Backpacking in the Netherlands 

So you ask, what is the identity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands? To many, Netherlands is the canals, the cafes, the hash, the tulips, the flowers, the museums, the girls in bikes, and the girls in red lights. But it is certainly more than that. Netherlands, also called Holland, is a small country with a colossal profile. The Kingdom is a hub for international trade, a foundation of art, an influence in politics, and an overall beguiling natural beauty. Venice is tribute as the city with the most canals, but somehow, unrightfully so, for the accolade truly belongs to the capital Amsterdam. And it’s not too incredible as Netherlands has just so much land below sea level. The Dutch nation is truly exciting and it is a top European destination for a reason. This reason varies depending on what you wish to experience and discover in the great Netherlands. The Netherlands is known for its liberal attitude to marijuana, but its new government hopes to change that.



 BA_netherland map

Netherlands (52 30 N, 5 45 E) is mostly low-lying by geography with a total area of 41,543 km2, where about 25% of its land below sea level and around 50% of its area lying less than 1 metre above it. Due to the coastal lowland terrain and its location in three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas, and Schelde), significant land has been obtained from reclamation preserved through an intricate system of polders and dikes. In the southeast, the foothills provide some diversity. The geographical highlight is the lowest point of the country – that is Zuidplaspolder, -7 m below sea level. The highest is the gorgeous Mount Scenery, all the way up to 862 m above sea level that’s not in mainland Netherlands, but in the island of Saba in the Caribbean.




The Netherlands have a moderate maritime climate due to the predominant southwest wind direction. The summers are cool and the winters are mild in general so any time is a good a time as any for a visit. Meanwhile, it gets better in the south where the hilly terrain is warmer than areas within the proximity of the Dutch coastline. The coolest months are December-February (January being the coolest) – the ice days, while the hottest temperatures are experienced from June to August.



The Dutch population numbers at around 16.85 million, at the very latest, of predominantly Dutch people, 80% thereabouts of the population. There also are large groups of Europeans from neighbouring nations and Indonesians, and large communities of minorities including Moroccans, Turks, Surinamese, Dutch Caribbean and others.



The official languages of the Netherlands are DUTCH, the language spoken by the vast majority of its inhabitants, and FRISIAN, the language spoken in the northern province of Friesland. Accordingly, dialects of both Dutch and Frisian are spoken in most villages in the west (of the province of Groningen). Some dialects of LOW SAXON like TWENTS and DRENTS are also spoken in much of the north and east. As the Netherlands is a hub for multinational companies, many Dutch speak fluent ENGLISH especially in the capital, Amsterdam. Beyond that, there is a tradition of learning modern languages where FRENCH and GERMAN are standard, while SPANISH, TURKISH, RUSSIAN, and ARABIC are also taught in some schools.

Netherlands may be one of the most secular countries in the entire Western Europe. Still, about 40% are religiously affiliated. Roman Catholic comprises the largest religious group with about 30% of the population as adherents, followed by the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, which include the Dutch Reformed, Calvinist, and other Protestants. Muslims are a sizeable minority. Moreover, the Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish religions have also found its way into the faith system despite struggles.



General knowledge of the Netherlands would have anyone affix stereotypes to it. And for the longest time, we have perceived the Netherlands as the country of dams, mills, cycles, tulips, cafes, and weed cafes with a red-light district adorned with red-hot ladies. Drugs and women are without doubt the easy enticement for ideally anyone, but an up-close look at the Netherlands’ cultural heritage, and you are all rendered incapable of resisting a long Holland Holiday. In the end, this is the home of the “Dutch masters” from Rembrandt to Van Gogh.


Where else must one start but in the glorious city of Amsterdam where one can find a cavalcade of stunning architecture, paintings, and people in the midst of festivities. Amsterdam offers an amusing melange of old and new, from the Dutch Golden Age to the Modern Age. And to be sure, while this is an avant-garde conurbation where international companies thrive, the past just survives. The ultra-modern facilities and quaint cafes all unify to comprise what is possibly the most stunning metropole in the world. Navigation and exploration is done amazingly guided on bus, bike, or on foot.


Besides the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) and the Anne Frank House, there are achingly beautiful parks and museums like the Vondelpark, and just across it, the Van Gogh Museum. On the capital’s exterior, there are a plethora of parks like the Keukenhof Gardens and its stunningly famed 4.15 million tulips flowers, and historic cities like Leiden and Nijmegen (the oldest city of the Netherlands) . There’s a lot to do too such as cycling in Texel, reminisce at the traditional Dutch countryside of Volendam, revel in Rotterdam, or see something novel in Maastricht or Utrecht.



The cafes of the Netherlands are fortunately as famous for the gastronomic fare as the illegal sort of paraphernalia here. The Netherlands is not exactly renowned the world over for cuisine, but this means nothing because Dutch cuisine renders fanciful specialities and treats despite lacking a notch of elegance. Dutch cheeses are well-loved around the world, from Gouda, Edam, Maaslander, Maasdam, Leerdammer. Like the cheeses, Dutch cuisine is absolutely hearty with a lot of meat, potatoes, and butter. Eat the Dutch way either with a beer or a backgammon game.


Their craving for more flavourful dishes had them resorting to Indonesian cuisine. The cuisine varies by region (like seafood in the west), so one is sure to expect a spectrum of flavours experiencing the country. Stews are typical like waterzooi or beef-onion-gravy stew, and pastries are abundant. One can’t resist pastries filled with cream, custard, and fruits such as the Limburgse vlaai. The savoury pastries are equally wonderful like the sausage roll or worstenbroodje. Being in the Netherlands is definitely a treat in all aspects, besides culinary.

Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman

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