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Visiting Holland

Holland is not the Netherlands. The Netherlands are not Holland. Holland is only the name given as a whole to two provinces in the western Netherlands, North Holland and South Holland. Though many of the natives of Holland consider Holland and the Netherlands interchangeable names, residents of other regions of the Netherlands do not.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's figure out what Holland contains. It's got three of the larger cities in Europe:  Amsterdam, the port city of Rotterdam and The Hague, home of the World Court. North Holland includes Amsterdam and the natural areas and the tulip farms on the peninsula to the north of the city; South Holland has the other cities and the lakes and the enormous beaches.

The capital of North Holland is Haarlem, the centre of the Dutch tulip industry since the 17th century. Every April, the city celebrates its floral heritage with a "bloemencorso" or flower parade. The brewing of beer is also a big part of the city's heritage - recipes from the 15th century when there were over one hundred breweries in the city are still routinely made and sold.

Much of Holland below sea level and flat, making the region excellent cycling. Though you'll find beautiful vistas all over the region, you're likely not to find windmills and tulips everywhere - you'll have to seek them out. The best place to ask is at the VVV, the local tourist bureau in each of the larger towns. As you might expect, there is water everywhere: canals, rivers, lakes and the sea held back by dikes. The west coast of south Holland is the place to go for summer beach vacations on the North Sea.

Visiting Holland

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the place for museums full of history, impressive old architecture, gorgeous canals and some of the most liberal attitudes toward life in the world. If that last characteristic bothers you, you can easily avoid those areas of the city. By the way, do not go into a coffeeshop for coffee - those are the names for the stores selling cannabis. Coffeehouses, however, do serve coffee.

Amsterdam streets are likely to be very congested, so you should park at the edge of the city and take public transport or a bicycle to the centre. Walk and explore the Canal Ring, built in the 1600s, and visit the gentrified Jordaan district. The Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum with its Rembrandts are must-see stops. Stop at the Vodka Museum for a tour and a taste of vodka at the end.

Amsterdam Breaks

Utrecht

Utrecht is another large city in the crescent called the Randstad that encompasses the major cities of Holland. The city embraces both the old, with historical sites and antique stores, and the new -- go see the Rietveld Schröder House. It was built in 1924 in the De Stijl style of open spaces with as few interior walls as possible. The place still seems modern today.

Rotterdam

Rotterdam will likely be your entry point into Holland, being the port city of the region. It's a modern city with a vibrant nightlife and an exciting art scene. Delft is still considered unspoiled and the place to go for the famed ceramics. Leiden has been a student town for centuries and lives up to that reputation, though you can also visit the national museums there.

Holidays in Holland

The Hague

The Hague, besides being the seat of Netherlands government, the home of the Royal Family and the location of the World Court, also has Madurodam, a must-see attraction of city and country scenes replicated at a 1:25 scale. Built in 1952, the miniature city is named after George Maduro, a famed participant of the Dutch resistance to the German occupation during WWII. you'll see tiny modern trains running on the largest miniature railway in the world, revolving windmills, cheese markets, the Dutch Parliament, canal houses - you'll lose track trying to identify every little thing. Madurodam is in the Scheveningen neighbourhood of The Hague.

The Randstad area that we mentioned previously is both densely populated and amazingly rural. Very strict zoning laws let each locality keep its own character. Bicycling is enormously popular all over the Randstad. In fact, there's a bicycle superhighway that stretches for 50 km between Utrecht and Amsterdam.

If you'd like to visit Holland driving your car, you can use one of several ferry services regularly offered by Stena Lines, DFDS Seaways and P&O Ferries from the UK to Holland and back again.

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