Are you looking to find some hidden gems in The Netherlands? These are the best places to visit, off the beaten track, and recommended by a local.
Why should you go off the beaten path in The Netherlands?
The Netherlands is home to many beautiful places. Most people know Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Giethoorn, and the Zaanse Schans, but the Netherlands has so much more to offer!
As a Dutchie, I love exploring the Netherlands my own country. I have lived in no fewer than three different provinces (Groningen, Friesland, and North Holland) and I enjoy hiking long-distance hiking trails across the Netherlands. That’s the best way to see more local spots in the country, and I visited many beautiful unknown places in the Netherlands.
I have collected the best-hidden gems in The Netherlands in this article. So keep on reading if you want to find out all about The Netherlands off the beaten path!
These are the best lesser-known places to visit in The Netherlands.
During my hike on the Pieterpad (the most famous long distance trail in The Netherland from Pieterburen in Groningen to the Sint-Pietersberg in Maastricht), I walked through various cities. One of the best cities I walked through was Venlo.
This Limburg city has a historic city center with a beautiful old town hall. Make sure to try some of the delicious Limburg pie. Venlo is a great place to go shopping, but there are also a few museums that are worth checking out, like the Limburgs Museum.
- Where to stay: B&B Op de Burg is a cozy bed & breakfast near the train station. It’s also a short walk into the city center.
The Oostvaardersplassen (Flevoland)
The Oostvaardersplassen is a large nature reserve in the Nieuw Land National Park. This area arose from the bottom of the former Zuiderzee and is therefore unique in the Netherlands. In the park, you can see a lot of wildlife, including konik horses and red deer. There are also several beautiful hiking trails and sometimes it feels like you are walking across the African savannah. An amazing place to explore!
- Where to stay: B&B de Valkenhorst is a beautifully decorated bed & breakfast just outside Lelystad. From here, it’s a short walk or bike ride to Nieuw Land National Park.
In recent years I have visited quite a few cities in the Netherlands and the Frisian Hindeloopen has stolen my heart. It really is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. It is tiny, pedestrian-friendly, full of historic houses, and there are many canals. The town is beautifully situated on the IJsselmeer.
It’s a great place to wander around as most of the town is pedestrian-friendly. The residents are also quite friendly, they are happy to tell you more about their beautiful hometown.
- Where to stay: Atelier B&B ‘Sinnestriel’ is one of the best B&Bs I have ever stayed in. It is located in a narrow and quiet street, you have a lot of privacy and the breakfast is fantastic.
Tip: besides Hindeloopen, you can also visit other beautiful cities in Southwest Friesland.
Recently I had to catch the train to Frankfurt very early in the morning, so I spent the night in Arnhem. A great way to rediscover a city! Arnhem is a city that combines both historic charm and modern flair. The city is embraced by green parks and the majestic Rhine River.
Arnhem is known for its rich history, including the Battle of Arnhem during World War II, and this past comes to life in museums such as the impressive Airborne Museum. At the same time, Arnhem offers a contemporary vibe with its pleasant shopping streets, creative events, and trendy restaurants.
I felt bad that I had so little time while I was there because there are many beautiful hiking trails in the area, as you are on the Veluwe and close to a few national parks.
- Where to stay: Hotel Molendal (3⭐) is housed in a beautiful building from the eighteenth century and is located on the edge of the beautiful Sonsbeek Park.
Did you know that the province of Drenthe is great for hiking? One of the most beautiful places in the province is the Balloërveld, a large nature reserve near Assen and Rolde. The Balloërveld is a huge heathland and it feels like you’re in another world! If you are lucky, you can also see a huge herd of Drenthe heath sheep here, a domestic breed with horns.
Extra tip: Although the Balloërveld is impressive at any time of year, it is especially photogenic in summer. You will then see an endless purple field through the blooming heather.
- Where to stay: Bed and Breakfast Gasteren is a cute B&B in the beautiful Drenthe village of Gasteren. A short walk from the Balloërveld.
The Frisian capital is one of my favorite places in the Netherlands. Did you know that I even lived there for a year? The city has a beautiful historic center which is amazing to explore. You can also get on a boat here and sail on the canals.
And did you know that Leeuwarden has some great museums? The Frisian Museum is highly recommended! If you like beautiful views, you should definitely climb the Oldehove, a very old tower.
One of the best things in Leeuwarden that I have done myself recently, is the Miniature People walking route. This is a city walk and a discovery tour in one, very small figures have been placed in many places. The route leads you through the cutest streets in the city.
