The Netherlands – beyond Amsterdam and weed

I have discovered this country around three years ago. I was never really bothered with going there, since I thought that it was like any other European country. But then I met two Dutchies, and decided to give them a visit after they went back home. And from that visit, I fell in love with this country. Contrary to many people who visit this place, I didn’t go to Amsterdam at first, but went to little Maastricht instead.
Having locals showing you the place is different than going to a place on your own, because you get to see the real lifestyle and get the insider scoop about good places to eat, drink, and so on. And visiting places which are not that touristic is something that I love to do. Hence why I wrote this post. Most of the time, people only go to Amsterdam because that is what the majority of people do when going to the Netherlands. However, as lovely and vibrant as Amsterdam is, it is very hectic as compared to other cities. And going there didn’t quite give me the good vibes that many other Dutch cities give out. What I love most about the Netherlands, is the lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I come from a hectic Mediterranean island, but this country definitely struck a chord.
So here are my favourite cities to visit in this wonderful country.

Maastricht

Maastricht is a quiet little town in the most Southern part of the Netherlands, just in between Belgium and Germany. The highlight of the city is the big square called Vrijthof. This is the place where Andre Rieu gives out his annual concert. It is also the place which is transformed into a Christmas Wonderland with food stalls, a skating rink and a giant Ferris wheel which gives you a breathtaking view of the city.
Personally, the highlight of the city is the Dominicanen church which has been transformed into a bookshop. You can read more about it here. Also, taking a stroll around the city rewards you with charming facades, some churches scattered throughout the city, a prominent one being Sint Janskerk with its red tower, and the market in ‘Markt’ square with fresh, local produce.

Maastricht 5
Admiring the view from one of the oldest bridges over the river Maas
Maastricht 6
Somewhere in Maastricht 🙂
Maastricht 7
The red tower of Sint Janskerk dominates in between modern building

Nuenen

This is a very small town where Van Gogh himself lived for a few years. It is a picturesque village very close to Eindhoven. There is not much to see here, but the peace and quiet of this place was something that I remember fondly, and I had to include it in this list. This is also a definite place to visit for any classic art lovers, as there are a lot of references to the painter’s works, including the chapel and a statue of the Potato Eaters painting. There is also a nice museum that shows the life of Van Gogh in Nuenen.

Nuenen 1
Nuenen with the man himself… Mr. Van Gogh
Nuenen 2
The chapel that needs no introduction… You know you’ve seen it somewhere 😉
Nuenen
The centre of Nuenen

Delft

This might be the most touristic city in this list, and might be considered as very similar to Amsterdam, with all the canals, boat tours and photogenically placed bikes. However, it is definitely not as busy as the main city. The touristic attractions here are the Vermeer museum and the multitude of shops selling the traditional Delft pottery – the blue and white pottery which originated from this city.
However, for me, the highlight of the city was wandering along the canals, where street markets are set up with second hand or vintage items. Fresh stroopwafels are also sold here, and word of advice – buy one, find a quiet spot on a bench and enjoy the sweet taste of the fresh caramel filled waffle. It doesn’t get better than that!

Delft 1
All the Dutchiness of Delft 🙂
Delft
Look out for these stands 🙂

Nijmegen

Being one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, in 2005 it celebrated 2,000 years of existence, and it is still magnificent as ever. You can feel this by looking at the ruins overlooking the Waal river. For those who like museums, there is a unique museum here, which doesn’t get more Dutch than this. Yes, this museum is about bikes, the history of bikes, with models of the first bikes that ever existed, and there are a lot!
For those like me, who are not that interested in museums, there are two parks worth going to. One is Valkhof park, where the ruins are situated, and you can have a wonderful view of the river, which is connected to the river Rhine. Then there is Kronenburgerpark, where you can see a part of the medieval wall and a tower over a small lake.

Nijmegen 1
The ruins in Valkhof park
Nijmegen 3
Kronenburgerpark

Utrecht

I would visit this city over and over again. It is quite a big city, but the city centre is small and filled with restaurants, fries shops, cute little artisan shops and canals. In the centre there is also the Dom Tower, which is the tallest belfry in the Netherlands. When you visit this city, all I ask of you is to just walk. Walk and take in the beauty of this city, of the bridges over the canals, and go with a slow pace, appreciating life and the beauty that we have around us.

Utrecht (2).JPG
The city centre being looked over by the Dom Tower
Utrecht
Walking in Utrecht and stumbling on this view..

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” – Anne Frank

Every country is beautiful in its own way, and people are drawn to different countries for different reasons.

Do you have a country that makes you want to go back, over and over again? If yes, let me know in the comments below 🙂

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