Your comprehensive travel guide to the Netherlands- All in one place!
The Netherlands (also known as Holland) is known everywhere as the land of windmills, canals, and tulips. But along with the breathtaking gardens and picturesque villages, they'll also find a vibrant capital filled with museums showcasing the country's rich heritage of artists. There are medieval castles and cityscapes, a 13,800-acre national park, and a tide control system that's been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. All these attractions and things to do are within a relatively compact area, and the landscape is quite flat (the highest elevation is barely a thousand feet above sea level). So it's easy to do at least a little sightseeing by bicycle. Many communities actively encourage the use of pedal-power and provide free bikes to explore the sights. However you choose to see the Netherlands, you're guaranteed a great time in one of the friendliest and most liberal cultures in Europe.
History and Government
It all started when Julius Caesar found the Netherlands which was then inhabited by Nervii, Frisii and Batavi tribes who are of German origin. After almost 7 centuries, the Spanish invaded and conquered the Netherlands and influenced the country by spreading Christianity.
In 1568, people of the Netherlands revolted against the Spanish rule lead by William of Orange. This is because King Phillip II suppressed the people’s political liberties which led to the people building their own Protestant movement. In 1579, the 7 northern provinces of the Netherlands formed their own union named United Provinces of Netherlands. After almost a hundred years of colonization, Spain granted independence to the Dutch in the year 1648.
By 1814, all provinces of the Netherlands merged with Belgium and formed one Kingdom. After over 15 years, the southern provinces of the said kingdom formed the Kingdom of Belgium.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and 5 years after, the nation was liberated. The Netherlands then joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1958.
At present, the Netherlands is known for being the first nation to legalize euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Aside from that, prostitution is legal in the country.
The Netherlands is a very flat country with almost 25% of its land at, or below sea level. Low rolling hills cover some of the central areas, and in the far south, the land rises into the foothills of the Ardennes Mountains. Vaalserberg the country's highest point is located there, rising to 322 m.
Over many centuries severe floods devastated the Netherlands, killing tens of thousands. Determined to save their homeland and reclaim it from the sea, the Dutch used countless windmills to pump water out of low-lying areas. They constructed man-made hills, raising the level of farms and villages. In the early 1930's the damming off the sea efforts continued when the dike Afsluitdijk was built.
In 1953, extremely high water caused nearly 2,000 deaths, mostly in the southern reaches of the country. Subsequently, the country needed a major change, and so began the Delta Project.
Today nearly 50% of the land here remains just above sea level. The massive and costly Delta project and other engineering marvels have to date prevented the North Sea from doing any significant damage. However, climate change and rising waters could prove daunting to the Netherlands in the future.
As of March 9, 2011, the Netherlands has a population of 16,805,037. It is currently ranked as the 64th most populated country in the world.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, and it is spoken by a vast majority of the country’s population. It closely resembles German and borrows terms from both French and English. The secondary language of the Netherlands is Friesian, which is spoken by approximately a half-million citizens of the Dutch province of Friesland.
The cultural life of the Netherlands is varied and lively. Dutch painting and crafts are world-renowned, and Dutch painters are among the greatest the world has ever known. The Dutch themselves take great pride in their cultural heritage, and the government is heavily involved in subsidizing the arts while abjuring direct artistic control of cultural enterprises. Indeed, the long-enduring tradition of Dutch freedom of expression has undoubtedly played a significant role in the flowering of Dutch culture through the ages.
Food and Drink
With a long colonial and multicultural history, there’s plenty of diversity to be found in the top Dutch foods. From piping hot street snacks, heartwarming stews, pies filled with spiced apples and an assortment of Indonesian influences, Dutch food is easy on the palate.
Apart from being famous for its rich traditional history depicted in the various structural monuments, the Netherlands is also famous for the many cultural festivals and events which are held throughout the year in many different cities and towns accommodated by it. The residing locals in the country, the Dutch, celebrate all the festivals in the Netherlands in the grandest way. Any explorer or traveler would love witnessing these festivals as each festival is unique in its own special way.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Netherlands is from mid-April to mid-October. July and August are the peak months for visitors. The weather overall is never severely cold or hot as the temperatures are influenced by the North Sea. Most rain falls in the winter and it can feel damp and chilly. The driest times are between February and May. If Keukenhof or tulips are a consideration, the time to visit the Netherlands is from mid-April to mid-May when the fields are in full colour. No matter when you decide to visit, prepare for rainy weather. Even summer days can be grey and wet, so always bring a coat and umbrella.