- Where to stay: Post-Plaza Hotel & Grand Café (4⭐) is a hotel in a beautifully renovated former post office and bank building.
- Fun thing to do: Take a canal cruise on a unique Frisian boat.
Read more: 15 great things to do in Leeuwarden
Loonse en Drunense Duinen (North Brabant)
The Loonse and Drunense Duinen form an enchanting landscape characterized by extensive sand dunes, forests, and heathlands. This national park is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
When you stroll through the impressive sand dunes, you will feel like you are in a desert, but surrounded by lush forests. In summer the heathlands turn purple, which provides a beautiful contrast with the sand. This is certainly a hidden gem in the Netherlands that is worth discovering.
- Where to stay: Hotel-Herberg D’n Dries has a rural, but modern design. From here you can cycle or walk to the national park.
Radio Kootwijk (Gelderland)
Radio Kootwijk can be found in the province of Gelderland, not far from the city of Apeldoorn. It is a former broadcasting station (and a small village built for the employees of the broadcasting station) and is located in the middle of a beautiful unspoiled heathland.
It is a beautiful place to discover by bike or on foot, and the 12-kilometer-long heidewandeling is highly recommended.
- Where to stay: Hotel Buitenlust (3⭐) is not only close to Radio Kootwijk but also right next to the Hoge Veluwe National Park. A perfect location for a weekend in nature!
The Speulderbos, located in the Veluwe, is a mysterious and fairytale place. This forest is known for its sinuous trees, also known as the ‘dancing trees’, which create an intriguing and almost magical landscape. Under the dense canopy, it seems as if nature keeps its own secrets.
There are many hiking trails in the Speulderbos where you can get lost in the enchanting atmosphere of this ancient forest. I walked the Cultural History Walking Route (8 kilometers), which not only goes through the Speulderbos but also over the Ermelosche Heide, a beautiful nature reserver. Highly recommended!
- Where to stay: B&B Speulderveld is a cozy bed & breakfast in Ermelo.
During my hike on the Elfstedenpad (a long-distance trail that follows the route of the Elfstedentocht, a famous ice skating race) I passed through Gaasterland, which is a wonderful part of Friesland. The landscape here is surprisingly hilly, which I did not expect in Friesland! With rolling hills, vast forests, and a beautiful coastline along the IJsselmeer, Gaasterland is a true gem for nature lovers.
It’s a great place for hiking and cycling, passing through small picturesque villages along the way. The region is steeped in Frisian traditions and hospitality, making it a great place to experience the local culture. A great unknown place to discover!
- Where to stay: Bed & Breakfast Rijsterbosch is a beautiful place to start your discovery of Gaasterland.
Ok, I’m quite biased, because this is where my roots are, but my favorite city in the Netherlands cannot be missed on this list of the best hidden gems in the Netherlands. There’s nothing like Groningen! For many Dutch people, Groningen is quite far away, as it is all the way in the north of the country. But I can assure you, a city trip to Groningen is really worthwhile.
The Groninger Museum is one of the best modern art museums in the Netherlands (there is an exhibition about the Rolling Stones at the moment), the city center is very pleasant and there are many beautiful hidden courtyards. For the best view of the city (and the entire province of Groningen) go to the roof of the Forum.
- Where to stay: Hotel Miss Blanche is a beautiful boutique hotel in a great location in the city center of Groningen.
- Fun thing to do: Climb the Martini Tower
Read more about Groningen: Fun things to do in Groningen
The Netherlands has 22 Hanseatic cities. In the Middle Ages, there was a Hanseatic League, if you were a member of this you were called a Hanseatic city. The centuries-old Kampen, located on the picturesque banks of the IJssel, is one of them.
The old town is full of beautifully preserved medieval buildings, narrow streets, and attractive squares. The city exudes a peaceful and nostalgic atmosphere, ideal for a relaxing walk along the river or through the winding streets. Look for the old city gates, such as the Koornmarktspoort.
- Where to stay: Hotel van Dijk (3⭐) is housed in a monumental building and is beautifully situated on the river quay.
Schoorlse Duinen (North Holland)
In the top part of North Holland (near Alkmaar), you’ll find the highest dunes in the Netherlands: the Schoorlse Duinen. A great area for hiking, since there are at least 60 kilometers of hiking trails. It is a diverse landscape next to (drift) dunes, you also hike through forests and heath. And don’t forget to walk on the beach for a bit. A wonderful place to get some fresh air!
