Looking for authentic local experiences in the Netherlands? It’s often hard to sift through tourist traps to find genuine local recommendations.
As a Dutch local who lived his whole life in The Netherlands, I have selected 30 activities in The Netherlands for you that I can recommend wholeheartedly.
Let’s journey together through these 30 hidden gems of the Netherlands.
1. Bike Tour To Discover Amsterdam
Most visitors to the Netherlands come first and foremost to visit Amsterdam. I lived in Amsterdam for many years and understand the attraction Amsterdam has for foreigners. Amsterdam is a mesmerizing fairytale-like city with a unique blend of rich cultural history, beautiful canals, and buildings.
A guided bike tour through Amsterdam is a fantastic way to discover Amsterdam. There are plenty of bike tours in Amsterdam available, and you can find one that suits your needs and agenda in this overview of guided bike tours in Amsterdam.
2. Take A Canal Cruise Through Amsterdam
The canals are one of Amsterdam’s most idyllic aspects, and canal cruises are Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attraction. Amsterdam looks and feels different from the water, and a canal cruise will make you appreciate Amsterdam even more.
A typical canal cruise lasts around 60-75 minutes and will show you all the highlights in the historic city center of Amsterdam.
Evening or dinner cruises through Amsterdam are also possible and are the best way to enjoy this wonderful city because Amsterdam will look even more fairytale-like.
Just be aware that these evening canal cruises are (understandably) very popular and rapidly sell out.
Select your favorite cruise in this overview of canal cruises in Amsterdam.
3. Visit The Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War.
You must stand in the annex and realize how small it is and what Anne and her family endured to avoid detection and deportation. Visiting the Anne Frank House is a poignant and humbling experience, but I highly recommend it.
You should book tickets to visit the Anne Frank House well in advance because they rapidly sell out. Every Tuesday at 10 am CEST, all tickets become available for a visit six weeks later.
This YouTube video, Tour of the secret annex of Anne Frank, provides an excellent impression of the Anne Frank House.
4. Visit The Red Light District In Amsterdam
The Red Light District in Amsterdam is probably its best-known neighborhood because it is unique to have this combination of legal prostitution, gay bars, and “coffee shops” between lovely canals and canal houses in the city’s center.
Mix in a few beautiful churches in between all of this, and you start to understand why people are fascinated by the Red Light District in Amsterdam.
Red Light District Tours are available if you want to explore the red-light district but are understandably reluctant to go alone.
5. Visit The Royal Palace In Amsterdam
The Royal Palace was originally built in the 17th century as Amsterdam’s town hall and was designed to reflect Amsterdam’s power and wealth. The grandeur of the Dutch Golden Age is still present in its main hall, the Citizen Hall, and its marble galleries.
The Royal Palace is at the King’s disposal and used during state visits and official events. However, visitors are welcome most days but check The Royal Palace’s website to ensure there is no royal event on the day you intend to visit.
Here is your chance to visit a real Royal Palace and marvel at the incredible wealth on display.
6. Visit A Museum In Amsterdam
Two of the most beautiful museums in The Netherlands are in Amsterdam, adjacent to each other.
The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Museum that exhibits much of the best-known art and paintings of Dutch artists like Rembrandt van Rijn. So do yourself a favor and visit this museum if you only spend a few days in Amsterdam.
Book your National Museum tickets well in advance because they are quite often sold out.
Vincent van Gogh was a world-famous Dutch painter, and the van Gogh Museum is dedicated to this artist and his work.
The van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam exhibits 200 of van Gogh’s paintings and 500 of his pencil drawings, the largest van Gogh collection in the world.
The van Gogh Museum is even more popular than the National Museum and you often need to book tickets for the van Gogh Museum weeks in advance.
7. Visit A Zoo In The Netherlands
Artis is the zoo in Amsterdam and within walking distance of Amsterdam’s historic city center.
However, there are many other zoos in The Netherlands, and you can select one depending on where you stay. My favorite is Safaripark Beekse Bergen because you can go on a safari in your car in this zoo and come very close to the animals. That is quite a remarkable experience.
8. Have A Beer At The Heineken Experience
Heineken is a premium Dutch beer brand that is exported and enjoyed all over the world. The Heineken Experience is located in an old Heineken brewery, and here you can learn more about the history of the Heineken brand and its production process.
