Tourism in the Netherlands

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The flowers of the Keukenhof garden

In 2011 the Netherlands was visited by 11.3 million foreign tourists.[1] In 2012, the Dutch tourism industry contributed 5.4% in total to the country's GDP and 9.6% in total to its employment. With its global ranking of 147th and 83rd place for total contribution to respectively GDP and employment, tourism is a relatively small sector of the Dutch economy.[2]

North Holland was by far the most popular province for foreign tourists in 2011. Out of all 11.3 million tourists, 6 million visited North Holland. South Holland took the second place with 1.4 million. Germans, Britons and Belgians made up the majority of foreign tourists, respectively 3, 1.5 and 1.4 million.[3] There are seven World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is well known for its art and rich historical heritage.


The tourism industry of the Netherlands is focused on North Holland, where the country's largest airport Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located. Given the relatively small size of the Netherlands, it is easily possible to travel to locations in South Holland within an hour. These two provinces constitute the majority of the densely populated Randstad, where the largest cities are located. The other provinces of the Netherlands are much less popular with foreign tourists[3] and do not feature as much tourist attractions. With a long coastline along the North Sea and its many lakes, the Netherlands offers plenty of opportunities for water sports and beach recreation.

North Holland[edit]

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
The Ridderzaal in The Hague
View of Delft
Entrance to the Efteling
Bascule bridge at the Netherlands Open Air Museum

In North Holland the capital Amsterdam is the most visited city of the Netherlands, with 4.3 million foreign hotel guests.[4] It is home to the three most frequently visited museums of the country, respectively the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.[3] Several times a week events are being organized in the capital, like on Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square. For instance there is a National Tulip Day each year in January. Amsterdam's canal ring is a World Heritage Site.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries which tolerates the consumption of cannabis and has legalized prostitution. This has made Amsterdam a popular destination for drug tourists. According to research, 22.5% of tourists in Amsterdam have visited cannabis coffee shops. The city's red light district called De Wallen was visited by 20% of tourists.[5]

North of Amsterdam are the windmills of Zaanse Schans, as well as two former fishing villages, Volendam and Marken. These villages are frequented by tourists for their appeal to traditional life. Alkmaar is known for its cheese market and old center. To the southeast of Amsterdam lies the Muiderslot, a castle. Further to the southeast is the town Naarden, which possesses a very well preserved star fort. To the west lies Haarlem, the province's capital, a city notable for its historical legacy and old city center. Once important for its production of paintings, many of these are now exhibited in the Frans Hals Museum. West of Haarlem is the seaside resort of Zandvoort, which has an automobile racing circuit.

South Holland[edit]

In South Holland lies the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. In 2013 it was visited by 849 thousand people, of which 80% were foreign tourists.[6] Because the garden is only open for several weeks during the spring, it receives the highest amount of visitors of all Dutch attractions on a weekly basis. A system of nineteen windmills at Kinderdijk forms the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands and is designated as a World Heritage Site.

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch Government and the Dutch royal house. The Binnenhof and the Ridderzaal are government buildings which can be visited. Close by is the Mauritshuis, an important art museum. Scheveningen is known for its beach and Madurodam, a miniature park. Leiden, north of The Hague, possesses an extensive historical center, as well as Naturalis and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, respectively the national museums of natural history and archaeology in the Netherlands. The Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Further north are Noordwijk and Katwijk, both popular seaside resorts. The latter also has a narrow gauge railway museum.

To the south of The Hague lies Delft, which is known for its pottery and old center. The sole remaining pottery factory in Delft, De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, can be visited. Also in the town is the Prinsenhof, now a museum of William the Silent, the founder of the modern Netherlands. Further south is Dordrecht, which also has a historic center.


Utrecht, the capital of the province of Utrecht, is one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands. It is possible to climb the Dom Tower of Utrecht, the tallest church tower of the Netherlands at 112.5 meters. The city is also home to the Netherlands Railway Museum, housed in a former station, and the Musical Clock Museum. Kasteel de Haar and Slot Zuylen are castles which can be visited.

North Brabant[edit]

Near Kaatsheuvel lies Efteling, the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. With 4.1 million visitors in 2011, it is by far the most visited attraction of the Netherlands.[3] In Eindhoven is the Effenaar, a popular music venue that attracts visitors. 's-Hertogenbosch is a walled city with an old center.


The province of Gelderland is notable for its large amount of castles, such as Slot Loevestein. Het Loo Palace near Apeldoorn served as the residence of the Dutch royal house, but is now a museum open to the public. Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, is a city with a historic center and is famous for the International Four Day March in July. In Arnhem, the province's capital, is the Netherlands Open Air Museum, popular with tourists, while at Oosterbeek nearby is the Airborne Museum, dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.


At low tide it is possible to walk from the mainland of Friesland to the West Frisian Islands, which is called mudflat hiking.


Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland, is a historic city. The province has several seaside resorts including Domburg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2013 Edition". United Nations World Tourism Organization. Bla. Retrieved 25 August 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Netherlands Economic Impact Report". World Travel & Tourism Council. Bla. Retrieved 25 August 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d "Toerisme en recreatie in cijfers 2012" (in Dutch). Statistics Netherlands. Blah. Retrieved 25 August 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ "Guests and overnight stays in hotels by country of origin, 2011". Municipality of Amsterdam, Department for Research and Statistics. Blah. Retrieved 25 August 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Reeskamp, Libben (4 April 2012). "Amsterdamse toeristenindustrie vreest wietpas" (in Dutch). Follow The Money. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Keukenhof succes ondanks raar weer" (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 

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