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Things to Do in Netherlands

Known for its its tulip fields, windmills, and artistic masters (and on the other side of culture, perhaps the Red Light district and coffee shops), the Netherlands manages to mix decades of culture with a modern, socially liberal atmosphere. The country continues to enchant with its artistic masterpieces, famous tulip fields, and well-known nightlife. Despite its small size, the country hosts endless surprises for visitors to discover—whether it's on a bicycle through the scenic flat landscapes or cruising a canal-boat in radiant Amsterdam. The city of Amsterdam is a legendary place for artists, and locations such as the Rijks and the Van Gogh museum allow visitors to soak up masterpieces by Dutch masters including Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh and Frans Hals. From there, take a canal cruise, stroll through food markets, or have a drink in a laid-back cafe. With a sightseeing tour, one can spot all the unmissable sights such as the Anne Frank museum and the Bloemenmarkt, the vibrant flower auction. To escape the hustle of the city, head to the famous windmill village of Zaanse Schans—only a 20-minute drive away—where craftsmen create the country's well-known wooden clogs. Another half hour away sits the typical dutch village of Edam, known for its classic cheeses.
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Amsterdam Red Light District (De Wallen)
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100 Tours and Activities

Amsterdam’s Red Light District (aka De Wallen) has been a familiar haunt for pleasure seekers since the 14th century. Though certainly not an area for everyone, the Red Light District has more to offer than just sex and liquor. For underneath its promiscuous façade, the area contains some of Amsterdam's prettiest canals, excellent bars and restaurants, and shops of all kinds. It also consists of windows with sexy girls, dressed in eye-popping underwear.

The best places for window-watching are along Oudezijds Achterburgwal and in the alleys around the Oude Kerk (Old Church), particularly to the south. The atmosphere throughout is much more laid-back than in other red-light districts. Families, lawyers, young couples, senior citizens - all types of locals live and socialize here, in stride with the surrounding commerce. You’ll probably find yourself on Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk at some point, both commercial thoroughfares chock-a-block with shops and restaurants.

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Rijksmuseum
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The Rijksmuseum, or National Museum, is the premier art museum of the Netherlands, and no self-respecting visitor to Amsterdam can afford to miss it. Though most of the building is closed for renovations until 2013, key paintings from the museum’s permanent collection can be viewed in the Philips Wing.

The collection includes some 5,000 paintings, most importantly those by Dutch and Flemish masters from the 15th to 19th centuries. The emphasis, naturally, is on the Golden Age. Pride of place is taken by Rembrandt's Nightwatch (1650), showing the militia led by Frans Banning Cocq. Other 17th century Dutch masters include Jan Vermeer (The Milkmaid, and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter), Frans Hals (The Merry Drinker) and Jan Steen (The Merry Family).

Other sections include Sculpture and Applied Art (delftware, dolls' houses, porcelain, furniture), Dutch History and Asiatic Art, including the famous 12th century Dancing Shiva.

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Museum De Lakenhal
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Leiden's Museum De Lakenhal and the building it is housed in (the Laecken-Halle) are considered to be one of the best examples of Dutch Golden Age architecture in the Netherlands. For centuries, the building served as the inspection hall and the bustling center for Leiden's famous fabric trade, the products of which were exported to all corners of the world. The original façade of the 17th-century palace remains intact, although the interior has undergone quite a few changes over the centuries.

The site welcomed the Museum De Lakenhal in 1874, bringing in a diverse collection of works by Leiden-born master painters including Rembrandt van Rijn, Lucas van Leyden and Theo van Doesburg. With a focus on fine arts and Leiden history, the museum hosts visiting exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection.

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Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis)
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It is one of the 20th century's most compelling stories: a young Jewish girl forced into hiding with her family and their friends to escape deportation by the Nazis. The house Otto Frank used as a hideaway for his family kept them safe until close to the end of World War II.

The focus of the Anne Frank House museum is the achterhuis, also known as the secret annex. It was in this dark, airless space that the Franks observed complete silence during the day, before being mysteriously betrayed and sent to their deaths.

