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The Netherlands has a lot more cool cities and towns that are worth visiting than you would think! Most tourists only visit Amsterdam, but there is more to explore in this tiny country. To give you some inspiration for your visit to my homecountry, I decided to write about the best cities to visit in the Netherlands. That’s why I also asked other travel bloggers about their favourite destinations in the Netherlands and which cities you definitely shouldn’t miss during a visit. It resulted in this pretty awesome article with the 17 best cities in the Netherlands! 🙂
This article is perfect as an inspiration for your visit to the Netherlands! It includes cities that are an excellent alternative to Amsterdam, which is getting more and more touristic each year. Of course, Amsterdam is an amazing, beautiful city filled with history, canals and adorable streets. But did you know that there are plenty of other cities and towns in the Netherlands that also have these features, but are not touristic at all? Especially if you’re planning on visiting the Netherlands during the holidays, it’s smart to visit more than just the capital city.
After each destination I’ve added some hotel recommendations. However, if you would rather want to experience living like a local in the Netherlands, I advice you to check out Airbnb. Often I find the most unique accommodations in great locations on Airbnb. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, use this link for a discount! That way I also get a discount on my next booking with them. A win/win situation! 🙂
Enjoy your stay in the Netherlands!
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17 Best cities in the Netherlands
1. Amsterdam: The capital city of the Netherlands
The first city in this listicle is an obvious one. Most tourists have actually only heard of Amsterdam. Often when I’m travelling overseas and I say that I’m from the Netherlands, I will get a puzzled face. But when I say “Amsterdam”, everyone knows what I’m talking about!
Amsterdam should definitely be in your itinerary when you visit the Netherlands for the first time! It’s one of the most touristic places in my country and it’s easy to see why so many people want to visit this city. All the beautiful canals, old houses in different sizes and shapes, a lot of art, museums and restaurants.
There is something to do for everyone in Amsterdam. From Amsterdam it’s also easy to visit other cities with the train or bus, so it’s a great central point to start your trip in the Netherlands. If you’re spending a few days in Amsterdam or doing a lot of day trips from here, it might be an idea to get the I Amsterdam City Card. Be sure to also read our article Day Trip in Amsterdam with the I Amsterdam City Card to see if it’s worth it if you’re only spending one day in Amsterdam.
Hotel tips in Amsterdam
- Misc Eatdrinksleep: a bit of a quirkier hotel at a canal. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Hotel Estheréa: a hotel with an absolutely gorgeous interior. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Ambasade Hotel: another amazing hotel at a canal. Check out the prices and availability here.
- The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel: perfect if you’re on a budget. Check out the prices and availability here.
2. Haarlem: The perfect day trip from Amsterdam
From Haarlem you can be in the center of Amsterdam within 15 minutes, but you can also set foot on the beach within 15 minutes. Sounds perfect, right? Haarlem is becoming a popular city for people that want to experience the Amsterdam feeling, but want to escape from all the tourists and chaos.
So what are the highlights of Haarlem? You must check out the main square of Haarlem, this is where it all happens. You will find plenty of fancy restaurants, the beautiful church and the city hall where you will often see people getting married. In my opinion, the most photogenic street is the Warmoestraat, just behind the main square. But there is more! Haarlem is the perfect city to wander around and get lost in the many beautiful hidden streets. You will see lots of courtyards with old authentic Dutch houses.
If you want to see more of the authentic Dutch architecture you should go for a walk along the river Spaarne and you will not be disappointed. Where you should go for food and drinks? Here are my some of my favourite brunch spots: Mica, ByLima, Anne&Max, Blender, Mogador Coffee, Dodici, Fortuyn and Diga. They are not the standard tourist spots, they are a bit hidden and not all of them are located in the main center of Haarlem, but it is worth visiting them!
Hotel tips in Haarlem
- Amrâth Grand Hotel Frans Hals: a centrally located hotel, close to all the touristic attractions. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Ambassador City Centre Hotel: A family run hotel in the centre of Harlem, opposite of the Sint-Bavo church, close to the Grote Markt. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Amadeus Hotel: Another family run hotel, located in a historic building at the Grote Markt. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Hello I’m Local Boutique Hostel: A cool hostel that is perfect if you’re on a budget. Check out the prices and availability here.
