a dutch gracht, a canal in autumn
Lifestyle

Visiting the Netherlands- Beautiful Nature and History

Today I write about visiting the Netherlands and the beautiful nature you will find here. In my blog “A Beautiful Winter day in the Netherlands,” I have already written about the Veluwe National Park.

There was a time I couldn’t arrive in the Netherlands mentally. My heart grieved because I couldn’t find my place in this overcrowded country. You know me now a bit, and I am a person who loves to live in a quiet environment. In my opinion, the Netherlands is very loud and packed, full of cities, villages, houses, people, and cars.

My mind, my heart needs the beauty of quietness to be creative and to recharge. Sitting somewhere quiet, overviewing an area of nature, makes me happy, but feeling imprisoned by a sea of houses makes me feel ill. Maybe you know what I am mean.

Feeling at home in this country where I wished most time that I am back in Germany or Ireland has lasted for years. I had no other chance than to make myself feel comfortable with my surroundings due to my Dutch husband, who has his business in his country.

I told myself when reaching our retirement; we could live in Germany or somewhere else. After many years of desperately trying to root in the Netherlands, I must say I have managed to feel at home. Still, my goal is to be able to travel and stay wherever my desire leads me to.

I am very well on my way to get there. 🙂

The Netherlands is beautiful; nature, the cities, and the ancient houses give visitors an impression of its beautiful culture. Living very close to the most beautiful National park of the Netherlands in the east has spoiled me. Beautiful old cities surround us, Hanseatic cities embedded in fascinating history, in former times belonging to the German Hanze, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northern Western and Central Europe, 12th century ( Wikipedia) which have given these cities their special design.

If you visit them, especially in September in autumn, it is the year’s most beautiful season with its specific lights and colors. The purple flowering Erica plant covers the Veluwe in August and September. Breathtaking picture.

Visiting the West of the Netherlands

The superficial time fillers, like shopping, gaming have made me sad for already a long time. In these times of Covid 19, people reflect more about deeper things than attending an event to have fun. People nowadays have become so shallow, buying many things they don’t actually need, dumping them away after a while. That is a waste, certainly and literally, a waste of money, time, and polluting the earth. But now, the vaccinated people want to pick up the fun time in their life again, going back to their superficial activities.

I wish that people start to rethink quality time spent to recharge their batteries, giving value to their health and nature. I am certainly pleased with this development of having more people outdoors, but we will see if this will be the norm.

Walking on a weekend in the forest, we experience a crowded parking terrain observing many people going for a walk. That is a good development if they don’t disturb the animals and damage nature.

If you plan to travel to the Netherlands, don’t just visit Amsterdam; you can fill weeks on Amsterdam activities. There is surely much to do.a "Gracht", waterway in Amsterdam

But if you have some time to spend, you really should visit the seaside, Zeeland, Scheveningen, Haarlem, Den Haag, Leiden, Rotterdam, Delft, Alkmaar, walking along the coast, the beaches, enjoying a coffee in one of the restaurants located on the beach.

It is gorgeous but in summer overcrowded by Germans who spend their holidays on the dutch coast. The cities are lovely to visit, forming a beautiful picture with their many old houses, mills, bridges. The Netherlands is certainly a beautiful country for a visit.

Rotterdam has been destroyed in the second world war. Now the restoration of the city has created a modern city with a huge container harbor where giant containerships worldwide arrive and depart. Many areas have been completely rebuilt. It is fascinating to observe daily life in Rotterdam. Some people think that Rotterdam is even a more beautiful place than Amsterdam. Both cities are different, and it depends on what you like.

I love Amsterdam, but it has become an expensive, overcrowded place. However, if you book a hotel room outside Amsterdam, you can use the bus or tram to get to the famous spots of Amsterdam, like the Anna Frank House.

If you are like me, you love historic places with old houses and castles, and we have many of them all over the Netherlands.

Utrecht is a beautiful city, 30 minutes drive distance from Amsterdam, dressed with old villas, castles, green surroundings, with lots of parks. If you love walking, you should visit beautiful places like the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, beautiful forests covered with Erica plants that shine in purple color in August. The old city center of Utrecht is such a beauty with all the waterways( grachten) where people on boats are passing. We actually were thinking of spending our holidays this year by renting a boat.

But, another great experience is renting a skipper with a boat and travel through the Netherlands on its waterways. I tell you, you will never forget that holiday, especially you plan to come in the middle of August till the beginning of September. Using a boat, you can pass many beautiful places, stop there and have a wonderful time living on the boat. The Netherlands is a water country, and it is a great experience to see the villages and cities staying on a boat driving along the rivers. I even think that this is the best trip we could do seeing as many places as we like. It is beautiful, experiencing nature and culture from a boat.

