Tulips, herring and more: The big five

Skip the complicated itineraries – there are only five things that make-up a truly classic “Dutch” experience: tulips, fish, cheese, windmills and clogs.

Five things you must do in the Netherlands

Tulips - for more tulips and tulip bulbs than you can comfortably carry, visit the Amsterdam Flower Market. It’s located on Singel between Koningsplein and Muntplein. To really see them in the way nature intended, take a half-day trip to the Keukenhof. This swathe of green parkland comes to life from mid-March to late-May.

Fish – given that the country is surrounded by water, fish plays a big role in the Dutch diet. Tuck in to some salted herring in the traditional Dutch way – raw, served with onions and pickles. It’s usually gobbled whole in one go! If cooked fish is more your thing, don’t miss ‘kibbeling’ (fried fish), usually served with tartare sauce. Both can be bought at street stalls in the centre of most Dutch cities.

Cheese – cheese is more than something to slap on a sandwich. It’s a product that the Dutch have refined over the centuries, to the point where cheesemaking has become a form of art. The Dutch produce arguably the best cheese in the world. You’ll find a massive variety at the Alkmaar Cheese Market, held every Friday in the centre of town. There are also specialty cheese shops in every Dutch city, where you can sample many regional specialties – from soft to hard to nutty, and everything in-between.

Windmills – windmills are a little scarce in the city centres, but you can hunt them down. The most ‘gezellig’ (cozy) in Amsterdam is De Gooyer on Funenkade. It’s a windmill and brewery that’s great for a pint, tapas and a relaxing afternoon. For the ultimate, rent a bike and ride to the Zaanse Schans – it’s 15-minutes from Amsterdam in the town of Zaandam. It’s an area packed with traditional windmills, cafes and arts and craft shops.

Clogs – contrary to popular belief, almost no Dutch people wear clogs. The clog is a wooden shoe that’s used as protective footwear, mainly in agriculture and farming. Defying all odds, they’re also rather comfortable, if you can get used to lumbering along at a less than moderate pace. Today, clogs are still worn as part of the traditional Dutch costume known as “klederdracht”. You can pick up clogs in many forms at Schiphol’s souvenir shops – from heavy and wooden to fluffy slippers.