3. Rotterdam: Manhattan at the Maas
In the past, most tourists only paid a visit to Amsterdam and some barely even knew there was more to the Netherlands than our capital city. Nowadays, Rotterdam is getting more and more recognition for the cool city it is. Rotterdam is my hometown, and it’s funny to see hop on/hop off busses driving around and more and more tourists walking around on the streets. This definitely wasn’t the case just a mere three to four years ago.
Rotterdam is completely different from Amsterdam and any Dutch city. Because Rotterdam was bombed during the Second World War, it had to be build from scratch. A lot of renowned architects designed buildings for Rotterdam and you’ll be amazing by the crazy buildings in the city. For instance, the weird Cube Houses you see pictured above, or the large Markthal, De Rotterdam or the beautiful Erasmus bridge. Because of all those buildings, Rotterdam also has a beautiful skyline that actually resembles New York a bit. That’s why we also call Rotterdam Manhattan aan de Maas or Manhattan at the Maas.
TIP: Are you visiting Rotterdam during the Eurovision Song Contest 2020? Then be sure to read this Eurovision Song Contest Guide for Rotterdam, it contains a lot of useful information about the song contest and practical information for your visit in general.
Hotel tips in Rotterdam
- Rotterdam Marriott Hotel: named best hotel of Rotterdam in 2018. Check out the prices and availability here.
- nhow Rotterdam: a cool hotel with urban art, architecture, design, fashion, photography and some of the best views of the city. Check out the prices and availability here.
- CitizenM Rotterdam: a luxurious hotel with great views. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Hostel ROOM Rotterdam: a very cool hostel and great if you’re on a budget. Check out the prices and availability here.
4. Utrecht: Historic university city
Utrecht is a beautiful city that has a lot of historic buildings and structures. It’s actually one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Utrecht is a great alternative to Amsterdam, as in this university city you can also find a lot of canals and “herenhuizen”, which are the traditional Dutch houses. This makes it the perfect city to walk around canals and exploring the beautiful historical buildings.
Many students in the Netherlands choose the University in Utrecht, and it’s no surprise when you see the gorgeous historical university buildings and the university botanical gardens.
Are you planning on visiting Utrecht? Be sure to check out these 20 things to do in Utrecht.
Hotel tips in Utrecht
- Grand Hotel Karel V: a 5-star hotel in the center of the city. Check out the prices and availability here.
- De Hoendervorst: this unique hotel has an excellent location in the center of Utrecht. You stay right at the canal in an old yard cellar. Check prices and availability here.
- BUNK Hotel Utrecht: in this hotel they offer bunk beds for different amount of people. It’s located very close to the city center and just 300 meters of TivoliVredenburg. Check out prices and availability here.
- Stayokay Utrecht centrum: affordable hostel in a perfect location in the center of Utrecht. Check prices and availability here.
5. The Hague: The political capital of the Netherlands
The Hague is the former capital of the Netherlands and it’s a must for anyone interested in history. You can visit the working palace of the king, the Dutch parliament (my favourite free attraction here!), or visit one of the famous art museums. The historic city is very picturesque and compact, so it’s easy to walk around while enjoying the many cute shops. My favourite is a wine store called De Filosoof with a beautiful Persian cat that greets the visitors and waits by the register. Similarly, a popular attraction is the popular beach resort of Scheveningen for the views over the sea, strolling along the boardwalk, or going surfing. One of the coolest parts about this city is that you can do both in one day and that it doesn’t feel as touristy as Amsterdam.
Another cool thing about the Hague is how international it is. Most of the consulates and embassies in the Netherlands in the Hague, so you hear many languages on the street and you’ll find food from all over the world (that you can’t find elsewhere in the Netherlands). The diversity and beauty of the Hague make it so appealing for visitors looking for a day trip.
Hotel tips in The Hague
- Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus The Hague Scheveningen: beautiful hotel on the boulevard, only 3 minutes from the beach. Check out the prices and availability here.
- NH Den Haag: this elegant hotel is located 15 minutes from the central station. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Student Hotel The Hague: perfect combination of co-living and co-working. Check out the prices and availability here.
