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North Holland

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North Holland [1] (Dutch: Noord-Holland) is a province in the West of the Netherlands. It compasses the northern half of the old County of Holland, not to be confused with the Northern Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen (province) and Drente). Obviously the city of Amsterdam is the place-to-be for tourists and the economic heart of the country, but the City Region around it consists of green and flat polder landscapes with thousands of canals, windmills and farm houses, and are considered typical for the country. Especially the Zaanse Schans, Volendam, Marken and the less-touristed Edam make for a typical Dutch day-trip, with their clogs, traditional costumes and windmills. Also typical Dutch are it's dykes, of which the Afsluitdijk and the Markerwaarddijk connect the province with respectively Friesland and Flevoland.

In the summer, many Dutch tourists head out to the sandy beaches of Kennemerland on the west coast, of which Zandvoort is the most prominent. Another way to take some time off here is in one of the national parks. The historic towns of Haarlem and Alkmaar are also popular among tourists, the latter for it's typical Dutch cheese market. West-Friesland, not to be confused with the province of Friesland, is a distinctive area with it's own dialect. Many historic trade towns from the Dutch Golden Age can be found here, like Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Medemblik. De Kop van Noord-Holland is an area off the beaten path, except for Texel, one of the West-Frisian Islands and a great tourist resort. Last but not least, the Gooi and Vechtstreek is a great area for cycling through the heath lands. Naarden has one of the best preserved fortified towns in the world, while Hilversum places an emphasis on modern architecture and is the city where almost all radio and TV stations and studios are.

Regions

North-Holland is the northern half of the former County of Holland. It can be divided into 6 historic regions:

Regions of North-Holland
Amsterdam-Amstelland
Famous capital for it's canals, architecture and liberal culture, and the surrounding urban sprawl
Gooi and Vecht Region
Known as the Garden of Amsterdam with plenty of opportunities for cycling
Kennemerland
Dunes, beaches and national parks, as well as some historic towns
Kop van Noord-Holland
This area has a distinct culture and language known as "West Fries"; it is a historical area with the Zuiderzee Museum and VOC history
Texel
The largest of the West Frisian Islands, it is a popular seaside resort in the summer
Waterland and Zaan Region
Traditional Dutch villages, polders, clogs and windmills

Cities

  • Haarlem — capital of North Holland with plenty of tourists visiting its ancient city center, shops and numerous museums
  • Alkmaar — historic town, well-known for its cheese market
  • Amsterdam — the place-to-be for tourists for its architecture, canals, museums, weed, red light district and nightlife
  • Den Helder — mostly visited for it's seaside resorts, beaches and the ferry to Texel
  • Enkhuizen — historic town with a rich history and the Zuiderzee Museum
  • Hilversum — starting point for cycling tours around architectural marvels, forests and the heath
  • Hoorn — historic town from the Dutch Golden Age
  • Zaandam — probably one of the oldest industrial areas in the world, which makes for an unusual day-trip
  • Zandvoort — major beach resort bordered by coastal dunes

Other destinations

  • Beemster — the Beemster polder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lake reclamation from the 17th century
  • Bergen — calm beach resort with impressive dunes and natural scenery
  • Muiden — enormous 13th-century castle, as well as other medieval remains
  • Marken — a former island, and more authentic than Volendam, it is well-known for its characteristic wooden houses
  • Naarden — its 17th-century fortifications are among the best preserved in Europe
  • Texel — largest of the West Frisian Islands, suited for cycling, walking, swimming and horse riding
  • Volendam — traditional Dutch countryside fishing village with clogs, costumes and windmills
  • Zaanse Schans — very touristic display of Dutch windmills
  • Zuid-Kennemerland National Park — forests, beaches and dunes to hike or cycle around in

Understand

North-Holland is one of the twelve provinces and consists of about 60 municipalities.


Get in

By car

  • The highway E22/A7 passes over the Afsluitdijk from Friesland

By bus

By plane

As it is home to Schiphol Airport, North-Holland is easy to reach by plane.

By train

International train services connect Schiphol/Amsterdam with Germany as well as Belgium/France.

Get around

There is an excellent public transport network throughout the Netherlands and particularly in the highly populated province of North-Holland. Buses and railways criss-cross the region with services reaching all but the most remote villages. Amsterdam also has trams and light railways (metros) [2]. Planning routes across the region (and throughout the country) is exceptionally easy because of the co-operation between the service providers. OV9292 [3] provides a comprehensive point-to-point public transport route planner covering all major transport types.

See

Amsterdam

  • The lovely canals of Amsterdam with their characteristic houses.

Defence Line of Amsterdam

Defence Line of Amsterdam

The Defence Line of Amsterdam (Stelling van Amsterdam) is a 135 km long ring of fortifications around Amsterdam. It consists of 42 forts about 10 to 15 kilometers from the city center. It's surrounded by lowlands, which could easily be flooded in time of war. It was constructed between 1880 and 1920, but the invention of the airplane made the forts obsolete almost as soon as they were finished. It received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

There is no one place to visit, as the forts and remains are spread all over North-Holland.

Traditional Dutch villages

  • The Zaanse Schans. It is an open air conservation area and museum, on the bank of the river Zaan, north of Amsterdam in Zaandam (Zaanstad). It displays the traditional architecture of the area (green wooden houses) and has several functioning windmills and craftmen's workplaces, which are open to visitors.

