Small country, short bucket list? Think again! What the Netherlands lacks in size, it makes up for in culture, history and even nature. There is so much to add to your Netherlands bucket list you’ll find yourself wondering when you’ll have enough time to taste all those famous Dutch cheeses.
Fan favourites to add to your Netherlands bucket list
Each year we look to our reviews to uncover the world’s favourite museums and attractions. This year we combed through 750,000 customer reviews to find the best museums and attractions. Here are the top-rated museums and attractions in the Netherlands, and the perfect additions to your Netherlands bucket list in 2021.
The Most Remarkable Venues in the Netherlands
These experiences are some of the most visited venues with the highest ratings in the Netherlands. If you’re making a Netherlands bucket list, these sights should definitely be on it.
1. Efteling | Fairytales and rollercoasters
“Together with my boyfriend were in laughter of joy from the start till the end. Thanks for the experience!” – Muge, The Netherlands
The Most Remarkable Venue of 2020 is one of Europe’s most visited theme parks and an absolute must see in the Netherlands.
Perfect for all ages, the Efteling’s attractions are based on folklore, fairy tales and ancient legends. With nearly 50 attractions in this park, ranging from scary rollercoasters to picturesque boat rides, there is plenty on offer for thrill seekers and the faint at heart alike. The famous immersive Fairytale Forest is like a large living picture book, home to interactive displays of famous fairytales ranging from Little Red Riding Hood to Pinocchio and from the Little Match Girl to Snow White. In winter, Efteling turns into a winter wonderland with beautiful Christmas lights, bonfires and spectacular shows, making it the perfect place to warm your festive heart.
2. Madurodam | Tiny cheese and minuscule windmills
“I will recommend this for young and old. It’s a fun day out and you learn about almost everything in the Netherlands. This is a must do if you’re planning a holiday to Amsterdam and surroundings.” – Esther, South Africa
Want to see the whole country in one day? At Madurodam they’ve shrunk all of the Netherlands’ landmarks to a reasonable size so they can fit into one park. Madurodam is a must see in the Netherlands, especially if you’re visiting with kids.
Famous Dutch buildings have been replicated at a 1:25 scale, so you get to marvel at miniature canal houses, cheese markets and of course windmills. Immersive exhibits such as The Flying Dutchman (a restored KLM plane from 1945) and the Waterwolf (an interactive show about how the Dutch turned water into land) give a great insight into Dutch history.
You’ll learn lots about the country of cheese, water and clogs while enjoying a great day out.
3. Rijksmuseum | Home to some of the world’s most famous paintings
“Great museum and the staff there were very nice and helpful. I asked for assistance with locating different works of art several times and everyone was very accommodating.” – Sibby, United States
A must see in the Netherlands for any self-respecting art lover, the Rijksmuseum is home to some of the world’s most famous paintings.
Rembrandt’s Night Watch is the museum’s pride and glory and so it’s being restored right there on site for all to see. Visitors can watch the researchers live at work. Other famous pieces on display are The Milkmaid and the Self-Portrait by Van Gogh.
But art’s not all it’s got, the Rijksmuseum also contains an impressive collection of model ships, armoury and dolls’ houses and provides a fascinating insight into 800 years of (art) history.
Make sure to put a visit to the Rijksmuseum on your Netherlands bucket list and admire the work of the Dutch Masters in one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful buildings. You might even come across an evil monkey or two.
4. ARTIS | The Netherlands’ oldest zoo
“Absolutely loved the zoo, a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Aquarium was wonderful and in such a lovely building. My favourite part was the rainforest house that you can walk through with bats, monkeys, birds and lizards roaming around free. Would definitely recommend a visit”. – Katie, United Kingdom
The Netherlands’ oldest zoo isn’t only a great day out for the kids, it’s also a place rich with Dutch heritage. Besides hundreds of different species of animals that call ARTIS home the zoo contains several monuments, an impressive art collection, an aquarium, a zoological library and a planetarium.
Recently, a microbe museum was established as part of the zoo. The world’s first “Microzoo”, Micropia teaches its visitors about all the billions of ways that microbes influence our lives.
An educational and fun day out at the zoo, what more reason do you need to put ARTIS on your Netherlands bucket list?
Best Attractions in the Netherlands
This section covers some of the Netherlands’ top things to do on a day out, with a particular focus on venues that stand out for their appeal to all types of visitors.