6. Dordrecht: The oldest city of the Netherlands
Dordrecht, the seaport and the oldest city in Holland, is located on an island and is bordered by five different rivers. In the past it was an important city with a trade in wood, cereals and wine, yet the culture and its wealth is still visible today (monuments, museums, theatres, etc.). Today the city is principally known for shipbuilding, wood and steel industry.
The city is rich in history, so there are a number of museums, monuments and fantastic historical buildings. Very interesting activity there is sailing through the old harbours on an electric boat, which takes you past houses built in the water and under bridges. Must sees are the Great Church and collection of paintings of the Dordrechts Museum. From the Groothoofd there is a gorgeous view of the rivers’ intersections.
Nearby there is a nature reserve National Park De Biesbosch, consisting of many waterways, islands, lakes and marshes. Here you can enjoy plenty of outdoor opportunities, such as hiking, cycling, kayaking and even bird watching. You can rent a boat and explore the beauty or go horse back riding.
Hotel tips in Dordrecht
- Villa Augustus: this unique hotel is a former water tower. All the rooms have a beautiful view, either over the river or a vegetable garden. Check prices and availability here.
- B&B Op Ut Hoekie: excellent location in the center of Dordrecht. Each room has a cute little balcony. Check prices and availability here.
- Oranjepark: excellent location in the center of Dordrecht. The hotel is a beautifully renovated building. Check prices and availability here.
7. Delft: an idyllic town in the Netherlands
Delft is mostly known for it’s traditional blue and white ceramics, also known as Delfts blauw. Other than that, Delft has a beautiful old city center and is a picturesque town. The city was built around a canal known as Oude Delft or Old Delft and many more canals were build later on. Delft is perfect as a city trip from either Rotterdam or Amsterdam, but it’s certainly also worth it to stay here for a couple of nights.
What are things to do in Delft? Visit the Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk and the Main Square, three historic highlights in the middle of the center. At the main square you can buy local products and explore a buzzing part of town. Or try out chocolates at a chocolaterie, go shopping for ceramics at one of the cute shops or explore the town by boat or bicycle!
Hotel tips in Delft
- Hotel de Plataan Delft Centrum: located in the historic center of Delft and is one of the greenest hotels in the country. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Hotel Johannes Vermeer Delft: located in an old cigar factory in the center, close to many monuments, museums and shopping areas. Check out the prices and availability here.
8. Breda: A city with an amazing vibe
Breda is a city that has an amazing vibe. It’s great for delicious food, shopping and taking walks. For example, there is a huge choice of restaurants; my favourites include Bar Lucca, Girasole, The Tiger Club, Zuyd and Beers & Barrels. Fancy something sweet? Then go for a piece of cheesecake at the cozy In kannen & Kruiken. Best in town!
Breda regularly hosts fun events, such as Breda Barst, BredaPhoto, Cultuurnacht and Breda Jazz. The Stedelijk Museum Breda is also recommended for a (first) time visit in Breda. Do you prefer to explore nature? Within a few minutes you are at the beautiful Mastbos where you can make beautiful walks.
Hotel tips in Breda
- Hotel Nassau: a special and luxurious hotel, located in an old monastery right in the center of Breda. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Bliss Boutique Hotel: a four star, contemporary boutique hotel in the center of Breda. Check out the prices and availability here.
9. Den Bosch: Experience the traditions and heritage of The Netherlands
Despite its location only an hour by train outside Amsterdam, Den Bosch (or ‘S Hertogenbosch) is often a city overlooked by tourists visiting The Netherlands.
Den Bosch is a wonderful city to visit for those looking for a glimpse into the traditions and heritage of The Netherlands. A city filled with old-world charm, a myriad of quaint cobblestone streets and scenic canal routes meandering beneath the surface. Den Bosch is the place to discover unique art, shop in local Dutch stores and enjoy a traditional Bossche Bol (a delicacy from Den Bosch, which is a chocolate-covered puff pastry filled with whipped cream). The best place to enjoy a Bossche Bol is at confectioners Jan De Groot.
One of the best-loved things about The Netherlands is the canals and Den Bosch is no exception. Take a boat tour of the medieval Binnendieze and pass beneath centuries-old buildings, whilst listening to the intriguing tales of the city’s past.
