Being a Tourist in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is very often called Holland and is a very popular tourist destination and part of the country is reclaimed land with a large part lying below the sea level. Even though many visitors visit the country to head to Amsterdam, the Netherlands has much to offer. There are quaint canals that crisscross the city, a flat landscape that is friendly to the many cyclists that live in the city, historic town centers that will give you information on the past of the area, the symbolic windmills and other tourist attractions scattered all over the country.

There is much more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. There are miles of sandy beaches on the long coastline along the west and north and the flower gardens are a spectacular sight to see. Here are a few places to visit while in the Netherlands:


  • Amsterdam’s canals: It’s a given that when you visit the Netherlands that you make at least a cursory visit to Amsterdam. The Dutch golden Age which was during the 17th Century saw the construction of its many canals with a length of over 100 kms of canals, decorated with 1,500 bridges.
  • Canals of Leiden: This is the region of Netherland’s oldest university and is also the place where the famous painter Rembrandt was born. Leiden is one of Netherland’s largest 17th century town centers.


  • Keukenhof Gardens: This is the largest garden in the world and is a great promotion for the Dutch flower industry and is open to the public from the last week in March to mid May and is considered to be a huge draw for tourists from all over the world. More than seven million flower bulbs are planted every year which include flowers like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths apart from other spring varieties.
  • De Hoge Veluwe: This National Park is one of the largest continuous nature reserves of the Netherlands and has sand dunes, woodlands and heathlands to offer a varied landscape for its animal inhabitants. Visitors can use one of the free bikes that are kept for tourists’ use to tour the Park as much of it is inaccessible by other vehicles. The Kröller-Müller Museum is also a big draw which is situated in the Park, hosting the largest collection of Van Gogh in the world.
  • Kinderdijk: The Dutch landscape is incomplete without the windmills which dot the villages all over the country. There are over a thousand windmills in the country and most of them are located near the village of Kinderdijk which translates to ‘Children’s dike’ in English. Many of these windmills were built around 1740 and are still in great condition to this day and are a big tourist attraction. 19 of those windmills were constructed to drain the excess water from the polders which is below sea level.


  • Rijksmuseum: If you are an art lover, this is the destination to head to. Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum Museum is the most prestigious museum in the Netherlands and has many paintings dating back to the Dutch Golden Age with many works by Rembrandt and Vermeer present.
  • Delta Project: For those interested in structures, these series of constructions built between 1950 and 1997 have been declared to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. These storm barriers found in Zeeland and South Holland protect the country’s large coastline from flooding and the structures consist of dams, sluices, dikes and storm surge barriers.
  • West Frisian Islands: Also known as Waddeneilanden in Dutch, these islands are a chain off the Dutch coast in the North Sea. They divide the North Sea from the Wadden Sea with tidal mud flats. Under guidance, many of these islands can be reached by walking across the mud flats, but the tidal change has to be kept in mind. Cycling is a popular means of transport in many of these islands.
The notion of taking old wilderness and turning it inside out has hit the Dutch – and hit hard. Flavoland is a province in the Netherlands that owes its existence to a few biologists only a short while back. If you turn back time a century or two,

Fun Trivia on the Netherlands

There are many facts that you may not know about the Netherlands. Here are a few of them in a nutshell.

  • Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands is built entirely on wooden poles 11 meters deep. The thick layers of clay and fen in the coil content help the poles to be stable.
  • The Netherlands has a huge cycling population and has over 15,000 kms of bike lanes.
  • To give you an idea of how bike crazy the Dutch are, there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands.


  • In fact, if you’re a pedestrian, you have to remember that cyclists have right of way in many lanes – there are specially designated lanes for cyclists where pedestrians are not allowed, and these lanes can be found all over the country.
  • Even though the Netherlands is very popular for the Tulips grown there, those flowers originally were brought into the country from the Ottoman Empire back in the 17th
  • This love for tulips has grown to making the Netherlands the biggest producer and exporter of tulips in the world.
  • They also supply up to 75% of the world’s flower bulbs.


