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Holland is a region in the central-western part of the Netherlands with a population of 6.1 million people. Holland was a county of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the Count of Holland, and later became the dominant province of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces.
The Dutch aren't bogged in their clichés, even though bikes, dykes, windmills and flower fields are pretty much the norm outside the major cities. Do as the locals do, grab a bike and explore. It’s a very big small country, and full of salutary surprises.
Tulip lovers will want to visit The Netherlands in the spring, since, as many flower enthusiasts are aware, Holland is the birthplace of the tulip. In the spring, fields upon fields of tulips being sold for commercial sale can be toured, and many private residences will also be sporting their own tulips for the season. When planning your vacation to The Netherlands, you’ll want to consider whether you're travelling for the cultural sights, general festivals, outdoor adventures, or a combination of all three.
Deciding when to visit the Netherlands can depend greatly on what you plan to do once you are there. Many cyclists hope to visit The Netherlands during the summer or spring to enjoy biking through the country, as much of the area is quite friendly to bikers and trails are well marked. Travel to The Netherlands during the summer is, for many tourists, the best way to experience the area. During the summer, the weather is warm and activities such as an Amsterdam canal tour or Port of Rotterdam Harbour tour are easily arranged and enjoyed.
Travel during the winter can reveal a different side of The Netherlands. You can head north by taking a cruise holiday. There are a number of cruise companies offering cruises that end in The Netherlands, but stop even further north in the winter to enjoy the Northern Lights. For many of the villages furthest north, the return of the sun is an appropriately enormous celebration and is accompanied by plenty of merry-making and fun. Festivals about during this time of the year and the cities of The Netherlands can take on an incredibly cosy appeal during the winter.
Apart from coastal dunes most of the surface consists of polder landscape, lying well below sea-level and only kept from flooding by continuous drainage, for which in earlier centuries the typical Dutch windmills were used. In recent millennia the geography of the region has been extremely dynamic with the western coastline shifting up to thirty kilometres to the east, the Frisian Isles becoming detached from the north of Holland and the main Rhine and Maas rivers changing their course repeatedly and dramatically.
In spite of its small size, our country boasts a large number of interesting and surprising museums. Virtually each city and town boasts an entertaining museum. Did you know that Amsterdam has more museums per square meter than any other city in the world?
In addition to museums, The Hague has many galleries and art shops. At the Denneweg, Frederiksstraat, Mesdagkwartier or the Noordeinde, you will find exclusive galleries and antique shops. The Pulchri Studio at the Lange Voorhout is especially worth visiting because of the beautiful building and the patio terrace in the secluded garden. During the summer months (May to September), there is an art and antique market at the Lange Voorhout every Thursday and Sunday.
Rotterdam has many great hangouts especially around the harbour areas where you'll find a wide selection of restaurants and bars. As soon as the weather allows, pavement cafés appear, so you can enjoy a drink or a bite to eat whilst watching the world go by. Rotterdam's club scene is renowned in Holland and fast gaining a reputation in the UK. An abundance of bars, clubs and quirky galleries can be found in areas like the Witte de With Straat and Binnenweg in the heart of Rotterdam.
Amsterdam is also a good place to party with most clubs open till 4-5 in the morning. Amsterdam also offers a wide range of music venues. Try and catch a performance of the Netherlands Philharmonic orchestra that performs in the Beurs, a turn of the century stock exchange. In June the city hosts the Holland festival-opera, orchestra and dance performances.
Shopping in The Netherlands can be very enjoyable. There are multiple areas for great shopping in The Netherlands, with many of them being concentrated in Amsterdam. One of the most famous places for shopping in Amsterdam is the Albert Cuypstraat Market. Cuyp Market is a favourite for shopping in Amsterdam. Not only is the market the perfect place for sightseeing in Amsterdam, but travellers will find deals on a wide range of products, food and goods. Another popular shopping area in Amsterdam is Kalverstraat. Shopping in Kalverstraat will take you to one of the busiest shopping areas in the city. The department stores at the far end of the street are located close to Dam Square and tend to offer some of the trendiest and most exclusive shopping stores. Another great area for shopping in Amsterdam is P. C. Hooftstraat’s. This shopping is comprised of three blocks and you can find stores with everything from furniture to shoes, clothing, bread and chocolate. Yet another shopping area, Van Baerlestraat, is located near by and has even more boutiques and shops to explore. An area known as Nieuwe Spiegelstraat & Spiegelgracht is where to shop in Amsterdam if you are looking for antiques of any kind.
When in Holland, eat like the Dutch!
Start your day with a wholesome Dutch breakfast: fresh bread with butter, jam, cheese, ham or chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag). You might also want to eat a slice of Breakfast cake (ontbijtkoek), a cake containing cinnamon and cloves as well as ground ginger. An ‘uitsmijter’ will satisfy your hunger pangs. It consists of bread with slices of cheese or meat, topped with fried eggs. In winter a simple order of Dutch pea soup (erwtensoep) will satisfy your hunger and re-charge your batteries. Look for these specialities on the menu.
Be sure to try a delicious Dutch pastry ('gebak') or a piece of 'vlaai' from the province of Limburg. If you walk past a cafe‚ or small restaurant that advertises ‘poffertjes’, be sure to walk in and try these mini pancakes with lashings of butter and sugar. If you’re in the mood for a snack while on the move, grab a cone of French fries (patat) smothered in mayonnaise or sate sauce. Try it before you judge!
The handshake is the common form of greeting. Dining is fairly formal in the Netherlands with table manners being Continental.