Tourism in the Netherlands

In 2014 the Netherlands was visited by 13.9 million foreign tourists, with nearly 4 million coming from Germany.[1] In 2012, the Dutch tourism industry contributed 5.4% in total to the country's GDP and 9.6% in total to its employment. With its global ranking of 147th and 83rd place for total contribution to respectively GDP and employment, tourism is a relatively small sector of the Dutch economy.[2]

Arrivals by country

Most visitors arriving to the Netherlands on short term basis in 2014 were from the following countries of nationality:[3]

Rank Country Number
1 Germany 3,894,000
2 United Kingdom 1,857,000
3 Belgium 1,828,000
4 United States 991,000
5 France 725,000
6 Italy 503,000
7 Spain 406,000
8  Switzerland 256,000
9 China 249,000
10 Russia 196,000
Total foreign 13,925,000


Major citys


Queen's Day in Amsterdam.
Aerial view of the Canals.

Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year.[4] The most important museums of Amsterdam are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square), at the southwestern side of the Rijksmuseum. Considered to be the cultural and financial capital of the country, Amsterdam is known for its historic canals, which earned it the monniker Venice of the North, as well as a host of historic buildings and state of the art facilities.[5][6] Amsterdam is famous for its vibrant and diverse nightlife centred around the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein. The Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugar Factory are cultural centres, which turn into discothèques at night.

Main sights and events of interest include:


Rotterdam seen from the Meuse.
Rotterdam Centraal railway station.

The city of Rotterdam is known for the Erasmus University, its riverside setting, lively cultural life and maritime heritage. The near-complete destruction of Rotterdam's city centre during World War II has resulted in a varied architectural landscape including skyscrapers, which are an uncommon sight in other Dutch cities. Rotterdam is home to some world-famous architecture by renowned architects like Rem Koolhaas, Piet Blom, and Ben van Berkel, and was voted 2015 European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism.[7] The port of Rotterdam is the largest cargo port in Europe, and its extensive distribution system including rail, roads and waterways has earned Rotterdam the nickname "Gateway to Europe", and conversely "Gateway to the World" in Europe.[8][9][10]

Main sights and events of interest include:


Dom Tower of Utrecht and city centre at night.
Entrance of the Railroad Museum.

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and was the most important city in the northern Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, which is reflected in its ancient city centre which features many buildings and structures, several dating back to the High Middle Ages. The centre of the city houses the Oudegracht, a curved canal lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals.[12] Utrecht has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century, and houses both the Archbishop of Utrecht and the offices of the Dutch Reformed Church[13][14] As such Utrecht's cityscape is dominated by churches and other clerical buildings, the largest of which is the Dom Tower, the tallest belfry in the Netherlands.[15] Partly due to the presence of Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, the city has a vibrant night life.

Main sights and events of interest include:

The Hague

The Hague's Binnenhof with the Hofvijver.
The Golden Coach on Prinsjesdag.

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State.[18] King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands lives at the Huis ten Bosch and works at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, together with Queen Máxima. Most foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major host cities of the United Nations, along with New York and Geneva. The district of Scheveningen, formerly an independent village, is known for its modern seaside resort with a long sandy beach, esplanade, pier and historic lighthouse. The beach is popular for water sports such as windsurfing and kiteboarding.[19]

Main sights and events of interest include:

Historic cities

The Netherlands has many historic cities, which include:

City, province Coat of arms Known for
Nijmegen, Gelderland • Historic old town, former imperial residence of the Holy Roman Empire and member of the Hanseatic league.
• Ancient Roman remains .
Valkhof museum, focussing on Roman and medieval history.
Velorama, a bicycle museum.
Four Days Marches, the largest marching event in the world.
Bergen op Zoom, North Brabant • The fortified city of Bergen op Zoom has existed for over 800 years. Bergen op Zoom, this is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands . Bergen op Zoom has more than 800 historic buildings that form a unique backdrop to many shops, cafes and cozy restaurants. The narrow streets and old squares around the monuments around to tell you the story of a rich and eventful life . The center has more than 600 monuments, of which over 200 are on the monument list. The most striking monument is the Markiezenhof , the former residential palace of the Lords and Marquises of Bergen op Zoom. Today the Markiezenhof is used as a museum.
Delft, South Holland • Historic old town.
Delft Blue pottery.
Nieuwe Kerk, the traditional burial place of the Dutch Royal Family and the second tallest church tower of the country.
Het Prinsenhof, urban palace where William of Orange was murdered, now a museum.
's-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant • Historic old town, including the Binnendieze the medieval canal system through and below the city.
St. John's Cathedral, considered to be the zenith of Gothic architecture in the Netherlands.
• Yearly carnival celebrations.
Bossche bol, a famous local pastry.
Brielle, South Holland • The history of Brielle as a city goes way back, when Brielle was elevated. The City got officially city rights in 1330. In 1418 the city was equipped with wooden vests, which were demolished in times of trouble to make fire beacons. Clay lining the walls arose after 1450.