- Where to stay: Villa de Hazelaar (3⭐) has spacious rooms with beautiful views of the green surroundings.
Leiden (South Holland)
In the Golden Age, Leiden was the largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. Much of the old city center has still been preserved, Leiden is a beautiful place to explore and one of those beautiful places in the Netherlands that you should visit once in your life.
There are many canals with old bridges (the Visbrug is beautiful!) and there is even a castle from the ninth century hidden in the city center. The city also has several great museums, such as Naturalis (with a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex!) and the Museum of Ethnology. In short, there is plenty to do in Leiden!
- Where to stay: Boutique Hotel Steenhof Suites has beautiful rooms and is in a prime location in the old center of Leiden.
Alde Feanen National Park
The Netherlands has no fewer than 21 national parks. Almost everyone has heard of the Veluwe, but do you know Alde Feanen National Park? This is located in Friesland, between Drachten and Leeuwarden, and is a beautiful nature reserve full of walking and cycling paths. This is also the perfect place to go boating on sunny days. A nice place to escape from the busy life and to breathe some fresh air.
- Where to stay: B&B It Lytshûs is a lovely place on the lake.
The Duivelsberg (Gelderland)
During my hike on the Pieterpad, I discovered one beautiful place after another in the Netherlands. One of the places that made a big impression on me is (the area around) the Duivelsberg near Nijmegen. I had no idea that this region in the Netherlands was so hilly!
The Duivelsberg (loosely translated to Devil’s Mountain) is 75.9 meters high and very fun to climb, and there are many beautiful hiking trails in the immediate vicinity. It kind of feels like you’re in France, it’s so beautiful!
- Where to stay: Hotel ‘t Spijker (3⭐) is located in the cozy town of Beek, not far from the Duivelsberg.
Lange Duinen (Utrecht)
The Lange Duinen is a nature reserve that is part of the Soesterse Duinen between Amersfoort and Utrecht. I did a great NS hike (with an NS hike you can walk from one station to another train station) in this area a few years ago and this area really impressed me. It is a “living” drifting sand area of considerable size. A place to go for a nice walk and get away from it all. Highly recommended!
- Where to stay: Duynparc Soest (3⭐) is a fun accommodation with various separate units.
Have you ever heard of Schokland? This used to be an island in the Zuiderzee. In the eighteenth century, the Dutch government ordered the residents to evacuate because it was dangerous to live on the island.
Nowadays you can visit Schokland very easily, because it is located in the Noordoostpolder, near Lelystad. There is a museum where you can learn a lot about this special place and how the Noordoostpolder was created. Fun and educational!
- Where to stay: B&B Nagele is a cozy bed & breakfast not far from Schokland.
Read more about this hidden gem: Schokland: a hidden island in The Netherlands
How to get around in The Netherlands
Almost every place on this list with hidden gems in The Netherlands is easily reachable, either by car or by public transportation. Trains and buses run regularly and usually leave on time. If you prefer to travel by car, I would recommend renting a car through Rental Cars.
If you plan to travel by public transport, you can check the website 9292.nl for departure times and itineraries. If you plan to travel by train, you can buy e-tickets at Rail Europe or at the train station at one of the machines.
Book a trip to The Netherlands
Are you excited to visit those beautiful hidden gems in The Netherlands that are off the beaten track? Book your trip now!
✈️ Plane tickets – Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is the main international airport of The Netherlands and probably the best place to start your road trip. Check WayAway to find the best deals and get cashback on plane tickets.
🛏️ Accommodation – At each of the beautiful places in this list, you will find a recommendation for a good place to spend the night. If you’d like to explore the options yourself, check out Booking.com.
💊 Travel insurance – Invest in travel insurance, it will give you peace of mind during your trip. Check out Insubuy (general) or Safetywing (for digital nomads and remote workers) to find the travel insurance that fits your needs.
🏄🏼 Tours & activities – There are lots of fun tours and guided trips in The Netherlands. Check Get Your Guide for all the options.
Read more about the Netherlands
Are you planning a trip to The Netherlands and would you like to learn more about the country? Get one of these amazing travel guides.
As I’m from The Netherlands myself, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring my amazing country. You can read a lot about The Netherlands on this website, like:
- A weekend in Amsterdam: 30 tips from local
- 12 beautiful cities in The Netherlands
- 10 fun things to do in The Hague
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This article was published in December 2020. Last update with more tips: September 2023.
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