Taking a trip to the Netherlands? Want to go to some cool and unconventional places? Don't just visit Amsterdam. Check out this list of cool and out-of-the-box places to visit in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a small Western European country nestled in between Belgium, Germany and Denmark. The Netherlands is most known for its major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Although these cities are incredible and fun, there is more to see in Holland than just these tourist hubs. There are places all over the Netherlands that offer super cool and unconventional attractions. Read on for my recommended places to visit on your next trip to the Netherlands.
“I found myself lost in the sights and smells of traditional Chinese cuisine, Indian buffets, Afro-Indian beauty stores and Vietnamese Street food stands.”
Scheveningen Beach, Den Haag (The Hague)
If you thought Florida was the only place with stellar beaches, think again. The Netherlands is a coastal country with over 800 miles (1400 km) of coastline. Scheveningen beach is one of my favorite beaches in the Netherlands. The sand is pillow soft as you approach the water and becomes cluttered with small shells as you move towards the dunes. Yes, Scheveningen has sand dunes! The natural dunes are thousands of years old. They build up along the coast and make for quite a beautiful site. I couldn't help but pick up the fine grains and watch as each one fell from my finger tips. Inside the dunes, you'll find tons of wildlife like foxes, birds and wildflowers. It's a beautiful place to take a walk, grab a bite, rent a beachside cabana and get lost in the ocean.
If you get a chance to visit Scheveningen, I recommend going during the summertime when the water is warm and there's lots of activities going on. If you're feeling frisky, there's even a nude beach portion about a half mile (1 km) up the beach. For more information about Schevingen visit: https://denhaag.com/en/scheveningen
China Town, Den Haag (The Hague)
I don't know about you but I find myself looking for China Town in every major city I go. There's something about China Town in Den Haag that gave me a sense of home I'd never felt before. Red bulb lights line the streets as small and cozy eateries line each corridor. China Town is nestled right behind the city center in Den Haag. I was living in Den Haag for two months before I realized it was back there. Once, I stepped foot into China Town for the first time, I immediately felt warm and welcome. I found myself lost in the sights and smells of traditional Chinese cuisine, Indian buffets, Afro-Indian beauty stores and Vietnamese Street food stands. There's a long history of Chinese immigrants in the Netherlands worth noting but I'll give a brief overview.
The first settlers of Chinese decent arrived in the Netherlands via Amsterdam in the early 1900's around the time of WWI. They worked primarily in the fishing sector and eventually branched out to the food and dining sector. Large populations of Chinese immigrants made their way from Amsterdam to Den Haag then to Rotterdam. The China Town in Den Haag is one of the biggest in Western Europe and offers a wide variety of cuisines representative of the diverse Asian ethnic groups in the city.
My favorite place to eat in China Town for a delicious vegan meal is at St. Anny's Tea House. At first, I thought it was simply a tea house but it was more than that. I would find myself getting 8 mini vegetable rolls and a vegetable rice noodle soup with a huge pot of green tea for only 7 euros. The food was not only was delicious, it was warm and filling in a way that only home-cooked food can be. To me, China Town gave me a taste of family cooking that I hadn't experienced since I had left the US some months ago.
If you find yourself in Den Haag, I highly recommend visiting China Town so you can enjoy the amazing and rich cultural experience that comes from this small and mighty Asian enclave.
The Mysterious Hunebedden, Rolde
What in the world is older than the great Pyramids of Egypt? The Hunebedden! The Hunebedden are mysterious rock formations that showed up in the northeastern part of the Netherlands 5,000 years ago. The best way to describe them is to say they are huge granite boulders pilled next to each other in a long and precise formation. The question scientists have been asking for years is how did these huge rocks get to the flat country of the Netherlands? The short answer is Scandinavia. About 200,000 years ago, much of Northern Europe was covered in ice. When that ice melted, the large rocks were transported to the Netherlands by slow moving glaciers. But that still doesn't solve the mystery of how and why the rocks were arranged in such a precise and intentional manner. Well, the Huynen meaning "giant" and bedden meaning "bed" symbolizes the ceremonial and historic purpose of these rocks. It is theorized that the rocks were moved by farmers at that time for graves and burial sites. Nonetheless, these great rocks are worth seeing and maybe doing a bit of yoga on.
