Insider's View


The Netherlands

We spoke with René Buyink to get an insider’s view on travel and river cruising in the Netherlands.

Q: How would you describe River Cruising in The Netherlands to people who haven't experienced it before?

River cruising allows you to sail right into the heart of the world’s greatest cities and towns. The ships are docked right behind central station in Amsterdam within walking distance from the city Center.

Amsterdam is a great gateway onto the Rhine River, where you can sail all the way to the Black sea, or enjoy a cruise through Holland and Belgium. Combine cosmopolitan city of Amsterdam with its famous museums and canals with the colorful countryside full of tulips, well preserved 17th century towns, the Kinderdijk windmill village (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with the medieval cities of Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp.

Q: What is the best time of the year to experience The Netherlands on a river cruise?

April and May is the best period to admire the famous Dutch tulip fields, but the season easily stretches till end of October.

Q: What are the top sights, cities, attractions, hidden gems?

  • Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands with its fine art museums, great atmosphere and charm of 17th century canal houses and numerous bridges.
  • Haarlem, famous for its textile trading and painters like Frans Hals, son of a Flemish immigrant.
  • Leiden, the city where Rembrandt was born with its charming inner courtyards and canals. The city has also been visited by the Pilgrim Fathers, a few months before the set sail to the "New World".
  • Edam, with its picturesque canals, drawbridges and the old "kaaswaag", the cheese weigh house.
  • Hoorn, once a very blooming port city in the 17th century now a scenic harbor with stately homes.
  • The Hague, seat of the government, world famous art collection at the Mauritshuis museum and the beautiful  Mesdag panorama, home of our nation’s Royal family of Orange.
  • Arnhem famous for the WWII sights, the Kröller-Müller museum and national parks.
  • Maastricht, the oldest city of The Netherlands also known as our culinary capitol, with its beautiful estate s and castles, marl caves and rich Christian history.

Q: What are your personal favorite sights (locations that most tourists may miss)?

The Friesland region, often called the lake district of the Netherlands. It is flat, green, and has many lakes. The region is also full of black and white cows, the namesake Frisians. The residents of Friesland live on mostly reclaimed land. The city of Leeuwarden is lively and offers interesting museums like the Fries Museum and the Princessehof Museum. Visit the small villages on the Ijsselmeer Lake like Hindeloopen. This picturesque town has canals, little bridges, and a nice waterfront. Hindeloopen is also one of the key towns in the Elfstedentocht, the Eleven Cities Race. This speed skating marathon event is 200km long and the record time is over 6 hours.

Q: Do you have any interesting facts about The Netherlands you would like to share?

The compactness of the lowland countries is unique and allows you to discover a wide range of sceneries full of historic towns and places of interest.

Q: How would you describe the atmosphere and experience of river cruising in Europe?

Like the Dutch, you will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, without language barriers and an ever changing landscape.

Q: How would you describe the people and the culture in The Netherlands?

The Netherlands has a liberal image which stems from pragmatism and a 'live and let live' attitude.

Above all, Dutch people are modest and dislike ostentatious shows of wealth or claims of personal achievement, whilst individualism is often sacrificed in Dutch culture in the interest of achieving consensual agreement. Courtesy, tolerance and a preference for consensus rather than conflict are typical characteristics of the Dutch people. At the same time, the Dutch value their privacy and personal space. Among close friends and family, women will normally greet one another with three kisses on alternate cheeks, while men will shake hands and sometimes kiss women on the cheeks three times in the same way.

Q: Can you describe a unique river cruise experience?

A great experience and best way to really explore the Benelux countries is combining the river cruise with biking. While the boat sets of to the next port of call, you will cycle through the Dutch countryside, through the tulip fields, alongside windmills and winding waterways.

Q: What foods / wines / desserts would you recommend people try?

'Typical' Dutch food tends to be wholesome and hearty, rather than elegant. Large towns, however, have a wide range of restaurants specializing in international dishes. Indonesian cuisine, a spicy legacy of Dutch colonization in the East Indies, is particularly good in the Netherlands.

A Dutch breakfast usually consists of fresh bread, cheese, sausage, butter and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles), jam and often a boiled egg, along with a cup of strong coffee. Lunch is a rapid affair, such as broodjes (sandwiches). Dinner, eaten between 1800 and 1900, is a more substantial meal, usually some combination of meat or fish with potatoes and veggies. Holland is famous for its cheeses, available in jonge (young), belegen (mature) and oude (old) versions; the last tends to be the crumbliest and earthiest. Beer is good, with pilsener-style lagers the most popular. Jenever, aka Dutch gin, flavored with juniper berries and served chilled, is usually knocked back in a single go.


  • Vlaamse frites (French fries, though literally translated as Flemish fries) is a popular snack, customarily served with a gob of mayonnaise, though curry or peanut sauce make more exciting toppings.
  • Erwtensoep, thick pea soup flavored with sausage, makes a filling repast; some version of it is often served by the local pub in winter.
  • Poffertjes — tiny pancakes often laced with Grand Marnier and dusted with confectioners' sugar — are a teatime favorite.
  • Herring fillets are widely available from street stalls and accompanied by pickles and onions; smoked eel (gerookte paling) is another seafood specialty.
  • Stamppot is a hearty, traditional mash-up of potatoes with endive, turnips or some other
  • earthy vegetable, customarily accompanied by smoked sausage.

Q: Do you have any tips for people planning to visit The Netherlands by river cruise?

It would be a shame not to plan a pre- or post stay in Amsterdam, there is so much to see and discover. Make sure you use the Ensemble Network’s on-site teams to really help you fully discover your destination. And then simply just relax, go with the flow and enjoy the beautiful Dutch scenery passing by.

Tulips in Holland. | ITB Holland

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