist, a trip taking in Uitdam, Ransdorp and Zuiderwoude as well is highly recommended. There are also buses, of course. Elburg Elburg is one of the Netherlands oldest settlements and was completely rebuilt in the 14th century, giving it the square street pattern it has today. The town's museum is housed in the imposing 15th century Agnieten convent. Opposite is a little house built into the old town walls - the muurhuisje - which is open to the public. Eext Eext, in Drenthe, is a charming village of thatched farmhouses and wide open spaces, with a few fine places to eat, a couple of hotels and a tiny museum. It is also home to a couple of hunebedden or megalithic burial chambers. Hotel Rikus is very reasonably priced, grows its own veg, serves massive breakfasts and organises bikes or walking tours for those that want them. Hindeloopen Hindeloopen is a little port town in Frisland, and one of the province's 11 cities. The Hindeloopen painting style – flowers and curly cues on a white, green, red or blue background – is the town’s main claim to fame. The people of Hindeloopen couldn’t get enough of it and covered absolutely every piece of furniture in it. The Hindeloopen Museum has lots of examples and more Hindeloopen history – including skating – besides. Thorn The village of Thorn in Limburg dates back to the 11th century and was home to an important convent for ladies of the nobility around that time. The white houses date back to the village's occupation by the French in 1794. They, so the story goes, introduced a tax on windows. The good folk of Thorn were said to be so poor that they bricked up their windows and whitewashed their homes to disguise the fact. Thorn has a small museum and a nice selection of cafes. Grand cafe Het Stift has a wide selection of local beers. Veere Veere in Zeeland is a gem of a village with some splendid medieval buildings and an enormous church (1348) that Napoleon’s soldiers used as a military hospital. Veere’s wealth stems from its position as a major port in the wool trade with Scotland back in the 15th century. The Schotse Huizen museum on the waterfront is well worth a visit. Our favourite place to stay is the Auberge De Campveerse Toren - built into part of the town walls. Veere can get very busy in the summer so we recommend a winter weekend away. Please note that Giethorn, the thatched cottage idyll where the locals get around by boat (ha ha), is such a massive tourist trap that we think it is worse than Venice and only worth visiting on a cold misty morning in November when no one else is around.  More >