Fortified and historic towns

  • Alkmaar, Hoorn, Haarlem
  • Medieval castle Muiderslot. In Muiden, just outside and east of Amsterdam. With 17th Century-style herbal and vegetable gardens. Website castle (in Dutch, but a lot of images and video).
  • The nearest small fortified town from Amsterdam is Weesp (14 minutes by train), with a quiet historic centre on the river Vecht and windmills. At the station in Weesp you can rent bicycles for a ride to the fortified towns of Muiden (3 km) and Naarden (9 km). Information on day trips in the region on this link page.

Other

  • The Afsluitdijk. A 32km long dike connecting North-Holland and Friesland. Built in 1930 to close what is now the IJsselmeer from being flooded by the North Sea. The dike was built as part of a plan to reclaim land in the IJsselmeer; this land became the province of Flevoland.
  • The Kazematten Museum. The bunkers defending the entrance to the Afsluitdijk were a vital part of Hollands defence plan during the Second World War. Some of the bunkers have been restored, with period-appropriate weapons, equipment and everyday items giving an overview of the soldiers' life inside the bunkers in 1940.
  • Het Monument. A small statue of a dike-builder which has been placed on the spot where the dike was closed in 1932. Next to the monument is a plaque, cafe and a watchtower where (because of all the water) you can see the Wadden islands on a bright day.
  • Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen.

Haarlem

  • Visit the old city centre of Haarlem, voted best shopping city in the Netherlands.
  • Haarlem's Great Market is one of the most beautiful in the world.
  • Visit one of the beaches in Bloemendaal or Zandvoort.
  • Go to the National Park of Zuid-Kennemerland.
  • Visit the Teylersmuseum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands.

Alkmaar

  • Walk thru the romantic narrow streets in the city centre of Alkmaar.
  • Visit the Cheese Market famous all over the world.

Do

Cycling is a fun activity that many of the locals do daily. Many visitors rent a bicycle and cycle their way through the centre of Amsterdam. There are even bicycle taxis that bring visitors to the place they request, such as one of the museums. Locals generally spend a weekend cycling through the nature of the surrounding areas. If you want to see the typical Dutch polder landscape and picturesque villages, consider a cycling route through Waterland. Hilversum is a good starting point for cycling through the affluent villages, forests and heath of the Gooi and Vecht Region.

The beaches are a fun activity during warm summers. Kennemerland generally has a lot of calm beaches that are very family-friendly. Zandvoort is the busiest one, while Bloemendaal, Bergen and Egmond are calmer options. Many locals go to Texel for a few days to breeze out on its windy beaches.

Water sports can be done at the lakes that North Holland has to offer. The artificial lakes of Wijdemeren, which literally means "Wide Lakes", are a popular destination for this. Aalsmeer is home to the Westeinderplassen, which can also be used for water sports. The lakes are very calm, so activities are limited to renting a rowing boat (don't expect rafting or parasailing of some sort).

Eat

Holland is known for its cheese and North Holland is no exception. Alkmaar and Edam are known for their traditional cheese markets, which give an excellent opportunity to try some Dutch cheese. Edam cheese is among the most widely known brands of cheese and a must-try. Hoorn recently reintroduced their historic cheese market as well.

Restaurants in North Holland are very diverse, but generally there is plenty of choice. As Amsterdam is the city with the most nationalities in the world, this city is filled with ethnic restaurants. There are plenty of Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, Surinamese, Mexican and Argentinian restaurants in the city, among others. It is also the best place for Dutch restaurants, as they cannot be found elsewhere. Try to avoid tourist traps as they are expensive, not authentic and they have a pretty bad service.

The Gooi and Vecht Region is a popular night out for affluent locals, as it is home to plenty of quality restaurants. Bussum has the best restaurants of that area, while Hilversum has more diverse options. Another affluent town in North Holland is Bloemendaal in Kennemerland. The village of Overveen nearby Bloemendaal is home to two of the best French restaurants of the province. If you're on the island of Texel, Den Burg has plenty of quality restaurants as well.

Drink

If you're looking to dance and party all night long, look no further than Amsterdam. It has plenty of clubs and serves as a hub for the whole province. In other regions, nightlife is less engaging, but generally the largest towns of these regions have some clubs available. Haarlem is the party hub for Kennemerland, Alkmaar for the north and Hilversum for the Gooi and Vecht Region. Due to the media and celebrities living in the Gooi area, Hilversum has a few posh bars and clubs that might be worth visiting.

If you're wondering what to drink: North Holland is beer country. Heineken is one of the largest beer corporations in the world and its brewery has been in the South of Amsterdam for centuries. You can still visit the Heineken Experience museum if you're interested in the history of beer and the province. Another alcoholic drink that has its origins in Amsterdam is Beerenburg, a spirit that throughout history has been more and more associated with the culture of Friesland.

Get out

North Holland has borders with Flevoland, Friesland, South Holland and Utrecht. Typical day-trips outside of the province include:

  • Delft — historic unspoiled town with the world-famous blue and white ceramics
  • Keukenhof — millions of tourists visit these enormous flower fields each Spring
  • Kinderdijk — these windmills show the typical Dutch landscape in all its glory
  • Leiden — historic student city with the country's oldest university and three national museums
  • Rotterdam — modern architecture, good nightlife and the largest port of Europe
  • Schokland — old island evacuated in 1859, a well-preserved ghost village remains
  • The Hague (Den Haag) — seat of government, royal family, judicial capital of the world and Madurodam
  • Urk — a Protestant community that mainly lives off fishery; This was once an island with its own culture, dialect and anthem
  • Utrecht — historic center, nice antique stores and the Rietveld-Schröder House



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