20 Fascinating Things the Netherlands is Famous For

The Netherlands is a small European country with an undeniable reputation. From its charming canals to its flower fields and picturesque countryside, there are many reasons why the Netherlands is famous around the world.

When you think of the Netherlands, tulips and windmills may come to mind. But what is the Netherlands known for really? The country has given the world more than just flowers. 

In this guide, we will explore 20 of the many things that the Netherlands is famous for, including its landmarks, unique food and drinks, and its contributions to the arts.

a bike with wheels and a seat made to look like cheese in front of a cheese shop in amsterdam.
The Netherlands is famous for a lot of things, including bikes and cheese!

What is the Netherlands known for? The country’s 20 top claims to fame

Whether you are planning a trip to the Netherlands or simply want to learn more about this unique country and its contributions to the world, this list will give you an idea of what the Netherlands is known for and what makes the country so special. 

Tulips

red tulips in the netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of tulips. | Photo by Martijin Baudoin from Unsplash

Starting out with one of the most obvious things The Netherlands is famous for –  the small country is known for its expansive tulip fields. 

In fact, the tulip fields near Lisse and Keukenhof Gardens are one of the best day trips from Amsterdam during the spring season.  

During the 17th century, tulips became a symbol of wealth and status in the Netherlands. The economy was flourishing, and there was a surge in trade, arts, and sciences. As a result of this prosperity, tulips, which were originally introduced to the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th century, became highly sought after as luxury items.

Today, the Netherlands is still known for its tulip fields and bulb production. The country is one of the world’s largest exporters of tulip bulbs, and tourists from around the globe visit the Netherlands during the spring to witness the breathtaking displays of colorful tulip fields. 

Canals

Canals in Giethoorn Netherlands
Giethoorn is a charming village often called the village with no roads.

Venice, Italy may be known as the “City of Canals”, but the Netherlands could give the Italian city a run for its money. 

The capital city of Amsterdam is often known as the “Venice of the North” because of its many canals and famous bridges. In fact, taking a canal cruise is one of the best things to do on any Amsterdam itinerary

But it isn’t just Amsterdam, canals are a defining feature in many Dutch cities and villages. The tiny village of Giethoorn, Netherlands is often called the village with no roads – because traveling by whisper boat on its network of canals is the primary way to get around the village. 

The intricate network of canals in the Netherlands serve various purposes, including transportation and water management. Canals were once crucial for facilitating trade, connecting cities and villages, and draining water from low-lying areas. 

Today, the canals for which the Netherlands is famous not only serve as practical waterways but also contribute to the charm and uniqueness of Dutch cities.

Weed

Amsterdam is known for its relaxed attitude toward the possession and consumption of marijuana. Cannabis products are legally sold and consumed in the city – and you will likely smell it as you walk by certain establishments in Amsterdam.  

If you visit a ‘coffee shop’ in Amsterdam expecting to buy a latte, you will be very taken aback by the smell of marijuana in the establishment. “Coffee shops” in the city are actually designated establishments where you can buy and consume small amounts of marijuana. 

It’s crucial for visitors to be aware of this, so you don’t walk into one of these businesses with your family. If you are looking for a place to buy an actual coffee instead of cannabis, you’ll want to find a cafe or a Koffie Huis.

While Amsterdam is famous for its open approach to legalized cannabis use, this isn’t necessarily the case for the entire country. Still, because Amsterdam is the main tourist destination in the country, the Netherlands is known for this, as whole, whether it wants to be or not.

Windmills

windmills in zaanse schans
Windmills are a symbol of Holland.

The Netherlands is celebrated for its iconic working windmills. The Dutch windmills, with their distinctive design featuring a rotating cap to catch the wind, are not only functional but also serve various industrial purposes, such as grinding grain, sawing wood, and pumping water.

Although modern technology has become more efficient at these purposes, there are still more than 1,000 operating windmills in the Netherlands. 

You can see these incredible windmills and even tour them in places like Zaanse Schans, outside of Amsterdam, or in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

BOOK A GUIDED TOUR TO ZAANSE SCHANS

Cheese 

a dutch cheese factory
The Netherlands is known for its cheeses, and you can visit several different cheese factories throughout the country and see how the Dutch make their world-famous cheese.

