So, what are the best coastal cities to visit?
Three quarters of the Netherlands have a coastline lapped by the North Sea, so don’t be so surprised if we tell you that the Dutch coast is also worth a visit! The Netherlands is certainly famous for their colourful tulip fields and their beautiful, big cities on the canals like Amsterdam, full of stunning architecture and great sightseeing. But the cosy seaside cities should not be underestimated, even though the Netherlands aren’t really famous for the sun!
Whether you’re looking for a beach to spend hot summer days, or a charming place to take a walk and breathe in the fresh air, you stumbled across the right place. Here we’ve put together a full guide to give you highlights and hidden gems of the Dutch coast, make sure to check our map!
Getting to the Dutch coast
Getting to the Dutch coast is easy with the train as well by car.
Good to know: there’s usually the main city just a few kilometres inland, then its seaside port.
By train it’s very easy, since in summer months there are some special train services that run directly from the inland cities to the coast, such as the train that runs directly from Amsterdam to Zandvoort aan Zee.
Here’s a list with some details on some on the many coastal cities and the vibe you’ll be getting there. To begin with, we need to make a small breakdown of the many seaside towns into the different provinces of Zeeland, North-Holland, South-Holland and, last but not least, the Wadden Islands (Friesland) and Groningen. We had to make a selection, as there are many seaside towns worth talking about. But don’t worry, we also thought of some honourable mentions!
Zeeland is a small province, one of the smallest actually, but hosts at the same time a huge number of splendid beaches and seaside towns.
The beautiful harbour town of Breskens is a true gem in Zeeland. It’s both a fishing harbour and a marina and lies directly behind the very characteristic dunes. Deep-sea vessels and yachts gives Breskens a unique maritime charm and the long, wide sandy beach is perfect for strolls and sunbathing.
The small town, founded back in 1510, was one of the many protagonists of WWII, in fact Queen Wilhelmina, before finding shelter in London, had initially ordered the British captain that was making her leave safely The Hague to set sail for Breskens, since she intended to organise the resistance against the Germans from there. One of the reasons for this choice was the presence of two fortresses in the area that could have been used for defence purposes.
Little remains of the historical centre, as the town was bombed by the Allies in 1944. After the conflict the city was rebuilt and became an important centre for the Dutch fish industry. By the end of the 20century tourism arose and became the main source of income.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BRESKENS
THE BRESKENS LIGHTHOUSE
A must-do we always keep in mind is to walk across the long panoramic trail, which leads to the very charming and characteristic black and white lighthouse, one of the landmarks of the city. It’s an octagonal lighthouse and dates back to 1860s and this makes it one of the oldest still preserved cast-iron lighthouses in the Netherlands. Believe us, the view of the lighthouse and the North Sea is extremely evocative.
THE FISHING FESTIVAL
In Dutch it’s called Visserijfeesten and it’s the largest fishery festival in Zeeland. It takes place every year at the beginning of August in the marina and always attracts thousands of people coming from all over Zeeland and also many tourists.
BOAT TRIPS ON DE FESTIJN
De Festijn is a former mussel cutter boat and brings guests on a trip across the Westerschelde where you’ll have the unique possibility to see seals lying on sandbanks and other cute animals and to enjoy a marvelous view.
Vlissingen is an animated seaside resort and a very loved tourist destination among tourists. Not only the city offers long beach promenades and pretty beaches (it hosts the longest boulevard in the Netherlands to be more exact), thanks to its marvellous location directly by the sea, one of the main reasons to love Vlissingen is its nightlife with many beach pavilions.
In the summer, the chances are that you'll stumble upon a music festival, a market or a funfair.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN VLISSINGEN
The muZEEum (muSEAum, we love this wordplay!) is one of the maritime museums of Zeeland. What’s peculiar of this museum is also its unique location: it’s housed in a complex with historical buildings from the 16, 17, 18 and 21 century. Its collection is divided into 4 main sections, which are: work, water, glory and adventure, thanks to which you can discover the province Zeeland’s maritime past. You’ll also get the chance to enjoy live interactive and multimedia presentations and the museum is children-friendly, as there are many activities for younger visitors, such as games and quests. The ultimate spot for children and adults!
REPTILE ZOO (REPTIELENZOO IGUANA)
The zoo, distributed over three large buildings, hosts more than 500 species of reptiles, amphibians and insects. You’ll also get the unique possibility to visit the incubator room, where eggs are hatched and new-born animals can be seen! It’s an experience you definitely shouldn’t miss!
