Among US citizens, the Netherlands is on many people’s bucketlists for Amsterdam. But as anyone who lives there, has traveled there, or done a bit of research knows, there are TONS of things to do in the Netherlands. For me personally, I get really exhausted by crowds and I hate fighting other people for spots in lines, or for parking spaces. So, I am always on the lookout for less crowded options. I don’t always find them, depending on how long I am somewhere and how intrigued I am by popular destinations, but in the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to visit a few calmer locations that I would like to suggest. Besides escaping some crowds, spreading the tourism love can help address over-visitation when we couple it with other tools and strategies. So, if you are looking to add some calmer locations to your itinerary or just explore some new parts of the Netherlands, give this little list a gander. You might also consider checking out my posts on National Parks in the Netherlands as well. You will be surprised how varied nature is in this under-appreciated landscape.
Vaalserberg: The Netherlands Highpoint and Three-Country Point
Vaalserberg is the highpoint of the Netherlands, and insofar as mountaineering/hiking goes, it is not the kind of high point that will generally get you huffing and puffing. It’s the crown of a generally flat and low-lying country. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t both a unique and enjoyable destination that’s worth your time. For anyone who loves to explore nature and hike, this is a must-have for any things to do in the Netherlands list.
The character of the highpoint itself is that of a gentle, rounded mountain or what some might consider more of a hill. This area is wooded and feels far more wild than the other parts of the Netherlands that I visited. Happily, there are a variety of trails that zig and zag through the forest, and which are well traveled, so it is not hard to navigate them.
Besides all that, and most interestingly, if you look at a map, you will see that Vaalserberg sits in the narrow little panhandle of the Netherlands. And it is located where three different countries meet! This is where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands are all conjoined, and there is even a little statue that you can visit at the point.
There is a road up to the top, where you can park, hike around a little bit, and get some food. There is also a lookout tower that you can pay to check out as well (although I didn’t bother). There is also a maze of some sort? I wasn’t able to go, but it looked intriguing. So, if you are in the area and enjoy those sorts of things, definitely consider it.
How to Get There
Vaalserberg is a bit out of the way, at least in terms of Amsterdam, so I think the easiest way to get out there is going to be with a vehicle. From Amsterdam, you can drive to the town of Vaals, and then follow signs (or Google) to Les Trois Bornes. You will want to park near the Labyrint if you want to get as close to the top as possible in your vehicle, but if you are open to hiking and walking a bit, there are more options.
Noordwijk Beach: Mussels, Frites, and the Seaside
In retrospect, it’s a little silly, but I never associated the Netherlands with the beach. (Very silly when I realize that not only do they have coastline but they have islands as well). Really, at least one beach should be on every things to do in the Netherlands list.
Just a short distance from Amsterdam is the seaside town of Noordwijk, where my travel buddy and myself had a perfect evening stroll and delectable dinner of mussels with the sea breeze in our hair. (It’s actually one of my fondest memories of the Netherlands, and that entire trip is extremely fond to me).
When we ventured out here after a long day, we walked a little among the shops. Not really looking to buy anything, but enjoying the vibe and people watching. And it wasn’t long until the ocean called us down into the sand. It felt like a gentle beach. Soft, warm sand and people playing in the water. There were even picturesque grasses growing up on the higher part of the shore.
After splashing in the sea for a bit and getting sand between our toes, we retreated back up the shore towards the shops and restaurants that line the beachfront. We were lucky enough to get a spot at a restaurant serving mussels and frites- which felt like the perfect Dutch, seaside meal.
While I wouldn’t call the beach quiet by any means, it was nonetheless a retreat from the extremely busy downtown Amsterdam, where we had spent our morning.
How to Get There/Where to Park
If you are traveling by public transit, the closest train station is in Leiden. You can then take the bus north to the beach. And if you are driving, you can have Google take you to the parking lot at: Kon. Astrid Boulevard 51, 2202 BE Noordwijk, Netherlands.
Roosegaarde Cycle Path: Van Gogh Bike Path
Just like the beach, the Netherlands’ iconic artists should be a part of any things to do in the Netherlands list. In particular, whether you are interested in art or not, you will likely run into one or two things related to Van Gogh. We saw a few of his paintings on display in De Hoge Veluwe, and we also went WAAAAY out of our way in search of the Van Gogh bike path.
That’s because we had heard that this bike bath actually glows at night with a re-creation of what might be one of the most famous European paintings- Starry Night. As you may know if you follow this blog, I LOVE immersive art installations and while some might argue that this bike path doesn’t fit, I think it does. Haha. In any case, it sounded immensely interesting and we went on a bit of a quest to find it, as it really isn’t advertised much in the area.
Unfortunately, when we arrived it was sunset, and not quite dark enough to enjoy the full effect. It’s also a bit smaller of an area than I might have thought. That being said, it was nice to get out into the country and go for a nice little walk among the fields. I’d suggest visiting Roosegaarde and the surrounding area for dinner and then taking a short walk or bike ride after dark.
How to Get There/Where to Park
If you are taking public transportation, take the train to Eindhoven and then take the bus out to Nuenen-Eindhoven a270. Likewise, if you are driving, you will need to get to the Nuenen-Eindhoven a270 parking lot. You can find that lot using: Wolvendijk 80, 5641 AS Eindhoven, Netherlands. When driving through Eindhoven, be extra careful and be doubly sure to go the speed limit. I got a $50 (end US$ price once I paid) for going 3km over the speed limit in the city.
Planning Your Trip to the Netherlands
While these three locations alone would certainly make for a unique experience of Holland, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in the Netherlands. If you are a hiker, check out my guide to Nature in the Netherlands. I’ve also done a short piece on Giethoorn or the “Venice of the Netherlands); if you are crowd-averse like I am, it will be good information to help you figure out if you’d like to visit or not. We also have a guest post from several bloggers covering their favorite spots in the Netherlands, which I wasn’t able to visit- but you might like to! Finally, to explore all of this and more, check out our short guide to the Netherlands.
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