One of the most delicious things the Netherlands is known for its cheese. 

Dutch cheeses like Gouda, Edam, and Maasdam, have gained international acclaim for their distinctive flavors and textures.

Dairy farming and cheese production dates back centuries thanks to the country’s favorable climate and fertile pastures. 

The Dutch are meticulous in their cheese-making processes. Visiting old-fashioned Dutch cheese markets, such as the one in Gouda or Edam are popular tourist draws.

These markets have been a staple of Dutch commerce since the medieval era, showcasing the significance of cheese in the country’s history. Visiting some of these famous cheese markets are among the most popular day trips from Amsterdam

Today, the Netherlands stands as one of the world’s top cheese exporters, and its cheeses are enjoyed globally, solidifying the nation’s reputation as a cheese-producing powerhouse.

Bicycles

a lot of bicyclists crossing a street in amsterdam.
There are bikes than cars in the Netherlands. Cycling is a popular way to get around in the country. | Photo by Norali Nayla from Unsplash

The Netherlands is famous for its many bicycles. Walk or pedal down the streets of basically any Dutch city, and you’ll quickly realize the country has more bikes than cars.  

The flat terrain of the country makes cycling an efficient and easy mode of transportation. You’ll also find well-maintained and marked cycling paths and bike-friendly infrastructure in cities throughout the Netherlands. 

Cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht have even become global examples of how to create bike-friendly urban developments. 

Because of the Netherlands’ famous bicycle culture, you’ll even find decorative bikes adorned with flowers attached to bridges crossing popular canals in Amsterdam.

Famous Painters

a vincent van gogh painting at the rijksemuseum in amsterdam.
Van Gogh is among the most famous artists from the Netherlands, and his works can be seen in several museums in the country. | Photo by Stale Grut from Unsplash

The Netherlands has been home to some of the most famous painters throughout history. The Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, in particular, produced some of the country’s most exceptional painters, including. Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent Van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer. 

Often regarded as some of the greatest painters in European art history, you can find many of the most famous works from these artists on display in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

Anne Frank

the original door to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House is a famous landmark in the Netherlands.

Although you may think of Germany and Poland when you think of the Holocaust and the atrocities of World War II, the Netherlands is home to one of the most significant museums about the tragic events that unfolded in Europe during the 1940s. 

The Anne Frank Museum is dedicated to the life of the young Jewish girl who has gained worldwide recognition for her diary, written while hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis during the war. 

Anne’s family went into hiding in Amsterdam during World War II in an annex building attached to a house and business. Anne and her family lived for more than two years in the attic of the annex, but were eventually discovered in 1944. 

Anne died in a concentration camp in early 1945, just weeks before it was liberated by Allied forces. After the war, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only surviving family member, published her diary, which offered an insightful, firsthand account of the challenges and emotions faced by Jews during the Holocaust. 

Her diary has become one of the most widely read and studied books in the world, and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where the Frank family hid, is now a museum dedicated to her memory.

Heineken

a man holding a heineken
Heineken is one of the most famous beers in the world, and the Dutch brand is one of the many things the Netherlands is known for.

Ireland is famous for Guinness, but you can thank the Dutch for creating one of the most notable light beers in the world. 

Heineken, originating from the Netherlands, is one of the most iconic and widely recognized beer brands. Founded in 1864, the Dutch brewery has evolved into a global name. 

With its distinctive green bottles and cans, featuring a red star and the recognizable Heineken logo, the pale lager is known for its refreshing taste. Heineken’s success extends beyond its homeland, as the brand has become synonymous with Dutch brewing excellence worldwide. 

When in Amsterdam, you can tour the original Heineken Brewery. Although, it’s important to note for family travelers, like us, the Heineken Experience does not allow children 

Stroopwafel

a stroopwafel covered in tiny m&ms.
Stroopwafels are one of the most famous foods in the Netherlands.

This one is for the foodies! Stroopwafel is a delectable treat hailing from the Netherlands. Stroopwafel is a thin, sweet waffle made from two layers of dough filled with a gooey caramel-like syrup. 

