The Netherlands: Ten Things To Do | Top Universities

The Netherlands: Ten Things To Do

By Staff Writer

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

Ever wondered what TopUniversities.com's top 10 things to do while studying abroad in the Netherlands were? Well, wonder no more!

The Netherlands is a country of fascinating contradictions: it retains a traditional and quaint feel, but its people are forward-thinking and sophisticated; it’s one of the world’s most densely populated countries but has a serene and relaxed pace of life; it’s one of the most permissive countries around, but crime and social problems are relatively low. Whether you’re looking for high culture or wild parties, cosmopolitan cities or rural seclusion, the Netherlands is a truly unique nation with an endless capacity to surprise, intrigue and entertain.

If you’re studying abroad in the Netherlands as an English-speaker, you’ll find that most Dutch people speak English almost as well as you do (and probably two or three other languages too).  What’s more, situated at the heart of Europe, not only will you have the myriad attractions of the Netherlands itself to explore, you’ll also have one of the most vibrant and diverse continents on the planet at your doorstep.

1. Experience Amsterdam – one of Europe’s greatest capital cities

Nearest universities: University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; DELFT University of Technology; DUISENBERG school of finance; ERASMUS University Rotterdam; IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies; LEIDEN University; NBSO- Nuffic Neso Desk India; The SCHOLAR SHIP; THE HAGUE University of Applied Sciences; UTRECHT University; Webster University - Leiden; University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; ERASMUS University Rotterdam

There are many things you can do in Amsterdam that you can’t do in most other cities - and we’re not just talking about the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) cafes, or seedy red light district. Amsterdam is a unique cultural treasure whose liberalism has paved the way for a rich tradition of creativity and bohemian flair – not to mention a serious party scene. Criss-crossed by canals, architecturally unique and adorned throughout the spring with tulips, Amsterdam is one of the most eye-catching of major European cities.

To experience the ambience and serenity of Amsterdam in style, either by day or by night, take a canal cruise on one of the many different hire-boats on offer throughout the city. If it’s culture you’re after, you’ll find it here in abundance: the Rijksmuseum houses one of the most important art collections in Europe, the Van Gogh Museum showcases numerous masterpieces by the country’s great painter Vincent Van Gogh, and the Anne Frank House is a poignant monument to the darkest chapter in European history. If you want to let your hair down, you’re in the right place – Amsterdam’s nightlife encompasses the chic, the outrageous, the quirky and the downright debauched, and just about everything in between.

2. Hang out in Maastricht, the Netherlands’ southern student haven

Nearest universities: EINDHOVEN University of Technology; TIASNIMBAS Business School; TILBURG University; MAASTRICHT School of Management; MAASTRICHT University;

Though Amsterdam takes most of the plaudits, for many international students studying abroad in the Netherlands, the city of Maastricht may just be the country’s best-kept secret. Cosmopolitan and sophisticated, and located near the Belgian and German borders in the south of the country, Maastricht has a distinctly international flavour. Ancient Roman and Spanish ruins sit alongside Flemish, Belgian and German architecture, with a charming cobbled centre and an antiquated feel reflecting Maastricht’s status as one of the Netherlands’ oldest cities.

Maastricht is also one of the Netherlands’ major educational centres. With numerous top universities based here, it’s no surprise this city enjoys a buzzing student scene. And with English spoken almost universally (alongside a range of other European languages), Maastricht could be the perfect place to spend your time studying abroad in the Netherlands.

Did you know? There is an ongoing dispute over whether Maastricht or Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands. Maastricht has been occupied continuously since at least the days of the Roman Empire, around 2,000 years ago.

3. Feast your eyes at Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden

Nearest universities: University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; DELFT University of Technology; DUISENBERG school of finance; ERASMUS University Rotterdam; IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies; LEIDEN University; NBSO- Nuffic Neso Desk India; The SCHOLAR SHIP; THE HAGUE University of Applied Sciences; UTRECHT University; Webster University - Leiden; University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; ERASMUS University Rotterdam

Think of the Dutch countryside and what do you see? That’s right, traditional wooden windmills, flat and low-lying terrain, and above all, fields of tulips. Though countryside may be at a premium in the Netherlands (it’s one of the world’s most densely populated countries), in the spring the country is festooned by multicoloured flowers. For a glimpse of the Netherlands at its most idyllic, be sure to visit Keukenhof. Also known as The Garden of Europe, Keukenhof is the largest flower garden in the world, with 32 hectors’ worth of spectacular floral displays. The garden is open between March and May of each year - and with approximately 7 million bulbs planted annually, visitors will enjoy a kaleidoscope of colours that has to be seen to be believed.