FILM BY THE SEA
The festival “Film by the sea” takes place every year in Vlissingen in September and focuses not only on book adaptations and French language films, but presents also a section of international festival favourites and avant-premieres. There’s even a jury that consists of Dutch writers, actors, directors and directors. Might be worth taking a look at it, right?
BOAT TOUR WITH THE PEDESTRIAN FERRY TO THE TOWN OF BRESKENS
There’s a bicycle and pedestrian ferry that connects Vlissingen to the picturesque harbour of Breskens. Walcheren and Zeeland-Flanders are excellent starting points for fun get-aways and the trip on this comfortable ferry on the Westerschelde takes only about 20 minutes! Click here Westerschelde Ferry to get more information about tariffs and hours!
Also called in Dutch “smalstad” (literally translated into “small town”) has a long tradition being a beach resort as well as a true artists’ colony. It attracts tourists and people in general looking for fresh and clean air. It’s the oldest seaside resort in Zeeland and it’s the ultimate place to relax on the beach for a weekend get-away or even a longer stay. Long walks surrounded by nature, relaxing while sipping your drink at a café and shopping in the nearby town of Middelburg should be on your agenda! There are many activities to enjoy, such as renting bikes, going horseback riding or walking along the beach to one of the nearby towns. If you’re looking for rest, you can simply sit on one of the beach pavilions and observe the ocean besides the fact that there are plenty of bars and restaurants, so you’re really spoilt for choice!
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN DOMBURG
The Westhove Castle (the so-called “Kasteel Westhove”) has a great history behind it and the many prints confirm that while depicting the castle in the past. Though it must be said that very little remains of the medieval castle, as it’s been rebuilt many times. It consisted of a moated castle and bailey separated by a moat and it had two towers. It endured the “Tachtigjarige Oorlog” (the Eighty Years War), the Spanish occupation and WWII, where it was heavily damaged.
What makes this spot special is obviously its perfect location: surrounded by nature, only a couple of minutes away from the beach, it’s a small paradise on Earth.
This picturesque windmill has been a true source of inspiration for the many painters who used to work at Domburg, such as the famous Toorop and, of course, Mondriaan. It dates back to the 19century and it’s 22 metres high, it presents itself with a pretty rare structure of the spokes.
You can visit the windmill when the sails are turning, could be something nice to do if you’re sick of the beach!
It’s a small village in Middelburg, the south-western part of Zeeland, on the border with Flanders. Here there’s the southernmost beach in the Netherlands, the so-called Cadzand-Bad. We suggest you wander in the centre of Middelburg and then head to Cadzand to breathe the fresh air by the sea, eating seafood and drinking wine while watching the sun set. (If we may, it also sounds like the ultimate idea for a romantic date!)
Renesse has always been appreciated among tourists that every summer wish to come back here. It’s a very colourful and joyful place and the village is just gorgeous.
The beach in Oostkapelle is nice and big, so it’s perfect for families but also for those who seek some peace while the terraces of cafés in the Dorpsstraat can be pretty animated and crowded.
Zoutelande is a very popular spot among vacationers, as they can also come from far away to enjoy its beaches and dune landscape. Tip: it’s a very gracious place which has also been an inspiration for famous artists like Piet Mondrian.
2. SOUTH HOLLAND
In the province South Holland lie many famous cities such as Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft and Leiden, but there are also many beautiful beaches, since the North Sea laps onto the shore. “Kom mee!” as one would say in Dutch, so come with us and let’s discover the coastal cities in this gracious province!
Scheveningen is technically part of The Hague and is also the most popular seaside town in Holland. The vibe you’ll be getting there is pretty much unique, you’ll also see that stately houses lie near beaches, creating an atmosphere of relax. But it can also be a very animated city with all its shopping streets. You simply cannot miss this city!
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN SCHEVENINGEN
One cannot say they have been to Scheveningen if they haven’t been to the pier, considered to be one of the most beautiful piers in Europe. Since its renovation in 2015 it’s become an attraction for people looking for good food, art, entertainment and, most of all, a stunning view of the North Sea. You can enjoy the spectacular sightseeing from the vantage point and from the 50 metres high Ferris wheel. But if you have vertigo don’t worry, you can also simply stroll along the boardwalk, the view is amazing, so a camera to capture the breathtaking sunsets is highly recommended! Believe us, you wanna see this. And you wanna remember it too.
THE PARK “BEELDEN AAN ZEE”
The park “Beelden aan Zee”, also known as “Sculptures by the Sea”, it’s a sculpture park located in a pretty special spot. It’s located around an old pavilion which was erected in 1826 by King William and the sculptures located in halls and on patios near the water recall special emotions, as they are surrounded by a dune and dreamy landscape.