However, the best part of the tour is that you can experience the beer afterward.
9. Try Dutch Street Food Or Snacks
The Dutch cuisine is not particularly impressive, and food needs to be, first and foremost, nutritious and inexpensive.
That is probably why the Dutch love their street food and snacks so much.
The best-known Dutch street food is fresh raw herring, served with onions. You need to try it before returning home and claiming that you have visited The Netherlands.
The Dutch are also fond of savory snacks, especially fried ones, because these are also inexpensive, and you will skip dinner if you have tried the full range of Dutch snacks during happy hour. Bitterballen is the favorite savory snack served with boatloads of mustard in every bar in The Netherlands.
10. Discover Zaanse Schans
Visiting Zaanse Schans is one of the most popular day trips from Amsterdam available because this reconstructed historic village provides an excellent opportunity to view life in The Netherlands one or two centuries ago.
Zaanse Schans is a small village with traditional Dutch windmills, wooden houses, and craft workshops where you can witness, for example, the production of wooden shoes.
Zaanse Schans is located less than 20 km (12 mi) north of Amsterdam, and day trips to Zaanse Schans are often combined with a visit to Volendam or Marke (see below).
11. Visit The Historic Center Of Alkmaar
Alkmaar is our best-kept secret because it has one of the most beautiful historic city centers in The Netherlands that nobody knows about. It is a gorgeous medieval center, prettier than Amsterdam, Leiden, or Delft.
I have seen all the medieval centers of Dutch cities, but, for me, Alkmaar is the proud winner of the most beautiful city center in The Netherlands. Try to land on an outdoor terrace on the Vismarkt because that is the prettiest spot in town.
12. Visit The Quaint City Of Haarlem
Haarlem is another quaint Dutch city offering something for everyone: a rich cultural history, a beautiful historic town with incredible architecture, and a vibrant atmosphere. Discover the hidden streets of days gone, admire the work of Frans Hals, or relax on one of the many terraces after a day of shopping in the trendy shops.
What is nice about Haarlem is that it is so close to the beach that you can combine a visit to Haarlem easily with spending a few hours on the beach to work on your tan. Hop on the train to Zandvoort aan Zee, one of the 25 best beach resorts in The Netherlands, and you will arrive next to the beach in about 10 minutes.
13. Explore Volendam And Marken
Volendam and Marken are two beloved characteristic fisherman’s villages near the IJsselmeer, where you can still smell the connection of the Dutch with the sea.
Marken is a picturesque village with its well-known wooden green-painted houses and the ideal place to try fresh fish like raw herring, a Dutch delicacy.
The ideal combination is to arrive in Volendam and take a ferry to Marken to experience the connection of the Dutch with the sea. Then, settle down on a terrace near the lovely harbor in Marken and enjoy the water’s view and smell before your return to Volendam.
14. Celebrate King’s Day With The Dutch
The Dutch are not particularly nationalistic, but we make an exception for King’s Day (April 27) and national football team football matches. Orange is our national symbol, and we show our national pride and unity by wearing orange.
If you want to experience the heart and soul of the Netherlands, you should celebrate King’s Day with the Dutch in one of the larger cities in The Netherlands.
15. Visit The Keukenhof
The Keukenhof is a well-known flower garden in Lisse (near Amsterdam) that is only open between mid-March and mid-May. Approximately 7 million bulbs are planted annually to create an overwhelming flower experience of blooming hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips during those few weeks in spring.
The Keukenhof will be incredibly busy during this period because everybody knows that the blooming flowers are most beautiful in these few weeks.
You can read a review of the Keukenhof on this website if you want to find out if the Keukenhof is as captivating as promised or all hype.
As a Dutchman living near the Keukenhof and having visited it many times, I can give you tips on how to get the most out of your visit to the Keukenhof.
Book your Keukenhof Entry Tickets in advance because they sell out very fast.
16. Enjoy The Tulips in The Countryside
During springtime, Keukenhof is the most popular tourist attraction in The Netherlands, but the Keukenhof will be crowded. However, you can enjoy the blooming tulips for free and embark on so-called tulip tours through the Dutch countryside.
