Europe is home to some of the world’s most stunning cultural destinations, and now that more travelers than ever are looking to plan their next city break, a transatlantic trip seems like the perfect way to end the year.
If you’re struggling to pinpoint the next destination of your European getaway, though, your best bet is to see where other avid tourists are going and check if the most popular choices spark an interest.
A recent study conducted by Eurostat shed some light on the countries with the highest number of bed places this past year (which refers to the number of individual guests in accommodation establishments).
Between predictable names like France, Italy, and Spain, there was one a bit more surprising, though just as stunning country that made it to the top 5.
Iconic Cultural Heritage
The Netherlands is one of those places that evokes a myriad of images, symbols, and emotions just through its name.
You don’t have to ask a seasoned traveler to learn that the country is famous for its tulip fields, windmills, wooden shoes, and vibrant art scene – its historical and cultural heritage is so well-established that a good percentage of tourists are going to the Netherlands just to experience the landmarks they’ve been hearing and reading about all their lives.
Amsterdam, the capital, is a perfect example of the centuries-old Dutch Baroque buildings and well-preserved historic sites the country is so well-known for.
Here, you’ll also find the iconic Van Gogh Museum, which houses the legendary artist’s largest body of work, providing art enthusiasts with a glimpse not only into his paintings but his life as well.
If you’re trying to explore the Netherlands beyond its stunning capital, cities like Utrecht, Haarlem, and Leeuwarden are not to be missed.
Utrecht’s Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the country, provides some truly awe-inspiring views, while Haarlem’s Grote Markt will take you back right to the 12th century.
The Netherlands’ picturesque canals and old-timey windmills are more than just a relic of the past or a symbol drawn on postcards – they’re a vivid part of the country’s picturesque backdrop as we speak.
So, if you ever get a chance to see Amsterdam and its intricate canal network, make the most of it by booking a boat tour; tickets start at $20 per adult, and the experience truly gives you a unique perspective of the city’s beauty.
Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Rotterdam, is also a must-see.
So is Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens, featuring millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other meticulously cared-for flowers arranged in gorgeous displays.
A Cycler’s Paradise
The comprehensive network of cycling paths that crisscross the Netherlands is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
For the Dutch, cycling is more than just a mode of transportation; it’s a way of life supported by the locals’ dedication to sustainability, the country’s remarkably flat terrain, and other-worldly scenic routes.
So, take a page out of their playbook and rent a bike to explore some of the country’s world-class attractions like the Hoge Veluwe National Park, home not only to dense forests but also the iconic Kröller-Müller Museum.
So Much To Do
Don’t let the gloomy weather fool you; the Netherlands is a lively country filled with people looking to celebrate the next big event.
My trip here coincided with King’s Day, and I truly can’t explain how the quiet, focused locals I’d seen walking around during the day turned into some of the friendliest and most cheerful people throughout the afternoon festivities.
If you get the chance to join in on the party, though, don’t forget to wear something orange!
While Dutch cuisine tends to get lost in the fierce competition of its Italian, Spanish, French, and Greek counterparts, foodies will still have the time of their lives here.
From stroopwafels and poffertjes to bitterballen and herring, the food here will leave you pleasantly surprised with its flavors and complexity.
What’s more, even the pickiest eaters will appreciate a fries-and-spicy-mayo cone from one of the local street vendors, so the food scene in the Netherlands is sure to be loved by everyone.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com