In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that are definitely worth your time!
Special highlight is definitely the bronze monument of the royal family.
THE LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTRE
We all have three beings inside that have to coexist, and one of them is our inner child that has to be spoiled a little bit sometimes. Well, this place we’re about to mention is also the perfect spot if you have children (but we know that secretly you’ll be the one that will enjoy it more). Okay, enough with digressions. The LEGOLAND Discovery Centre has it all: LEGO creations, a 4D cinema and even a NINJAGO training spot.
Okay, maybe I should have said this before telling you about all the amazing LEGO attractions, this is gonna be heartbreaking but adults can enter only if they’re accompanying a child… So if you’re not a parent, bring your nephew or niece or your younger cousin, and nope, kidnapping isn’t an option.
Noordwijk is located in the very heart of the region known for its tulips fields in springtime, where you can also explore the area by bike.
Noordwijk is filled with colourful flowers that decorate the 13 kilometres-long white sandy beach and is the perfect place to learn a new water sport or to just sunbathe.
It’s also a pretty good spot for those who are into shopping, shops in the main shopping street are open 24/7!
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN NOORDWIJK
RUIMTEVAART MUSEUM SPACE EXPO
Are you a dreamer? Do you happen to stare at the stars in the darkness and wonder what’s beyond them? Or are you simply curious and want to discover everything about our galaxy and the stars? Well, the Space Expo in Noordwijk is exactly the spot for you.
There you can also take (during weekends or holidays) the “Space Train” inside the ESTEC building (the European Space Technology and Research Centre), which happens to be the European Space Agency’s development and testing centre. Useful tip: bring your ID card or your passport (it’s just the normal procedure for security purposes)!
DISCOVER THE AREA BY BIKE
There are many cycle routes that get through dunes and beaches from Noordwijk to Zandvoort (in North Holland) or in the dreamy landscape of Bollenstreek and surroundings. The 52 kilometres-long cycle route from Noordwijk to Zandvoort is the ultimate route to enjoy the best view of the North Sea and the evocative dunes.
Here’s a list of some bike rental places in Noordwijk, check it out and then off you go at the discovery of wonderful places!
It’s a museum dedicated to the extraordinary story of the so-called “Engelandvaarders”, people who during WWII had escaped from Holland which was at that time under German ruling and continued fighting against the Nazis from England. It’s a very interactive museum with lots of modern audiovisual techniques, it’s definitely worth a visit!
Katwijk aan Zee
Katwijk consists of 4 main centres, and Katwijk aan Zee is not only known as a fishing village, but also an artists’ colony. More than 11000 Dutch and foreign painters were inspired by this wonderful place, with its clean air, light and the life and activities of fishermen.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN KATWIJK AAN ZEE
The DUNAatelier is located on Duinplein and besides the interesting exhibitions, it organises every year during summer months the “Katwijk En Plein Air” event “Painting by the sea”. About 15 artists from everywhere are invited to participate and their work is exhibited till the end of September. These artists can use the DUNAatelier while working on their piece of art and they also have the opportunity to organise exhibitions with each other, so that also pieces that were not created in Katwijk can be shown.
SURF LESSONS AND OTHER WATER SPORTS
The Katwijk seaside and beach has a lot to offer to those who are looking for fun and there are many sport activities that can be done in every season.
At the Surfschool Katwijk you can learn powerkiting, surfing, bodyboarding and many others and you will be taught by some very experienced people. Don’t miss this opportunity!
The museum is located in the heart of the old fishing village and combines a stunning collection of paintings by foreign as well as Dutch painters, who were stunned by the beauty and dazzle of the artists’ colony in Katwijk, with a collection of local and regional attractions.
Furthermore, on the top floor there’s the permanent exhibition “Katwijk in vogelvlucht” and it’s dedicated to the local Engelandvaarders, displaying thus the story of people that, during WWII tried to reach England by canoe among others. It’s an exhibition with a personal touch and you can definitely feel that while looking at old pictures. This museum deserves to be one of your stops in Katwijk!
3. NORTH HOLLAND
The province North Holland is the second biggest province in the Netherlands and its main character is the fact that it has everything. Amsterdam, the most important city, lies in North Holland. There are quite some seaside towns there, we wish we could talk to you about all of them!