Gothic St John’s Cathedral, Old City Hall and the Markt Square give visitors a taste of an old-world Netherlands. Market days are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays if you want to get a feel for Dutch life in the city.
If you’re not exploring the quaint streets Molenstraat and Uilenberg, be sure to check out Den Bosch’s unique local stores and restaurants on Korte Putstraat. Robbies is the city’s most popular concept store. Locals in Den Bosch are proud of their heritage and you will find an array of intriguing local stores that you will not find elsewhere in The Netherlands. Read more about shopping in Den Bosch here.
Hotel tips in Den Bosch
- Uylenhof Hotel: this unique hotel is positioned over an arched canal bridge with beautifully furnished luxury apartments located a stone’s throw away from the city’s main attractions. Check prices and availability here.
- Hotel Julien: this is a perfect hotel for couples. The location is perfect and the rooms are comfortable and beautiful. Check prices and availability here.
- Best Western Plus City Centre Hotel Den Bosch: this hotel is located right in the center of Den Bosch. Check out prices and availability here.
10. Zwolle: Old Hanzestad filled with cute boutiques and cafes
Zwolle is a lovely city located in the northeast of the Netherlands which can easily be reached by train from both Utrecht and Amsterdam. I know Zwolle very well, as I went to high school in Zwolle and still visit the city about once a month, as many of my friends live there.
Zwolle was founded around 1000 AD and given city rights in 1230. The city is home to approximately 130.000 residents and is the capital of the province Overijssel. There is a beautiful old city center surrounded by canals.
One of the must sees is the impressive Sassenpoort, which is listed in the top 100 of national monuments (and rightly so!). A great activity to do in Zwolle is to make a boat tour through the canals surrounding the city center. Alternatively you can climb the 75 meter high Peperbus (which obviously earned its nickname because it looks like a large pepper shaker).
Zwolle is also a great place to go shopping. You can find all most chains shops in the Diezerstraat, but make sure to wander around the little alleys branching of this street as there are lots of cute boutiques, such as Moonloft, with unique items!
Zwolle has lots of cute restaurants, cafes and bistros. I recommend Proefiz for lunch and Poppe for dinner. On a hot day, make sure to buy an ice cream at Salute, but be warned, the line can be long (always an indication something must be delicious and is worth queuing for).
Hotel tips in Zwolle
- Pillows Grand Hotel Ter Borch: this hotel has an excellent location in Zwolle. Check prices and availability here.
- Hotel Lumen Zwolle: great service in a beautiful modern hotel. Check prices and availability here.
11. Gouda: More than just the cheese!
While most people only know Gouda in The Netherlands for its namesake cheese, there is actually a lot going on in this southern Dutch city for discerning travellers to enjoy. Of course, the weekly Gouda Cheese Market will be a real highlight (and will be where you want to stock up on cheesy souvenirs!), but the town’s historic buildings and museums are also well worth a visit.
The majority of Gouda’s historic highlights are located in and around the Markt Square which allows you to easily visit all the top sights in one go. Gouda’s Church of St. John is a breath-taking work of architecture, with stone columns and archways as well as epic stained-glass windows that have survived since the 15th century. The Gouda Stadhuis that stands in the centre of the Markt square is one of the most impressive buildings in the town, with a picturesque Gothic style making it unbelievably photogenic!
The Gouda Museum is another top spot with pottery, paintings and porcelain dating back to the 1800s. The Red Lion Windmill (Molen De Roode Leeuw) is a favourite sight in Gouda among travellers, with the sails moving gracefully around and reflecting in the nearby waters of the canal. This is a quintessential image of the Netherlands that will be one for the photo albums!
For those who want to enjoy the great outdoors, walks along the canal and through the Goudse Wood are a wonderful way to while away a few hours.
Last but by no means least, travellers visiting Gouda simply must try a delicious stroopwafel, a sticky, sweet layered treat that you’ll find in every cafe and bakery around the town!
Hotel tips in Gouda
- Anna aan de Motte: this 5-star hotel is located just 300 meters of the Market and the old city hall. Check out prices and availability here.
