When we were watching the Netherlands soccer match, our newly made Dutch friends were ecstatic we were seeing the country outside Amsterdam, a city which they feel lacks Dutch culture because of its international vibe. We were excited to hear this, as this is often why we try to visit to the smaller regions of a place to get to understand it better!
So, from Amsterdam we took a number of smaller trips to see other cities in the Netherlands. With a country that takes only 3 hours to go from end to end (and that’s at it’s longest), this was very easy!
Den Haag (The Hague)
Though Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, the Hague is where the government resides. It is also home to the Dutch Royals and all their fancy neighbourhoods. And not only that, but it is also the international city of peace and justice with its Peace Palace (International Court of Justice):
The train ride is a short 45 minutes taking you through countryside that would be blossoming with tulips of all the colors of the rainbow in spring (unfortunately we just missed that and saw only the few wilting colors remaining).
Den Haag has a different feel than most of the other Dutch cities we visited, as it is noticeably a more business-oriented and professional city. Modern tall buildings are mixed with old palaces. The old town still maintains its charm, and seems to be one of the few in Holland we’ve visited without any canals.
(The Real) Haarlem
Haarlem (after which the famous New York neighborhood gets it name) can be thought of as a suburb of Amsterdam. It has a small town feeling with a historic windmill along the river that winds through the city. Haarlem is a nice place for a stroll if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, and definitely feels more old time Dutch.
Rotterdam is the modern city of the Netherlands, as well as home to the fourth largest port in the world. It is most known for its interesting and modern architecture.
One of the most notable works of architecture is the Erasmus bridge, which lights up wonderfully at night.
The other is the set of cube houses (inspired by trees) which seem like they would be interesting to live in with their slanty walls. By the way, how interesting was the sky on this day?
Some other distinct works:
Utrecht is a university town that is located a short 30 minute train ride away from Amsterdam. We went there in the evening to peruse the canals and check out what was supposed to be a unique art display.
This town was my favorite of the day trips; it felt like a cuter and more laid back version of Amsterdam. It also had multiple canals, but what made them unique was that the wharf down below had a series of shops, restaurants, businesses, and even homes built into the canal walls:
Ironically, the least thrilling part of the visit was the night walk that we came for (Trajectum Lumen), where multiple different landmarks are supposed to be artistically lit at night. It sounded neat to us, but was underwhelming as most of them were just pot lights in the ground or spotlights on churches that slowly changed colors. Maybe I just failed to “get” it, but regardless it brought us to Utrecht which we found was one of our favorite stops from Amsterdam.
If we end up back in the Netherlands, we’d like to explore the North next time, which is a unique area with its own language (Frisian) and where many Dutch go to vacation. Definitely get outside Amsterdam, there is so much to see and love.