Insight | Escapade

8 Reason to Visit The Netherlands

Text and Photos by Muhammad Fadli

Having rebranded itself with the catchphrase “I Amsterdam”, the Dutch capital, and indeed Holland itself, is gearing up to become a welcoming host for overseas tourists. Muhammad Fadli shares eight reasons to visit the Netherlands.

1. Dam Square

As one of the most visited city squares on earth, Dam Square, which has existed since 1270, is a deserving starting point for your journey across the Netherlands. Whichever direction you turn in, all that you can see from here are rows of historical buildings and fascinating attractions. Among these are the Royal Palace, which was built in the seventeenth century; the National Monument to the victims of World War II; Nieuwe Kerk, a six-century-old gothic church; and the Madame Tussauds Amsterdam wax museum, which houses replicas of famous figures. Moreover, talented street artists can also be found entertaining visitors down here everyday, many of whom are often good enough to appear on stage.

2. Volendam

A mere 20km from Amsterdam, this former port town receives plenty of visitors all year round, although summer is a particularly popular time. Volendam is renowned for its tranquility and for its charming setting, which fuses residential areas and restaurants with a boulevard which runs along the shoreline. Down on the pier here, superannuated fishermen moor their old boats alongside yachts owned by the wealthy. However, what this area is especially well known for is its traditional clothing, which can be seen in a million picture postcards, although in reality few locals actually wear these garments on a day-to-day basis. Visitors can dress up in similar costumes however, which makes for an amusing photo opportunity.

3. Canal Cruise

While it may sound clichéd, cruising along Amsterdam’s extensive network of canals, which flow all over the city like a spider’s web, is one of the best ways to enjoy the city. These canals were built in the seventeenth century and since then, boating down them has become an increasingly popular activity. It’s a particularly great way to take in Amsterdam’s rows of historical buildings. Indeed, some of the areas along the banks of the canals have been listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. There are many ways of navigating these artificial rivers. Visitors can take a tour on a large-capacity boat, or rent a pedalo, which will burn some serious calories. One operator that offers tours is the Canal Company.

4. Coster Diamonds

Established in 1840, Coster Diamonds is one of the oldest diamond-craft workshops in the world still in operation. The deft hands of the craftsmen down here have been entrusted to polish and shine diamonds that often end up being shown off by members of the upper classes. The legendary Koh-I-Noor, for example, was worn by no less a fashionista than the Queen of England. Tours of the premises are usually accompanied by a guide, who invites every visitor to witness the complicated and careful processes involved in producing quality gemstones firsthand. Visitors can also check out the exhibition hall, in which enthusiasts can be found buying diamonds directly, and there’s also a diamond museum, which offers a wealth of information on the long and illustrious history of these gemstones.

5. AZaanse Schans

At first glance, this village tells one immediately what the term “State Windmills” refers to in practice. In the modern Netherlands, few windmills now remain in operation, and Zaanse Schans is one of the few places where people can still enjoy these charming constructions. Beginning its career as the world’s first industrial estate, Zaanse Schans originally boasted around 600 windmills some two centuries ago. At that time, a variety of products, such as paper, paint, and oil, was produced down here. Nowadays, the remains of the area’s past glories can still be seen in its traditional houses, cheese factories, sheep farms and, of course, old windmills, which squeak when they are buffeted by the wind.

6. Scheveningen Beach

Looking at this clean and pleasant beach, it comes as no surprise to learn that The Hague’s Scheveningen is visited by a staggering nine million tourists each year, although the vast majority of these come in the summer. The rest of the time, this area is mostly shrouded in peace and quiet. In addition to the alluring beaches and views of the open North Sea on offer here, visitors can also turn back the clock and take a peek at World War II history by checking out the numerous bunkers that dot the coastline. An annual sand sculpture festival is also held here.

7. Cycling Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famous for being the bicycle capital of the world and cycling is undoubtedly the most “Dutch” way of exploring Amsterdam. Statistics have shown that the number of bicycles in Amsterdam actually exceeds the number of people, and more than 60 percent of trips through the city centre involve two wheels and a saddle. Don't worry about having to bring a bike as there are plenty of rental places all over the city. Just make sure to always lock your bike safely when parked because the rate of bike theft here is directly proportional to the popularity of cycling.

8. Madurodam

This is a great place to visit if you do not have the opportunity to explore the whole country, as Madurodam is the Netherlands displayed in complex miniature form (1:25 scale to be precise). Visitors can enjoy a mini Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, the port of Rotterdam and even a tulip farm. All of the profits generated here are generously donated to the Madurodam Support Fund Society, and since it is located in The Hague, a visit to this popular attraction can be combined with a trip to the beach at Scheveningen.

<p >How to get there
Garuda Indonesia flies from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Abu Dhabi vv four times per week. From Schiphol Airport, take a direct train to Amsterdam Central Station from where you can start your journey.