The Netherlands might be a small country but it packs in plenty of culture from some of the world's most famous painters, while its famously flat lands host beautiful cities and stunning engineering marvels. Moreover, there’s plenty in the way of classy architecture, fashionable hangouts and captivating greenery to explore. As the on-track action returns, so does our travel guide from our Global Luxury Luggage Partner Globe-Trotter to help you make the most of a trip to the Netherlands.
What is the Netherlands' most impressive achievement?
The Netherlands' constant tussles with the water have shaped this seafaring nation. The constant onslaught of the waves and the low-lying Dutch lands have done battle over the centuries and changed the country beyond recognition. New land has been created as marsh was drained, birthing these unique 'polders' where farms and even towns sit on what was once water.
After the devastating North Sea Floods of the 1950s a series of massive dams, dykes, sluices and causeways was finally built along the western sea coasts to protect places just like Zandvoort from the onset of the waves – and the results are remarkable. Don't miss a visit to the Delta Works, modern marvels of engineering.
Want to explore the most beautiful city in the country?
In the far north of the country, away from the tourist hordes, sits the city that connoisseurs of this little land know and love. Groningen is perfection. The cobbled streets lead over canals and into the main square with its church that survived extremely heavy fighting in World War II as Canadian troops pushed through to liberate the city and end the German occupation.
Groningen is a university town with handsome colleges and many students riding their bikes between book shops and bars. The young demographic supports legendary music venues like Vera, which is one of the host spots for the annual Eurosonic festival. The city's museum is one of the key post-modern architectural works in Europe: an absolute riot of colours, shapes and knowing references to the past that stuns you as you walk from the train station into town.
Where can you see the best interior design?
The Hoxton has nailed the mix of modern and mid-century that makes you wonder on exactly what date the hotel opened – but elevates that timeless appeal. The aesthetic is carefree yet classy and will certainly impress for meetings, dinners, dates or whether you just want to surround yourself in quirky style – this is of course the chain that brought us the world's smallest cinema in Williamsburg, where When Harry Met Sally is often on repeat at the two-seat auditorium.
The Dutch design is from AIME Studio and local designers Nicemakers. The Herengracht Hotel is settling into itself as a destination in the centre of Amsterdam and the new addition Lloyd, which opened on 21 August, will be bringing Hoxton style to Docks, taking over a 1920s building. The restaurants – Breman Brasserie in Lloyd and Lotti's at Herengracht – are naturally easy on the eye too.
How can you discover the most surprising city in the Netherlands?
From the history of St Catherine's Church to the quirky 1966 science museum Evoluon built by Philips, who made the town a fortune, Eindhoven has plenty of surprises in store. One of its hippest hangouts at the moment is the Piet Ein Eek Hotel from the eponymous designer and is set in a former electronics factory. Don’t miss the greenery of the pretty Stadswandelpark.
Where can I soak in the atmosphere of a classy establishment?
The 'Kras' is the grandest of old Amsterdam dames. A hotel for more than 155 years, The Anantara Krasnapolsky has been sitting pretty on Dam Square witnessing the ebbs and flows of Dutch history. And throughout that time, it has been providing high quality hospitality to guests.
Recently refurbished and looking splendid once more, its Wintergarden is a historic haven from the big city bustle. The Tailor Bar is the perfect place for refined pre-dinner drinks. And the White Room offers the finest of fine dining helmed by triple Michelin-starred celebrity chef Jan Boerma.
Where can you find the coolest hang outs and most intriguing modern architecture?
Swap touristy Amsterdam for the cool city of Rotterdam and you won't regret it. This port town has sass, surprises and plenty of sights. The old dock buildings are fascinating in their own right but many have become arts and dining venues.
There's a bunch of new skyscrapers that dominate the city, helmed by DeRotterdam, designed by fabled Dutch modernist architect Rem Koolhaas. It contains, among other things, the city's cool NHow Hotel and was, for a time, the largest building in the country. The 1977 yellow Cube Houses by Piet Blom are another quirky architectural sight.
Rotterdam has a plethora of bars and restaurants, and you can also check out the various eco projects that dot the city on bike trails – like floating parks and wooden bridges.
Where can you head for a nightcap?
The quirky bar at the Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam is regarded as one of Europe's best. Super Lyan comes from London's negroni-slinger and renowned cocktail bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, who goes by the name of Mr Lyan. The bar’s 80s neon aesthetic even continues into the drinks.
If you're hungry, Celia next door offers a menu of modern Californian fare that feels straight out of Silverlake.
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