The Netherlands' picturesque landscape is dotted with the canals, dikes and windmills for which the country is famous. The Netherlands is one of the flattest countries in Europe and under a constant threat of being flooded. More than half of the population lives below sea level. The ongoing battle against floodwaters has resulted in the scenic countryside that visitors find so alluring.
Visit the Netherlands in the spring and you'll find the country’s iconic tulips in full bloom, for sale in markets and carefully cultivated in private and public gardens. Bicycles are a main source of transportation for the Dutch and add to the Netherlands' overall charm. Bordering the North Sea, the Netherlands also has beautiful coastline to explore—from unspoiled white sand beaches to busy seaside resorts. The Netherlands is ruled by the popular Queen Beatrix of the House of Orange and once a year the Dutch celebrate Queen's Day with a country-wide party in honor of the queen.
One thing to note about the name Holland: technically, Holland is not the name of a country. Holland is actually the western region of the country known as The Netherlands. However, you will often hear the Netherlands referred to as Holland and while not actually accurate, the names are used interchangeably.
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Dutch cities — from Amsterdam to Edam
Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is both beautiful and quirky. The city is filled with canals, museums, galleries, tulip markets and bicycles as well as the notorious coffee shops and red-light district. You'll be charmed by Amsterdam's free spirit and vibrant nature.
Although many people never make it past Amsterdam, the Netherlands has a number of other cities that are worth a visit. The Hague, The Netherlands' political center, is filled with lovely parks, grand embassies, fantastic restaurants and prestigious museums. On the other extreme, Rotterdam, a cultural rival to Amsterdam, offers up a gritty, urban arts scene and energetic nightlife. If you want to learn more about the popular Dutch cheeses, you can also make a visit to Gouda or Edam, home of the famous cheeses of the same names.
The Netherlands is the birthplace of many master artists. The Golden Age of Dutch Art in the 17th century produced famous painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. They were followed by Van Gogh, probably the greatest Dutch artist of his time, and Piet Mondrian. A stay in Amsterdam exploring the city's many museums and galleries will give you the opportunity to study the work of these influential Dutch artists. The Hague also has a number of outstanding museums showcasing Dutch art.