It's called a 'quick guide', but cramming all of what the Netherlands has to offer into a nifty overview is somewhat nigh on impossible. That said, I'm going to give it my best shot because I guarantee that once you get a taste of the many treats that this tiny but mighty country has in store (and no, I don't just mean their syrupy waffles), you'll be booking more than just a flying visit to its capital, Amsterdam. For more detail, dive into my City Guides (coming soon!) for some of the spots listed here:
I ditched the much-loved capital during my trip in favour of staying with its so-called ugly duckling sister city instead. Rotterdam has always lived in the shadow of postcard-perfect, pretty Amsterdam - that is, until now. With hipsterdom continually on the rise, finally Rotterdam is starting to get the respect it has long deserved (albeit currently only from avid foodies with beards and vintage bikes). Rotterdam's vibrant food, fashion, and art scenes pulse with the cultural rawness of a city on the cusp of becoming the next big travel 'in' thing. Check out the Rotterdam City Guide for more top tips on where to sleep, eat, and what to see and do.
Lovely little Leiden - a student town and Amsterdam in miniature. Get lost wandering across the bridges over its many canals, or make some friends and navigate the waters together on a boat, complete with Dutch beer in hand. Thanks to its young population, Leiden's vibe is even more laid back than the rest of the Netherlands (I know, I know, how can it possibly be even more relaxed?!) As well as the seemingly endless networks of canals, Leiden also packs another Dutch stereotype into its scenery: yes, a windmill. It has a small citadel too, which rewards those who mosey up to it with some pleasant views over the town.
If you're peckish during your visit and it's a Saturday then you're in luck because Leiden can boast of having one of the best markets in the country – it's here that some of freshest local Dutch delights can be found, with everything from herring to satisfy salty-inclined palates, to syrupy waffles to please the sweet-toothed. One of the most wonderful and unique things about Leiden though, are its wall poems. Exactly as their name suggests, poems are written in unsuspecting places on the walls all around the town – have fun finding them as you stroll around and take a few moments to read and reflect.
The Hague: the home of the Peace Palace. It is, however, important not to overlook the rest of this small city's offerings, because if you do, you may well miss out (and FOMO is a condition no wanderer wants to willingly afflict upon themselves). Cute hybrid bike and bookshops, tree-lined avenues and a stunning coastline complete with dramatic sand dunes. What's not to love? Check out The Hague: A Quick Guide (coming soon!) for more top tips on where to sleep, eat, and what to see and do.
If you thought that chocolate box towns only existed in children's books, then you've obviously never been to the tiny town of Delft in the Netherlands. It may be tiny, but it still packs a punch – Delft has a wealth of pubs, restaurants and cafes to dive into and enjoy (no doubt the abundance is due to the fact that this is a university town, so there are a lot of student appetites to satisfy!) You don't need a long time to explore Delft –half a day will suffice – but while there, do make sure to take the boat tour along its canals. The tour takes just under an hour and is the perfect way to become acquainted with the town – you'll not only learn about its history and architecture but also, thanks to the guides often being students, you'll also hear many amusing anecdotes about local life here.
If all of that cruising creates an appetite, then avoid the larger tourist-filled main square in favour of a smaller shaded one for lunch: Beestenmarkt. Cafe Belvedere, situated on the square, makes a mean club sandwich which will hit the spot (and even more so if you order a side of Dutch fries).