The word “stroopwafel” translates to “syrup waffle” in English, which perfectly describes this beloved Dutch pastry. 

Traditionally, stroopwafels were placed over a hot beverage like coffee or tea to soften slightly, allowing the caramel filling to melt and create a heavenly combination of textures and flavors. 

Today, stroopwafels are enjoyed in various ways and come in gourmet options, including chocolate coatings or candied toppings.

Dutch pancakes

a woman sitting in front of a giant dutch pancake
Dutch pancakes can be served sweet or savory. A traditional sweet option is a lemon Dutch pancake sprinkled with powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Another food the Netherlands is known for, Dutch pancakes, or “pannenkoeken,” are a delicious and versatile culinary delight that are more like a crepe than a western pancake. 

These thin, large pancakes are distinct and can be folded with popular fillings and toppings. Dutch pancakes cater to both sweet and savory preferences 

Popular sweet toppings include powdered sugar, syrup, fresh fruits, and whipped cream, while savory options range from cheese and bacon to vegetables and meats. 

Poffertjes are a mini version of Dutch pancakes. You can find both traditional Dutch pancakes and poffertjes at pancake houses across the Netherlands, and can sample them on many food tours in Amsterdam.

Wooden clogs

wooden clogs hanging on a wall
Wooden clogs are a famous part of Dutch culture and history. | Photo By Wieger Waardenburg From Pixabay

Wooden clogs, or “klompen” in Dutch have become a symbol of the Netherlands. 

Originating from the practical need for sturdy and durable footwear in the wet and muddy conditions of the Netherlands, the history of wooden clogs dates back centuries. Crafted from a single piece of wood, these shoes are characterized by their distinctive shape, with a rounded toe and a thick, flat sole. 

Wooden clogs are often adorned with vibrant hand-painted designs reflecting regional motifs. 

Today, wooden clogs are popular souvenirs from the Netherlands. You can also take a guided tour and learn about clog making and even have your photo taken in traditional Holland attire in Volendam

While wooden clogs are no longer practical footwear, they have earned a place in Dutch culture and on our list of what the Netherlands is known for.

Tall people

Dutch people are considered to be some of the tallest people in the world. 

Studies and surveys consistently show that the Dutch population has an above-average height. Whether it is genetics, nutrition or other factors, there is no denying the tall stature of the Dutch population. 

The average height of an adult male in the Netherlands is 6 feet tall, and women on average are 5’6”. That is about 2 to 3 inches taller, on average than people in the United States.

Architecture

canal houses in amsterdam
The Netherlands is known for its narrow canal houses.

The Netherlands is renowned for both its traditional architecture, like that of the elegant canal houses and its quirky, modern architecture, like the Cube Houses in Rotterdam

Canal houses are narrow, tall, gable buildings with ornate facades, lots of windows, and curved or tiered roofs. 

The country is also at the forefront of modern architecture. Conventional buildings, like the Cube House, resemble modern art rather than an actual usable space. 

International justice 

Some of the world’s most notorious criminals have been put on trial in the Netherlands. The country’s third largest city, the Hague, is home to the International Court of Justice, often referred to as the World Court, and the International Criminal Court, established to prosecute individuals for the most serious crimes of international concern, such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity. 

Because it is home to the United Nations Security Council and the International Court, the Netherlands is known for its role in the promotion of global justice.

The color orange 

an orange cake with a crown on top
Orange is the national color of the Netherlands and is associated with the Dutch Royal family. | Photo by Nicolette from Pixabay

If you’ve ever watched the Netherlands at the Olympics or other international sporting event, you may have wondered why the team wears orange – when the flag is actually red, white, and blue. 

The association between the Netherlands and the color orange is rooted in the country’s royal heritage. The House of Orange-Nassau, the reigning royal family in the Netherlands, has played a crucial role in the Dutch’s association with the color.

Over time, this association with the House of Orange-Nassau led to the adoption of orange as a national color. 