There are many youth hostels and Airbnb where you could stay, recreational houses, or ship what I have described above. If you come in autumn, you are in love with this county.:) The colors and the lights are most beautiful!

Hiking in the East of the Netherlands

The east of the Netherlands, especially the province of Gelderland, is most recommendable for a visit.

You find cities like Arnhem, a historical place where you have many parks and castles, located very close to the Netherlands’ oldest city, Nijmegen. Only 20 km away from Kleve in Germany, Nijmegen is a beautiful city, with many old houses lying between Maas and Waal. An excellent old historical city center for women and men who love to go shopping and have a great dinner in lovely restaurants. The historic city center is absolutely stunning, and I am certain that you would love to see it.

purple flowering erica in Veluwe National parkNijmegen and Arnhem’s surroundings are gorgeous, green, parks, and forests where you can visit many castles. Dutch people love to cycle through the forests.

Going south of Nijmegen, you cross the line to Brabant, another province of the Netherlands with its beautiful old cities Tilburg, Eindhoven, Den Bosch, where they celebrate carnival in early spring.

I will recommend Gelderland and Overijssel. Gelderland is a big province with different landscapes, like the Betuwe with its fruit plantages, flowing in spring. Some people love to see the many cherry and apple trees flowering. We also have this in Germany, and I am not interested in seeing them flowering, but it is gorgeous.

The Veluwe National Park is huge, and if you like to hike or cycle, you have enough to do. It is approximately 55 km2( 14000 acres,21 sqm) in area, consisting of heathlands, dunes, and woodlands. It is still the largest moraine in the Netherlands; the park forms one of the largest continuous nature reserves in the Netherlands. ( Wikipedia). If you love hiking, I tell you you would certainly want to visit the Veluwe with its different areas.

Summer and autumn are the busiest time for the National park. Many visitors throughout the day and many photographers arrive in the early morning to take pictures of this beautiful calm landscape. It is not allowed to disturb the animals, but some people can’t resist this beauty!

Sometimes when I drive through the park to get to castle Rosendael in the village Rozendaal, it is packed with people who cycle through the park. In Rosendael, near the city of Arnhem, you find a beautiful park belonging to the castle, with ponds and a rose garden where you can sit above the garden, having a coffee in the sun. It is such peaceful scenery, and the light is fantastic. We visit Castle Rosendael very often in summer.

On your way back, you pass a restaurant where you can sit outside and have lunch on the terrace if you like. It is called “Houtplaats,” in the village Ellecom, one of the seven villages belonging to the community of Rheden, located opposite of one of the Veluwe Park’s entrances. You will love it! It is the way back through the forest to Ellecom and Dieren. I don’t receive any commission recommending the Houtplaats; it is just a beautiful place to enjoy lunch and dinner. They have a huge terrace!

But there are many places where you can stay for a coffee, lunch or dinner.

Visit the Hanseatic Cities

Sometimes it rains, and I presume you wouldn’t like to hike. That is an excellent opportunity to visit the Hanseatic cities.

Deventer and Zutphen are my favorites. The atmosphere in these historic old cities is beautiful. These cities are located next to the river “Ijssel.” Driving towards them, you will see the breathtaking skyline of these cities, providing you with the imagination of how people lived here in the last centuries.

Deventer in Overijssel, The Netherlands
Deventer Skyline

There are several Hanseatic cities in our close surroundings, Doesburg, Zutphen, Deventer, Zwolle, Harderwijk, Ellburg, Hattem, and Kampen, but also Arnhem and Nijmegen are not far away.

They are all charming cities, but I prefer Zutphen and Deventer and Arnhem, where you could join a city tour guidance learning about the history. Actually, you can experience a guided tour in all of the cities, including Apeldoorn, where I live.

It doesn’t cost much money, and some cities offer a tour every day. It is great to get to see the places. A fascinating fact is when you are walking in the city center of these cities you will feel like you are in the middle ages. Have some breakfast in one of the many cafes; I will ensure that this will be a beautiful experience.

Driving from Apeldoorn to Brummen, a small town, you can take a little ferry to cross the river Ijssel and get to the Netherlands’ smallest city, Bronkhorst. It is a village that has purchased the rights to be called a town in middle age. This little city is a magnet for tourists.

There are few old historic houses and a church, restaurants, and shops with artistic things to buy, most handmade. Artists and creative people have made their home in Bronkhorst a lovely place to visit, and maybe you are lucky to purchase something handmade. I did, a woolen scarf, that is so beautiful!

A road leads to Zutphen, so you don’t need to get back of the ferry to get around.

Renting accommodations is very simple because of many possibilities, like hotels, Airbnb, and recreational houses in parks.

