Last updated: 03:29 PM ET, Thu May 09 2019
Historic center of Amsterdam from above, Netherlands, Europe (photo via fotolupa / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The Netherlands

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A lively confluence of Dutch tradition and high-speed modern life, The Netherlands is much more than windmills, tulips, coffee shops and nightlife.  The majority of the country lies below sea level and is relatively flat throughout, making it easy to navigate the level plains that are intersected by canals and rivers. Not only offering natural beauty, The Netherlands is quite cultured, churning out an endless list of renowned Dutch artists and the museums that showcase their work.

Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands, is one of Europe’s truly great cities with a liberal heartbeat, colorful canal-front row homes and some of the world’s most famous museums, galleries and landmarks. Van Gogh and Rembrandt are celebrated throughout the city just as enthusiastically as the smoke-filled coffee shops and nocturnal nightclubs. The nefarious Red Light District is frequented just as often at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art or the Anne Frank House. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning old friend, a trip to Amsterdam is sure to mean something different for everybody.

The 17th century town of Haarlem is located just 12 miles west of Amsterdam and is the hub of the county’s tulip production. Rows upon rows of blooming blub fields can be seen from late March to mid-May. Utrecht is a favorite city of locals, and has visible roots dating back to the 11th century as well as an array of museums and a lively bar and restaurant scene. The best way to experience Utrecht is by canal boat, which takes visitors around an aquatic loop of the city that opens up to several different districts. Rotterdam rivals Amsterdam as a large cultural port city, and is the economic center of The Netherlands. The rejuvenated city center and the sparkling harbor are recommended visitor stops, along with the Delfshaven district and Dierenpark Blijdorp (the local open-plan zoo).

The cuisine of The Netherlands tends to be hearty, wholesome meals usually consisting partly of potatoes and dairy products (mainly cheeses). Many elements are directly related to Northern French cuisine, but due to Dutch colonization, there are spicy legacies left over from the East Indies. In the larger cities, there is a wide range of restaurants that serve local and sustainable ingredients, with international flavors. Several beers are locally brewed in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas, which makes brands like Heineken and Amstel highly popular beverages in the country.

The country’s largest airport, Schiphol (AMS), is located in Amsterdam and is a European hub for both international and domestic flights. Other smaller airports in The Netherlands include Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Groningen-Eelde. High-speed trains are an efficient and comfortable way to travel between many European cities, and that’s no different coming to or from Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Train service is also highly used within the country, as well as the metro, tram and taxi. Many areas are perfect for walking and biking, due to the flatness of the terrain.

The Netherlands has a temperate climate, with an abundance of rainfall, mild summers and fairly cold winters. The average high temperature in the summer months remains in the low 70°s F., making for a pleasant holiday in any part of the country. The winter months have an average low temperature in the mid-30°s F. Springtime is known as a favorite time for tourists to flock to different part of the country. The weather is pleasantly mild and the tulips are in full bloom.