Bloemendaal aan Zee
Bloemendaal aan Zee is the trendiest and one of the most popular seaside towns in North Holland. It’s also known as the “Dutch Ibiza”, and the reason for that is pretty clear: the parties here are quite the thing. One of the main highlights is surely the sandy beach, where you can also find some of the best pavilions in the whole country. It’s a city that is family friendly as well as a city for younger generations.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BLOEMENDAAL AAN ZEE
From Bloemendaal aan Zee, Zaanse Schans is basically within a stone’s throw away. Zaanse Schans is a peculiar region where you can get a direct experience of how was life in Holland back in the 17th century. You can do a tour of inside one of the windmills, and try out free samples of cheeses and watch a how-to-make cheese workshop here too. We advise you especially to take a boat trip past the many picturesque windmills!
Zandvoort is pretty close to Amsterdam and it’s also easily reachable from other provinces by train. It’s also one of the major beach resorts of the Netherlands, with its long sandy beach. It’s located between the coastal dunes of Zuid-Kennemerland National Park and the Amsterdam water supply dunes.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN ZANDVOORT
THE CIRCUIT ZANDVOORT
The Zandvoort Racetrack is one of the main symbols of Zandvoort and it’s located in the dunes. It’s also considered to be one of the best tracks in Holland! This Circuit was once one of the places where great figures competed in the Formula 1 races until 1985. Did you know that you can also rent a fast sports car and go for a couple of laps on the track?
ZUID-KENNEMERLAND NATIONAL PARK
The park is an area of dunes, beaches and polders and hosts a specific type of flora and fauna, such as fallow deers, foxes and Scottish highland cattles. The dune area is approximately 3.800 acres wide and in some places fresh water comes up, where you’ll mostly find orchids and the marsh grass of Parnassus.
Bergen aan Zee
Bergen aan Zee is another tourist attraction, in every single season. This place can satisfy literally everyone, from those who are looking for a nice beach to relax, those who want to have a day trip surrounded by nature, even though we think that what stole everybody’s heart is surely the artistic atmosphere one can breathe there.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BERGEN AAN ZEE
This museum is actually located in one of the true districts of the city, Bergen. It aims to show the life conditions of people back in 1900 in an old farmhouse and exhibits clothing, utensils and furniture.
THE SEA AQUARIUM
The highlight of the aquarium must be for sure the skeleton of a sperm whale under which you can walk. Or is it the bridge under which there’s a pond full of piranhas? Mmh, we’re not quite sure, what’s sure is that the museum hosts more than 300 different species, so if you want to explore and discover more about the underwater world, this is surely the right place!
THE RUINED CHURCH
It’s one of Bergen’s landmarks and it stands in the very middle of this little town. It was almost completely destroyed during the 16th and 18th century, the only proof of the old church are the remains of its outside walls. It’s a very peculiar and suggestive monument, almost spectral if it wasn’t for the various cafés and bars located all around it!
Egmond aan Zee
There’s plenty to see and to do in Egmond aan Zee in every season, that’s what makes this coastal city so special. It’s also one of the most beautiful beaches. The old fishing village and the lighthouse are certainly worth a visit!
Worth mentioning are also Petten and Julianadorp with their marvelous seaside villages and sandy beaches.
4. FRIESLAND - WADDEN ISLANDS
Dulcis in fundo, how can we talk about Friesland without mentioning the famous Wadden Islands? There 5 islands which are inhabited, namely Oost-Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, the fifth one, Texel, is part actually of the province North-Holland, but to simplify things we’ll introduce it here.
Located up in the north, in the North Sea, they are very popular tourist destinations for hikes and mudflat walks. Let’s discover them one by one!
Texel is also well known as the largest dutch northern island and its considered to be the best island for those who seek the ultimate vacancy at the beach. The sandy beach it’s indeed 30 kilometres long, this must be a dream coming true for people who love relaxing on sandy beaches. Nonetheless, Texel has a lot more to offer to its visitors, such as nature reserves. In a nutshell, this island is definitely worth a visit.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN TEXEL
THE LIGHTHOUSE IN DEN BURG
As for many other coastal cities, the picturesque lighthouse in the north (in Den Burg to be exact) couldn’t be missed here, being one of Texel’s landmarks.
One of the special traits of the lighthouse is surely its bright red tint, which creates a very sharp contrasto to the cold colours of the sea and sky. The 150-year-old (wow) building can be visited and from the top you can enjoy a marvelous view over the island itself and of the neighbouring Vlieland.
PARACHUTE JUMPING ON TEXEL
Are you feeling adventurous and in the mood for an unforgettable experience? Well, in that case, we’ve got you covered: you should definitely pay a visit to the Parachute centrum in De Cocksdorp. What’s on the plate you ask us? Pure adrenaline and stunning sightseeing with the guidance of an experienced instructor.
