Here's why you should visit the Netherlands before 2019

From ground-breaking and world-beating festivals, to historic anniversaries and innovative art, the country people constantly refer to (incorrectly) as Holland still has plenty to offer this year.

By Martin Guttridge Hewitt | 23 October 2018

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For most people Northern Europe doesn’t exactly scream ‘winter getaway’, unless you’re talking about ski lodges or Christmas markets. Let’s face it, though, most people could learn a thing or two about a thing or two.

The Netherlands is a case in point. Incorrectly referred to by half the world as Holland, it’s far too low-lying for anyone to get up piste, and while the festive celebrations in the country’s major cities are nice they pale in comparison with the big Yuletide hitters like Prague, Strasbourg, Vienna and Copenhagen.

Don’t let any of this put you off, though. Thanks to the silly-cheap cost of flying from Manchester to Amsterdam it’s never not a good idea to book a ticket for a quick escape. Not convinced? Here are 5 huge reasons to visit the Netherlands before the end of this year…

ADE – Amsterdam; 17th – 21st October 2018

Kicking off with a bang, ADE— or Amsterdam Dance Event— is about as loud and intense as a party gets. If you can even call this annual monster a party.

Over the course of the week an estimated 400,000 revellers will flock to a city that’s only home to twice that number of permanent residents for the world’s biggest celebration of dance music and club culture.

The official programme comprises some 100 individual events each day, with a huge conference side for industry people and brand new ADE Green sustainability offering if you want a better understanding of how to get on the session with less environmental impact.

Those without the somewhat expensive full pass can buy tickets to individual soirees via the usual online channels. Or simply rock up and maraud the canal-side streets seeing what you can find; there are stacks of free things happening if you look.

European Capital of Culture — Leeuwarden; Ongoing until 31st December 2018

Like Manchester, Leeuwarden lies in the North West of its country. It also has a few canals and centuries of history to explore. Unlike our hometown, it’s this year’s European Capital of Culture, meaning there’s a diverse programme of activities for visitors to get involved with.

The Fries Museum has Art Beyond Escher, an exhibition of international and national artists inspired by the namesake surrealist legend, a local to these parts. The Tresoar digital literature archive has ongoing visual poetry installations. And if all that sounds a little dry the architecturally magnificent WaterCampus— used as a meeting point for a Dutch water industry at the cutting edge of global technology— has a pop-up Water Bar where events either take place or begin, and drinks get drunk.

All this is in addition to displays of style trends dated 1900-1930 at the Andere Museum to honour the famous fashionista, Mata Hari; a huge immersive piece from British practitioner and language enthusiast Tim Etchells inside the Lân fan Taal building, and The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics celebrating the similarities between porcelain design and tattoos.

Feest aan Zee — Scheveningen, The Hague; Ongoing until 31st December 2018

If you’ve been walking around under the false impression Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands get ready for a surprise. While it’s by far the most visited city in the country the real First Town is The Hague, which is regal, majestic and truly cultured.

We’d wholly recommend visiting to soak up an atmosphere that’s far more laidback than the ‘Dam, with world class restaurants, a bounty of traditional brown bars and stacks of international standard galleries and performance spaces. It’s also right next to the coast, where you’ll find Sheveningen— a seaside resort that’s 200 years old in 2018 and has been busy marking the momentous anniversary since January.

While much of the programme has passed you still have a week dedicated to Kids By The Sea (15th – 21st October), jazz performances, the interdisciplinary Crossing Border Festival (31st October – 5th November; not to be confused with Manchester’s current Crossing Borders festival), the full-throttle Red Bull Knock Out beach motocross (10th November), and the Scheveningen Light Walk in December… think Blackpool illuminations, only less Blackpool, more refined artistry.

De Stijl ‘Tube line’ — Various, Ongoing

2018 marked the centenary of the De Stijl art movement— a moment in visual history where the old ways of representation were cast off and a new school was born, with expression based on the use of primary colours, non-colours and right-angles.

A response to World War I and modernisation, which had destroyed all that was, changing the very conscious of humankind and ideas of social order, the development was so important it’s never really died. Better yet, many of the attractions created last year for the 100th anniversary are still open, and lie along what is affectionately (and informally) known as the De Stijl ‘Tube line’.

Beginning at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, take in the world’s biggest collection of work by Piet Mondrian, father of the movement. In Utrecht the iconic Rietveld Schroder’s home has long been welcoming art-y visitors (read our report from the city for more on that). And a little further East you’ll find the Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoot, with life-size replica of his Paris studio.

Stay on the route for Villa Mondrian, a museum dedicated to his early output in tranquil Winterswijk. And laidback Drechten has Museum Dr8888, with a large selection of De Stijl and Dadaist pieces, while the influence is also evident around the streets of the so-called Parrot District.

The journey time from the start of the route— The Hague— to Drechten is just two hours, give or take, with the latter close to Leeuwarden, another of our top picks.

GLOW — Eindhoven; 12th – 19th November

We were lucky enough to explore Eindhoven in-depth this spring; take a look at our report for evidence of just how great the city is all year round. Nevertheless, if there’s a time to visit it must be next month, when the annual GLOW exhibition lights up vast swathes of the sprawl.

Spread throughout downtown, attendance figures come close to ADE as hundreds of thousands descend to take in mind-blowing, and eye-catching creations from light artists, with a different theme each year. A truly outstanding asset in the Dutch cultural calendar, it’s the biggest sell for this corner of the country, which deserves far more attention that it often gets.

Those who opt for this should also consider renting a bike when in town. Not only are two wheels the best way to get around, Eindhoven is home to a 600 metre cycle path designed by forward-thinking innovator Daan Roosegarde, who has recreated Van Gogh’s Starry Night in thousands of miniature coloured stones set into the ground. Charged via solar power by day, once darkness falls riders are treated to a spectacular view of the cosmos beneath their pedals.

Getting there

Manchester Airport has direct daily flights to Amsterdam Schipol Airport with easyJet and KLM, and weekly flights to Eindhoven Airport with Ryanair.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport train station offers regular services across the Netherlands