Did you know? The Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of flowers.

4. The political capital of ’Den Haag’

Nearest universities: University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; DELFT University of Technology; DUISENBERG school of finance; ERASMUS University Rotterdam; IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies; LEIDEN University; NBSO- Nuffic Neso Desk India; The SCHOLAR SHIP; THE HAGUE University of Applied Sciences; UTRECHT University; Webster University - Leiden; University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; ERASMUS University Rotterdam

The Netherlands’ former capital and its royal seat, The Hague (‘Den Haag’ in Dutch), exudes regal pomp and stateliness. A more serene and serious-minded alternative to neighbouring Amsterdam, Den Haag is home to an array of international courts including the International Court of Justice, adding to its magisterial air. The stately architecture of the Binnenhof government complex, the mansions of Lange Voorhout and the cluster of historic buildings in the city centre makes the Haag well worth a visit alone. Scratch below the surface and you will find a multicultural scene that belies the city’s reputation for austerity, alongside excellent restaurants and museums including the Mauritshuis, which contains one of the best collections of Dutch Old Master paintings.

5. North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam (and explore the city while you’re there)

Nearest universities: University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; DELFT University of Technology; DUISENBERG school of finance; ERASMUS University Rotterdam; IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies; LEIDEN University; NBSO- Nuffic Neso Desk India; The SCHOLAR SHIP; THE HAGUE University of Applied Sciences; UTRECHT University; Webster University - Leiden; University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; ERASMUS University Rotterdam

First staged in 1976, the North Sea Jazz Festival is a genre-spanning musical feast that has, in recent years, featured performers ranging from classics such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to contemporary acts including Alicia Keys and Jamiroquai. With gigs spread across numerous venues throughout the city over three days in July, no matter what your musical cup of tea you’ll find something to get your head nodding and your toes tapping: from New Orleans jazz, swing, bop, free jazz, fusion, avant-garde jazz and electronic jazz, to blues, gospel, funk, soul, R&B, hip hop, world beat and Latin.

If you’re studying abroad in Rotterdam you’ll find that the Netherlands’ second-largest city has plenty to offer all year round. A bustling, multicultural metropolis, Rotterdam features a range of top-quality museums, a happening nightlife and has one of the busiest ports in the world. Arguably Rotterdam’s coolest attraction is the Euromast, a lofty tower featuring an observation window at 100 metres with stunning panoramic views of the city. Don’t be satisfied with just looking, though – if you’re intrepid enough you can abseil down the building or, if you really feel the need for speed, jump on Europe’s fastest zipline, reaching speeds of 100 km per hour!

6. Check out one of the Netherlands’ top football teams – Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven or the mighty ‘Orange Men’ themselves.

The Netherlands may be a small nation, but the Dutch are seriously good at football. In the past few decades, the country has produced some of the world’s most celebrated players, from Johann Cruyff, Marco Van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp to current stars such as Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. While the Dutch domestic league (the ‘Eredivisie’) may not carry quite the international prestige of the English Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, it still features major European teams such as Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven and the Netherlands’ most famous and successful club team, Ajax Amsterdam. Tickets are also far easier to come by than in England or Spain, and more likely to fit into your student budget. Plus you’ll get a chance to see the next crop of Dutch wonderkids in action before they make their inevitable big-money transfer moves abroad.

7. Take advantage of your location in the heart of Europe – go inter-railing

As far as Europe is concerned, if you’re an undergraduate student studying abroad in the Netherlands you will be right in the heart of the action. Fancy a weekend break? Then take your pick from the likes of Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Luxembourg and London, all reachable within a few hours by train. If you have a bit of spare time over the university holidays, why not really get to know Europe by going on an inter-railing adventure? With so many countries and historic cultures crammed into one buzzing, cosmopolitan continent, a period spent studying abroad in the Netherlands isn’t just about one country – it’s a chance to explore the whole of Europe.

Did you know? If you’re planning to do a rail trip around Europe, you may save money by buying a Eurorail or InterRail pass, allowing you unlimited travel for a set period of time.