The Anne Frank House is pretty much intact, so as you walk through the building, it's easy to imagine Anne’s experience growing up here as she wrote her famous diary describing how restrictions were gradually imposed on Dutch Jews.

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More Things to Do in Netherlands

Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge)

Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge)

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Better known by its affectionate local nickname of “the Swan,” Erasmus Bridge crosses the River Nieuwe Maas with its elegant white spines, constructed in 1996 to link north and south Rotterdam across the harbor. Designed by Ben van Berkel, the bridge is an iconic landmark in Rotterdam, and its 456-foot (139-meter) single pylon supports 32 steel cables from which the half-mile (800 m) roadway is suspended. The southern side of the bridge includes Europe’s heaviest bascule, which lifts in order to let shipping transport through. It’s best seen at close quarters from the water on a harbor tour, from above on the viewing platform of Euromast or from the walking and cycling trails around the Port of Rotterdam.

The Swan is beautifully illuminated at night and often provides an eerie backdrop for Rotterdam’s festivals and fireworks displays. In 2005, several planes flew beneath the bridge as part of the daring “Red Bull Air Race.”

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Amstel River

Amstel River

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Amsterdam might be most famous for its winding canals and pretty locks, but it’s the Amstel River that the city was first built around, even deriving its name from its early settlement at the ‘Amstel Dam’.

Today the river runs through the center of the city, lined with landmark buildings, stately mansions and colorful houseboats. A walk along the riverside pathway takes in a number of key sights: the regal Carré theatre, still a popular performance house; the post-modernist Stopera city hall and opera house, with its contemporary glass facade; and the neo-baroque domes of the St Nicolas church, all face the river front. A number of landmark bridges also cross the river, the most famous of which is the Magere Brug, or the ‘Skinny Bridge’, a white painted bascule bridge, rebuilt in the early 1900s. Don’t miss out on renowned tourist attractions like the Hermitage Museum, the Amsterdam Museum and Waterlooplein, either – all lie along the shores of the Amstel.

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Groninger Museum

Groninger Museum

2 Tours and Activities
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Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

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Art lovers and van Gogh fans must reward themselves with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, one of Amsterdam's must-sees. The museum consists of about 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Vincent and his friends and contemporaries (Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bernard), as well as many of the artist's personal effects. Famous works on display include The Potato Eaters (1885), The Yellow House in Arles (1888) and The Bedroom (1888). One of his last paintings, Wheatfield with Crows (1890), is an ominous work finished shortly before his suicide. Of special note is the wall on the second floor, which displays 18 paintings produced during a two year period in the south of France, generally considered to be his artistic high point. A new wing,set partly underground, showcases temporary exhibits by van Gogh and other artists.
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Jordaan

Jordaan

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Conveniently located right in central Amsterdam, Jordaan is one of the city's most important, and most interesting districts. Never short of things to do, it is the location of the famous Anne Frank house, where renowned holocaust victim Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during WWII.

Currently, the district is bustling with life, with tons of opportunities to visit one of its many specialty shops, soak in Dutch culture at an art gallery, or try some of the local delicacies at its street markets.

Prideful of its early 20th-century music culture, this central district also features wonderful music festivals and has scattered statues throughout, commemorating the likes of local hero and Dutch patriot Johnny Jordaan. Not dead, you can go check out Jordaan's lively modern music scene at many of its bars and club venues, these days mainly featuring alternative, punk and grunge music.

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Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)

Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen)

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Revolutionary architect Piet Blom designed and developed Rotterdam’s collection of 40 innovative cube houses in 1984, each of which has a giant yellow and gray tilted, wooden cube balancing on top of the ground level. The houses were built to resemble trees in a forest and to present an alternative to high-density urban living. Blom took the Ponte Vecchio in Florence as his inspiration for the structures and included public areas below and private living spaces above in the cubes. These bizarre apartments are centered around a courtyard playground and lean at an angle of 45 degrees over the buzzy waterfront bars and restaurants of Oude Haven. The whole complex sits on top of a pedestrian bridge over a busy road. Inside, the houses have three stories and myriad angled walls with plenty of light pouring in from the sloping, triangular, plate-glass windows. The rooms are also triangular, which makes furniture design especially tricky.