  • Keukenhof is the famous tulip garden and is considered to be the largest flower garden in the world.
  • Another famous symbol or landmark that is linked to the Netherlands is the windmill. These traditional working windmills are still in great condition and 19 of the existing thousand can be found in the Unesco World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk which means Children’s Dike.
  • Many people refer to the Netherlands as Holland. This is not the correct terminology as Holland comprises of the Dutch provinces of South and North Holland. This area used to be the strongest economic region of the Netherlands.
  • The Netherland is rich in natural beauty and landscapes with over 20 National Parks as well as countless wooded areas and water bodies.
  • The Netherlands is a liberal country and was the first country to legalize same-sex marriages which it did so in 2001.
  • The Netherlands is essentially a low lying country with half of its territory being only 1 meter above sea level, and a lot of the reclaimed land and over 20% of the country being under sea level.
  • You may be mistaken to think that only Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands, but Frisian is another recognized language that is commonly spoken in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands.
  • Amsterdam is Europe’s Fifth most preferred tourist destination with over 4.2 million international visitors reaching its borders annually.
  • Around 17% of Netherland’s area is reclaimed from lakes and the sea.
  • The only mountain and the highest point in the Netherlands is located in Vaalserberg and is only 323meters high. This is considered a mountain as the country is mostly flat and just at sea level if not below.


  • In contrast, the lowest point in the country is the Zuidplaspolder which lies at an incredible seven meters below sea level.
  • With a massive intricate canal system that winds through the city, Amsterdam has over 1,281 bridges.
  • There are nearly a thousand museums in the Netherlands and 42 of them located in the capital.
  • Most tourists buy clogs, miniature windmills, cheese and tulip representations as souvenirs from their trip.
  • Although the country occupies only 0.008% of the world’s surface, it is the world’s largest agricultural exporter.
  • Cheese exporting is a major business with a dairy industry which is worth an incredible Seven billion Euros.
The notion of taking old wilderness and turning it inside out has hit the Dutch – and hit hard. Flavoland is a province in the Netherlands that owes its existence to a few biologists only a short while back. If you turn back time a century or two,

The Netherlands and Flood Protection: Creating New Natural Reserves

Being a country with such close proximity to water, as well as 20% of the country being below sea level, gives rise to concerns especially if there are chances of floods. With the planet undergoing massive changes due to global warming, floods have become a serious threat to the economy and future of many Dutch cities which are situated on the edge where land meets the sea.

The Dutch coastline has many levels of storm barriers and other construction projects to protect the coastline from the threat of flooding. These works include constructing dikes, locks, sluices, levees and storm surge barriers.


The Dutch realized that certain measures had to be taken as the estuaries of the Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse rivers were subject to flooding over the centuries. As the tides slowly eroded away the coastline, the first barriers also eroded, which meant that the dikes had to be constantly raised. This was turning into an expensive and impractical affair, and they decided to shorten the coastline which meant that fewer dikes would have to be reinforced.


Although these plans were made early in the 20th Century, WW2 put the plans on the back burner. The 1953 flood caused unmitigated disaster on a massive level where over 2000 people lost their lives and many cities were devastated after storms caused the water level to rise to a height of 4.2 meters. This increased the determination to get the barriers up and the Delta plan was developed. This entailed that the estuary mouths of the Oosterschelde, Haringvliet and the Grecelingen to be blocked. This also meant that the coastline would be shortened by 700 kms.

The Delta Works

The Delta Works project has ensured that the chances of flooding are reduced to once every 4,000 years as opposed to more frequent chances which they faced earlier. The acceptable risk was set to once every 4,000 years after the initial acceptable risk level for once every 125,000 years was found to be too expensive. The dams are considered by many to be the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and are amongst the best and largest storm barriers worldwide. The construction of all the dams and the entire project was finally completed in 2010.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has declared the Delta Works to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The structures of this project are scattered over Zeeland and South Holland. If you want to see the structures for yourself and know more about them, you can stay overnight and hire a car the next day to drive out to the structures. It is easier to travel to the Delta Works by car, but winter brings limited services.


