The Netherlands is once again open to vaccinated travelers from the US, and there’s no better time to visit than now. Weeks after imposing mandatory 10-day quarantine requirements for all US travelers (regardless of vaccination status), the Netherlands reversed their restrictions earlier this fall. As of September 22, 2021, vaccinated Americans are able to visit the Netherlands once again—no quarantine necessary. (You do, of course, have to show a negative COVID test before departure, which is standard protocol in many European nations.) And for Americans wanting to travel to Europe, there’s no better country to visit than the Netherlands—and no better time to visit than now. Read on for five reasons why Holland should be your next last-minute trip. After all, if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.
1. Fly like Royalty, Arrive in Style with KLM
(Image provided by KLM)
The journey is part of the vacation, which is why we recommend flying KLM on your trans-Atlantic voyage. KLM, also known as the Royal Dutch Airlines, allows you to arrive in style at Schiphol International Airport—and with peace of mind, as well. KLM has just launched an interactive map to keep passengers abreast of the latest COVID requirements based on vaccination status and country of departure for all 167 international destinations in the KLM network. Given the complicated state of travel these days, we can only say ‘dank je wel’ for the much-needed simplification and clarity.
Furthermore, while traveling from west to east is always going to be difficult for your internal clock, one of the best ways to beat jet lag is splurging for a First Class ticket. (Though in 2021 the cost of an upgrade needn’t be quite so taxing, as there are quite a few last-minute flight deals to be found). If you want to maximize your time spent on the ground in Europe, you have to invest wisely and maximize your sleep up in the air. And flying KLM Business Class has an extra incentive, as well, in the form of the highly-coveted Delft Blue houses which are gifted to passengers on each flight. Delft Blue is a world-famous ceramic that originated in the city of Delft in the 17th century (also the home place of the famous painter Vermeer) and the blue-and-white pottery is quite valuable—coveted by tourists and art collectors alike.
(Image of Delft Blue houses provided by KLM)
The oldest airline in the world, KLM was established in 1919, and each year the airline unveils a new Delft Blue house—the latest addition for 2021 is Miniature House No. 102: Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam. The Delft Blue houses are miniature replicas of historic Dutch houses, filled with gin and gifted as KLM souvenirs since the 1950s. (Don’t worry, there’s an app to keep track of your collection.) Trust us when we say these keepsakes are the ultra-luxurious adult version of collecting Happy Meal toys as a child from McDonald’s—except now you’re all grown-up, and traveling in style.
2. Luxury Living Overlooking the Canal
(Image of Art Collector's Suite provided by Pulitzer Amsterdam)
A benefit to traveling to Holland now is the opportunity to score fantastic last-minute hotel deals in Amsterdam. We suggest staying in a historic property that is centrally located for easy canal/bike access. And waterfront views are a definite plus. The ultimate destination, of course, is the Pulitzer Amsterdam, a historic five-star hotel located right in the heart of the city. The Pulitzer comprises 25 interlinked Golden Age canal houses—each dating back to the 17th or the 18th century. (From collecting Delft houses on KLM to staying in a historic Dutch house, in real-time, on your trip is perfect vacation cohesion.) Due to the unique properties of each building, no two suites in the Pulitzer are alike—though each room is art-filled, charming, and cleverly designed. (And for the ultimate art-lover, the Antique Collector’s Suite is a dream come true, inspired by the colorful characters who have lived in the buildings over the years.)
(Image of the Bar provided by Pulitzer Amsterdam)
The delicious breakfast served in the light-filled Pulitzer Garden is the perfect way to start your day while dinner at Jansz, and after-hour cocktails at the Pulitzer’s Bar, are a must-do—whether or not you’re staying at the property. However, if you are staying in the hotel, be sure to take advantage of the bike rentals—only 16 euros per day. When in Holland, do as the Dutch (fearlessly) do. Though, a benefit to smaller crowds is that the cobblestone streets seem more manageable on two wheels.
(Image provided by Pulitzer Amsterdam)
Another classically Dutch mode of transport is to travel on the water, of course, a desire accommodated by the unique selection of Pulitzer Boats. Like everything else on the property, the Tourist boat is historic (built in 1909) and super-luxurious, while the open teak tender of the Belle is ideal for sunny days. We are also partial to an evening cruise with the Blue Boat Company. Appreciate the city’s twinkling lights reflected on the waters of the canal while you sip a cocktail (or two, or three) and marvel at the fact that these canals were man-made and meticulously designed. After all, Amsterdam remains one of the more navigable cities in Europe, and the majority of the architecture and landmarks have survived since the 14th century.