5. Johan Cruijff ArenA | Home of Ajax and the Dutch national team
“Amazing. Tour guide was friendly, informative, and loved his job. Awesome tour, now a bit of an Ajax fan!” Scott, United Kingdom
A visit to the Johan Cruijff ArenA is a must for any football fan. Besides being packed with Dutch football history, the ArenA is constantly working to be more innovative and sustainable to ensure it has a positive impact on its environment and on society.
Visit the ArenA with a guided tour given by a knowledgeable and passionate guide who’ll show you around the changing rooms, the tunnel, the pitch and dugout, the press conference area and the trophy rooms. In the Gallery of Fame you’ll learn all about the history of Ajax, of course featuring footballing legend Johan Cruijff whom this stadium was posthumously named after.
Careful if you weren’t an Ajax fan before this tour, because after 75 minutes in this stadium you are likely to have been turned into a bit of an Ajaxied.
6. THIS IS HOLLAND | Soar above the country
“Had a great time on this attraction, and my smiles grew bigger and bigger while soaring over the various Dutch landscapes and experiencing some “harsh weather” along the way. Definitely would do it again.” – Stefan, United States
You’ll see the Netherlands from a completely new perspective at this attraction. Immersive 5D technology takes you on a tour around the Netherlands’ highlights, such as the Amsterdam canal ring and the Wadden Sea. You’re likely to spot some windmills on the way too! A huge spherical screen and special effects including wind and smells make this a truly immersive experience.
The makers of THIS IS HOLLAND spent two years filming the most beautiful places in the Netherlands from a helicopter, creating a unique view of this charming country. Only a stone’s throw (and free scenic ferry ride) away from Amsterdam Central Station, THIS IS HOLLAND is an absolute must see in the Netherlands.
7. Body Worlds Amsterdam | Get up close and personal with plastinated hearts, lungs and eyeballs
“If you are interested in the human body then it doesn’t get better than this exhibition.” – Georgina, United Kingdom
What makes us happy? This major question is explored in Amsterdam’s BODY WORLDS exhibition. 200 real plastinated bodies are on display and help you discover the secrets of the body and its effect on our happiness.
Get up close and personal with plastinated hearts, lungs and eyeballs and see the effect that unhealthy habits can have on them. You’ll walk out of this exhibition with a fresh perspective on your own body and well-being.
8. Diergaarde Blijdorp | Travel the world in one afternoon
“The Zoo was an experience of a lifetime for my children who absolutely loved it from start to finish. The animals were breathtaking. A large and varied selection of every species you could think of. The staff were brilliant and very knowledgeable and caring about the animals […] Thoroughly enjoyed by all the family and would definitely recommend to everyone.” – Gary, United Kingdom
A must for anyone’s Netherlands bucket list, Diergaarde Blijdorp is a great day out for the family. The zoo is dedicated to conservation and one of the top ten zoos in the field of breeding programs for endangered species. This means that you’ll not only spot some rare animals, like the black rhino that was born recently, but will also support nature conservation in the process.
The zoo is laid out in regions of the world. Specially imitated natural landscapes make the animals feel at home. Stroll through the Amazon before you move on to Central Africa and end up in the Asian marshes. Don’t forget to stop on your way to dive into the Ocean in the fully covered Oceanium.
The Best Museums in the Netherlands
Museums and art galleries are so much more than just a few paintings strung on a wall. The Best Museum award recognizes the museums that go above and beyond to provide customers with the most memorable visit.
9. Van Gogh Museum | an insight into one of the most famous painters of all time
“Amazing, vibrant, emotional. The audio guides make you dive into every painting, providing you insights from Vincent himself. Incredible.” – Ivan, United Kingdom
Home to the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh paintings, drawings and letters, the Van Gogh Museum should be high on anyone’s Netherlands bucket list. The Van Gogh Museum offers amazing insight into one of the most famous painters of all time. Tracing his work chronologically, the permanent collection shows how Van Gogh developed his work over the years. Pieces by some of Van Gogh’s contemporaries, including Gauguin and Monet, are showcased to put his paintings into a broader context.
The display on Van Gogh’s letters adds a deeper layer of understanding about the artist, who was an avid letter writer and shared many of his deepest fears and hopes with his loving brother. A visit to the Van Gogh Museum is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with an even deeper appreciation of the famous and troubled artist.