Excalibur Climbing Wall, Groningen
Did you know the world's tallest free standing climbing wall in the world is in the Netherlands? Neither did I! This 120 foot (37 meter) high climbing wall was by far the most incredible site I had seen in the Netherlands. It is a super advanced climbing wall only meant for experienced, independent climbers (which is why I didn't attempt it...whomp whomp). As you can see from the photo, there is someone at the bottom of the wall that belays the climber at the top. No automatic belay here. From what I heard, it was super windy up there (the Netherlands is a windy country in general) and very exhilarating. For newbies like me, there's an indoor climbing gym right next door with auto belays as well as manual ones. If you're a thrill-seeker that enjoys going to the "best" or "biggest" places on the planet, this is definitely a site to see!
For more information on Excalibur, you can visit them here: https://www.bjoeks.nl/excalibur
Food Hallen, Amsterdam
I've seen food heaven and I'm telling you, it's in Amsterdam. This heaven I speak of is called Foodhallen, a large international food court featuring dishes from all over the world. But it's no average food court. It has over 20 street food vendors with delicious cuisines like French, Lebanese, Mexican, American, Japanese and Korean. Do you have a food craving? This place has got it.
When I first went to Foodhallen, I didn't know where the heck it was. It's attached to several other hallens (meaning halls in Dutch) like Filmhallen and a hotel called De Hallen. I had to go through a small alleyway and walk through the wrong gate to find it. Once I finally did walk into Foodhallen, I was smacked in the face with the smell of nearly two dozen food venues inside. This place is pretty trendy so it can be hard to find a place to sit but believe me it's worth it.
They have cuisines for everyone on the food spectrum. Vegan, vegetarians, gluten-free, soy-free, omnivores, carnivores and everyone in between. If you're in Amsterdam and you have no idea where to eat with a large group of people, I recommend Foodhallen. My favorite stand at Foodhallen is the Meze Mediterranean stand. You can get a plater of 6 different kinds of hummus, 8 falafel, 6 pita breads triangles, couscous, and side salad for only 10 euros. It's enough to feed two but it was so delicious, I had no intention of sharing.
For more information about Foodhallen, you can visit them here: http://foodhallen.nl/
Rent a Daf Mini Car and Go For a Ride, Hooghalen, Drenthe
Ride around the Dutch countryside in style. The Daf cars are a very popular vintage car from the 1960's that you can rent for a few hours a day. They come in an assortment of colors and look like they can barely hold four full size adults. I was cruising around the Dutch countryside in November when I saw a group of four adults trotting around in this little vintage ride. I was amazed the car was able to hold them. The tires looked stressed under the weight of all of the people but everyone inside was laughing with carefree glee. We noticed the passenger in the backseat was hanging up "Just Married" flags in the windows. They sped off as fast as they could without making the tires give in.
These cars are a super unique and fun experience. The company that rents these out offers a ton of great activities like trips to the Hunebeddens, tours of the historic Prison Museum, and even escape rooms. Where else are you going to find experiences like that? Next time I return to Holland I am definitely renting one of these and doing a fun photoshoot!
For more information about how to rent a Daf car for a day, you can visit them here: https://www.hetdrentskwartiertje.nl/daf/met-de-daf-er-op-af/
If you weren't convinced before that the Netherlands has a ton of hidden gems, now you know. Cities like Amsterdam and Den Haag have their attractions but the countryside and towns outside of the major cities offer incredible things to do and see as well. If you have visited any of these places, be sure to leave a comment below and tell us all about your experience.