An UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, this impressive network of 19 windmills set amongst picturesque fields typical of the Dutch countryside is something to behold. Constructed around 1740, the windmills were used to pump water from the surrounding area into the nearby river system maintaining this part of the Alblasserwaard polder as ‘dry’ and arable land. This site is a testament to the history of the struggle of humans against water.
When one of Napoleon’s generals decided that his bored soldiers needed some work, this was the result. A 36 meter high pyramid of earth. Upon its completion in 1804 General Marmont christened his masterpiece ‘Mont Marmont’. Two years later, Bonaparte’s brother and then king of Holland, Louis Bonaparte, renamed it the ‘Pyramid of Austerlitz’ to commemorate Napoleon’s victory over Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz in what is now the Czech Republic.
Any visit to Amsterdam must include experiencing this remarkable system of 17th century canals. Anywhere you go in the city you will be surrounded by this UNESCO World Heritage site. Constructed in part for purposes of infrastructure and partially for city defence, the grachtengordel (canal-belt) is an integral feature of the city. Take one of the many boat tours or experience them from dry land as you walk around Amsterdam.
This is largest and perhaps most impressive castle in the Netherlands. De Haar Castle in its current form was constructed in 1892. The castle had several predecessors, however, the oldest of which was a structure that dates back to the 13th century. The current structure was the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers who designed it in a striking Neo-Gothic style.
Located on Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, this national monument is but one of the palaces in the possession of the Dutch Royal House. Constructed during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century as a city hall, the building was transformed into a palace by Louis Bonaparte, the King of Holland and brother of Napoleon. The Palace of Amsterdam has since become an iconic national symbol.
Constructed in the mid 14th century as an expansion of an earlier chapel, which dated to around 1300, these ruins were originally known as Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady). The name was changed to Vrouwekerk (Lady’s Church) in the 16th century and was donated to the Huguenot community of Leiden. Many of the pilgrims who would go on to found Plymouth Colony in the New World frequented this church during their time in Leiden.
Focusing on the great civilisations of the ancient world, there is much to see here from ancient Egypt, the Near East and the Mediterranean World. An impressive collection of Roman sarcophagi are on display as well as a collection of classical Greek pottery. As the Archaeological Museum of the University of Amsterdam the Allard Pierson is accredited by the International Council of Museums a partner of UNESCO.
The Anne Frank House offers insight into one of the more somber chapters of the human story. This is where the Frank family and four others hid from persecution during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Although queues tend to be long to see the space where the young author scripted her famous journal, which detailed her experiences during her two year ordeal, it is an altogether unique experience.
This museum is located on the Grote Markt of Haarlem in the cellar of the Vleeshal, a 17th century building where fresh meat was sold and is now a national heritage site. It is dedicated to the archaeology of the region of Kennemerland and the city of Haarlem. With free admission, this is an inexpensive way to see Medieval artefacts from the surrounding area. The Frans Hals Museum is located in the same building with an exhibit of modern and contemporary art.
For those who prefer to experience history with a more hands on approach, Archeon is the perfect alternative. This open air museum is entirely devoted to the archaeology and history of the Netherlands. Spanning a period from the Mesolithic to the Late Middle Ages, here you walk through reconstructed settlements while interacting with their real life inhabitants. From gladiatorial contests in the Roman amphitheatre to Medieval jousting, there is plenty to see.
After Germany’s defeat in WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was exiled to the Netherlands and took up residence at Huis Doorn. Not only can you see many of the possessions of the German Empire’s last Emperor here, but the man himself is also buried on the premises. Along with the Kaiser an impressive array of imperial paraphernalia can be found within this museum as well as an exhibit devoted to the Netherlands’ position during the First World War.
With an array of interactive exhibits this is not your typical museum. Learn hands on about the history of seafaring and go aboard some of the real working ships in their harbour. The museum also houses an array of impressive artefacts such as the oldest model ship in Europe, dating back to the 15th century, and one of only three surviving original world maps drawn by legendary cartographer Gerard Mercator.
With artefacts from around the ancient world, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden is an essential stop for anyone interested in archaeology. The museum houses many objects from the Roman period of Netherlands, including a large collection of votive altars depicting the local goddess Nehalennia. The Temple of Taffeh, an original 2,000 year old Egyptian temple gifted to the museum by the Egyptian government, can also be seen here.
Had your fill of wooden shoes and windmills? Learn about some of the other cultures from around the world at the National Museum of Ethnology. This eclectic assemblage of artefacts from around the world will certainly awake the anthropologist inside of you. With permanent exhibitions devoted to cultures of Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania there is a whole world to experience here.
No visit to the Netherlands would be complete without paying a visit to this world-renowned museum. Dedicated to the arts and history of the Netherlands from the years 1200 to 2000, this is an unmissable stop on your museum tour of Amsterdam. From Rembrandt’s ‘Nightwatch’ to the stern of the HMS Royal Charles, captured during the second Anglo-Dutch War, this museum houses some of the nation’s most treasured antiquities.
This guide to the archaeology and history sites of the Netherlands is the principle work of Max Petterson, with contributions from Thomas Dowson and Ethan Doyle White. Having obtained his Masters degree in archaeology from Leiden University, Max is now a certified archaeologist working in the Netherlands with a focus on prehistory. His MA thesis examined the practice of human sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe. Read More About Us and Our Backgrounds.