Amsterdam, Bruges, and Antwerp are among Europe’s best-loved cities, known for their fascinating history, lovely canals, world-class art, and natural beauty. Experience these remarkable icons on a Holland cruise for a chance to go on in-depth explorations as you enjoy the scenery and take in the culture at a comfortable, relaxed pace.
Not Your Neighborhood Garden
Millions of people tour this region every year, but the most popular time to visit is during tulip season. If you visit from March to May, the iconic Dutch bulbs are in bloom everywhere, and provide a welcoming beacon of spring.
Whether you are a budding gardener or a seasoned pro, the expert tulip bulb growers in Hoorn will have a thing or two to teach you about gardening. Gaze at the rows of tulips and enjoy the opportunity to ask questions about cultivating these prized bulbs back home.
Though these flowers can be found all around, nothing will quite take your breath away more than seeing them massed in profusion at Keukenhof Gardens, one of the largest gardens in the world. Also called the “Garden of Europe,” this estate is the premier showcase for hundreds of Dutch professional growers to display their dazzling blooms. Walk along the paths and “ooh” and “aah” at the colorful explosion of more than 7 million flower bulbs, some incredibly rare.
The Original Wind Turbines
When you think of the Netherlands, you likely have visions of its iconic, quaint windmills. Look up in wonder as you explore the village of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts more than 19 antique windmills that are still in operation. Learn more about the inner workings and historical significance of these iconic structures as you peruse informative displays. Take a guided tour to see the inside an authentic, operating windmill and hear the gears grinding as they generate power.
Though these 15th-century windmills were used for industrial purposes such as corn or paper milling or to prevent flooding, they have great historical significance as well. Did you know the country’s windmills helped communicate military strategy during World War II? The way the blades were tipped let the Allies know if the enemy was close or warned people who were in hiding about raids.
Throughout the Netherlands, there are more than a thousand windmills still standing, some more than 40 meters high and many still operating. In mid-May, National Mill Day is celebrated by decorating the windmills with flowers, figures of angels, and Dutch flags.
The Best-Preserved Medieval Town
With its buildings that look like gingerbread houses, Bruges, Belgium, seems like a town that time forgot. Stroll down the cobbled streets, float along the canals, or stand in the centuries-old town square as you imagine yourself in an entirely different time period. Let this city’s romance and mystery mesmerize you as you take in its Renaissance churches, city hall, art museums, and historic city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But the icon of Bruges remains the 13th-century belfry. This 83-meter-high medieval bell tower, ravaged by fire twice and then rebuilt, continues to stand watch over the city. If you’re feeling energetic, walk up the 366 steps to the top for a unique view of the city. For your musical pleasure, listen to the beautiful sounds of the bells in a carillon concert, which is performed daily.
A Network of Canals and Famous Paintings
Amsterdam, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” is well-known for its canal system, which you will have plenty of time to take in during your Holland cruise. Built in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s canal systems remain an important transportation link, forming four concentric circles around the city. Ride along these serene canals and note the fascinating historic buildings as well as the picturesque bridges as you leisurely pass under them. Many of the riverside buildings are marked with original artwork, which helped the city’s illiterate citizens find their way around back when they were built.
Another must-see Amsterdam attraction is the famous Rijksmuseum, which displays more than 8,000 objects of art and history, most notably the works of Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Be sure to leave time to take in Rembrandt’s floor-to-ceiling painting The Night Watch, which can keep art aficionados enthralled for hours.
For a more somber activity, pay a visit to the Anne Frank House as a reminder of the events that took place inside this city during World War II. Learn more about Anne, her family, and her famous diary through fascinating, interactive exhibits, and take a tour through the secret part of the house where Anne’s family hid out from the Nazis. The museum also features exhibits that work to combat other types of discrimination and racism throughout the world.
The Diamond Capital of the World
Admire the classic Gothic and Baroque architecture as you pay a visit to Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city. Enjoy a cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe and be sure to visit the cathedral that houses four paintings of Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens. The city’s diamond district, a square mile of shops and exchanges, is where almost 85 percent of the world’s uncut diamonds are still traded. If you’re looking for an Antwerp souvenir that’s a little less expensive, however, diamond-shaped chocolate praline candies are a good bet, too.
Art and Culinary Artisans
In Delft, watch the work of local artisans who have been hand-painting the famous blue and white pottery since the 16th century. And no trip to the Netherlands is complete without sampling some of the region’s famous chocolate. After you watch a mouthwatering chocolate-making demonstration, a box or two of the treats will likely make their way home with you—if you can resist them in the meantime!
On a Holland cruise, you’ll come away with a new perspective on Europe’s influence on our modern world as well as lasting images of its beauty, history, and charm.