Amsterdam, canals, tulips, clogs and cheese is the internationally recognized image of the Netherlands, but this small country has so much more to offer. True hidden gems in the Netherlands are the cute little village: charming, irresistible, loaded with cultural heritage and dotted with historical monuments. But which are those most beautiful villages in the Netherlands? Read further to find out.
Who said these were the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands?
In France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain there are associations that nominate and award the villages as being the most charming ones in these countries. Those villages are then certified and can be called ‘the most beautiful villages’. These organizations are Les Plus Beaux Villages de France in France, Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie in Belgium, I Borghi più belli d’Italia in Italy, and Los pueblos más bonitos de España, Spain.
In the Netherlands there isn’t such an association, so everybody is free to make their own classification and choose their own most beautiful villages. This is one of the reasons why you can come across some very ridiculous selections of beautiful villages in the Netherlands that include large towns and cities, or attractions, that aren’t a village or a town at all. These articles are mostly written by people who have never been to the Netherlands, or have visited only Amsterdam and Zaanse Schans.
So where’s this selection based on? In 2020 the Royal Dutch Touring Club ANWB, an automobile and travelers’ association, published a book with the 50 most beautiful villages in Netherlands (De aller mooiste dorpen van Nederland), which we have used as the backbone of the selection made by Exploring the Netherlands.
So, here they are the 10 most beautiful villages in the Netherlands, arranged in alphabetical order!
Once an important harbour, this cute little place turned into an inland town after the sea was drained in the 17th century to make place for more land. The regained land from the sea is known as polder, and the area around De Rijp – De Beemster Polder, is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the last years most of the houses have been beautifully restored and the little town is full of charm. You can find there some of the oldest wooden houses in the Province of North Holland.
➭ Beemster Polder – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Elsloo is a real post-card village, with the lovely castle and the cobbled streets lined up with old stone houses with white-red shutters on the windows. Elsloo is considered the oldest rural community in the Netherlands as there are found traces from the so-called Linear Pottery culture which flourished in 5500–4500 BC. The Castle of Elsloo has a beautiful park and a small botanical garden. You can also visit the watermill Slakmolen and the local history museum. From the village there’s a beautiful view over the Meuse Valley and the Juliana Canal.
They call it the Venice of the North or the Dutch Venice and indeed Giethoorn completely deserves its nickname. Imagine an idyllic small village with no streets but canals instead. Beautiful houses, mostly farms, with thatched roofs, lots of green and flowers and the willows hanging above the crooked bridges. Unfortunately the last years Giethoorn has been discovered by the tourists and is suffering from overtourism. Nonetheless, the place is simply gorgeous and too cute not to see it. Giethoorn is located at the edge of the Dutch National Park Weerribben-Wieden.
Nestled in the rolling hills of South Limburg, Mechelen is a real hidden gem. The village is famous for its half-timbered houses. While houses with exposed timber framing are very popular in Germany, there are only a few places in South Limburg where you can spot this architectural style in the Netherlands, and Mechelen is one of them. Stroll along the quaint streets and visit the lovely Church of St John the Baptist, afterwards wander the hills around the village and follow the winding Geul river to the Upper Mill.
Middenbeemster is located in the middle of the Beemster Polder – one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands. Centuries ago the area of the Beemster was a large peat bog, which became eventually a lake, after peat was extracted. In the 17th century an ambitious plan was made to drain the area with the help of 43 windmills and reclaim the land for agriculture. The plan was a huge success which led to the Dutch mastering the art of land reclamation and resulting in about 60% of today’s Netherlands being built on reclaimed land. Middenbeemster feels like a time machine to the 17th century and this is one of the reasons why the place is a UNESCO Site. You can visit in the village the Agrarian Museum and the museum of the 18th-century feminist writer Betje Wollf. When in Middenbeemster try the world-famous Beemster Cheese, which is produced locally.
Located in North Brabant, Oisterwijk inevitably bears the hallmark of the so-called Burgundian lifestyle of this province, characterized by joie-de-vivre and good food. And you can best enjoy Oisterwijk, sitting at one of the many cafes overlooking the village green with the centuries-old linden tree. Oisterwijk is surrounded by lush green nature and therefore it has been nicknamed ‘Parel in ‘t groen’ – ‘A hidden gem in the green’. In Oisterwijk you can visit the grain windmill Kerkhovense Molen, which is still functioning.
Oud Aalden is unbearably charming with its old cottages and the traditional gardens. This typical esdorp with the old Saxon farmsteads around the village green, is one of the most beautiful places in Drenthe. Take a stroll along the cobbled streets and forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life and stop at ‘t Hoes van Hol-An for the best pancakes. Nearby Oud Aalden you can visit the open-air village museum of Orvelte, where you can see old crafts still practiced and even more examples of the lovely Saxon farmsteads.
With just 130 inhabitants this little village in South Limburg has perhaps the most castles per capita in the Netherlands: 1 castle per 65 inhabitants! Genhoes Castle was the home castle of the knights of Valkenburg and was built most probably somewhere in the 11th century. The second castle is Schaloen, which was built in the 17th century, and redesigned in the 19th century by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. Unfortunately both castles are closed for visitors, but at Schaloen Castle you can visit the Castle Gardens of Oud-Valkenburg and the Watermill of Schaloen. There’s also a lovely restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink with a view of the stunning castle.
➭ Best things to do in Valkenburg
You can’t but notice Vijlen from quite a distance – the church perched on the top of the hill and the houses clung to the slopes, something quite different from the average flat-as-a-pancake landscape of the Netherlands. Vijlen is famous for being the only hilltop village in the Netherlands. Standing on a 195m-high hill it’s also the highest situated settlement on continental Netherlands. Vijlen is also famous for its wine and the wine produced there has a Protected Designation of Origin. The 2 most famous wineries in the area are Wijngaard St. Martinus and Wijndomein Holset. Both wineries can be visited.
Wemeldinge is a lovely fishermen village in the Province of Zeeland. It’s also one of the oldest villages in Zeeland, as it can be traced back to the 11th century. What’s interesting about Wemeldinge is that with the time the village has moved towards the sea and left its church standing almost outside of the village. Besides the St. Maarten Church (14th century), the one that was left behind, you can also visit the 2 windmills De Hoop (1866) and Aeolus (1869). The main street of the village – Dorpstraat, lined up with beautiful linden trees, is a conservation area. Wemeldinge is also popular for the oysters, which you have to try when visiting the village.
So, these are the 10 most beautiful villages in the Netherlands, just a small selection of all charming places, you can visit in the Netherlands. Do you want to discover other amazing places in the Netherlands, read this post: 25 most beautiful places in the Netherlands.
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