Brielle, also called Den Briel, has been immortalized in the Dutch language in many proverbs, ways of speaking and songs. Almost all of them refer to the events of April 1, 1572, when the Beggars took Brielle 'in the name of Orange'. The Spaniards lost thus for the first time their authority in a Dutch town. After the Beggars quite easily had captured Brielle, they started replacing the medieval city walls by a modern fortress. This process of renewal and replacement would last until 1713. In that year, the fortress came to completion. Since then, little has changed at the fortress, allowing the defense, which is among the most important water and land fortifications in the Netherlands, still breathe the atmosphere of that time.

Maastricht, Limburg • Historic old town, containing 1677 national heritage sites.[20]
Sint Servaasbrug, medieval stone footbridge across the Meuse river.
Basilica of Our Lady, largest Romanesque church of the Netherlands, built in the 11th century.
Bonnefanten Museum, a fine arts museum containing focussing on Early Dutch, Golden Age and Flemish Baroque paintings.
Leiden, South Holland • Historic old town, including medieval canals and Gravensteen, a 13th-century fortress.
Naturalis, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
Leiden University, the oldest university of the Netherlands.
Hortus botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the National Museum of Antiquities.
Breda, North Brabant • Historic old town.
Breda Castle, traditional headquarters of the Royal Dutch Army and Koninklijke Militaire Academie.
Grote Kerk, large medieval church built in the Brabantine Gothic style.
Dordrecht, South Holland • Holland's oldest city is situated on wide rivers and lets you enjoy numerous monuments, historic inner harbors and above all a great atmosphere. Walking or driving through the city, visit the Great Church and the Court, roam museum Huis van Gijn, watch your eyes to the many art and antique shops and meet Dutch masters in the Dordrecht Museum.

Dordrecht could develop the strategic location at the crossing of rivers in the Middle Ages to a flourishing trade city. The lively trade in timber, grain and wine attracted merchants and craftsmen from far beyond the city limits. The rich past is still palpable when you walk along the Old Town harbors, monuments, winding streets and walks of Dordrecht rivers. Not to be missed are the Grote Kerk, the critically acclaimed collection of paintings of the Dordrecht Museum, the beautiful interiors of the old mansion house of Gijn and the thirteenth-century Augustinian monastery Court.

Enkhuizen, North Holland • Historic old town.
• Former harbour-town of the Dutch East India Company.
Zuiderzee Museum, an open-air museum dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Zuiderzee-region.
Gouda, South Holland • Historic old town.
Traditional Dutch cheese market.
• 15th century Town Hall, one of the oldest Gothic Halls in the Netherlands.
• Traditional foods, including Stroopwafels and Gouda cheese.
Alkmaar, North Holland • Historic old town.
• Traditional Dutch cheese market.
• The only remainining functional Waag of the country.
Groningen, Groningen • Historic old town.
• Near the coast of the Wadden Sea, the only natural world heritage site of the country.
Amersfoort, Utrecht • Historic old town.
• The ancient Koppelpoort, part of the city wall
• The Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren, the third tallest church tower of the country.
Haarlem, North Holland • Historic old town.
• The Grote Markt square with the Grote Kerk.
• Near the popular seaside resort of Zandvoort


National Parks

The Netherlands has 20 national parks, consisting of natural terrains, water and/or forests, with a special landscape and flora and fauna.

The flowers of the Keukenhof garden


The tourism industry of the Netherlands is focused on North Holland, where the country's largest airport Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located. Given the relatively small size of the Netherlands, it is easily possible to travel to locations in South Holland within an hour. These two provinces constitute the majority of the densely populated Randstad, where the largest cities are located. The other provinces of the Netherlands are much less popular with foreign tourists[21] and do not have as many tourist attractions. With a long coastline along the North Sea and its many lakes, the Netherlands offers plenty of opportunities for water sports and beach recreation.

North Holland

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
The Ridderzaal in The Hague
View of Delft
Entrance to the Efteling
Bascule bridge at the Netherlands Open Air Museum

In North Holland the capital Amsterdam is the most visited city of the Netherlands, with 4.3 million foreign hotel guests.[22] It is home to the three most frequently visited museums of the country, respectively the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.[21] Several times a week events are being organized in the capital, like on Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square. For instance there is a National Tulip Day each year in January. Amsterdam's canal rings are a World Heritage Site.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries which tolerates the consumption of cannabis and has legalized prostitution. This has made Amsterdam a popular destination for drug tourists. According to research, 22.5% of tourists in Amsterdam have visited cannabis coffee shops. The city's red light district called De Wallen was visited by 20% of tourists.[23]

North of Amsterdam are the windmills of Zaanse Schans, as well as two former fishing villages, Volendam and Marken. These villages are frequented by tourists for their appeal to traditional life. Alkmaar is known for its cheese market and old center. To the southeast of Amsterdam lies the Muiderslot, a castle. Further to the southeast is the town of Naarden, with its very well-preserved star fort. To the west lies Haarlem, the province's capital, a city notable for its historical legacy and old city center. Once important for its production of paintings, many of these are now exhibited in the Frans Hals Museum. West of Haarlem is the seaside resort of Zandvoort, which has an automobile racing circuit.