3. Step Back in Time to the Golden Age
(Image of the Amsterdam Maritime Museum provided by Adobe Stock)
"God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands" is a famous saying in Holland—and this ingenuity is on display at the Scheepvaart, Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum. The semi-permanent collections, Republic at Sea and Maps & Marvels, bring the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th and 18th centuries vividly to life—a revival of the past enhanced by the sight of the East Indiaman Amsterdam docked outside in the harbor, a replica of the old (and enormous) seafaring vessels from which the Dutch once conquered the world.
(Image of the Rijksmuseum provided by Adobe Stock)
Speaking of the 17th century, though 2019 was the year of the Rembrandt and the Golden Age exhibits (a year-long celebration in honor of the painter’s 350th birthday), there’s no shortage of museums to visit in Amsterdam to retrace the Dutch Golden Age in the present day. We suggest the Rijksmuseum, the Museum van der Hoop, and The Rembrandt House Museum. Other notable museums include the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Tulip Museum. Though these museums are far less crowded, visitors should buy their tickets in advance, as specific dates are liable to be sold out in advance. Purchase an I Amsterdam City Card to secure free entrance at most of the city’s institutions and book a counterculture tour with Tours That Matter, a locally-owned operation spotlighting the city’s lesser-told stories.
(Image of the Red Light District in Amsterdam provided by Adobe Stock)
And, though there’s a midnight curfew for restaurants and bars, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the city’s famous cafe society—which is better enjoyed without the presence of the maddening (dawdling) crowds in the entryways of coffee shops and nightclubs and reefer shops in the Red Light District. Holland is 88% vaccinated, and, as such, masks are not a mandatory part of daily life—and this freedom will feel surreal and intoxicating to American travelers. We suggest waterfront Heinkens at the crooked Cafe de Sluyswacht before dinner at the Rembrandt Room of Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen (it’s important to stay on theme.) Enjoy cocktails afterward at Louis or Cafe t’Smalle, or head to Mr. Porter if you’re more interested in swanky penthouse energy rather than cozy corner pubs. (Though never underestimate the unassuming bar on a cobblestone side street, as these seemingly low-key haunts are where the parties grow the wildest. (We’re in Amsterdam, after all.)
4. Vacation Like a Local in The Hague
(Image of The Hague provided by Adobe Stock)
Finally, Americans may vacation in Amsterdam, but the Dutch vacation in The Hague. While it may be difficult to imagine anywhere more picturesque than Amsterdam (which manages to stay freakishly clean despite daily traffic), we’re here to inform you that such a city exists. The Dutch call it Den Haag (an ugly name for such a pretty place), but you may know it as The Hague, The Royal City, or The International City of Peace. In Holland, there is a famous saying: The Dutch make their money in Rotterdam, invest it in Amsterdam, and spend it in The Hague. We recommend spending 2-3 days in The Hague and the neighboring seaside town of Scheveningen—located only a scenic 55-minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station.
(The author with Remco Dorr in The Hague)
There is a direct train from the Dutch capital to the coast, so travelers concerned about jet lag spoiling the first couple days of their trip can put off the hectic bustle of Amsterdam for the charming, refined, elegant ambiance of The Hague. Alternatively, a lovely coastal retreat is a perfect way to cap off a whirlwind couple of days spent in the capital. Spend a day exploring Scheveningen and set out for a morning bike ride out towards the North Sea. (Yes, you will bike there and back, and it will feel much less intimidating on lush, winding, countryside roads than it does in the City Centre of Amsterdam.) Head out to the Inner Court and the Hall of Knights at dusk to watch the sunset over the oldest parliament building in the world.
5. Marvel at the Dutch Masters
(The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, image provided by the author)
While in The Hague, it’s imperative to visit Mauritshuis, Holland’s first public art museum and one of the greatest museums in all of Europe. The world-renowned collection began as the private gallery of Prince Willem V, who turned the 17th-century building into a museum in 1833. Peruse the dazzling array of must-see paintings, including “The Goldfinch'' and “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The inscrutable expression of Johannes Vermeer’s subject earned this famous portrait the nickname ‘the Mona Lisa of the North,’ and it is certainly a sight to behold. Commemorate the masterpiece by purchasing a Girl with the Pearl Earring rubber duck at the gift shop. (Rubber Ducks are quite the thing in Holland, home to the Amsterdam Rubber Duck Store—now a chain across Europe.) If you can’t tell already, the Netherlands takes its tchotchkes very seriously.
With your rubber duck in hand and your Blue Delft house awaiting you onboard your return home, it’s safe to say you will have the perfect souvenirs to commemorate the high-low of Dutch culture. But it’s that perfect blend of sophistication and quirkiness that defines Dutch wit and charm. And after the past year-and-a-half and counting, we all deserve a bit of quirkiness—not to mention a much-needed dose of European sophistication. So go ahead and book your flight—you’re worth it.