Definitely a windy country with a peculiar climate, the geography of Netherlands is quite unique. In fact, some parts of the country are even below sea level, while most are barely a meter above, so that has led to relatively mild maritime climate with periodic rains. As a flat country with only a few elevation points – large parts of the Netherlands are covered in water.
The Dutch have always been explorers, and that aspect is largely reflected by Dutch cuisine. Traditionally Dutch food is simplistic and quite straightforward. In the 20th century, however, that drastically changed due to the influx of food from Dutch colonies, which led to a fascinatingly diverse kitchen filled with meals of all sorts – there’s even a meal that’s called Hotch Potch, which actually means hodgepodge, but is a delicious mix and match of vegetables and meat.
The Netherlands isn’t a particularly large country, and because it’s surrounded by large neighbours from any side but the north, the Dutch people had to resort to naval exploration and trading. This, in turn, led to a culture filled with diversity, acceptance, liberalism, which can still be felt to this day. The Dutch people are among the world’s most vocal advocates of peace and acceptance, and have been quite influential as a culture – Dutch painting was considered as some of the best in the world at its peak.
There are few other cities in the world as popular as Amsterdam. While that might be the prime example of a dynamic Dutch city, every other city in the Netherlands is just as unique and fascinating to see. Dutch cities are complex mechanisms with many cogs that all operate together on a large scale, they’re quite varied in terms of art, culture, architecture and the like, and cities like Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and many more, are all fine examples of highly developed countries that are just a treat to visit.
The Netherlands is definitely a fascinating country. There are few other countries in the world that offer such a breath of fresh air when it comes to diversity and completeness, so visiting it is quite a must.
Know Before You Go
The Netherlands may be centred around a city of smoke and lights perched atop a winding canal system. But getting out of Amsterdam drops you into a world of Dutch charm. Getting to know the lesser-known cities like Maastricht and Utrecht, will bring you closer to the cultural heart of Dutch life. As the Netherlands is so small, they're only a cheap 20-minute journey on the train. Those who only visit Amsterdam read but a page in the book of The Netherlands.
Dutch people are known for their candid nature. They say it like it is, and once you realise this, watching the Dutch go about their day with honesty and candour is refreshing.
Keep an eye on those pesky bike lanes, especially in Amsterdam. They're painted red with a symbol of a bike, and tourists have a habit of loitering on them. The locals have no time for this and if you don't take action at the ding of a bell you're likely to be squashed.
The transport system in The Netherlands is super efficient and journeys are charged by distance. Always tap on and off with your iAmsterdam card or your OVchipkaart to validate your trip and avoid voiding your card.
Best Time To Visit
Amsterdam bursts the ranks of popularity. It sees almost 20 times the amount of tourists each year compared to its inhabitants. Booking ahead is a must if you're travelling in the peak season (June to August).
Weather-wise, mid-April to mid-October is the best times to visit. As the maritime climate keeps the weather temperate and crowds are fewer.
If you're hoping for the tulips in resplendent blooming glory, your best bet is mid-April. The season only lasts for 6-8 weeks.
What To Expect
Here's a few simple tips to help you plan your Dutch discovery.
Currency - The official currency of the Netherlands is the Euro
Language - The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch, and English is a close second. They win the prize for best speakers of English as a second language. It's not uncommon to spot Dutch people changing languages mid-sentence. Though a bit of polite Dankjewel (thank you) goes a long way.
ATMs - The ATM's in the Netherlands can be found within ABN AMRO or ING banks. It can be tricky to pay by card. As most Dutch services only accept Maestro. So keeping cash on you is wise.
Plugs & Sockets - The Netherlands uses the Type F plug with 2 round pins and 2 earth clips. The standard voltage is 230V and 50Hz.
Safety - The Netherlands is considered very safe. Always be careful in large crowds, and if you hire a bike, lock it twice!
Climate - The Netherlands has a maritime climate with mild summers and chilly winters. It's a little warmer the further south you travel.
The coastal provinces are colder in summer and warmer in winter due to westerlies from the North sea. Compared to the Eastern provinces which are generally colder due to their proximity to continental Europe.
The winter sees the wettest weather, but rain can affect the country at any time of year. So be prepared for showers whenever you go.