There’s more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam, but Amsterdam is the beating heart of the country and the draw for most visitors. While exploring the rest of this tiny, water-logged place is rewarding (with windmills, tulips and more), it’s Amsterdam that is the most memorable. Whether you’re stuffing yourself with sugary stroopwafels on the street, riding a bike by the canal alongside dozens of locals, taste-testing Belgian beverages or partying all night long, your experience in Amsterdam will be, above all, fun. Don’t come here to relax; come here to stay up late, meet new people, immerse yourself in the culture and throw caution to the wind.
In addition to a fabulous array of indie shops, cafes, nightlife venues and restaurants, Amsterdam is a cultural hotspot. In museums alone it’s rich: the fabulous Rembrandts and Vermeers in the Rijksmuseum, the biggest collection of van Gogh paintings in the world at the Van Gogh Museum, and a branch of Russia’s Hermitage Museum that brings some of its treasures to Europe in blockbuster exhibits.
If you do decide to get out of Amsterdam, there are a few places that are worth seeking out. Try Delft, a small city with more than its fair share of canals and historic buildings, or Haarlem, which has first-rate cafes, excellent museums and beautiful cobblestone streets. In contrast, Rotterdam is hyper-modern. After it was demolished in the Second World War, it was rebuilt with boundless enthusiasm for the new. There’s plenty to see and do here, and it’s a perfect for party animals.
Happily for travellers, the Dutch speak excellent English, and there’s no expectation that you’ll understand the local language.