Off the beaten track Netherlands means you’re looking for a unique visit that isn’t Amsterdam or the typical tourist hot spot. If you want an authentic experience, look no further. Having been a resident here for the past few years and traveling all throughout the country, I’ve gathered the best hidden gems in the Netherlands for you to explore.
The Pyramid of Austerlitz
Want to visit a historical monument that you would never expect to see in this country? Check out the Netherlands’ very own pyramid. Yes, you heard that right. The Pyramid of Austerlitz is located in Utrecht Heuvelrug. It was built by Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers in 1804 when the Netherlands was occupied by France. It took 27 days to build and is approximately 118 feet high. Today Austerlitz Pyramid is open to the public and a popular must-see for kids and families. You can climb to the top of the pyramid for a €5 euro entrance fee. I found the hike to the attraction and the viewpoint to be the key highlights. Make it a day trip and bring along your hiking shoes to explore the nearby trails.
Paleis Het Loo
Paleis Het Loo is an extravagant Dutch palace that was built in the 17th century by the House of Orange-Nassau. Many think of it as a mini Dutch Versailles because of its resemblance. It sits in the city of Appeldoorn, a province of Gelderland. A visit here is a blast into the past of the Dutch monarchy. Although the palace is currently in renovation you can still enjoy the open grounds, garden, and stables.
The gardens are my favorite part because of how beautifully designed, well-manicured, and ornate they are. You can easily spend a few hours here walking around and learning about the various flora and fauna. Stop by the palace grounds cafe and have a slice of pie and coffee while enjoying the garden view. The stables alone are a Dutch hidden gem, featuring carriage sheds, historic coaches, and cars that the royal family used.
You wouldn’t expect this to be on the list but it’s one of the cool places in the Netherlands, especially if you’re in the Maastricht area. The ECNCI was an old cement factory located in a formal marl mining area that dates back to 1926. The factory and its workers extracted limestone for nearly 100 years up until its closure in 2018. As of now the ENCI is a nature reserve and has a unique landscape that is partly industrial and partly natural. Some like to call it the ‘Dutch’ Grand Canyon and that was enough for me to refer to this old quarry as the ultimate off the beaten track Netherlands.
We arrived at the quarry by taking a short hike through St. Pietersberg hill. There is a huge viewing bridge that shows off the beautiful view of the quarry.
Kootwijk Radio Station
Radio Kootwijk is a former radio broadcasting station from the Netherlands’ colonial past. Its primary use was to communicate between the Dutch and their former colonies. The building itself is an incredible piece of architecture and was built in an art deco style by Julius Luthmann in 1920. It is located in the middle of the nature reserve, the Veluwe which I highly recommend to hike around and explore. Entrance to Kootwijk Radio Station is only open for special events and conferences. But you can book a guided tour. However, Dutch is the only available language the tour has.
See thehunebedden for the ultimate off the beaten track Netherlands
Hands down my favorite visit on this list is seeing the hunebedden in the Drenthe region. What is ahunebedden you may ask? They are rock formations that humans created 5,000 years ago. These people piled rocks on top of one another to serve as burial grounds for those with high status or ranking. The sheer size of these formations is amazing, weighing over 30 tons. It makes you wonder how they gathered the strength to carry these large stones. The myth says that these were actually giants burying their dead – but we will never know! I highly recommend visiting these Dutch hidden gems because it is one of the cool places in the Netherlands.
Maastricht Caves Zonneberg
Located under the city of Maastricht are these fascinating man-made mines. At nearly 700 years old they hold so much history. A guide will take you into the caves, tell you about limestone extraction, the history of WWII, and its many galleries. It’s pitch dark in these caves and I mean that there is no visibility whatsoever. The only thing that can navigate through here without light are bats who use sonar as their guide. Don’t forget to bring a jacket because the temperature drops a few degrees.
The Kootwijk radio station was featured in ‘Mindhunters’, a 2004 Hollywood movie about profilers. It starred Val Kilmer, LL Cool J and Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy), among others. Cool little movie. The building still has the inside insulation that was installed during filming. Apart from all that, fascinating building. There is an actual German eagle imprinted/imbossed on one side of the building, above the large window. The Germans helped build it, during World War I! I came across it by accident one day in 1985 or thereabouts and dreamt about it a couple of times. Of course that was back in the days when one was still impressionable, awed by things I saw in the real world, instead of being bombarded by images all the time. Yes, I’m old. I even enjoy it. Have a good one!