When I was a child, I watched a Disney film – can’t remember the title! that was amazing. It was the story of an artist who would travel to Holland to look for success and would draw beautiful landscapes filled with rivers, sailing boats and windmills.
I must’ve been 6 or 7, but I still remember clearly that after the film, I felt so inspired to draw that I took out all my drawing tools and started to draw windmills and harbours with sailing boats (which looked so ugly compared to the ones in the film, but never mind!!😂).
I’ve never forgotten that film and, from that point on, one of my dreams became to visit Holland and see its windmills in real life.
This year over my week’s birthday I decided to make that dream come true and set off to explore the Netherlands for four days.
It was not really a planned trip, in fact, I did most of my planning (aka list of places to visit) on the plane.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you’ve definitely seen all the places I went to. And if you’re planning to go (highly recommended!,) here are some must see places in Holland + must know Dutch phrases to make some friends on the journey. 🙂
Must-see in Holland
I must give a big shout out to this website as it helped me pinpoint the best things to do in this wonderful city.
I walked for kilometres and across the whole city for two days, and saw lots but the best places for me were…
The Grachtengordel (the canal district) has been my most favourite place in Amsterdam. it was easy to get lost walking up and down these canals (especially for me ! 😂). Yet, in a way, it’s good to get lost and really feel the city and get to chat with some locals (even though I didn’t speak any Dutch, more about this below!).
These canals form a concentric belt around the city and despite having all the same feel and atmosphere, if you look carefully around you, you’ll spot some unique building on either side of the bridge you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
There is one bridge (the only one), at the crossing of Reguliersgracht 1 and Herengracht 536, that gives you the views of no less that 14 bridges. 😍 It’s very beautful gong there during the twilight when the city starts to get all lit up with all the colourful lights.
While you walk around the city you can listen to the church carillon concert of The Westerkerk‘s towerbell (Western Church) which is just lovely. Anna Frank herself loved to hear the carillon concert coming fromt this towerbell…
The OBA Public Library, for a book lover like me, this was a must go and this library is amazing. From the top floor you can admire a wonderful view of Amsterdam and there’s also a café which ceiling is decorated with phrases in dozens of different languages that say. “Hello! What does it bring you here?”
The restaurant terrace on the top of the EYE film museum. You can get there by boat (free trip, running 24 hours!) and I went there on my birthday evening and had dinner while watching a beautiful sunset over Amsterdam. 😍
The Van Gogh Museum is one of the places where I spent whole day in it! For an art lover like me, this museum was a real pleasure and I must say that the two exhibitions in it (the permanent and the temporary one “Dream with Van Gogh) where very well curated. I spent almost 5 hours in it and, at the end, I also felt I was rushing it because I had to catch my plane!
The Rijksmuseum Garden is perfect for a picnic and very close to the Van Gogh Museum. I had my lunch there on my last day, under a little Dutch sunshine and some occasional drizzle (!). By the way, I got my lunch in the morning at the Albert Cuyp Market, where you can find very nice street food, like the delicious chicken sandwich I bought at one of the stalls, where one of the very friendly marketers -who also spoke Italian!! was giving out free tasters.
The fairly tale of Zaanse Shans
On the day of my birthday I visited Zaanse Shans. This is a fairly tale town where you can see real Dutch windmills in action. I loved every single corner of this city and, if you are a nature lover and love natural landscape, you can’t miss this wonderful Dutch town. Plus, it’s very easy to reach from Amsterdam Central Station.
Harleem and the language of windmills
Harleem is the city of the tulips but I didn’t see any as I went there towards the end of the Summer. I didn’t mind anyway, because my main objective was to see De Adriaan windmill (indeed!). I’d recommend the guided visit of this windmill (only 3,50 euros) to find out how windmills actually work and how they are used still nowadays.
In De Adriaan windmill there is a fresco on the walls that depicts the language of windmills. In fact, the windmills too actually “speak” a language. It’s the miller that is communicating through the position of the sails what is going on.
When a windmill stops, you can look at the position of the sails and be able to tell if the miller is having a short or a long break. He can even communicate joyful or sad events happening in his home, such as a wedding or the loss of someone loved.
Apparently, the windmill language was so advanced that it was used during war to communicate coded messages. Isn’t that cool?
SURVIVAL PHRASES IN DUTCH
Speaking of languages, when I was on my way to Holland I was a bit worried that I didn’t learn any Dutch before going. Feeling a bit guilty and also eager to approach a new language, when I was there I started asking people how to say this and that in Dutch so that I could pick up a few words.
Dutch people are good English speakers (and very friendly!) and I had no problem communicating with them in this language.
However , I was feeling a bit uncomfortable as I really wanted to communicate in the language of the country, so I made my best effort to pick a few useful words up; and here is my cheatsheet with my top 15 dutch survival phrases. Open the picture in another window to see it bigger.
I created some online flashcards for these Dutch survival phrases so I could hear and learn pronunciatiom too. I’ll go through them next time I go to Holland (as I’d love to go back!) and, hopefully, expand my vocabulary even more.
If you’ve followed me for a while you know that I always create Spanish, Italian and French flashcards for my learners so this is a sort of “special edition flashcards featuring a new language. You can have these flashcards too when you subscribe right here. 🙂
I hope this article has inspired to go and visit Holland or any other place you’ve always wanted to visit. After all, isn’t exploring new countries one of the most beautiful pleasures in life?
Now over to you…
Tell me in the comments below if you’ve been to Holland and what places you liked the most there. And if you’ve never been there, let me know a place in the world you’ve visited and you’d definitely recommend – and why!!
Keep travelling. Keep learning.
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