10. The Rembrandt House Museum | A 17th Century Amsterdam townhouse
“The Rembrandt House is just amazing! The painting and the bedrooms are really beautiful! If you are in Amsterdam you must to visit it!” – Noemi, Italy
Step back in time with a visit to The Rembrandt House Museum. Home to none other than Rembrandt himself between 1639 and 1658, this Amsterdam townhouse will give you an insight into how the well-to-do lived in the 17th Century.
Stoop into Rembrandt’s kitchen and marvel at how much shorter people must have been all those centuries ago! Then take a look at the space where Rembrandt would have had his workshop and peek into the courtyard where Rembrandt painted the Night Watch.
A selection of etchings and sketches by Rembrandt are also on display as well as his impressive and surprising collection of seashells. This museum is a must see in the Netherlands for anyone interested in Dutch history.
11. Moco Museum | A Banksy-lover’s paradise
“Whether an art fan or not- you must see this exhibition- oh and DO download the moco App – it offers up some very pleasant surprises” – Paul
The Moco Museum in Amsterdam features subversive modern and contemporary art by greats like Banksy, Basquiat, Haring, Kusama and Warhol.
The historic building that houses the collection forms a nice contrast with the modern works on display and is a selfie-lover’s dream. Built in 1904, Villa Alberg is located right in the heart of Amsterdam, next door to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museums.
Moco is the proud home of over 50 original Banksys including the Barcode, Girl with Balloon and Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) works. This quaint and cool museum of contemporary art should not be left off any Netherlands bucket list.
12. Museum Escher in The Palace | A warped world of optical illusions
“Stunning museum with such a variety of works from Escher. Inspiring, beautiful and surprising, it takes you through the evolution of his artistic expression. The café is lovely and reasonable and the house itself is superbly decorated. A must.” – Michaella
This wonderful museum is packed with works by M.C Escher, famous for his playful optical illusions. You’re bound to leave a little confused as most of the 120 prints on display contain fantastical structures that will often leave you wondering “how….?”.
Interestingly, you’ll also find some of Escher’s early and less well-known works here, including beautiful Italian landscapes as well as the artist’s family photos offering insight into the man himself.
All of this is housed in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands and the royal ambience of the palace has been exquisitely maintained. The Escher Museum is a true gem that should be high on your Netherlands bucket list.
Best Landmarks in the Netherlands
From palaces to windmills, the iconic Dutch landmarks you’ll see on your trip will be sure to stay in your memory for a long time. These are the fan favourites that shouldn’t be missed.
13. SkyView de Pier | Glide into the sky in a luxury gondola
“We had a fantastic time on the SkyView Pier! The attendants were friendly and treated us excellently. The view overlooking Scheveningen was also Incredible! We loved it all.” – Lucy
Skyview de Pier offers stunning views of Scheveningen and the North Sea while keeping you warm and comfortable even in the unpredictable Dutch weather.
You’ll rise nearly 40 meters into the air and complete several orbits while enjoying a warm drink and cake and incredible panoramic views.
A visit to the sea side is a must for any Netherlands bucket list, even if the Dutch weather might suggest otherwise sometimes! The unpredictable North Sea is stunning in rain or shine. There’s also plenty to do around Scheveningen, check out SEA LIFE Scheveningen for example and make sure to head to The Hague for some excellent museums.
14. Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam | Curtsy to famous paintings in an active Royal Palace
“Really enjoyed visiting the Royal Palace. Excellent audio guide with precise explanations.” – Fortunee, Canada
Last year’s winner of Best Landmark, the Royal Palace Amsterdam is a must see in the Netherlands. Located on busy Dam Square, this Palace is still in use by the Dutch Royal House. State visits, receptions and other important royal events are held here regularly so the carpets here have touched quite a few powerful people’s feet (including those of Louis Napoleon, the first royal to use this building as his palace).
Murals, chandeliers, arched ceilings and famous paintings abound here so there is a lot to gawk at while you learn all about the history and interior of the palace with an informative audio guide.
15. Euromast | The best views over Europe’s largest seaport
“Great place to see the whole of Rotterdam! Absolutely a must see when you’re in this beautiful city.” – Greg, The Netherlands
Enjoy stunning views over Rotterdam and its surrounding countryside in one of the tallest structures in the Netherlands. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls you get the best view of the port city and one a good day you can even see for over 30km!