The more impressive storm barriers are:

  • Oosterscheldekering: This is one of the most spectacular storm barriers in the area. The process of starting the damming of the area caused artificial islands to be created and 5 kms out of the projected 9 kms was banned with the remaining 4 kms to be an open surge barriers that would close only when required.
  • Deltapark Neeltje Jans: This is the most common point of entry into the Delta Works and this is the first choice for many visitors if they are curious about the storm barrier project. Here, the visitor is treated to knowledge about the whole Delta Works project, with the opportunity to see one of the barriers from inside, apart from giving an overview of Netherland’s water works. There is a theme park and an aquarium to entertain the family.
  • Expo Haringvliet: You could grab a drink while enjoying the view and also watch a movie about the 1953 flood.
  • Maeslantkering: This is one of the largest moving structures in the world. You can go to the free visitor’s center where you can learn about the history of this storm barrier as well as have the choice of going for a guided tour for the price of 4 Euros.
The notion of taking old wilderness and turning it inside out has hit the Dutch – and hit hard. Flavoland is a province in the Netherlands that owes its existence to a few biologists only a short while back. If you turn back time a century or two,

Rewilding Europe – The Dutch Experiment for New Nature

The notion of taking old wilderness and turning it inside out has hit the Dutch – and hit hard. Flavoland is a province in the Netherlands that owes its existence to a few biologists only a short while back. If you turn back time a century or two, Flavoland was buried under an inlet of the North Sea. However, the 1930s brought massive change, especially since the move towards damming many outlets was made and steps were slowly being taken to make that happen. In that time period, a series of dams were constructed which turned the inlet into a freshwater lake. Fast forward twenty years and another massive drainage project was undertaken that enable Flavoland to emerge from its watery depths.

Born from the bottom of the outlets, the soil is fertile and rich and is considered to have some of Europe’s richest farmlands. The fields there have a constant crop of potatoes, barley and sugar beets. Even the cities that have erupted from the sides of this new province were built from scratch. Almere and Lelystad lie on two sides of a wilderness that was created from the Earth.


The reserve is known as Oostvaardersplaasen, a rather tough word for many English speaking visitors to pronounce, and the reserve occupies over 15,000 acres of flat land. Why we say its creation is thanks to biologists because fifty odd years back when the drainage project was well underway, biologists went to the Dutch government and convinced them that a new landscape could be created instead of converting the area into a region for Industries to develop.

The Biologists had the idea to recreate a Paleolithic landscape and fill the newly emerged land with animals similar to what used to roam the land millennia ago. As most of the animals from then did not exist, substitutes were brought in like Heck Cattle which replaced the extinct aurochs and the red deer imported from Scotland and also the horses, brought in from Poland. A situation a bit like Noah’s Ark, the animals reproduced prolifically and soon the area resembled the plains of Africa where herds by the numbers would graze and roam.


To experience this landscape, visitors would be required to shell out up to forty five dollars to go on a guided safari. The mating season which falls in autumn proves to be an important season and draws in many tourists. Many people feel that converting potential farmlands that are needed for crop production are taken out of the running to be ‘rewilded’.

Although many people played their part in transforming the marshy land into a Nature Reserve, one man is in particular credited for the vast changes brought about in the Oostvaardersplassen. Frans Vera has worked for many branches within the Dutch government and is know with a private foundation. In the late 70s, fresh out of university and unemployed, he wrote an article about the region arguing that it should be turned into a nature reserve and soon found employment with the Dutch Forestry Agency.


Even though back then, nature was seen as something to be managed – so a large reserve was seen as a bit of a liability, with constant plantings, pruning and mowing to be required for its upkeep. It was Vera who came up with the idea of using grazers to keep the check on the growth of grass. He received some funding to procure the animals and brought in Heck Cattle, red deer and more. With a flourishing landscape of natural rich flora and fauna, other species of animals started trickling in like foxes and muskrats.

Birds like herons, buzzards, kingfishers amongst others also turned up and soon this place was transformed into a living landscape of natural beauty that was teeming with life. This is the legacy the Dutch wish to leave for future generations – a world teeming with life, and nature that coexists with civilization.

The notion of taking old wilderness and turning it inside out has hit the Dutch – and hit hard. Flavoland is a province in the Netherlands that owes its existence to a few biologists only a short while back. If you turn back time a century or two,