8. Go off the beaten track to the (little) cities – Haarlem, Utrecht, Leiden, Delfta

Despite its reputation for calm and serenity, as of 2008 the Netherlands was the second most densely populated country in Europe, behind England. While this may sound like a daunting statistic, it means that if you are an undergraduate student studying abroad here you will be surrounded by a cluster of fascinating cities to explore, all within easy access by train and all with their own style, character and quirks. Explore the cobble-stone squares and quaint buildings of historic Haarlem; take a boat-ride along the scenic canals of Utrecht City; and enjoy the quintessentially Dutch splendour of Delft, home to the House of Orange-Nassau.

Did you know? One undergraduate student who certainly benefitted from studying abroad in the Netherlands was the important 17th Century French philosopher Rene Descartes, who is perhaps most famous for the phrase ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’). Descartes was a student at LEIDEN University in Leiden, another of the Netherlands’ attractive and historic cities and its oldest university town. Culture buffs should be sure to make it to Leiden, which is also the birthplace of Rembrandt, one of the Netherlands’ greatest artists.

9. Go to a traditional Dutch cheese market

The Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest exporters of cheese, with famous varieties including Gouda, Edam and Maasdammer. The Dutch have been making cheese since at least 400 AD – and one of the best ways to get a sense of the history of the trade (and get your hands on the freshest produce around) is by visiting one of the traditional cheese markets that are still held throughout the country. As the name might suggest, one of the best cheese markets is held in the town of Gouda, where cheese has been traded for over 300 years. The market takes place every Thursday morning from mid-June until early September. There are also traditional markets held in Alkmaar and Edam.

As well as being an interesting insight into a national tradition, the markets are a beautiful spectacle, restoring a centuries-old character to the historic town centres. If you really want to geek out on cheese, check out the Cheese Museum in Alkmaar - packed with enough facts and sights to satisfy even the most hardened cheese-freak!

10. Get on your bike – even though Holland’s train system could rival that of Germany’s, there’s no better way to experience the real Netherlands than by pedal power

If a bike-riding deity was to design the perfect country for leisurely weekend cycling, it would probably look like the Netherlands. One of the lowest-lying nations in the world, with over 50% of its land less than a metre above sea-level, if you’re cycling around the Netherlands you can rest assured that thigh-busting hill-climbs will be kept strictly to a minimum.

What’s more, with the nation’s many cities separated by scenic green pastures bespeckled with tulips and windmills, you’re assured of both a pleasant journey and an interesting destination. Best of all, these cities and stretches of countryside are packed into a small geographical area, so you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to manage the distances involved. There really are no excuses - get on your bike and explore this beautiful nation the environmentally friendly way!

Did you know? There are around 17,000km (10,600 miles) of designated cycle tracks in the Netherlands

Once you’ve finished those:

1.    Get in touch with nature at the Hoge Veluwe National Park

2.    Travel back in time at Zaans Schans, a quintessentially Dutch village full of windmills, museums and craft shops

3.    Visit the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam and see how one of the nation’s most famous exports is made

4.    Bask in the tranquil atmosphere of Den Bosch, hometown of famous Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch

5.    Escape from the cities - take in the rolling sand dunes and maritime seclusion of the Frisian Islands

The Netherlands' top universities by region

1) North East University of GRONINGEN;

2) East University of TWENTE; WAGENINGEN University

3) West University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; DELFT University of Technology; DUISENBERG school of finance; ERASMUS University Rotterdam; IHS - Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies; LEIDEN University; NBSO- Nuffic Neso Desk India; The SCHOLAR SHIP; THE HAGUE University of Applied Sciences; UTRECHT University; Webster University - Leiden; University of AMSTERDAM; Vrije Universiteit AMSTERDAM; ERASMUS University Rotterdam

4) South Radboud University Nijmegen; EINDHOVEN University of Technology; TIASNIMBAS Business School; TILBURG University; MAASTRICHT School of Management; MAASTRICHT University;

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Written by

+ 1 others
saved this article

+ 2 others saved this article

Related Articles Last year

Get Free Updates

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive regular content highlights direct to your inbox

Sign Up Now
Course Matching Tool
Course Matching Tool
Course Matching Tool

Use our tool to find your perfect course. Answer a few questions and we will do the rest!

Start Matching
Test Preparations
Test Preparations mobile image
Test Preparations desktop image

Join QS Leap, the most advanced free test-prep platform in the world.

Start Preparing