The Netherlands is a small country in northwestern Europe, known for its canals, windmills, tulip fields, and cycling routes. Its most famous and visited city is Amsterdam, and for good reason. Amsterdam is home to the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the Red Light District, Vondelpark, endless cozy cafes, and so much more. While Amsterdam is picturesque and popular for Dutchies and visitors alike, it’s far from the only worthwhile city in the Netherlands. In this article, we will explore 5 non-Amsterdam cities in the Netherlands that you need to visit next time you find yourself in the Netherlands.
Dutch City #1: Utrecht
Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands and is known by locals as the less touristy Amsterdam. Utrecht is a vibrant city known for its restaurant-lined canals, grand cathedral, and being the most bike-friendly city in the world.
Top Things to See in Utrecht:
Saint Martin's Cathedral (also known as the DomKerk, or “Dom Church” in English).
The DomKerk is a medieval church that resembles the Notre Dame in Paris. Its original structure was built in 1254 and it is one of the most important churches in all of the Netherlands. The clocktower, once attached to the church, has stood on its own since the devastating storm in 1674 that took out the nave of the church.
Castle De Haar
Built in 1822, the De Haar Castle is the largest castle in the Netherlands. It is widely regarded as the most attractive castle in the country because of its beautifully kept grounds and fairytale look.
Oudegracht (“old canal” in English)
This beautiful canal built around 1000 AD runs directly through the city center and is the perfect spot to stop to enjoy lunch, a drink, a boat ride, or kayak adventure. Something that sets Utrecht’s canals apart from any other Dutch city is its water-level restaurants and seating. On a sunny day, grab a glass of wine and enjoy the canals for a perfect afternoon in Utrecht.
Museum Speelklok, also known as the Musical Clock Museum, showcases Dutch ingenuity. The museum is full of musical boxes, organs, and other instruments that can play music without the help of humans. Although this is a very unusual museum it is one of Utrecht's most popular tourist destinations.
Miffy or Nijntje Museum
If you’re a fan of the Miffy children’s stories, you’ll want to make a stop at the Miffy (or Nijntje, in Dutch) Museum. It’s located in the center of Utrecht and is a popular place for visitors and local children to learn more about Miffy, her friends, and her adventures.
Dutch City #2: Giethoorn
Giethoorn is a beautiful village in the northwestern part of the Netherlands known as "the Venice of Holland" or the "Venice of the North". True to its name, this enchanting village is lined with small canals, wooden bridges, and houseboats. Giethoorn has no roads or cars, all travel is done by water, bike, or foot.
Top Things To See in Giethoorn:
Of course, in a city known for its waterways, one of the best things to do in Giethoorn is to visit its canals. While you can get a good view as you walk the city, the best views are seen by boat. We recommend you plan to hire or charter a small boat and tour guide to take you around. A local tour guide can give you a feel for the culture and history of this highly unusual little town.
While the most magical part about this town is definitely the canal and outdoor scenery this museum isn’t to be skipped. Taking a few hours to explore Museum Giethoorn will give you a different perspective on, and appreciation for, the rich history in this village. You will see what a typical farmhouse, fisherman's house, and boathouse were like in olden-day Giethoorn.
Dutch City #3: Lisse (Keukenhof)
When you think of the Netherlands, tulips might be the first thing to pop into your mind. If tulips are what you want, then the city of Lisse should be on your list. This Dutch town is home to Keukenhof–a tulip garden known to be “the most beautiful in the world.” Keukenhof, often referred to as the "Garden of Europe," spreads over 70 acres and is also one of the largest public gardens in the world. If you visit in the springtime, you will be amazed at endless fields of flowering tulips.
Top Things To See in Lisse:
These gardens are a must-see–especially if you’re visiting in the springtime when the tulips are in bloom.
Kasteel Keukenhof (Castle Keukenhof in English)
Built in 1641 as a country house, this castle has a rich 400 years of history. To get the most out of your visit, give the guided tour a try. They will bring the castle to life for you.
Dutch City #4: Groningen
Groningen is located in the north of the Netherlands and is one of the country's most important port cities. The city can be traced back hundreds of years because of its history as a vital trading hub to the Netherlands.
Fun Fact: Because of its prominence, Groningen was granted rights to mint its own coins.
Top Things To See in Groningen:
Old Town District
Explore this stunning city's Renaissance and Neo-Renaissance architecture by stopping by the old town. At the heart of the old town, check out the 19th-century town hall, the Gold Office (built in 1635), or the Huis Cardinaal with its incredible façade that dates back to 1559.
Climb the Martini Tower
Originally built in 1482, this 96-meter tall structure is one of the largest towers in the Netherlands. Its height guarantees breathtaking views of Groningen's markets and town square.
Northern Shipping Museum
Founded in 1930, this museum tells the story of this charming coastal fishing village and shipping port that has been around since Roman times. The Northern Shipping Museum gives you a peek back in time–you can explore the ships that were used throughout history, the tools the Romans used to navigate the sea, and get a glimpse into what life was like in Groningen through different time periods.
Dutch City #5: Maastricht
Maastricht is a charming city in the south of the Netherlands known for its medieval architecture, beautiful Christmas market, and buzzing cultural scene. It’s a city split into two by the Maas river that offers incredible photo opportunities at sunset.
Top Things To See in Maastricht:
The Treasures of Saint Servatius
This stunning church is a UNESCO world heritage site. Its basilica is thought to be the oldest in the Netherlands. The grand church and treasure room are open to visitors.
Basilica of Our Lady
The Basilica of Our Lady was built around 1000 AD and is a Romanesque church located in the heart of Maastricht. It boasts a stunning art collection and rich history you can easily explore between cafe stops.
Old Town Walls and Hell Gate
Maastricht has preserved wall sections known as the Hell Gate. The wall was built around 1229 and is the oldest town gate in the Netherlands.
Closing Thoughts: 5 Cities to Visit in the Netherlands Beyond Amsterdam
The Netherlands is a country full of beauty, history, and one-of-a-kind architecture. We recommend that you take some time to visit the Netherlands beyond Amsterdam on your next trip.
Take a stroll along the canals or ride a bike to a flower field, see some of the historic castles, and learn about the relatively big place in history this small country has created for itself.
These are just a few of the cities we recommend you visit outside of Amsterdam when you visit the Netherlands (although Amsterdam is a must-see as well). Some honorable mentions that did not quite make our list (but are absolutely worth a visit) are Delft, Rotterdam, Den Haag, (The Hague in English), Breda, Gouda (like the cheese!), and Leiden.