When most people think of the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam. Perhaps they also think of tulips, windmills, and delicious cheese. But there are so many hidden gems in the Netherlands that many visitors miss — even locals overlook many of these beautiful spots! We’re here to help you find the best places in the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam and the popular tourist spots.
Our Netherlands tours go beyond the obvious, showing you the history, culture, and natural beauty of lesser-visited places. The provinces of Groningen and Friesland are of particular interest, with their interesting historical sites and charming villages attracting culturally-curious visitors and nature lovers. We also love the islands and exploring our beloved Wadden Sea!
If you’re keen to go beyond the basics, we would be delighted to show you more. At TravPact, we want you to Travel with Impact, exploring the culture and appreciating a slower, more sustainable way of travelling. Come join us!
Friesland: A Beautiful, Tranquil Area of the Netherlands
Friesland is in the northeastern part of the country; it is sometimes called the Water Province and it’s one of our favourite hidden gems in the Netherlands! With charming villages, interesting history, islands, cities, and more, Friesland should certainly be on your itinerary if you want to enjoy a truly Dutch holiday.
Here are some top spots to explore in Friesland…
The capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden is famous for its historic city centre (Binnenstad) and its varied past. Home to kings, artists, spies…this city is an intriguing cultural hub and was even a European Capital of Culture in 2018!
En route to Leeuwarden from Amsterdam, enjoy the beautiful views from the Afsluitdijk causeway bridge and the lovely surrounding countryside.
You might want to explore our Relaxing Friesland Holiday to visit Leeuwarden plus Ameland, one of our favourite Frisian islands.
De Rottige Meente Nature Reserve
This beautiful nature reserve is home to many birds, including falcons, owls, purple, silver and blue herons. You can also see interesting flora like the crab shear, which is a characteristic aquatic plant only growing in clean water and can grow to become sturdy floating vegetation you could walk on like a “green water mat”. There are tons of walking and cycling trails to enjoy, too!
Take your family on a Truly Dutch Holiday! Our 7-night family adventure helps you to reconnect while enjoying the natural beauty of the Netherlands.
Go Beyond Amsterdam for More Netherlands Hidden Gems
Utrecht, Rotterdam, Delft, the Hague…there are plenty of other cities to explore beyond Amsterdam when you visit the Netherlands! Near each of these smaller cities, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems to make your trip extra special.
Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht
Kasteel de Haar is a beautiful estate formerly owned by the Rothschild family, which restored the castle in the 1890s. A structure has been built on the site since the 1300s, but its current opulence and beautiful grounds make it an attractive place to visit in the Netherlands. It is just outside of Utrecht and easily accessible from Amsterdam.
Nationaal Park De Biesbosch, near Rotterdam
This beautiful national park is also one of the last large areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in Northwestern Europe. You can bike, walk, or boat through the wetlands and canal paths. Birdwatching is particularly popular here, whilst the quiet natural beauty feels a world away despite its proximity to Rotterdam.
Kijkduin, The Hague
Kijkduin is a popular seaside destination for locals, but most foreign visitors to the Netherlands overlook this hidden gem. It’s very conveniently located near The Hague for a fun day out — especially for families!
Westkapelle is another lovely beach destination that’s lesser-known for tourists in the Netherlands. As part of what’s called the Zeeland Riviera, Westkapelle boasts extensive sandy beaches, ample cycling paths, and plenty of fun watersports to enjoy.
Stochemhoeve Park in Leiden
While the Netherlands is known for its tulip fields and colourful floral displays, Stochemhoeve Park offers wild garlic fields for a totally different experience! They flower in May, so if you can time your visit, then visit the canal-filled university city of Leiden and bask in the natural beauty of this springtime display.
Visit the Wadden Islands for True Hidden Gems
The Wadden Islands offer stunning natural beauty and ample quiet nature to enjoy, with few foreign tourists around to hamper your experience. We have quite a number of favourite islands we like to visit on our Netherlands tours…
As a large island, Terschelling offers plenty to keep visitors occupied. Enjoy a long bike ride across the island or explore the nature reserve
The largest of the West Frisian Islands, Texel offers extensive beaches and varied natural landscapes, plus a seal sanctuary!
On this quiet island, ride a horse and cart along the beach
We visit Terschelling, Texel, and Vlieland on this Netherlands Bike Tour and Sailing Adventure!
Beautiful Ameland is vast and offers plenty to enjoy. Take the 236 steps to the top of Bornrif Lighthouse for a journey back in time. Enjoy the exhibits and the spectacular view from the top.
This diverse island is mostly car-free with fewer than 1000 inhabitants residing on it. Much of the island is a nature reserve so you can enjoy dunes and beaches, mudflats and forests.
Explore the islands that interest you most on your own Netherlands Sailing Tour in the Wadden Sea.
Hidden Gems in Groningen
The northeastern province of Groningen offers urban centres and charming villages, plus endless cycling and walking trails and beautiful countryside scenery to enjoy. We love to encourage visitors toward Groningen for its plentiful hidden gems!
The student city of Groningen is a charming glimpse into local culture and history. Cobbled streets and narrow lanes are a photographer’s dream, whilst the various museums and cultural landmarks shed light on this unique part of the Netherlands, both past and present. Groningen is also well-connected via transport links, including its own airport and easy train connections from Amsterdam, should you arrive there first.
Bourtange is a fort dating back to the 16th century. Its star shape can be seen from above, but Bourtange is just as interesting to explore at ground-level! There are around 400 people living in the village to this day, so it’s not just a typical tourist attraction. You can also learn at the museum and see the cannons along the edge of the moat, plus a traditional windmill.
If you join our Visiting Groningen in the North East tour, you’ll get to see both the city of Groningen and Bourtange, plus many other local highlights you could all too easily miss without our local expertise!
So, what do you think? Are you ready to explore some hidden gems in the Netherlands? We would love to help you Travel with Impact, slowing down for more sustainable, responsible travel. Get in touch if you have any questions about getting off the beaten path in the Netherlands!