South Holland

In South Holland lies the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. In 2013 it had 849,000 visitors, of whom 80% were foreign tourists.[24] Because the garden is only open for a few weeks during the spring, it receives the highest number of visitors of all Dutch attractions on a weekly basis. A system of 19 windmills at Kinderdijk forms the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands and is designated as a World Heritage Site.

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch Government and the Dutch royal house. The Binnenhof and the Ridderzaal are government buildings which can be visited. Close by is the Mauritshuis, an important art museum. Scheveningen is known for its beach and Madurodam, a miniature park. Leiden, north of The Hague, possesses an extensive historical center, as well as Naturalis and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, respectively the national museums of natural history and archaeology in the Netherlands. The Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Further north are Noordwijk and Katwijk, both popular seaside resorts. The latter also has a narrow gauge railway museum.

To the south of The Hague lies Delft, which is known for its pottery and old center. The sole remaining pottery factory in Delft, De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, can be visited. Also in the town is the Prinsenhof, now a museum of William the Silent, the founder of the modern Netherlands. Further south is Dordrecht, which also has a historic center.


Utrecht, the capital of the province of Utrecht, is one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands. One can climb the Dom Tower of Utrecht, the tallest church tower of the Netherlands at 112.5 metres (369 feet). The city is also home to the Netherlands Railway Museum, housed in a former station, and the Musical Clock Museum. Kasteel de Haar and Slot Zuylen are castles which can be visited.

North Brabant

Near Kaatsheuvel lies Efteling, the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. With 4.1 million visitors in 2011, it is by far the most visited attraction of the Netherlands.[21] In Eindhoven is the Effenaar, a popular music venue that attracts visitors. Den Bosch is a walled city with an old center.


The province of Gelderland is notable for its many castles, such as Slot Loevestein. Het Loo Palace near Apeldoorn served as the residence of the Dutch royal house, but is now a museum open to the public. Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, is a city with a historic center and is famous for the International Four Day March in July. In Arnhem, the province's capital, is the Netherlands Open Air Museum, popular with tourists, while at Oosterbeek nearby is the Airborne Museum, dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.


At low tide one can walk from the mainland of Friesland to the West Frisian Islands, which is called mudflat hiking.


Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland, is a historic city. The province has several seaside resorts including Domburg.

See also


  1. "UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2013 Edition". United Nations World Tourism Organization. Bla. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. "Netherlands Economic Impact Report". World Travel & Tourism Council. Bla. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. Inbound tourism 2014
  4. "Key Figures Amsterdam 2009: Tourism". City of Amsterdam Department for Research and Statistics. 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  5. After Athens in 1888 and Florence in 1986, Amsterdam was in 1986 chosen as the European Capital of Culture, confirming its eminent position in Europe and the Netherlands. See for an overview of the European cities and capitals of culture over the years.
  6., Forbes Global 2000 Largest Companies – Dutch rankings.
  7. "Urbanism Awards: Rotterdam takes top prize". Academy of Urbanism. November 14, 2014.
  8. Jan Walburg (1 August 1984). The port of Rotterdam: Gateway to Europe.
  9. Royal van Gorcum (1998). Dutch Culture in a European Perspective: 1950, prosperity and welfare. "Rotterdam port: Gateway to Europe" (p.151)
  10. European Parliament (2014). Gateway to the World "Gateway to the world: how the EU helped Rotterdam to become Europe's largest port" Check |url= value (help).
  11. "Scheepswerf 'De Delft' official site". Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  12. "Cultuurhistorie en Monumenten". 4 December 1993. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  13. "Aartsbisdom Utrecht" (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  14. "Katholiek Nederland" (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  15. "RonDom". Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  16. "Province Utrecht". p. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  17. "Dom Tower". Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  18. Daum, Andreas (2005). Berlin - Washington, 1800–2000 Capital Cities, Cultural Representation, and National Identities. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13, 38. ISBN 0521841178. Amsterdam is the statuary capital of the Netherlands, while the Dutch government resides in De Hague. (sic) (p. 13) The Dutch seat of government is The Hague but its capital is bustling Amsterdam, the national cultural center. (p. 38)
  19. The Hague Tourist Board page on Scheveningen
  20. MAETN (1999). "diktyo". Archived from the original on October 22, 2005. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  21. 1 2 3 "Toerisme en recreatie in cijfers 2012" (in Dutch). Statistics Netherlands. Blah. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. "Guests and overnight stays in hotels by country of origin, 2011". Municipality of Amsterdam, Department for Research and Statistics. Blah. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. Reeskamp, Libben (4 April 2012). "Amsterdamse toeristenindustrie vreest wietpas" (in Dutch). Follow The Money. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  24. "Keukenhof succes ondanks raar weer" (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
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