Read The 6 Best Places to See Dutch tulips for free to learn more about enjoying Dutch tulips in the countryside. Remember that you must take a tulip tour before mid-May because that is when the farmers top the tulips to stimulate the bulb’s growth.
17. Attend A Flower Parade
In flower parades, cars, tractors, and trucks are magnificently decorated with flowers. Each flower parade has its character, charm, and yearly theme. Many towns and regions in The Netherlands hold flower parades every year.
You can find the 2023 dates of the most popular flower parades here.
18. Go Mudflat Hiking In The Wadden Sea
Hiking over the mudflats of the Wadden Sea is one of the most memorable things to do in the Netherlands. The overwhelming tranquility of the Wadden Sea will make your hike an experience you will never forget.
The Wadden Sea is one of the last remaining areas in the Netherlands, where natural processes have remained largely undisturbed. As a result, the Wadden Sea is an area where you hear nothing but the sound of the wind and the birds. I find the Wadden Sea beautiful, just beautiful….!
19. Spend A Weekend On A Wadden Island
The Wadden Sea is one of the world’s last remaining large-scale, intertidal ecosystems where natural processes remain largely undisturbed.
The Wadden Islands are one of the very few places in our very crowded country where it is silent enough only to hear the sound of the wind and the birds. So if you are looking for rest, the Wadden Islands is a must-go destination. You will return wholly refreshed after a weekend on one of the Wadden Islands.
20. Visit An Amusement Park
Visiting an amusement park can be a great family activity, and I described the 10 best amusement parks in The Netherlands in another article on this website to help you find the best one.
The Efteling is the largest amusement park in the Netherlands and wins awards for the best amusement park almost every year. The Efteling is a fantastic amusement park, and it never disappoints.
Madurodam is a charming miniature version of The Netherlands where you will find all the highlights and landmarks of the Netherlands. In addition, this lovely miniature city has its harbor, airport, and railway system.
21. Enjoy The Modern Architecture Of Rotterdam
The city center of Rotterdam was destroyed during the second world war. However, Rotterdam has embraced modern architecture in its city center while rebuilding its city center to make the best of the center’s destruction during the war.
That makes Rotterdam a Dutch city, providing a completely different perspective on life in The Netherlands. So please, read The 10 Best Rotterdam Tourist Attractions (Suggested By Locals) to learn more about this magnificent city.
Tip: One of the most popular attractions in Rotterdam is to dine on top of the Euromast and enjoy the best view of Rotterdam that you can get.
22. Discover Authentic Rotterdam In Oude Haven
Rotterdam is different from any other Dutch city because of its unique mix of authentic nostalgic neighborhoods and very modern architecture in its center. If you have enjoyed the contemporary architecture, you should also take a look at the authentic side of Rotterdam in Oude Haven (Old Harbor)
The Old Harbor is near the Cube House and has become popular, with plenty of terraces to sit and relax after a busy day of enjoying Rotterdam.
The Old Harbor is where you can still appreciate how Rotterdam used to be. The famous White House, overlooking the old harbor, miraculously escaped the German bombs in 1940 and still stands majestically at the harbor entrance.
23. Take The Waterbus to Dordrecht
Taking the waterbus from Rotterdam to Dordrecht is probably the cheapest, most fun thing in The Netherlands, but very few people know it. The Waterbus to Dordrecht is regular public transportation but extremely fast, almost like a speedboat.
You will end up in Dordrecht, one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands with a rich history and, yet again, an incredibly charming medieval center.
24. Visit The Windmills of Kinderdijk
The Netherlands is known for windmills because the Dutch needed them to drain water from their low-lying land below sea level. At its peak, approximately 10.000 Dutch windmills were used for pumping water out of low-lying land and many industrial processes like grinding grain, producing paper and paint, and sawing wood.
The Kinderdijk windmills are worth visiting because they are an age-old prototype of water management in The Netherlands. The Kinderdijk windmill complex was such an innovative water management project that UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site.
25. Follow In Rembrandt’s Footsteps in Leiden
Rembrandt van Rijn was born and raised in Leiden and lived in Leiden until age 25, when he moved to Amsterdam. However, he was educated and developed his exceptional talent in Leiden, and that is where to start if you want to understand the most famous Dutch painter ever better.
