Tulips, herring and much more: The Netherlands 101
5 things make-up the classic Dutch experience – tulips, fish, cheese, windmills and clogs. Include any or all of these in your itinerary to cover every base!
Visit the Amsterdam Flower Market for more tulips and tulip bulbs than you can comfortably carry. It’s located on Singel, between Koningsplein and Muntplein. If you prefer to see them the way nature intended, take a half-day trip to the Keukenhof. This swathe of green parkland erupts with colour from mid-March to late-May.
Fish plays a big role in the Dutch diet, given that the entire country is surrounded by water. Tuck-in to some salted herring in the traditional Dutch way – raw, served with onions and pickles. It’s usually gobbled up whole! 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 is more than something to slap on a sandwich. It’s a product that the Dutch have refined over the centuries to become an art-form. 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 may be 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 an afternoon unwind. For the ultimate, rent a bike and ride to the Zaanse Schans in the town of Zaandam, about 15-minutes from Amsterdam. The area is packed with traditional windmills, cafes and arts and craft shops.
Almost no Dutch people wear clogs, contrary to popular belief. The clog is a wooden shoe that’s used as protective footwear, mainly for agricultural purposes. 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 wooden ones to fluffy slippers.