Although those who suffer from vertigo might not find the idea of rising 185 meters in the air particularly appealing, a trip to the top in the comfortable, closed viewing platform is an absolute must for your Netherlands bucket list. A voiceover tells you stories about Rotterdam so you’ll have plenty to distract you from thinking about all that space between your feet and solid ground.
16. Molen van Sloten | A quintessentially Dutch experience
“All staff were very friendly and helpful. Our guide was really nice and very informative, such a sweet lady. I would recommend this great tour.” – Melissa, United Kingdom
One of the loveliest hidden gems in the Netherlands, Molen van Sloten is a less obvious activity to add to your Netherlands bucket list. Built in 1847, this functioning draining mill is one of the few working windmills that are open to the public.
A guide will take you around the mill and show you how it still controls water levels in Amsterdam West. When you reach the top of the mill you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the green surroundings. The village of Sloten itself is also very much worth a visit, it’s even home to the smallest police station in The Netherlands.
Combine your visit with a tour of the “De 7 Deugden” brewery next door and sample some local beers.
Best Onsite Experiences in the Netherlands
A visit to a museum or attraction isn’t complete without a friendly face welcoming you. This category focuses on destinations and places that provide visitors with an A+ experience, going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a memorable visit.
17. Ripley’s Believe it or Not Amsterdam | A vast collection of the weird and wonderful
“Excellent experience. Friendly staff and a great place to visit! Thanks a lot!” – Stephanie, Germany
The mind-boggling Ripley’s Believe it or Not Amsterdam is one of the best attractions in the Netherlands to visit with children (or the young at heart). Friendly staff welcome you to the more than 500 exhibits of unbelievable artifacts.
Robert Ripley traveled the world (he visited 201 countries) and brought back fascinating objects from his travels, resulting in a vast collection of the weird and wonderful. Are you brave enough to face the sight of a 19th century tooth extractor? Then a visit to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Amsterdam should be at the top of your Netherlands bucket list.
18. Heineken Experience | Everything you want to know about beer
“Wonderful. Great tour guide- Tanya – who was lively, energetic and great fun. She made the whole experience so enjoyable and interesting. I would highly recommend it!” – Patricia, Ireland
Located in Heineken’s first brewery, the Experience lays out how a small Amsterdam brewery turned into one of the world’s most famous beer brands.
Multiple tastings and free beer are included, so there’s really no way this wouldn’t be a fun time out. Take a look at the historic brewing rooms to learn what machinery was used in 19th century brewing practices. Find out what it’s like to be a beer bottle for a day and get a view of the entire brewing process. Finally, you get to taste the key elements that make up the beer individually before having the very familiar final Heineken product. All the while, passionate staff is ready to answer all your pressing questions about the golden brew.
19. Amsterdam Museum | Interactive history of the Dutch capital
“Fascinating. If you love learning about the history of your location, then it’s perfect. Helpful, friendly staff!” – Andrea
The Amsterdam Museum tells the story of the Dutch capital through interactive exhibitions. Exploring Amsterdam’s history from the Middle Ages right up to the present day, the museum aims to give insight into the identity of modern Amsterdam.
Formerly called the “Amsterdam history museum”, the institution removed the word history from its name in order to reflect the museum’s aim to be a museum firmly rooted in the present. Not shying away from complicated topics in the Netherlands’ past, the Amsterdam museum offers a great experience for anyone interested in the Dutch capital.
20. Het Scheepvaartmuseum | One of the largest maritime collections in the world
“It was amazing, the museum audio tour was really helpful, the staff very kind and the exhibits outstanding.” – Babis, Greece
Over 500 years of maritime history is explored in this interactive museum. Home to one of the largest maritime collections in the world with over 400.000 objects, the museum gives a great insight into how Dutch maritime history has shaped the Netherlands’ past and present.
The interactive exhibits at the museum are suitable for all ages. Let your imagination be sparked by a replica sailing ship and a VR experience that takes you on a journey back to the Dutch Golden Age. Or if you’re less keen on time-travelling, soak up the historical facts and art works this museum is packed with.
Reclaiming land from the sea, becoming a big seafaring trade power, and building innovative storm barriers against the unpredictable North Sea, The Netherlands has fought a battle against the water for centuries, yet owes much of its wealth to the element. A visit to a maritime museum while you’re here seems only fitting.