You will find something you like. Dutch people speak English, getting around is not a problem. In the Netherlands, there are living many English-speaking people who never spoke a dutch word. When I arrived in Utrecht, I could find a job; even I only spoke English and German. People here are used to foreign languages, and English is the language everyone is speaking.

Visiting Castles

If you are like me, you love to visit castles and the big parks they own. There are many castles where you can book a guided tour, grasping an impression of history.

I already have mentioned Rosendael near Arnhem, but there is Cannenburgh in Vaassen close to Apeldoorn. The “Het Paleis de Loo” in Apeldoorn with its forest belonging to the Veluwe where you can go for a walk or hiking.

Queen Wilhelmina has lived here with her family, quite interesting if you like history and royals. I have a beautiful client who still knows Juliana and the children because she has lived in the park with her family these years. Amazing! She is nearly ninety years old!

There are more castles in this area; you could visit. Most of them have an herbal and vegetable garden you might like to see. Doorwerth has a little historical graveyard attached to the castle. If you stay in Province Gelderland, you will find many castles, so you could plan to visit for a day tour. Every castle has its own history! Before Corona, we have visited some concerts in the different castles, and I assure you they are fantastic. I don’t know, but maybe you like to listen to classic music played in a historical atmosphere.

Final Thought

Gelderland is only a part of the Netherlands where you could spend your holidays. It is a beautiful area, the biggest province, close to Overijssel, where Zwolle, Deventer, and Kampen belong to. By staying in Apeldoorn, you are quite central to travel to all these cities and parks. Accommodation is not a problem, and you can do so much that you will never be bored.

Please leave your comments below, and let us know how you like the Netherlands and if you have ever been here. I would love to hear from you.

All the best,

Sylvia

6 Comments

  • Aly

    It’s been many years since I have been to Amsterdam, but it’s a wonderful, beautiful town to visit. It’s full of culture and history and lovely for walking around to cafes. Thanks for sharing your insight into the pace and experience found in the rest of the Netherlands too. I have not been able to visit this area but it looks lovely through your eyes. Hopefully we’re all able to travel freely again soon!

    • Sylvie

      Hi Aly! Thank you very much for your comment! You are absolutely right about Amsterdam! That is a beautiful city, and you can fill weeks while staying in Amsterdam. But if you get a chance to visit Gelderland, You can always contact me, and I will give you the best advice! 

  • LineCowley

    The Netherlands has some beautiful countryside, although it is all flat and you do not see mountains on the skyline. It does make it very easy to cycle and walk though. I have not visited the eastern part of the Netherlands, but the way you are describing Gelderland, makes it sound as if I should put it on my bucket list. 

    Is there a best time of the year that that you would recommend to visit Gelderland when you won’t encounter too many people?

    • Sylvie

      Thank you very much for your comment! I really can recommend visiting the east of the Netherlands. It is so typical and beautiful! 

      The best time is actually the most crowded time of the year, the middle of August to the middle of October. You find the whole forest in yellow/orange light. The erica is flowering purple. And it is a warm late summer and autumn. But it is overcrowded with people. 

  • Hannie

    LOL, Sylvia, if you think the Netherlands is a noisy place, you shouldn’t visit Spain. The Spanish have upgraded noise to their way of being. The main advantage Spain has over the Netherlands is the weather, of course. Nowadays I am glad when it rains (like yesterday, jippie!), that used to be very different when I still lived in the Netherlands.

    It’s marvelous that you have seen such a lot of my home country. And I agree with you there are really beautiful places and it’s a pity that people only know Amsterdam and hardly bother to visit the other spots. What I also like over there is the light. I miss the autumn light and misty mornings when the atmosphere is mysterious.

    And I miss the cultural events. The Netherlands has a lot of modern events like “Opera on Location” or design festivals that I haven’t yet found in Spain.

    Great article, Sylvia, I never thought I would be homesick at times. 🙂

    • Sylvie

      Haha, yes, Hannie, I believe that Spain is louder because they live more outdoors due to the warm weather. I think this is completely different! I know this from Greece and Bilbao, in the North of Spain where I visited a friend decades ago. He lived in an apartment block, and there was so much noise inside the house and outside. I thought this is quite interesting. The Netherlands is different because I am still working, and when I need to get up at 5 am, I would like to have slept well. This summer, we experience a rainy summer again, and I am fed up with the rain. Temperatures are quite low. I have experienced this kind of summer in Ireland, but it didn’t bother me over there because the whole atmosphere in Ireland is different. Rainy days suit the country.
      We are glued to our country, I believe. That you feel homesick is not surprising to me. I have the same with Germany. But I don’t like what is going on now, the police violence against peaceful demonstrates. It seems like Nazi-Germany is still alive, and that shouldn’t be.
      You know, Hannie, I would love to visit Spain, for sure! 🙂 Thank you for your comment!:)

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