Occupying a particularly historical corner of Western Europe, the Netherlands holds its fair share of historic treasures within its compact borders. From the times of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages and countless wars to the present, this country has many sites waiting to be discovered by the intrepid traveler.
With farmland that has been tended to for close to 2,000 years, historic districts that have either survived bombardment in the wars of the 20th century or have been lovingly restored, and a people that values their existence, there are places here that you shouldn’t miss in the Netherlands on your next Euro trip.
Even if you only have a few days in this tiny Low Country, these three historical attractions in the Netherlands will have you coming away from this place feeling like you did it justice on your first visit. Let’s explore them together!
Tour the classic windmills of Kinderdijk
If there’s one icon that people inevitably associate with the Netherlands, it’s the windmill, and we’re not talking about the modern variety that generates renewable energy. Our minds instead take us back to the days where their wooden precursors provided the necessary energy to pump water out of the surrounding land, as the nearby river and high water table had caused problems with soaking wet fields in prior centuries.
One of the windmills in the Kinderdijk area, recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance to the history of the Netherlands, can be viewed from the inside (Museummolen), and rest can be viewed from their exteriors via a leisurely bike ride through the pancake-flat countryside that dominates much of the area.
Visit the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam
The worst wars in the history of humanity raged through much of the first half of the 20th century, and in Europe, the Netherlands was in the middle of it all. The nation fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, and suffered on a much larger scale than neighboring nations when it came to the horror of the Holocaust, as it lost 75% of its Jewish population. Anne Frank and her family were among those targeted, but they managed to hide from the Gestapo for most of the war thanks to their sympathetic neighbors. They hid them in a series of hidden rooms at the rear of a canal house in the middle of Amsterdam, which concealed them for two years until an anonymous tipster blew their cover.
Thanks to the popularity of Anne Frank’s diary that has found amidst the strewn remains of their former hiding spot, this space eventually became the Anne Frank Museum, which expands more on her and families’ lives, and has exhibits that tell the story of other persecuted peoples around the world.
Walk the medieval streets of Utrecht
Founded as a fort by the Roman Empire in 47 AD, Utrecht has a lengthy history that tells its story visually via the copious quantities of medieval era buildings found within its city limits. The Dom Tower, built in the 13th century, is the tallest church steeple in the nation, with the view from its 112 metre high perch being nothing short of breathtaking. On the other end of the scale, one of the world’s first houses built in the modernist style (Rietveld Schroder House, built in 1924) can be seen here, a fact which speaks to the diversity of structures in this vibrant Dutch city.