When it comes to urban cycling, the Netherlands is way ahead of the curb and roughly half of the country ride a bike on a daily basis. Bicycles actually outnumber people in many Dutch cities and most urbanised areas are equipped with well-kept cycle paths which make two-wheeled transport an absolute breeze.
Finding scenic, rural cycle paths in the Netherlands is exceptionally easy and most of the country is accessible by bike. In fact, cycling is the preferred mode of transport in most Dutch national parks, including the Dunes of Texel, the Hoge Veluwe and Zuid-Kennemerland.
Despite their iconic status abroad, Dutch windmills actually served an utilitarian purpose for most of their history and were built in order to drain swampy marshland around the Netherlands. There are still thousands of these incredible machines dotted around the Netherlands, many of which are now protected as national monuments.
As around one third of the country lies below sea-level, properly dealing with massive amounts of water has always been an issue in the Netherlands. To deal with this unique problem, the Dutch have raised whole territories out of the sea, including an entire province called Flevoland, or constructed gigantic sea-walls, such as Zeeland’s delta works- both of which are recognised among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Before bicycles ran rampant throughout the Netherlands, canals were the main mode of transport in many Dutch cities. These impressive waterways allowed merchants to quickly move goods around urban centres and played a pivotal economic role throughout earlier modern Dutch history. Many of these canal systems are still intact, including Amsterdam’s iconic canal belt which is now recognised as an UNESCO heritage site.
Every period of Dutch history is marked by groundbreaking artistry and the Netherlands has produced an impressive number of world-leading artists, such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh. Most major Dutch cities have at least one museum dedicated to art history and collectively house countless, invaluable artworks.
Modern and contemporary art
As there are hundreds of world-leading artistic institutes scattered around the country, finding excellent, innovative and influence artwork is exceptionally easy in the Netherlands. Amsterdam alone features dozens of contemporary galleries and several highly esteemed museums that are dedicated to groundbreaking artwork, such as the Stedelijk and FOAM.
The music scene
More-or-less every musical genre is well-represented within Dutch borders and the Netherlands hosts thousands of superb festivals, concerts and gigs every year. Cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht have extremely strong ties with the local and international music scene and features many world-renowned venues such Tivoli Vredenburg, WORM and Paradiso.
Gouda and Edam cheese
Whilst Gouda and Edam can be found just about anywhere on Earth, these creamy golden delicacies originated in the Netherlands and are still produced at farms throughout the country. Although both varieties are readily available in the Netherlands, several Dutch towns have their very own cheese market, where fresh balls of Edam and Gouda are traded, weighed and sampled.
The Dutch craft beer scene is currently booming and new breweries are continuously popping up across the country. Many of these independent breweries rely on time-honed methods to craft their wares and produce delicious, traditional Dutch beers with a modern edge. Their numbers include Brouwerij ‘t IJ, which is located underneath a colossal windmill in Amsterdam, and Jopen in Haarlem, who have converted an old church into their main plant, amongst many others.
Tulips and floriculture
The Dutch have cultivated massive crops of flowers for centuries and produce millions of colourful tulips every year. These beautiful flowers are grown in farmlands throughout the Dutch hinterland and burst into full bloom around mid-May. Due to the high demand for tulips, there are hundreds of shops and markets in the Netherlands dedicated to Dutch floriculture, such as Amsterdam’s famed floating flower market.
For various socio-economic reasons, the Netherlands is regularly listed among the best places to live in the world and the U.N. recently named it the 6th happiest nation on earth. Although visitors to the Netherlands might not be able to experience the full depth of this accolade, it certainly makes the Netherlands an attractive destination for travellers.