Interrail in the Netherlands: a country guide 🇳🇱

Interrail in the Netherlands: the ultimate country guide 🇳🇱

Incredible art

Windmills

Cycling friendly

Tulips

Canals

Table of contents 🇳🇱

The Netherlands overview

Netherlands is a mix of natural and cosmopolitan beauty. A lively country full of museums, historical sites, hipster coffee shops, quirky hotels, a buzzing food scene and photogenic spots at every corner. The Netherlands is a country full of gems of all kinds. From beautiful and vast farmland, iconic windmills and tulips to delicious waffles and gouda cheese. 

The Netherlands is one of the flattest countries in the world with one-fifth of the country being below sea level. Thus, in the Netherlands, water is everywhere, seen in its typical narrow canals. The north of the Netherlands is home to beautiful nature and the start of the internationally known hiking trail, the Pieterpad, leading all the way to the most southern point of the country. The train system is modern, inexpensive and punctual. Also, this amazing country has some of the most bicycle friendly places in the world. 

The Netherlands is home to an amazing art scene, medieval towns, music festivals and many lovely towns along the water. You will fall in love with its rich history, liberal culture and many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has its charms all year-round, but an exceptionally beautiful time of year to visit the Netherlands is in spring when the country’s iconic tulip fields are in full bloom. December is also a popular time because of the Christmas Markets and festive atmosphere all over the country.

The top 5 cities to visit in the Netherlands

Amsterdam

Often dubbed the ‘Venice of Northern Europe’ due to its fascinating canal system, Amsterdam is a charming city well known for its history, the architecture and its iconic narrow houses. The home to Van Gogh’s museum and Heineken Brewery has something for everyone. 

Rijksmuseum, with the Rembrandt and Vermeer masterpieces, is one of the world’s finest museums and The Anne Frank House leaves no one unimpressed. In Amsterdam, you can also find some of Europe’s finest art and architecture, dating back to the 15th century. Take a canal boat tour down Amsterdam’s canals, the Old Centre, Red Light, Dam Square, Grachtengordel and Museum districts. Or, simply cruise the narrow streets on bicycles, just like the locals do.

With its liberal coffee houses, cannabis coffee shops and the Red Light District, Amsterdam is a Mecca for the liberal. Also, consider ordering an “I Amsterdam City Card”, as it provides you with free or discounted entry to the many museums and attractions in the city.

When you want to relax aren’t interested in visiting ‘coffee shops’, check out one of over 1,000 bruin cafes, or brown cafes. They are named after their wood panelling and tobacco-stained walls, and are great places to sit, drink and enjoy the local beer.

Photo by Claudia Lorusso on Unsplash

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is one of the busiest shipping ports in the world, but it is hard to find any buildings built before 1945, as most of Rotterdam was destroyed in bombings during WWII. This gives the city a modern, futuristic vibe, in contrast to other Dutch cities. 

With an active nightlife scene, cool street art, a very modern skyline, a buzzing foodie scene and plenty of museums, Rotterdam is a completely different Netherlands altogether. 

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has one of Europe’s finest art collections, while Markthal, which is not just the city’s top food market, is also an architectural masterpiece. The market’s crazy ceiling was designed by artist Arno Coenen and features giant fruits and vegetables. De Rotterdam is the city’s most iconic building, and home to offices, a hotel and modern apartments, as well as the largest building in the whole of Netherlands. Another architectural icon is Rotterdam’s famous cube houses, designed by Piet Blom at an angle of 45 degrees. 

An evening on Witte de With Street is the best way to get to know Rotterdam’s a buzzing nightlife scene.

The Hague

The Hague is a hub of international life, governmental structures and the centre of European justice. This gives the city a more conservative look in contrast with Amsterdam. The Hague (locally called Den Haag) is also the residence of the royal family. 

All in all, The Hague is full of personality, rich with great architectures, unmatched culinary masterpieces and beautiful natural spaces. It is located right on the beach and Scheveningen is a resort-like area full of beach clubs, boutiques, hipster coffee houses and the best seafood available, where you can surf, relax on the sand or stroll the boardwalk. 

The Mauritshuis Museum is one of Netherlands’ best art houses, while the miniature city of Madurodam showcases all of Netherlands’ highlights on a 1:25 scale. The Escher in Het Paleis museum shows the works of the famous Dutch artist M.C. Escher. 

Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash
Oudegracht (photo by Jonne Mäkikyrö on Unsplash)

Utrecht

This car-free, picturesque city is one of the top visited places in the Netherlands. Its beautiful network of canals makes it a unique city with vibrant life and lots of cultural attractions.

Utrecht is an incredibly walkable city, with an arty, student vibe, as well as cafes clustered around squares and alongside canals, particularly along Oudegracht. Oudegracht is the city’s main canal and split on two levels: on the street level, you’ll find typical Dutch houses, shops, cafés, restaurants… and, on the water level, you can enjoy the terraces of restaurants.

