I consider myself lucky to have moved to The Netherlands in the summer because it is at that time that the country really comes alive. The flowers are in full bloom by then, the trees are green again, the shops and restaurants that were closed for the winter are open again, and everyone is out on their boats, cruising down the canals. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to live in three different cities: Leiden, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Each of them has something different to offer, but all of them are worth visiting if you’re ever in the country. When I first arrived, on exiting Leiden Centraal (train) Station, I encountered a large parking bay that was full of closely packed bicycles. I have never seen such a large collection of bicycles in my life! Trying to cross the main road was a major feat; I had to be fully alert at all times to avoid getting knocked down as almost everyone was on their bicycles. The Dutch use cycling as their main mode of transport, and during your stay here – no matter how long or short – you can also rent a bicycle which you can use to get around.
The student city
Leiden is a bit like a small village. It’s also called “The Student City”, as a large percentage of its population is made up of students who attend one of the seven universities there. As you walk along the streets, you will see that they almost always branch into smaller streets that lead to residential areas or local shops and restaurants. One of its most beautiful features is the canals. In the summer – and sometimes even in the spring and early autumn – you’ll find the canals very busy as the Dutch love to spend warm days cruising on their boats. While visiting this city, you can also either rent a small boat for a tour or pay for a tour on one of the bigger, tourist boats.
Best Places to Eat
There are also a number of floating restaurants in Leiden where you can sit and enjoy a meal under the warm sun. The Vlot is famous for its cold and hot beverages and snacks, as well as its waterfront terrace. Annie’s, the other floating restaurant, is popular for its large-quantity and delicious meals. However, if you prefer to prepare your own meals, you can stop by the Leiden Street Market where you can buy some fresh meat and vegetables which are sourced daily from the local farms. It is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 am in the morning until 5 pm in the afternoon. Here, you can also sample different types of cheese and the New Dutch Herring, which the Dutch love to eat raw in a bun, or as a snack alongside chopped onions.
Must See Beaches in The Hague
The Hague is most popular for its beaches. There are two main ones: Scheveningen Beach and Kijkduin Beach. They are both only a bus ride away from The Hague Centraal Station, but can also be accessed by tram. A number of hotels are located right by the beach, which gives the hotel guests quick access to the beaches. There are also a number of restaurants located at the beachfront, selling a variety of local and international beverages and cuisines. Aside from visiting the beach, you can also stop by Spui, also known as the city center, for some retail therapy. You will find many popular chain stores located here such as H&M, Primark, Zara, River Island, and Topshop.
Things to do
For a more extensive shopping experience, you can head to Rotterdam. Here you’ll even find American chain stores such as Forever 21, which will give you a lot more variety in terms of choice. In both The Hague and Rotterdam you’ll also find a branch of the American fast food restaurant, Five Guys which specializes in French fries and beef burgers. Out of the three cities, Rotterdam is considered to be the most modern. After it was bombed by the Germans in 1940 and almost completely destroyed, it was rebuilt from scratch. It now boasts modern, artistic architecture including floating buildings in different parts of the city. Many of these architectural highlights, such as the cube houses pictured above can be found in Rotterdam Blaak. To add to its unique skyline, Rotterdam is also known for the Erasmus Bridge that connects the northern part of the city to the southern part. Some buses and trams use this bridge, allowing their passengers to get a good view of the two sides of the city at the same time.
Top Hostels in Rotterdam
A great place to stay while in Rotterdam is the CityHub. It's the perfect balance between a hostel and a hotel – which means you get the privacy of your own room as well as clean showers and toilets at very reasonable prices. It's located on the Witte de Withstraat, where you can also find a number of bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink or a meal. CityHub is also located only about a fifteen-minute walk from the shopping area and there are bus stops as well as metro stations within easy reach. From here you can get transport to other parts of the city, including to Rotterdam Centraal Station.
Highly Recommended Places to Visit
Keukenhof and Kinderdijk
If you’re in the Netherlands during the spring, be sure to visit Lisse, where you’ll find fields of row upon row of tulips of all colors. Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens, is also located here. Inside it, you’ll find a wide range of garden styles to admire as well as a number of stands selling refreshments. A few feet outside the garden, you'll find a bike rental company where you can rent a bike and cycle through the Lisse tulip fields. There are direct buses to Lisse from Schiphol, Haarlem, and Leiden. Kinderdijk is also worth a visit in the spring or at summertime. It’s a small village in the south of Holland with the largest number of 18th-century windmills. Here again, bicycles are available to rent to enable visitors to cycle through the village and fully immerse themselves into the community's culture. Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands has long been the main attraction for tourists visiting the country. However, there's so much else to do in this country with a diverse range of attractions if you are able to resist the draw of the crowds making their way to the capital. Instead, take some time out to visit some other parts of the country such as those described in this article. I'm confident that you'll enjoy exploring them just as much – if not more.