Award-winning venues to add to your bucket list
In addition to rounding up the best-rated museums and attractions, we also went on the hunt for the best hidden gems and the most innovative venues of 2020. Judged by a panel of tourism experts, here are the winners of Best Hidden Gem in the Netherlands and Most Innovative Venue in the Netherlands.
The Best Hidden Gem in the Netherlands
“Koen founded Youseum together with his cousin, Joep Heusschen. Throughout the planning process, the goal to maintain authenticity and enable creative freedom was always on their mind.”
Inspired by the possibility of offering visitors playful, aesthetically pleasing experiences in the Netherlands, Koen Derks quit his job and left everything behind to open his own social media experience in Amsterdam: Youseum. Combining a photo studio, an art installation, and a playground, Youseum puts you at the center of it all.
The Most Innovative Venue in the Netherlands
“We have had many positive reactions from the public, people feeling safe, feeling taken seriously and feeling welcome. Welcoming KLM flight attendants as volunteers at Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot helped us out greatly practically and financially, and also improved the visitors experience greatly.”
Rijksmuseum Muiderslot, a medieval castle just outside of Amsterdam, had to rethink their entire service plan when Covid-19 hit: most of their volunteer staff were over the age of 60 and therefore vulnerable to the virus. They decided to take advantage of a great initiative by KLM called ‘Blauw Helpt’. Employees of the airline put their hospitality skills to good use while COVID prevented them from working for KLM by volunteering at Muiderslot. In the summer, the castle also allowed small groups of visitors to camp in their plush gardens at night! How’s that for innovative?
Netherlands bucket list staples
Besides the fan favourites on this bucket list, there are of course plenty of staple things to do in the Netherlands that are worthy of a mention. With a whole load of sightseeing, stroopwafel-snacking and cheese sampling to be done, let’s head straight to the staples to include on your Netherlands bucket list.
23. Zaanse Schans | A peek into the past
What’s more iconically Dutch than a windmill? Clogs maybe. Luckily you can find plenty of both in this historic part of the Netherlands. Sitting on the banks of the Zaan River, the Zaanse Schans is an open-air museum that features six working windmills and lots of historic houses and craft shops.
A trip to the Zaanse Schans will transport you back in time. Step into a working windmill and find out why they have been so important in shaping Dutch history, then head to a traditional craft shop and witness a clog making demonstration. You’ll have a picture perfect day out.
24. Keukenhof | The Garden of Europe
Another Dutch icon, the tulip, gets its moment in the spotlight each Spring at Keukenhof. Over 7 million flowers are in bloom between March and May in “The Garden of Europe”, so a visit there is an absolute must for your Netherlands bucket list.
Covering 32-hectares of land, you’ll find gorgeous flower exhibitions as well as a petting zoo, English and Japanese gardens, a maze and restaurants to ensure fun for the whole family. It’s open for just eight weeks each spring (April – May), but there are plenty of different ways to check out the Keukenhof every year.
25. Canals of Amsterdam | Famous monuments and romantic photo-ops
The most unique feature of the Dutch capital must be its picturesque canals. The Grachtengordel, the ring of waterways and streets in the city centre, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built during the Dutch Golden Age (the 17th Century), this neighborhood is filled with grand canal houses, cute bridges and famous monuments such as the Westerkerk and the Anne Frank House.
The best way to enjoy the charming area is, of course, from the water. Hop onto a Canal Cruise and marvel at your historic surroundings while you learn all about the city with an informative audio guide.
26. The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery | the home of Girl with a Pearl Earring
The beautiful Mauritshuis is home to one of the most important collections of Dutch and Flemish masters in the world. It’s also where you’ll find one of the most famous Dutch paintings in history: ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer.
Located in a 17th-century mansion in the Hague right next to the office of the Dutch prime-minister and the parliament buildings, the Mauritshuis offers a great insight into Dutch history and is an absolute must see in the Netherlands.
27. Hoge Veluwe National Park | Stunning wildlife and a world-class museum
You might not expect it in such a small and densely populated country, but the Netherlands is home to some magnificent national parks. One of the largest is the Hoge Veluwe National Park. It covers 55 square kilometres of natural landscapes, stunning wildlife and a world-class art museum.
One of the best ways to explore the area is by bike (available free of charge in the park). Just watch out for the deer, wild boar, foxes, sheep and Highland cattle that call the National Park their home. A great way to catch a breath of fresh air and admire the Dutch landscape, a trip to the Hoge Veluwe should be on anyone’s Netherlands bucket list.