12. Groningen: A city in the Netherlands you shouldn’t skip!
Groningen is a city that is often overlooked. Too far away from the rest of the Netherlands and that’s why people often opt for a different city. It’s a shame, because Groningen is very nice and has a lot to offer!
When in Groningen, be sure to visit the Folkingestraat & Zwanestraat, both voted the best shopping street in the Netherlands, and stroll through the fine, narrow streets. Go shopping or relax at terraces around the Vismarkt and on the Grote Markt. Stroll along the beautiful mansions in the Brug- and Astraat and along the Hoge and Lage der A. Enjoy the Noorderplantsoen, climb the Martini Tower and visit the Groninger Museum. Do you travel with children? Be sure to visit the Comic book Museum. Do not forget to get a pie at Bij Britta, have a drink at De Uurwerker, have lunch at Pernikkel and dine at Dot!
Hotel tips in Groningen
- The Student Hotel Groningen: just outside of the busy center, but still in walking distance of everything. Check out the prices and availability here.
- City Hotel Groningen: great location, as it’s in walking distance of touristic attractions. Check out the prices and availability here.
13. Maastricht: the most Southern city in the Netherlands
The most Southerly city in the Netherlands is that of Maastricht, a beautiful Dutch destination which is surrounded by rolling green hills and close to the border with both Germany and Belgium. Entirely different from the equally beautiful cities of Holland, the Dutch Limburg Capital boasts plenty of attractions, including walking opportunities, foodie experiences, and plenty of history.
Maastricht is perfect for a long weekend break, and not just because the city is easy to reach and even easier to get around (almost all of the city’s major things to do can be reached on foot, or better yet, by bicycle). Instead, highlights include taking a guided tour of the Maastricht Underground tunnels (a maze of underground routes covering over 10 km under the city), experiencing the free to visit Helpoort (the last medieval gate Maastricht has to offer), finding the best view of the city (be sure to head up the red tower of Sint-Janskerk), and shopping in Boekhandel Dominicanen (a bookstore housed in a former church). If you’re feeling a little peckish, then a trip to Bread and Delicious is an absolute must, while those who love luxury will enjoy the fact that 80% of Maastricht’s hotels are rated four-star or above!
For more inspiration for your time in Maastricht, be sure to read Sophie’s article with things to do in Maastricht!
Hotel tips in Maastricht
- Le Theatre Hotel: this hotel has an excellent location in the center of Maastricht, directly at the Vrijthof. Check prices and availability here.
- Townhouse Maastricht: this hotel has an excellent location in the center and has an eco-certificate of Planeet Care. Check prices and availability here.
14. Deventer: A Dutch city with amazing events
Deventer was part of the Hanseatic League; a trade union created by seven Dutch towns situated on the river IJssel during the 14th and 15th centuries. This union led to enormous prosperity and today all of these cities are worth a visit to see the beauty and history on display. Especially Deventer!
Deventer is full of beautiful old architecture and home to some great museums, art galleries and churches. It’s also the host of some fantastic yearly festivals. For instance, Deventer op Stelten, Deventer Boekenmark and the Dickens Festijn. During Deventer op Stelten the town hosts performers from around the world (many on stilts) for a weekend every July. Deventer Boekenmarkt is the largest book market in Europe and is held on the first Sunday of August. The town hosts around 878 book-stalls, with many rare and very old books on display and available to buy. And every year on the weekend before Christmas the Dickens Festijn (Dickens Festival) dresses up the historic Bergkwartier in Christmas finery and more than 950 characters are brought to life!
Hotel tips in Deventer
- Grand Boutique Hotel Huis Vermeer: great location and is situated opposite of the Lebuniuskerk. Check out the prices and availability here.
15. Giethoorn: The Dutch city without roads
Giethoorn is a small town, about a 3-hour train ride North of Amsterdam. You may know Giethoorn as the Venice of the North or The city without roads. To get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime it’s filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a Make a Wish Destination.
As I was here in the off-season, I was unsure if I would be able to take a tour of this unique city. I climbed onto the boat with four other passengers, which I was told was quite unusual. Normally, the boats in the spring are overflowing with tourists and the canals of Giethoorn are crammed with boats.
