Five Places to Visit in the Netherlands that Aren’t Amsterdam

Escape Amsterdam’s crowds and head instead to these five lesser-known Dutch destinations

Amsterdam (or, at least, its outer edges) might have made our 2023 destinations to watch list but in keeping with our resolution to travel for longer, and more intentionally, whenever we jump on the Eurostar to visit the Dutch capital this year, it'll be with a notepad full of plans to venture beyond its borders. Compact and well-connected, the Netherlands is made for city-hopping - and these lesser-known outposts in the lowlands are just as clued-up on culture, design and creative cuisine as Amsterdam. Forget clogs, tulips and windmills: the five destinations we've picked are as cool as the capital itself.

Five of our favourite under-the-radar Dutch destinations

Nijmegen, Netherlands


Don't let the whimsical Dutch architecture and cobblestone streets fool you: Nijmegen might be the Netherlands' oldest city, but its sustainable prowess is very much of this century. Explore on two wheels, coasting along the 60km of cycling highways that run through the university town. First stop on a pedal-powered tour? Lange Hezelstraat, a storied shopping district home to numerous independent boutiques, including vintage haven Le Petit Rêve, homeware emporium Dille & Kamille and - where the road merges onto Burchtstraat - sustainable department store Het Duurzame Warenhuis. Stock up on Dutch-made vegan cosmetics, then head across town to the budget-friendly, hostel-style Hotel Nimma. It's not particularly luxurious, but you can save your pennies for a forest-foraged dinner at the three-starred (one of which is green) Restaurant De Nieuwe Winkel, a leader in the city's sustainable dining scene.

Red Devils, Almere, Netherlands
Photo credit: Pavlo Glazkov /


Notice something fresh-faced about Almere? This is the newest city in the Netherlands, a metropolis conceived in the late 20th century as part of the world's largest land reclamation project. Ergo, striking and colourful contemporary architecture abounds, thanks to a forward-thinking planning consensus that gave architects free reign. Located in Flevoland, a 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam, Almere embraces its innovative origins: spot the minimalist De Kunstlinie Cultural Centre, The Wave, a scaly-faced, zinc-clad apartment building, and the iridescent angles of the La Defense office complex on an architecture tour through the city centre. Then, head out to the Regenboogbuurt suburb to spy its three scarlet, grain silo-like apartment blocks, the Red Devils, before taking a 20-minute stroll to Buitenkans, a sustainable housing project from the 1990s conceived with anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner's unique philosophy of cosmic inspiration in mind. For a design-focused stay, consider Hotel Finn.

Eindhoven, Netherlands


Situated in the south of the country, less than an hour-and-a-half by train from Amsterdam, this modish city has garnered a reputation for its design credentials, gritty green vibe and all-hours nightlife. Considered the Netherlands' centre of industry, the city now pairs techie know-how with a reputation for choice design. Manufacturing is still present, but old factory buildings are as likely to house galleries, indie businesses and community-driven projects as they are production lines. Discover a leading collection of contemporary European art at Van Abbemuseum (think more Picasso and Kandinsky than Hirst and Emin), explore boundary-pushing works at MU Hybrid Art House and witness the brilliance of Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek at his workshop, showroom, shop, hotel and restaurant. Elsewhere, a still-in-use roundabout has been transformed into an ever-evolving, open-air graffiti showcase, the Berenkuil. For a concise encapsulation of the city's urban transformation, head to the Strijp-S district. This former industrial park, once a working plant for electronics company Philips, now houses natural wine bar Ketelhuis, a 700sq m bouldering wall at climbing gym Monk and the vast city skatepark Area 51.

Domburg, The Netherlands


Who knew the Netherlands had such beautiful beaches? We didn't. The country has over 230km of coastline, and 75 per cent of it consists of porcelain-white beaches and grass-tufted dunes. Domburg, just a three-hour train ride from Amsterdam, is one of the country's oldest and prettiest seaside resorts, with looks that have enticed European artists past and present. Jacoba van Heemskerck, Lodewijk Schelfhout and Piet Mondrian all put their paintbrushes to canvas in an attempt to capture the "Zeeland light": you can spot it at work in swoon-worthy sunsets above Domburg's jolly beach huts. A walk along the In het licht van Toorop en Mondriaan trail will let you delve deeper into the artistic connections of the coast. Otherwise, we'd book into the hot tub-equipped Royal Suite at the biophilic Duinhotel Tien Torens (one tiny town over), then hire a bike and make like the Dutch, pedalling through the Manteling, a biodiverse seaside forest behind the beach.

Gouda, Netherlands


The Netherlands isn't lacking in historic old cities jam-packed with canals, windmills, gothic architecture and stroopwafel stalls, but Gouda? It's a cut above the rest. Home to the eponymous cheese, which has been made here since 1184, the South Holland city is delightfully dairy-obsessed (there's a Gouda Cheese Experience, a Gouda Cheese Museum and a weekly summer cheese market for those inclined to gorge), but its culinary prowess extends beyond the wheel. In the Middle Ages, this was the lowlands' beer capital, and it never lost its taste for a good brew. You can sample the surrounding region's hop offering from biercafé De Goudse Eend's 140-strong menu. You'll also find old-fashioned Dutch pubs - like Kamphuisen - famed for their hearty local fare (waffle desserts, guaranteed), and modern, seasonal menus at contemporary spots around town. Our favourite is De Kleischuur. Sated? Roll down to the 25-key Weeshuis Gouda, a recently opened hotel located within a renovated 16th-century orphanage. Here's hoping for a sleep free from cheese-induced nightmares.

A colourful aparthotel bedroom with wood floors and raw concrete ceiling
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