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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
(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.