Wander around the medieval old town, which is the country’s oldest one. Visit the Speelklok museum, which holds the collection of internationally famous self-playing musical instruments, and be sure to check out Wilhelmina Park – Utrecht’s botanical garden.

Maastricht

Maastricht is a magical city located in the south of the Netherlands along the Maas river, jeweled with lots of historic buildings, splendid churches, finest restaurants and cute shops.

Maastricht’s close proximity to Belgium and France has had a profound influence on the city’s culture, seen in pavement cafes and cobbled streets. Maastricht is also the birthplace of the European Union, European citizenship, and the euro. 

Walk along the big squares lined with bars and cafes and visit Maastricht’s gorgeous bookstore.

Photo by Tim Kohlen on Unsplash

People who visit the Netherlands also visit...

Germany 🇩🇪

Amsterdam to Berlin is a long journey, taking around 9 hours, but is a well-trodden Interrail route and a good choice for a night train.

Great Britain 🇬🇧

Get to London directly from Amsterdam with the Eurostar connection. Interrail passholders can benefit from a discount on Eurostar trains.

Belgium 🇧🇪

You can get from Amsterdam to Brussels in just under 2 hours, with the journey from Antwerp to Rotterdam taking just over an hour.

France 🇫🇷

Amsterdam and Paris are two Interrail hotspots, with the two capitals being well served by a high speed line that takes around 3 hours 45 minutes.

Which Interrail pass do I need to travel around the Netherlands?

Interrail Global Pass

The only travel pass that lets you ride on trains in 33 different countries and discover over 40,000 destinations. Available in 1st or 2nd class.
Our choice

Interrail Benelux Pass

Explore Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg with this regional pass. 3 day, 4 day, 5 day, 6 day, 8 day passes available.

Do I need to make train seat reservations in the Netherlands?

Domestic trains in the Netherlands do not require a reservation. 

Reservations are compulsory for international night trains and international high-speed trains. 

You can make reservations for domestic and international high-speed trains and night trains:

Through the Interrail Reservations Service.

At a ticket desk at local train stations.

By phone through the NS high-speed call centre: +31 (030) 2300023

Find out more about how to reserve trains in the Netherlands on Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Where to stay in the Netherlands

ClinkNOORD - Amsterdam

Located across the IJ river, ClinkNOORD is just 10 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal Station - yet in a chilled neighbourhood of its own. This hostel offers private lockers, on-site bar (ZincBAR) with live performances, free Wi-Fi and daily social events to meet other travellers and interrailers from all over the world.

CityHub - Rotterdam

CityHub Rotterdam is located right in the Witte de Withstraat, one of the most popular places in Rotterdam, rich with bars, restaurants, and shops. The Koopgoot (shopping area) and the Markthal are at walking distance as well as the Rotterdam Centre for Contemporary Art and the Maritime Museum. Each guest gets a private cabin - a Hub. Each Hub has a giant, double bed, Wi-Fi, app-controlled lighting and a personal audio streaming system.

The Golden Stork - The Hague

Den Haag’s newest and cosiest hostel, situated perfectly on a quiet canal side street in the city centre, within walking distance of all major attractions; the Houses of Parliament, Vredespaleis, Kings Palace, Mauritshuis, Escher Museum and others.

BUNK - Utrecht

The superbly rated, modern and youthful hostel bridges the gap between hotels and hostels by combining affordable luxury rooms and smartly designed private pods. They aim to redefine hospitality by creating a place for communal wonderment.

The Green Elephant Hostel - Maastricht

A superbly rated hostel that brings together a community of digital nomads, sustainability-minded budget world travellers (and fellow interrailers, of course!) , and health conscious individuals who value clean living.

Events in the Netherlands

King's Day

Every year on April 27th (April 26th if the 27th is a Sunday), the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their King Willem-Alexander. It’s a national holiday filled with outdoor concerts, lots of orange (the national colour), lots of drinking, and insane celebrations on the canals.

Rotterdam Unlimited

The city’s cultural diversity festival in July. The highlight of the weekend is the Rotterdam Unlimited Summer Carnival Street Parade, where thousands of performers and spectators line the streets, with parades, live music, dance.

Rotterdam International Film Festival

This film festival has built an international reputation over recent decades for presenting quality independent films. For more than 10 days in January and February, the cinemas around the city centre show more than 500 films from over 50 countries.

National Restaurant Week

A Dutch festival for foodies held in March, where you can dine in some of the top restaurants in the Netherlands for up to 50% off of food and drink. It’s important to book early as places fill up in advance.

Read more about the Netherlands on our blog

City Guides

City Spotlight: Amsterdam

An Interrail classic. The Dutch capital is more than just coffee shops. It’s a very cultural city and you won’t be short of things to