There are few dishes that can be described as quintessentially
Dutch, and those that do fall into this category
are a far cry from the elaborate creations of Italian or French
Many of the larger towns have a wide range of restaurants
specialising in their own brands of international dishes and
include American, Balkan, British, Chinese, French, German,
Italian and Spanish. Indonesian cuisine, a result of the Dutch
colonisation of the East Indies, with its use of spices and
exotic ingredients, is particularly delicious.
A typical Dutch breakfast usually consists of several varieties
of bread, thin slices of Dutch cheese, prepared meats and
sausage, butter and jam or honey and often includes a boiled
A working lunch would be koffietafel, once
again with breads, various cold cuts, cheese and conserves.
There will often be a side dish of omelette, cottage pie and
salad. The most common daytime snack are broodjes
(sandwiches) and are served in the ubiquitous sandwich bars,
broodjeswinkels. Filled pancakes are also
very popular. Lightly salted ‘green’ herring can
be bought from street stalls (they are held by the tail and
slipped down into the throat).
More substantial dishes are generally reserved by the Dutch
themselves for the evening meal and inlude, erwtensoep (thick
pea soup served with smoked sausage, cubes of bacon, pig’s
knuckle and brown or white bread), groentensoep (clear consommé
with vegetables, vermicelli and meatballs), hutspot (potatoes,
carrots and onions), klapstuk (an accompaniment of stewed
lean beef) and boerenkool met rookworst (frost-crisped kale
and potatoes served with smoked sausage).
Seafood dishes are often excellent, particularly in Amsterdam
or Rotterdam, and include gebakken zeetong (fried sole), lekkerbekjes
(fried whiting), royal imperial oysters, shrimps, mussels,
lobster and eel (smoked, filleted and served on toast or stewed
Favourite Dutch desserts include flensjes or pannekoeken (25
varieties of Dutch pancake), wafels met slagroom (waffles
with whipped cream), offertje (small dough balls fried and
dusted with sugar) and spekkoek (alternate layers of heavy
buttered sponge and spices from Indonesia), which translated
means ‘bacon cake’. Restaurants usually have table
service. Bars and cafes generally have the same, though some
Coffee, tea, chocolate and fruit juice are drunk at breakfast.
The local spirit is jenever (Dutch gin), normally taken straight
and chilled as a chaser with a glass of beer, but it is sometimes
drunk with cola or vermouth. Favoured brands are Bols, Bokma,
Claeryn and De Kuyper.
Dutch beer is excellent. It is a light, gassy pils type beer,
always served chilled in small (slightly under half a pint)
glasses. The most popular brand in Amsterdam is Amstel. Imported
beers are also available, as are many other alcoholic beverages.
Dutch liqueurs are excellent and include Curaçao, Parfait
d’Amour, Triple Sec (similar to Cointreau) and Dutch-made
versions of crème de menthe, apricot brandy and anisette.
There are no licensing laws and drink can be bought all day.
Bars open later and stay open until the early hours of the
morning at weekends.
A visit to one of the famous Dutch flower markets
is highly recommended. The best ones are in Amsterdam, where
the famous Bloemenmarkt along the Singel
canal is a major tourist attraction, Delft
and Utrecht. Dutch flower bulbs are available
for sale but it is essential to make sure the vendor sells
them with an official export certificate. The most popular
Dutch flowers are tulips and daffodils.
There are also various colourful flower parades (corso), notably
the Bollenstreek flower parade (the country’s biggest).
Many parades display spectacular flower ‘floats’
made of hyacinths, daffodils and daliahs. The Floriade, held
every 10 years in The Netherlands, is one of the world’s
most famous flower exhibitions. Last held in 2002 (from mid-April
to mid-October), the city of Haarlemmermeer hosted this prestigious
horticultural event. Visitors may also visit one of the country’s
unique flower auctions, such as the ones in Aalsmeer (easy
to reach from Amsterdam) and the ‘Flower Auction Holland’
near The Hague and Rotterdam in the Westland. The country’s
traditional cheese market is held in Alkmaar, every Friday
from 1000-1200, from mid-April to mid-September.
The larger cities have sophisticated nightclubs and discos,
but late opening bars and cafes are just as popular within
the provincial towns. There are theatres and cinemas in all
Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan
city, with some of the liveliest nightlife in Europe. There
are legal casinos in Amsterdam, Breda, Eindhoven, Den Haag,
Groningen, Nymegen, Rotterdam, Scheveningen, which claims
to have the largest in Europe, Valkenburg and Zandvoort and
all have an age limit of over 18 (passports
must be shown).
Special purchases include Delft (between
The Hague and Rotterdam) blue pottery and pottery from Makkum
and Workum, costume dolls, silverware from Schoonhoven,
glass and crystal from Leerdam and diamonds
Monday 1100 hrs-1800 hrs, Tuesday-Friday 0900 hrs-1800
hrs, Saturday 0900 hrs-1700 hrs.
In Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other big cities, supermarkets
are generally open from 0800 hrs-2000 hrs/2100 hrs.
In large city centres, shops are open Sunday 1200 hrs-1700
hrs. Shopping malls are also open on Sunday. Some cities also
have late-night shopping on Thursdays or Fridays.
Note: Bulbs and plants may not be exported
except by commercial growers, or by individuals with a health
certificate from the Plant Disease Service.
For a complete list of events and festivals held in The Netherlands,
contact the Press and Public Relations Officer at The Royal
Netherlands Embassy or The Netherlands Board of Tourism (see
Contact Addresses section).
is a selection of special events occurring in Netherlands
Jan 26th-Feb 6th
(parades throughout the country)
Besar (largest Eurasian festival in the world),
| Jul 8th-10th
||North Sea Jazz Festival,
|| Kwakoe Zomer
Festival (multicultural festival), Amsterdam
| Aug 3rd-7th
||Amsterdam Gay Pride
(and Canal Parade)
|Aug 26th-Sep 4th
(biggest horse and cattle market in Western Europe),
It is customary to shake hands on greeting. English is spoken
as a second language by many and is willingly used and many
Dutch people will also speak German and French.
Hospitality is very much the same as for the rest of Europe
and the USA. It is customary to take a small gift if invited
for a meal.
Casual wear is widely acceptable. Men are expected to wear
a suit for business and social functions. Formal wear may
be required for smart restaurants, bars and clubs. Evening
dress (black tie for men) is generally specified on invitation.
Tipping: All hotels and restaurants
include 15 per cent service and VAT. It is customary to leave
small change when paying a bill. €0,5-1,00 is usual for
porters, doormen and taxi drivers. Hairdressers and barbers
have inclusive service prices.