Before moving to the Netherlands, I’ve definitely been guilty of forgetting that there’s more to the country than just Amsterdam. Even with my friends abroad, although I’ve mentioned that I currently live in Utrecht, almost all of them tend to always ask me, “how’s Amsterdam?”
While Amsterdam is no doubt a really amazing city, for those planning a visit to the Netherlands, here are some of my other favourite Dutch cities for those who want to experience some Dutch places that are off the beaten path! (Also stay tuned for an upcoming post on scenic place in the Netherlands to check out)
Ok I’m probably biased for listing Utrecht first since I live there but it’s definitely one of the most quintessentially Dutch cities you can get. There’s lots of pretty Dutch style houses (those long and narrow ones), the occasional windmill here and there and even their own special canals that are located below street level and lined with restaurants (the pancake restaurants are a must!) and cafes (in fact these “wharves” are one of a kind in the world!).
Utrecht is also known as having the second most cultural events in the country after Amsterdam. In fact, I’ve been describing Utrecht to friends as “Amsterdam without the Red Light District.”
Despite being only about a 20 min train ride from Amsterdam, one of the nicest aspects about Utrecht is that it’s not full of tourists all the time. In fact, people have said that Utrecht’s charm comes in the fact that it’s the best kept secret in the Netherlands.
Fun fact, the creator of Miffy the cute Dutch bunny is a Utrechter! There’s even a Miffy museum in the city. If you check out my Instagram, you can see I’m a bit obsessed with this bunny!
Things to do: go to a pancake restaurant by the canal, go up the Dom Tower, take a scroll down the Oudegracht, visit the University of Utrecht (the largest university in the country), check out the Miffy museum (the Dick Bruna Huis), eat at Kimmade (an amazing and fantastically priced Vietnamese restaurant), go to a coffeeshop (yes they have them here too and much cheaper than in Amsterdam!).
Known as Netherland’s “second city”, it’s a city that was bombed flat during WWII. Instead of quaint cobblestone streets, architects completely redesigned the city and today, Rotterdam is filled with shiny skyscrapers and a large port, making you forget sometimes that you’re still in Europe.
Here and there you find glimpses of typically Dutch houses, but overall, the modern, futuristic feel of Rotterdam gives the city a completely vibe than Amsterdam. Just taking a look at their train station already gives you a nice glimpse of what you can expect!
One of its major attractions is the Erasmus Bridge, which is 800 m long, 139 m high and costs over 165 million euros to build! It’s given the nickname “the swan” and boosts a really nice view of the city, especially if you have a chance to check it out at night.
The bridge has been featured in a Jackie Chan movie, Red Bull Air Races, and the start of the 2010 Tour de France!
Markthal is another one of my favourite things in Rotterdam, which is a huge indoor food market with 96 stalls, as well as restaurants and shops. One of the coolest things about the place is the ceiling with is contracted from aluminum panels and painted with crazy, colourful art.
Things to do: Erasmus Bridge, Markthal, Euromast, old harbour, Witte Huis, Gamasot (for delicious and affordable Korean food!).
Completely opposite from Rotterdam is Maastricht, which is known for their historical old centre. The river Maas split the city in half, with the west bank being the busiest. Markt is the “commcerial” square with a 17th century City Hall in the middle.
It’s a small city with 120,000 with a lively student population. It’s also one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with lots of churches, big squares, and a city wall that you can climb up to and walk along for a nice scenic route around parts of the city.
Being so close to Germany, I felt like a lot of the city had a pretty German vibe, especially when it comes to the architecture.
One of my favourite things to do there was walking along the remains of the town walls, which were built in 1229! From up on the wall, you get a pretty nice view of the park and the river.
Another is the Selexyz Dominican, which is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It used to be a church, and now holds books of all languages as well as some second hand books. Definitely worth a look inside!
Things to do: visit city hall, market square, Vrijthof, Sint Janskerk, Notre Dame Etoile de la Mer, caves of St. Pieter, Hamburgeria (for really amazing and affordable burgers!).
Have you guys been to these cities? What is your favourite city in the Netherlands?