Delft Blue Pottery 

delft blue plates on a white background
Delft Blue is one of the primary crafts the Netherlands is known for. | Photo by Ellen from Pixabay

Delft Blue pottery, also known as Delftware or Delft Blue, is a style of blue and white pottery that originated during the 17th century in the city of Delft – one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands

It was inspired by Chinese porcelain, Delft Blue pottery typically features intricate hand-painted designs in shades of blue on a white background.

Delft Blue is known for its delicate and detailed craftsmanship, and it has become synonymous with Dutch decorative arts. Traditional Delft Blue items include tiles, plates, vases, and other decorative objects that are popular collectibles and souvenirs.

The best non-native English speakers in the world

Want to visit the Netherlands but you only speak English? No problem! The Netherlands is known for having the best non-native English speakers in the world. 

A large percentage of the population of the Netherlands is proficient in English, despite the fact that Dutch is the official language. It is estimated that nearly 90% of the Dutch population is proficient in English.

In fact, in a 2021 study the Netherlands was ranked first out of 100 non-native English countries for its English proficiency. 

The high levels of English proficiency can be attributed to the Dutch education system, where English is taught from an early age.

Red Light Districts  

a red light seen from across the canal in the red light district in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District gets its name from the red lights that identify establishments that specialize in legal prostitution. | Photo by Matt Pictures from Unsplash

If you’re pondering ‘what is the Netherlands known for?’  its liberal approach to certain aspects of social life likely come to mind. This includes the existence of regulated red light districts. 

The most famous red light district is situated in Amsterdam, specifically in the area known as De Wallen. Here, narrow streets are lined with windows, illuminated with red lights, where sex workers showcase their services. 

The red light district is a complex and controversial aspect of Dutch society, as it operates within a legal framework aimed at ensuring the safety and rights of sex workers. 

These districts have become somewhat of a tourist attraction for those curious about this legal display of a very controversial industry. 

However, have no fear if you are visiting Amsterdam with kids. This district’s windows are empty until after 9 p.m., so if you accidentally find yourself in the Red Light District (which is easy to do), the neighborhood is rather tame during the daytime and early evening hours.  

Other Dutch cities, such as Utrecht and Rotterdam, also have their own red light districts.

King’s Day 

a crowd of people and orange confetti in amsterdam
King’s Day is a famous national holiday in the Netherlands. | Photo by 3345557 from Pixabay

King’s Day, or “Koningsdag” in Dutch, is a famous national holiday celebrated in the Netherlands to honor the reigning monarch’s birthday. 

Traditionally held on April 27th, King’s Day marks a nationwide extravaganza characterized by colorful festivities, street parties, parades, and  outdoor activities. 

The streets come alive with people donning orange attire to celebrate the House of Orange-Nassau, the Dutch royal family. 

King’s Day could be compared to Independence Day in the United States, as this unique occasion is a time when the Dutch unite to celebrate their national pride.

A Quick List of Things the Netherlands is Famous For

a purple bike covered in flowers by a canal in Amsterdam
Bikes are among the many things the Netherlands is known for, they’re even used as decorations along the canals.

While there are many things the Netherlands is famous for, the small country has also gifted the world with famous landmarks, and people. Here is a quick list of some of the most famous individuals, places, and foods the Netherlands is known for.

  • Famous Dutch Celebrities: Audrey Hepburn, Famke Janssen, Eddie Van Halen 
  • Famous landmarks in the Netherlands: Dam Square, Amsterdam’s Red Light District, Kinderdijk, Ann Frank House, Keukenhof Gardens, Muiden Castle
  • Famous Dutch food and drinks: Stroopwafel, Dutch Pancakes, Smoked Eel, Herring, Cheese, Jenever, Heineken

Conclusion: What is the Netherlands famous for?

Whether you are visiting the Netherlands in spring to see the tulips, going on a summer vacation, or planning to travel to see the city of Amsterdam illuminated during Christmas in Europe, the Netherlands is a fascinating place to visit. With so many famous Dutch things and places that the Netherlands is known for, the country, which is often referred to as Holland, is well worth a visit. 

So, if you’re planning a trip to the small Western European country or want to explore the larger Benelux region on a Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg itinerary, you’ll arrive with much more knowledge about the country, its history, and what to expect once you are there.

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