“Lekker” is a very handy word in Dutch. Most of the time it means “delicious”, but you can apply it to more than just food. Vacations, fun pastimes and many other things can also be described as “lekker”… including exploring local culture on one of our cruises!
Holland and beyond
It’s worth mentioning that our Holland Culture Tour doesn’t take place just within Holland. You might be surprised to learn that – officially – the name “Holland” refers to the Dutch provinces of North and South Holland, home to Amsterdam, Haarlem, Delft, Gouda and The Hague.
The Netherlands has 12 provinces in total, but centuries ago the original Holland province was so famous that its name became an unofficial title for the whole country. Our Holland Culture Tour also ventures into the province of Utrecht, the smallest of the 12 Dutch provinces.
Three local highlights
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dive into three highlights we think you’ll love this tour, which we created as a celebration of everything that gives Dutch culture it’s undeniable charm.
Of course, we could talk about some of the more obvious cultural hotspots covered by this tour, such as the iconic Kinderdijk windmills or the Mauritshuis museum (home of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring”), but instead we’ve chosen some of our favorite attractions that you’ve maybe never heard of. Here they are!
The Church of Saint Bavo in Haarlem
The man himself, Saint Bavo of Ghent, underwent the classic hero’s journey transformation from a life of wealth and excess to one of pious devotion and selflessness in order to connect with his true purpose.
A reckless young aristocrat from Brabant, Bavo (also known as Baaf) was a 7th century soldier who led an undisciplined and disorderly life. This all changed after the death of his wife when he heard one of Saint Armand’s sermons on the emptiness of material things. Bavo took it to heart and literally gave away everything he owned.
Strange to think that this saint, who eventually became a total recluse and lived in a hollow tree and later in a cell in the abbey he built, would one day have a magnificent, gothic cathedral built in his honor in Haarlem. The cavernous ceilings, stained-glass windows and colorful interior alone make this church well worth a visit, but it’s the church’s world-famous organ that makes a trip there truly memorable.
When it was first built back in 1738, it was the largest organ in the world and has since been played by some of the most famous musicians in history, including Mendelssohn and Mozart, who played it when he was 10 years old! There’s even a legend that claims the bass of the organ is so low that it caused the mortar between the brimstones to disintegrate into nothing.
The Stroopwafels of Gouda
Most people visit the Market Square in Gouda for the cheese market that’s open every Thursday morning from April to August, and for good reason. The delicious, fragrant cheeses on offer are some of the best you’ll ever taste and with some wheels of cheese weighing in at over 20kg, there’s plenty to go around!
However, there’s another Dutch delicacy for sale around Market Square that you’ll immediately recognize thanks to its alluring caramel scent. The stroopfwafel is a humble wafer cookie made from two thin layers of baked dough joined by a caramel filling. Gouda just so happens to be the birthplace of these too-good-to-be-true treats which were so popular that in 1870 Gouda is said to have had roughly 100 stroopwafel bakers.
Eventually, entire factories were built for the express purpose of baking stroopwafels. Of the 17 factories open in 1960, four remain to this day, but everyone in Gouda knows, that’s not where you go to enjoy the best stroopwafels the city has to offer.
Not far from market Square, there’s a small standing shop called Het Stroopwafelwinkeltje, whose stroopwafels have been described by tourists and locals alike as the best in the world. You can get them fresh, piping hot and gigantic – the perfect snack to enjoy after a day of tasting cheese.
The “This Is Holland” experience in Amsterdam
Across the water from Amsterdam Central Station, you’ll find “This Is Holland”, an extra-sensory film experience that lasts roughly an hour and consists of four shows: The Netherlands of the past, The Netherlands of today, the 5D Flight Experience and the Holland Lounge.
Yes, 5D is a thing. In addition to 3D cinema, 4D adds moving seats and 5D adds wind, snow, rain or bubble special effects. Despite the artifice, this 5D flight experience in Amsterdam is an incredible way to “see, feel, learn and experience the Netherlands in just one hour”.
The idea is that you experience what it’s like to literally fly over the breath-taking Dutch landscape, allowing you to gain a unique perspective of the country that you’d never be able to experience otherwise. Don’t just take our word for it though. The attraction has scored mostly excellent reviews on Tripadvisor– well worth a visit!
Learn about more hidden highlights
Of course, these three experiences don’t even scratch the surface of all the things our Holland Culture Tour has to offer. Full a full breakdown of the places we go, the things we do and delicious local delicacies we enjoy, read the full tour description on the Holland Culture Tour webpage.