Leiden feels like an open-air museum because its historic city center has been exceptionally well preserved. Therefore, one of the best day trips in the Netherlands is to walk in Rembrandt’s footsteps through the beautiful city center of Leiden and visit the places where he was educated and trained.
The Rembrandt Walking Tour will last about two hours.
26. Discover Delft And Delft Blue Pottery
The quaint city of Delft is incredibly charming because of its fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and lively terraces. Delft has many lovely canals and houses, just like Amsterdam, but with few tourists. As a result, Delft is one of the most authentic quintessential Dutch towns to visit.
Delft is perhaps best known for its Delft blue, the characteristic white tin-glazed ceramic pottery with blue decorations. You can visit the only remaining Delft Blue factory, Royal Delft, where Delft blue pottery is still produced by hand.
You can buy beautiful Delft Blue pottery at the Royal Delft factory or several shops around the market square.
27. Visit The Beach Resort Scheveningen
The Netherlands is known for its wide sandy beaches that cover its North Sea coast for over 500 km from south to north. There are more than 50 beach resorts in The Netherlands, but the oldest and most popular beach resort in The Netherlands is Scheveningen, now a neighborhood of The Hague.
Scheveningen is the most popular beach resort in The Netherlands because it has more tourist facilities than any other. Its beautiful wide beach has a very long boulevard with visitor facilities.
Scheveningen is crowded but worth a visit on a sunny day.
28. Visit The Mauritshuis In The Hague
The Netherlands has many beautiful museums worth visiting, but the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague is probably the most beautiful museum in The Netherlands. The Mauritshuis exhibition contains masterpieces of Dutch painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Approximately 200 paintings are exhibited in The Mauritshuis, which is not huge. However, the quality of these paintings is exceptional, and The Mauritshuis shows you the best that the Netherlands has to offer. Don’t leave The Netherlands without visiting the Mauritshuis.
29. Discover Zeeland’s Dikes
The Netherlands lies in a delta of three rivers on land, mainly below sea level. As a result, the Dutch need to pump out 19 trillion liters (5 trillion gallons) of water annually to keep their land dry and depend on their dikes to protect their land against the sea.
The most impressive dikes that the Dutch built are those that belong to the Delta works in Zeeland. The Delta works are even one of the seven modern world wonders, a tribute to this small country below sea level that can only exist thanks to its ingenious engineers that have conquered the sea.
30. Visit The Hoge Veluwe To Enjoy Nature
The Netherlands is densely populated, but there are some, although not many, national parks in our country where you can still enjoy nature. The largest and most beautiful national park in The Netherlands is De Hoge Veluwe, located south of Apeldoorn.
De Hoge Veluwe is a lovely combination of forests and heathland with a beautiful museum, the Kröller-Müller Museum, in the middle. This museum possesses the world’s second-largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s work.
30 Tips For Rainy Days In The Netherlands
The weather in The Netherlands is highly variable, and you have to be prepared for rainy days from time to time.
You can read 30 Tips For Rainy Days (Suggested By Locals) if you are looking for indoor activities and must avoid the occasional rain shower.
30 Things to Do in The Netherlands (Suggested By Locals)
- Bike tour to discover Amsterdam
- Take a canal cruise through Amsterdam
- Visit the Anne Frank House
- Visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam
- Visit the Royal Palace
- Visit a museum in Amsterdam
- visit a zoo in The Netherlands
- Have a beer at the Heineken Experience
- Try Dutch street food or snacks
- Discover Zaanse Schans
- Visit the historic city center of Alkmaar
- Visit the quaint city of Haarlem
- Explore Marken and Volendam
- Celebrate King’s Day with the Dutch
- Visit the Keukenhof
- Enjoy tulips in the countryside
- Attend a flower parade
- Go mudflat hiking in the Wadden Sea
- Spend a weekend on a Wadden Island
- Visit an Amusement Park
- Enjoy the modern architecture of Rotterdam
- Discover authentic Rotterdam in Oude Haven
- Take the waterbus to Dordrecht
- Visit the windmills of Kinderdijk
- Follow in Rembrandt’s footsteps in Leiden
- Discover Delft and Delft Blue Pottery
- Visit the beach resort Scheveningen
- Visit the Mauritshuis in The Hague
- Discover Zeeland’s dikes
- Visit the Hoge Veluwe to enjoy nature