It’s no secret that Amsterdam is a truly enchanting city – the maze of canals, vibrant nightlife, and easy access to cannabis have driven the Dutch capital to full capacity, with some claiming that it’s begun to suffer from overtourism. While Amsterdam is an incredible place to visit, many tourists spend their entire time in the Netherlands without setting foot outside city limits. With twelve provinces to explore, there’s an entire untapped world to be discovered – fascinating historical sites, fine dining, and busy main streets can be found far beyond the realm of North Holland.
Despite being an hour train ride from Amsterdam, this world-class city is often overlooked by tourists. While many know The Hague as the home of the International Court of Justice, the chief judicial branch of the United Nations, the city is also home to a thriving nightlife as well as one of the country’s most popular beaches. Head to the city’s bustling main square, the Grote Markt, and grab a biertje at one of the local bars – or for the truly daring, order a Zombie at VaVoom, the square’s beloved tiki bar. During the warmer seasons, nothing beats a trip to Scheveningen, The Hague’s seaside resort district. Explore De Pier, a boardwalk complete with a ferris wheel and bungee jumping, or dine on fresh seafood at one of many restaurants lining the sandy shore.
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The capital of Utrecht province, the city of Utrecht is home to both the largest university and busiest train station in all of the Netherlands. Home to what was once the largest church in the Netherlands, Utrecht served as a hugely influential base for Dutch Christians from the 7th century to the 16th century. Today, the city’s main church still plays a central role in tourism, with a wealth of ornate sculptures and paintings available for viewing within its walls. Immediately to the west of the church is Dom Tower, the largest church tower in the Netherlands. Though it was once attached to the church, a collapsed nave in the mid-1600s allowed it to become its own free-standing structure.
The largest city in the Netherlands’ underappreciated northern region, Groningen had a short-lived stint as an independent city-state until 1536. Today, Groningen is best known as a college city, thanks to the tens of thousands of students seeking degrees at its prestigious universities. Visitors should aim to explore both the Vismarkt, a thriving pedestrian square once used as a fish market, as well as the Grote Markt, home to a 15th-century Gothic church tower based off of Utrecht’s Dom Tower. After exploring the traditional architecture of the Grote Markt, be sure to visit the Groninger Museum – this vibrant, eclectic structure houses a wealth of modern and contemporary art pieces.
Located at the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, this historic settlement serves as the capital of Limburg Province. The city enjoys a rich and complex history – it was founded by the Roman Empire some time around the 1st century, with a large number of Roman archaeological relics excavated within the cellar of the Derlon Hotel. Explore the Vrijthof, the city’s vibrant pedestrian square containing a wealth of bars, restaurants, shops, and historic churches. Be sure to explore Maastricht’s vast man-made caves, originally formed in the 13th century as mines. As the mining industry subsided, the caves found a new purpose, one of which being the storage of valuables and weapons during World War II.
Dordrecht is an island at the southern border of South Holland – though it wasn’t always this way. The city was attached to the mainland until 1421, at which point the now-infamous Saint Elisabeth’s Flood swallowed up large portions of the city. Today, the city center is home to a wealth of historic buildings and artifacts – the city’s Grote Kerk (Great Church) dates back to the 11th-century, while the Dordrechts Museum is home to a wealth of centuries-old artwork. For fans of the outdoors, National Park De Biesbosch is just a short journey southeast. This freshwater delta stretches across roughly twenty thousand acres (8000ha), and is a haven for birdwatching, kayaking, and biking.