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Peace Palace (Vredespaleis)

Peace Palace (Vredespaleis)

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One of the Netherlands’ most famous buildings and the crowning glory of The Hague, the Peace Palace, or Vredespaleis, serves as a symbol of the country’s key role in international law and order. Built between 1907 and 1913 by Andrew Carnegie, the grand palace is home to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Law Academy and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), making it an important center of global peace.

The building itself, an imposing neo-renaissance structure constructed from Belgian stone and Dutch red brick, is notable for its opulent interiors, designed to embody the ‘grand idea of world peace’ and featuring an exquisite art collection and furnishings imported from around the world. Guided tours of the palace make popular day trips from nearby Rotterdam and Amsterdam, whisking visitors around the chambers, the Peace Palace Library, the palace museum and the picturesque gardens.

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Micropia

Micropia

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Micropia is a unique museum in Amsterdam dedicated to microbes and microorganisms. These microscopic organisms make up two thirds of all living matter. As soon as you enter the museum, you'll start to learn about the invisible organisms living all around us. An animation in the first elevator tells you about the mites that live on your eyelashes and the bacteria and viruses that live on those mites. Other exhibits include a body scanner that tells you what type of microbes live on your body and a Kiss-o-meter that counts the number of microbes transferred during a kiss. There are Petri dishes with bacteria in them that show you what lives on everyday household objects.

Another exhibit shows a collection of animal feces and a preserved human digestive system. There are also films showing different animals decomposing. In a real-life working laboratory, visitors can view technicians preparing the exhibits through a window.

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Frans Hals Museum

Frans Hals Museum

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The Frans Hals Museum is known for its collection of paintings by the Dutch Golden Age masters. Nearly all the pieces date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when Haarlem was known as the “City of Painters,” and as you make your way round the museum exhibits you’ll see works by the likes of Ruisdael, Jan Steen, Saenredam, Van Goyen, Heda, and of course, Frans Hals. Fifteen of Hals’ enormous civic guard pieces are showcased here and are a highlight of any visit. In particular, look out for Hals’ famous twin portraits, Regents and Regentesses of the Oudemannenhuis.

Built in 1609, the attractive building changed purpose from almshouse (where Frans Hals lived out his final years) to orphanage before becoming the art museum you can see today in 1913. On a visit to the Frans Hals Museum, it’s worth looking out for the separate section containing a replica of a 17th-century Haarlem street.

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Kröller-Müller Museum

Kröller-Müller Museum

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Some 20,000 works of art can be found at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands. The art and sculpture museum (which opened in 1938) was founded by collector Helene Kröller-Müller, an early admirer of Vincent van Gogh. Although today Van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists, he received little recognition while he was alive. Kröller-Müller regarded Van Gogh as a ‘great spirit of modern art’ and was a prolific collector of his works. In fact, the attention she gave to his work contributed to his recognition as an artist. The Kröller-Müller Museum has the second-largest collection of Van Gogh’s art in the world (around 90 paintings and 180 drawings). In addition to the large collection of works by Van Gogh, the museum is home to masterpieces by artists including Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, and Piet Mondriaan. The museum also has one of the largest sculpture gardens in Europe.

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Venustempel Sex Museum

Venustempel Sex Museum

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The Venustempel Sex Museum in Amsterdam is the world’s first sex museum. Housed in a 17-th­century building in the very heart of the city, it features an extensive collection of erotic paintings, statues, recordings, photographs, and other items relating to sex and eroticism. All of the exhibits were personally curated by the owners and remain on permanent display. The main theme is the evolution of human sexuality throughout the ages.

Venustempel began in 1985 with just a small display of erotic artifacts from the 19th century. Due to its huge popularity with the general public, its collection was later expanded upon, and the museum now sees more than 500,000 visitors through its doors each and every year.

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