Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht. These are all the typical, touristic places that you will most likely visit during your experience abroad or trip to the Netherlands. However, the country is small, but it has so much more to offer than these big cities. For example, there are smaller cities like Delft, Breda or Tilburg that are worth a visit. But wait. Wait, waaaaait! There is more! In this blog post, we will focus on the hidden places in the Netherlands, so that (when you have time) you can go to one of these spots and discover the true gems that the country holds.
Far up in the north, there is a little city called Leeuwarden. It is not really a hidden place in the Netherlands, as it is the capital of Friesland (one of the provinces), but it not as known as other cities. Therefore, a small piece about this lovely city. Leeuwarden is known for his history. In 1435, the city received its city rights. Due to its placing, which was right along the Middelzee river, Leeuwarden became an important trade center. Unfortunately, the river become clogged soon after and the trade dropped off. Also, at one point, Leeuwarden counted 130 (!) windmills. Nowadays, the Froskepolemolen windmill is the only one that is still completely structured and standing.
Leeuwarden is also focusing on the future. In 2018, it was the European Capital of Culture. During this period, many different cultural activities were organized by the local community. Examples were exhibitions of the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, a contest of the national sport of Friesland, which is called Fierljeppen (canal vault) or the explanation of the story of Mata Hari.
Leeuwarden has a lot to offer to its visitor. Whether you would like to visit a museum, like the Dutch Ceramic Museum or the Fries Natuurmuseum, learn about the history of the city or take a canal tour; Leeuwarden has it all. Oh, and did you know that one of our lovely sections is located in this city? ESN Leeuwarden would be more than happy to guide you around their hometown!
2. Pyramid of Austerlitz
A pyramid in the Netherlands? Impossible? No, there is actually one. The 36 meter high, in grass covered pyramid was built by the soldiers of Napoleon in 1804 and can be found close to Utrecht, in the Heuvelrug National Park. It was built to honor the victories of Napolean, but also because his soldiers were bored and he had to keep them busy with some tasks. Inspired by the pyramids of Giza, after 27 days of building, Mont Marmont was born. After a while, when Louis Bonaparte become monarch of the Kingdom of Holland, Mont Marmont was renamed to Pyramid of Austerlitz to honor the greatest victory of Napoleon, the battle of Austerlitz (1805).
Nowadays, visitors can climb the pyramid to have a stunning view over the flat country, visit a small exhibition about the French Period of the Netherlands, or walk and bike around in the park!
3. Saint Peter’s Caves
From the north, to the middle, to the south. In the southern part of the Netherlands, we can find the caves of Saint Peter, which are located near to Maastricht. About 1,000 years ago, miners started to excavate the mountain, as it is made of limestone, which can be used as building material. The excavation resulted in a 80 kilometers long tunnel that now can be visited with a tour guide. These tours will take you along the dome and the Gothic hallway of the caves and the guides will explain you everything about the history of them.
If you are not afraid of the dark, and do not mind the cold, the caves are definitely worth a visit!
This was the first part of Hidden Places in the Netherlands. Were you already familiar with them, or did you just discover the existence of these places? Are you planning to take the train to the capital of Friesland? Or are you more the daredevil type that will visit the caves of Saint Peter? Let us know!
Photo Saint Peter Caves: Marc van der Chijs