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Amsterdam is truly a biker’s city, although pedaling along the labyrinthine streets can get a little chaotic. Stick to walking and you won’t be disappointed. The gentle canals make a perfect backdrop for exploring the Jordaan and Rembrandtplein square. Pop into the Red Light District if you must—if only so you can say you’ve been there. The Anne Frank House is one of the most moving experiences a traveller can have, and the Van Gogh Museum boasts a sensational collection of works.
Holland's most modern city began as a fishing village in the 13th century. It was developing into an industrial and trading power when German bombers destroyed the city centre and harbour in 1940. However, Rotterdam's unique architecture now brings many visitors to cycle around this urbane, cosmopolitan city. Old Dutch-style houses can still be found in historic Delfshaven, from where the pilgrims set sail in 1620. Cultural offerings ranging from the summer carnival to classical music can compete with those of Amsterdam.
The Hague is a study in contrasts — a captivating blend of new styles and old masters in a historic city synonymous with peace and justice. With easy access to both city and beach, The Hague offers everything from royal palaces and timeless Dutch fishing harbours to endless opportunities to stroll the streets alongside the 'Hagenaars' and 'Hagenezen' as you explore exotic cuisine and unforgettable shopping experiences.
Touching Belgium on its west and just a few miles from Germany to the east, Maastricht is the capital of Holland’s southernmost region, Limburg. A town rich in history and culture, Maastricht boasts two wonderful town squares: Vrijthof, with Sint-Servaas Church, Sint-Jan's Cathedral and many bars, cafes and restaurants; and Markt, home to the town hall and, on Wednesday and Friday mornings, a fantastic vendor market. The city’s Vestigingswerken, or old town fortifications, are another big draw.
This ancient and historic city houses many buildings going back to the early Middle Ages. Until it was overtaken by Amsterdam in the Dutch Golden age, Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands. It was and still is the See of the Archbishop of Utrecht, the most important Catholic leader in the Netherlands. The University of Utrecht is the largest in the Netherlands. One of the unique features of the city is the wharf system in its inner canals. Before the city was fully canalised, parts of the Rhine River flowed through the city center. Most prominent of the historic buildings is the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Martin, the construction of which lasted for almost 200 year, beginning in 1254.
At over 2000 years old, Nijmegen has had a pretty full life. Its transition from Roman military camp to modern municipality has not been without growing pains, but today Nijmegen is thriving, largely because of its lively student population and its status as a hub for political activism. Try to visit during the internationally popular Nijmeegse Vierdaagse four-day walking festival and the epic Zomerfeesten summer party. They happen at the same time, because why not?
Though often overshadowed (especially for tourists) by its much larger and more famous neighbor Amsterdam about ten miles east, Haarlem’s history actually goes back further. And with about 150,000 people, it’s the capital of the Noord-Holland region. The Teylers Museum, with its unique collection of art and artifacts, is the oldest museum in the Netherlands. The fantastic Frans Hals Museum has many works by the artist and other Haarlem schoolers. Grote Markt, the main town square, is a must-see.
Surrounded by country estates, Groningen pairs the old-world spirit of north Holland with the youthful energy of a university town. From the cafes of Grote Markt to the abstract architecture of Groninger Museum, the city is a hip mashup of contemporary Dutch culture.