The 3 cities in Holland you need to see in 2018
It’s no surprise that Amsterdam was the 13th most visited city in the world last year with 8.7 million international visitors, according to Mastercard’s 2017 Global Destination Cities Index. With globally recognized attractions like the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh museum, and of course, the Red-Light District, Amsterdam has it all: a rich and unique history, beautiful architecture, museums galore, and a nightlife like no other.
Amsterdam is truly a must-see if you’re making a trip to the Netherlands this year—or visiting Europe in general, for that matter. But if you find yourself needing a break from the hustle and bustle of this city that never sleeps, planning a trip to one of these small, underrated neighbouring cities will show you a whole new side of the Netherlands and will not leave you disappointed.
Often nicknamed “Little Amsterdam,” Haarlem is less than a 15-minute train ride outside of Amsterdam and has the same incredible highlights—canals, shops, architecture and museums—with only a fraction of the tourists. Because of Haarlem's proximity to Amsterdam and the international Schiphol Airport, many visitors often dedicate only one day to exploring the city; but there are so many great activities and attractions in Haarlem that any curious tourist could be entertained for days.
One of these many attractions is—unsurprisingly—the beer! While Amsterdam has earned the reputation of a top destination for beer lovers, back in the fourteenth- and fifteenth-centuries master brewers would travel to Haarlem to learn the ropes of brewing and perfect their trade. To this day, Haarlem is still home to some of the most awarded and popular breweries in the Netherlands, including Brouwerij het Uiltje and Jopenkerk, a brewery built inside an old church.
Haarlem is also nestled among the Bollenstreek, or the “Bulb Region,” meaning rows and rows of tulip bulbs can be found by cycling only 15 minutes outside of the city centre. To top it off, the city boasts an annual Flower Parade every spring, which showcases floats decorated with thousands of flowers that are later displayed in the Grote Markt in Haarlem's city centre.
Walking through the tiny streets and along the winding canals scattered throughout the small city of Delft is truly breathtaking. The quaint and picturesque city sits between the much larger cities of Rotterdam and The Hague, and is often overlooked by many travellers visiting the Netherlands. The unspoiled Renaissance architecture in Delft is reason enough to visit, but the city offers many highlights and attractions that are increasingly drawing travellers off the beaten path for a day or overnight trip. One of the most popular highlights is the Nieuwe Kerk, or the “New Church,” a 356 ft. Gothic church that, despite its name, was established in 1381.
Delft is also widely known for its blue and white porcelain Delftware, also known as Delft Blue, which has been produced exclusively in Delft since the seventeenth century. Between 1600 and 1800 when the popularity of Delftware reached an all-time high, the city of Delft had a total of 33 factories producing the beautiful, hand-painted pottery. Today, the Royal Delft is the only factory still in operation, but the pottery remains as stunning as ever.
Maastricht is another city unknown to many travellers, but highly popular among university students. Home to Maastricht University, this small city welcomes 16,000 students each year, which gives it a liveliness and vibrancy that reverberates all throughout town. The city centre is almost completely inaccessible by car, making it a very pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly city and gives tourists the ability to wander freely through the Market Square, cobblestone streets, and hidden garden paths.
The city is also rich in historical and cultural importance. While many are unfamiliar with Maastricht, it was here where the Treaty of Maastricht—also known as the Treaty on European Union—was signed on February 7, 1992, which ultimately led to the creation of the European Union and the euro currency.
What makes Maastricht particularly intriguing is its proximity to both Belgium and Germany. As one of the most southern cities in the Netherlands, Maastricht is only a 15-minute drive away from the Belgian border, and only 35 minutes away from Germany. If you’re willing to drive a little further, Luxemburg is just over an hour away—making Maastricht a great starting point for a European adventure.