The Netherlands, also known as Holland, has long been a popular European tourist destination. Colorful fields of tulips and windmills may be the first images that come to mind, but visitors soon discover that the Netherlands has much more to offer.
The Netherlands performs well in many world rankings. In 2019 the Happiness Research Institute named the Netherlands the fifth happiest country in the world whilst it was ranked first in the EF English Proficiency Index.
With a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and virtually no language barrier, the Netherlands is an ideal destination for travelers from the US.
Tourists can find information below about which cities to visit in the Netherlands as well as the best places to see the country’s most emblematic sites: tulips and windmills. American travelers will also find details of the visa policies in place for traveling to the Netherlands from the US.
Cities to Visit in the Netherlands
Most tourists in the Netherlands head straight to Amsterdam, the Dutch capital known for its winding canals, beautiful houses and famous Red Light District.
In addition to Amsterdam, tourists should consider adding some of the country’s other fascinating cities to their travel itinerary to get a true feel for the culture of the nation and its people.
Some of the most interesting cities in the Netherlands are:
- Amsterdam, the vibrant capital famous for its art and cultural offering
- Rotterdam, with a unique skyline and lively atmosphere
- Utrecht, beautiful canals and stately buildings
- The Hague, a city by the sea on the North Sea coast
- Nijmegen, home to the oldest shopping street in the Netherlands.
Tourists can find useful information below about 2 of the Netherlands’ most visited cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Visiting Amsterdam: art and culture
The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is one of the most popular Dutch cities. Amsterdam certainly has much to offer culture and art enthusiasts. Of particular note is Rijksmuseum which includes an impressive 22 piece by Dutch painter Rembrandt.
Other important art galleries and museums in Amsterdam include:
- Van Gogh Museum, more drawings, and paintings by Van Gogh than anywhere else in the world
- Anne Frank House, the rooms where the family hid out during World War II, an informative and emotive experience
- FOAM Photography Museum, the best international and contemporary photography exhibitions plus lectures and workshops
- Amsterdam Museum, learn about the city’s eventful past with activities and displays for all the family.
In addition to this rich cultural and historical scene, travelers in Amsterdam can enjoy exploring some of the city’s neighborhoods.
The Jordaan is the most well-known neighborhood in Amsterdam, famous for its buzzing markets, exclusive boutiques, and upmarket restaurants. Visitors can spend a few hours walking or cycling through the pretty streets, stopping for a break at one of the many trendy cafes.
Rotterdam, a city of impressive architecture
Anyone interested in architecture should not miss out on a trip to Rotterdam. The following are particularly noteworthy constructions:
- Erasmus Bridge, 802 meters long and spanning the Nieuwe Maas distributary of the Rhine
- Markthal Rotterdam, a unique semi-circular building comprising offices and a marketplace with cool places to eat and drink
- Cube Houses, peculiar houses designed by Piet Blom to feel like an urban forest.
To see Rotterdam from a different perspective, tourists can take an amphibian bus tour on the Nieuwe Maas whilst the best views across the city can be enjoyed from the Euromast observation tower.
Where to See Windmills in the Netherlands
The iconic windmill has long been an emblem of the Netherlands, originally used mainly for drainage purposes. Today there are over 1,000 windmills across the Netherlands, some of which are still in operation whilst others have been converted into visitor attractions with museums.
The second Saturday in May is ‘National Mill Day’, around 600 wind and watermills are opened to the public, an excellent opportunity to see inside some of these iconic structures.
A great way to explore the windmills of the Netherlands is by bicycle. Some agencies offer guided cycle tours, costing in the region of $30, whilst bikes can be rented for around $10 a day.
Some of Holland’s best windmills to visit:
- Molen van Sloten, Amsterdam: one of the few operational mills remaining in Amsterdam pumping excess water from the surrounding area
- De Gooyer, Amsterdam: the most iconic mill in the Netherlands, it is the tallest wooden mill in the Netherlands. Previously a corn mill but no longer operational.
- Zaanse Schans: a picturesque village with a collection of windmills still in operation, involved in dye, timber and mustard production.
Keukenhof, Europe’s Largest Garden
Tourists visiting the Netherlands in Spring can enjoy Keukenhof at its finest. The largest garden in Europe, Keukenhof is a colorful celebration of the tulip, Holland’s most famous flower, as well as other species such as the orchid. Over 7 million bulbs are planted in the park each year and, come spring, they are in full bloom.
Tickets can be purchased online in advance to avoid queuing on arrival, Standard tickets prices are around $20 for adults and $9 for children (4 to 17). Opening times for 2020 are from March 21st to May 10th, from 8 am to 7.30 pm.
Do US Citizens Need a Visa for the Netherlands?
As the Netherlands is part of the Schengen Agreement, US citizens can currently enter the country for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.
However, from 2021 US citizens visiting Europe, and the Netherlands, will be required to apply for the ETIAS visa waiver in order to enter the county. It is possible to apply online for the ETIAS visa waiver in a simple process which takes just a few minutes to complete.
Once approved, ETIAS program holders can stay in the Netherlands for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
US nationals planning to visit the Netherlands in 2021 or beyond must ensure they have a valid ETIAS for the Netherlands prior to travel.