If you’re not an adrenaline junkie but still want to enjoy the breathtaking view, we suggest you book an airplane ride (pro tip: children pay half the price).
DUNES OF TEXEL NATIONAL PARK
The Dunes of Texel National Park includes many special nature areas, such as the sandbank, the forests and the Slufter, a dune valley on the North Sea. Here the creeks fill up at high tide and empty at low tide, creating a very peculiar vegetation and a true spectacle to see. The many different landscapes will surely bewitch you like they bewitched us.
The island of Vlieland is a place filled with nature, but also a cultural and culinary centre (did you know that one of Vlieland’s specialties are cranberries?). There’s only one village in this island, Oost-Vlieland with its peculiar ferry harbour, good restaurants and everything else tourists may need while visiting this peaceful paradise.
The main highlight of Vlieland is surely its wonderful dune landscape, typical of the Wadden Sea area, which happens to be a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND TO SEE IN VLIELAND
Mud walking (“wadlopen” in Dutch) is one pretty special way to visit and “touch” the nature reserve of the Wadden Sea. In fact, during low-tide, shallows fall dry and it’s thus possible for people to literally cross the sea. If you decide to do this mud walk, be sure to bring with you clean and dry clothes, because you’ll be needing them after walking through miles in thigh-deep mud. Yes, it doesn’t sound very appealing, but we can assure you that it’s so much fun for all ages!
TROMP’S HUYS MUSEUM
The Tromp’s Huys Museum, located in the island’s oldest building, contains an exhibition about the history of the island, most of all about its maritime past. It’s also responsible for the organisation of different excursions, such as the “Markante Monumentenwandeling”, a tour through various monuments. Click here for further information about opening hours and tariffs.
The second largest island of the West Frisian Islands, is a melting pot of stunning nature and chilling beaches.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN TERSCHELLING
The very highlight of the island is, once again, the lighthouse, but there’s a good reason for this: it’s actually the oldest in the Netherlands, pretty special, right?
The beach of Terschelling is another landmark of the island, with its 30 kilometres of sandy beaches that run along the northern coast. Relaxing, rigenerating, same old story right? Nope, there’s a special place that’s worth a visit: it’s the beach pavilion on the beach at Oosterend, the so-called Heartbreak Hotel, where the music played there and the inside decor come directly from the ‘50s and ‘60s (Elvis Presley would be proud). If you’re a nostalgic and romantic soul and want to dive into the past, this spot is the ultimate experience!
Also called the “Wadden Diamond”, Ameland won the Quality Coast Award back in 2009.
It’s also an island that offers many possibilities for bigger families. There are many picturesque villages that are worth a visit, but let’s not forget the nature reserves, symbols of Ameland that contribute to the island’s well known peace and quietness, and the beach with its unfaltering lighthouse.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN AMELAND
DEMONSTRATION HORSE-DRAWN RESCUE BOAT
Have you ever seen a boat drawn by horses? In Ameland it’s possible and it symbolises the past, when boats in need were pulled across the beach and through the surface of the sea, where nowadays this is the motor boat Anna Margaretha’s job. It’s a demonstration of how people were rescued from drowning and ships were taken safely to the shore..
Exploring the beach while riding a horse is truly one of the best experiences one could ever ask for. Here you get inspos, but we’ll name one of the many possibilities: the riding stable ‘t Jutterspad, in Nes, where, under the supervision of experts you’ll be able to ride through meadows, forests and beaches. Nope, it’s not a scene from a movie, it’s real, we swear!
It might be the smallest inhabited Wadden Island (with a length of just 16 kilometres and only 4 kilometres wide), but it’s a real pleasure for the eyes.
BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN SCHIERMONNIKOOG
The so-called Kallemooifeest it’s a festival that takes place every year in the weekend of Pentecost. As part of the feast, a stolen rooster is placed in a basket on top of a pole and kept there until the day after Pentecost Day. After lifting the pole the party continues and people drink the so-called Kallemooibitter, which is a local tonic liquor.
THE BUNKERMUSEUM SCHLEI
The Bunkermuseum Schlei is located in a bunker near the cycling path southwest the beach pavilion de Marlijn. During WWII this was a communication centre where radio and radar signals were collected and then passed on to the Luftwaffe. The museum collects and exhibit goods from that period, it’s worth a visit if you ask us, it’s interesting to discover the events that have marked the history of the Netherlands.