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Last updated : Nov 2009
North Netherlands
North Netherlands - Travelpuppy.com
Friesland

The province of Friesland in the northwest of the country has its own distinct culture and language. A big part of the marshlands along the North Sea coast have been reclaimed from the sea. Friesian cattle are among the most famous inhabitants of the area. The Friesian lake district in the southern part of the state centres on the town of Sneek, and is a good place for watersports, particularly yachting.

Close to Sneek is the small town of Bolsward, which has a magnificent Renaissance Town Hall. Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland, has several old buildings and the Friesian Museum, probably the most important provincial museum in the country.

Some 6km (4 miles) to the west is the village of Marssum, which has a 16th-century manor house. There are daily ferry connections with four of the Friesian Islands and a chain of museums on the Aldfaer’s Erf Route. The Hollandse and Friesian Islands, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling, Texel and Vlieland, on which there are bird sanctuaries and areas of outstanding natural beauty, lie north of the mainland.

Groningen

The agricultural province of Groningen is well-known for its fortified country houses dating back to the 14th century. The provincial capital, Groningen, is commercially the most important town in the north of The Netherlands, as well as being a major cultural centre. The city suffered considerable damage during World War II, but many of the 16th and 18th century buildings have been restored.

Drenthe

This is a province of extensive cycle paths, prehistoric monuments particularly in the area of the village of Havelte, and Saxon villages. The region is almost entirely agricultural, much of the land being drained by the system of weiks and venns. The main town, Assen, set in an area of woodlands, was an insignificant village until the middle of the last century, and has no historical monuments. The Provincial Museum is, however, worth a visit. There are also several Megalithic tombs located to the south and southwest of the town.

The Hague and Zuid Holland

The Hague (Den Haag, officially known as ’s-Gravenhage), the seat of the Dutch government, is home to over 60 foreign embassies, the International Court of Justice and the capital of the province of Zuid-Holland.

The Hague has earned the city an unwarranted reputation for being dull and sterile, but in fact The Hague is well worth visiting and boasts a number of attractions. The central part of the Old Town is the Binnenhof, an irregular group of buildings surrounding an open space.

The seaside resort of Scheveningen, which has the country’s only pier, is a nearby suburb. Walking around the old parts of town is a joy in itself, the local tourist office publishes a map that opens up the city and also includes most of the 150 antique shops in The Hague.

The Parliament Buildings and Knight’s Hall are 13th-century buildings where there are regular tours and slide shows that illuminate their history, while the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, housed in the Mauritshuis, is a collection that includes the Anatomical Lesson of Dr Tulp by Rembrandt, and other 17th-century Dutch works.

Other attractions include the Gemeentemusem, a recently renovated municipal museum that houses an interesting collection of modern art as well as interactive displays illustrating a wide range of subjects, the Puppet Museum, with its old and new puppets, the antique market at the Lange Voorhout, the Duinoord district built in the style of old Dutch architecture; the Haagse Bos wooded park, the 17th-century Nieuwe Kerk, and the Royal Library.

On the outskirts of the city is one of Europe’s most unusual attractions: Madurodam Miniature Town is a playground for the young and not so young alike, a scale model (1:5) of a typical Dutch landscape, complete with houses, motorways and even fire-fighting boats extinguishing real fires. Adjacent to Madurodam is Sand World, a recently opened collection of sand sculptures. Another bizarre local attraction is the Panorama Mesdag, the largest panoramic circular painting in the world, create by the artist Mesdag amongst others, and famous for its perfect optical illusion.

Zuid-Holland

About 22km (14 miles) southeast of Rotterdam and about 45km (28 miles) southeast of The Hague is Kinderdijk, near Alblasserdam, a good place to see the windmills. They can be visited during the week.

Delft, centre of the Dutch pottery industry and world famous for its blue hand-painted ceramics, is roughly midway between Rotterdam and The Hague.

Gouda, 20km (12 miles) southeast of Rotterdam, is famous for its cheese market and the Candlelight Festival in December. The town centre is dominated by the massive late-Gothic Town Hall. Nearby is the pretty old town of Oudewater, noted for its beautiful 17th-century gabled houses. Northwest of Gouda by 12km (7 miles) is the town of Boskoop, renowned for its fruit trees, a visit during the blossom season is a delightful experience.

Dordrecht, 15km (9 miles) southeast of Rotterdam and about 37km (23 miles) southeast of The Hague, was an important port until a flood in 1421 reduced the economic importance of the town. The museum in the city has a good collection of paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, while the most striking building is probably the Grote Kerk, begun in about 1305.

Leiden (20km (12 miles) northeast of The Hague, 40km (25 miles) north of Rotterdam), the birthplace of Rembrandt, was a famous weaving town during the Middle Ages, and played a large part in the wars of independence against Spain during the 16th century. The university was founded by William the Silent in 1575 in return for the city’s loyalty. The Pilgrim Fathers lived here for 10 years (1610-1620) and The Pilgrim Fathers’ Documentation Centre in Boisotkade (Vliet 45) has many artefacts, records and paintings dating from the period of their stay in the city. The town also boasts one of the most charming windmills in the country, located in a park overlooking the water.