Our boat driver told us that this was once a Peat Moss farming community, which turned the area into lakes and ponds. The people of that time built their houses on the islands between the ponds. Giethoorn was named as such, due to the farmers unearthing ancient goat horns, they believe are from the flood that occurred in 1170. The name of Geytenhoren was given, and later was changed to Giethoorn.
Giethoorn holds a community of green thumb inhabitants. It’s a beautiful place, with beautiful people. The cottages on their peat moss mounds, the rolling clouds lazily floating by. It was almost as if I fulfilled my own Make a Wish dreams.
Interested in visiting Giethoorn? Be sure to check out some of the tours! Check out prices and availability here.
Hotel tips in Giethoorn
- Hotel de Harmonie: charming, beautiful family run hotel. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Hotel B&B d’Olde Smidse: great location and has a terrace and possibilities for water sport activities. Check out the prices and availability here.
16. Leiden: Rembrandt’s birthplace and historic university city
The historic university city of Leiden has many favourite Dutch icons in one neat package. Like Amsterdam, Leiden is built on a series of canals and waterways. So one of the best things to do is simply wander the streets and over bridges and admire the 17th century architecture. You won’t be able to resist stopping for a coffee or beer at one of the many canal side cafés in Leiden. We liked Vlot Grand – a cafe that actually sits on the water.
Leiden is famous for its university where Einstein often taught and being Rembrandt’s birthplace. And it was there that the Pilgrims raised the money needed to lease the Mayflower for their famous journey to the New World. Today the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum is one of many museums in the city. Dutch windmills are gorgeous and you can see one working right in the heart of Leiden. Molen De Valk, houses a museum and if you climb to the top there are beautiful views of the city. But for many people, fields of colourful tulips are the reason they visit the Netherlands. Leiden is the perfect base if you want to visit the nearby Keukenhof gardens in spring as it is right in the heart of tulip country.
Hotel tips in Leiden
- Hotel de Doelen: lovely boutique hotel in an historic building overlooking the Rapenburg canal. Check out the prices and availability here.
- Boutique Hotel d’Oude Morsch: a historic, yet contemporary hotel at the edge of the center of Leiden. Check out the prices and availability here.
- De Barones Van Leyden: an intimate four star hotel in the center of Leiden. Check out the prices and availability here.
17. Edam: A buzzing fishing town
In the commune of Edam-Volendam, in the province of North Holland (north of Amsterdam), Edam is a small town that is well worth visiting. Especially in the warmer months of the year, from mid-spring to mid-autumn, when its streets are filled with people who enjoy its nature, take walks along its canals, drink coffee on its terraces and – among many other things – also try their cheese.
If you dare, a great experience is to explore Edam with the e-chopper. Last month I had the opportunity to do a bike tour from Oosthuizen to Edam, and it was one of the highlights of my trip through this region. At your own pace, and on roads that barely have traffic, you can understand how Holland gained ground to the sea, building polders that would retain it as it walks along the edge, appreciating the difference in sea level in relation to the country (significantly sunk).
Other popular activities in Edam – which was as important as Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen in the past – include visiting the Volendam Museum, the Cheese Factory Volendam and taking a ride on the Rederij Volendam Marken Express ferry service. Enjoy!
Hotel tips in Edam
- l’Auberge Damhotel: located conveniently on the Keizersgracht, this hotel is perfect to explore Edam. Check prices and availability here.
Other Dutch cities that are worth a visit
Even though this article is named the best cities in the Netherlands, it’s not completely true that the above cities are the absolute best to visit in the Netherlands. These cities are definitely highlights and most definitely worth a visit, but it’s just not possible to make an accurate list of all the cities in the Netherlands and saying that one is better than the other. Actually, there are many more cool cities and towns in the Netherlands that are definitely worth a visit! For instance Nijmegen, Arnhem, Eindhoven, Volendam, Middelburg, Muiden – just to name a few! This list could go on and on.
But the above list is definitely a great place to start for your visit in the Netherlands! Still in need for some more inspiration? Check out these 16 Cool Day Trips in the Netherlands.
Have you ever been to the Netherlands? What is your favourite city in my homecountry and what do you consider to be the best city in the Netherlands?