Every city in Holland is made up of charming neighbourhoods that each have their own special character. Some boast vibrant shopping streets or up-and-coming restaurant scenes, others are home to creative communities and repurposed historic buildings. What ties them all together is an inspiring blend of old and new, as innovative locals breathe new life into their favourite corners of the cities, transforming historic infrastructure in the process.
Since Katendrecht’s days as Rotterdam’s Chinatown, the neighbourhood has evolved into a foodie district. Innovative restaurateurs cater to growing demand for exciting dining concepts, from sustainable seafood to authentic Middle Eastern. Interior design stores, antique shops and gourmet delis are perfectly positioned for post-lunch or pre-dinner browsing. The Fenix Food Factory showcases local farmers, bakers and cheesemakers in a market-meets-food-hall set up. Kantine Walhalla with its sunny terrace is another popular spot.
Our tip: spend the night in a hotel with historic significance onboard the ss Rotterdam, the former flagship of the Holland-America Line.
Zeeheldenkwartier, The Hague
The Zeeheldenkwartier is one of the oldest parts of The Hague. Its mixture of architectural styles features grand mansions as well as modern shopfronts. A proliferation of art galleries and design stores contribute to the neighbourhood’s artsy atmosphere, as does the weekly market on the Prins Hendrikplein. An eclectic mix of shops line the streets, ranging from independent boutiques to prestigious fashion designers and concept stores. The dining scene reflects the neighbourhood’s diversity: specialty coffee roasters sit alongside Indonesian restaurants and upmarket wine bars.
Stay at the Court Garden Hotel, Holland’s first sustainable hotel, commended for its organic breakfast, fair-trade coffee and décor using reclaimed materials.
Maastricht’s elegant Wyck neighbourhood on the eastern bank of the Maas River is a hive of new restaurants, designer shops and galleries. Art enthusiasts will enjoy the Bonnefantenmuseum, which displays Old Masters alongside contemporary artists, while the Brouwerij Bosch is a museum dedicated to traditional brewing. Wyck is also excellent for shopping, offering concept stores, vintage and design. When you’ve shopped up an appetite, a host of upscale restaurants will satisfy your cravings for afternoon tea, brunch, French cuisine and Dutch fine dining.
Complete your visit by spending a night in the Kaboom hotel opposite Central Station: an excellent example of luxury-budget accommodation.
With its colourful street art, shipping containers-turned-apartments and local artistic community, NDSM in Amsterdam Noord has a vibrant character that entices visitors across the IJ River. The neighbourhood comes alive in summer, when high-profile festivals like DGTL and Over het IJ take place on its sandy riverbank. Arguably Amsterdam’s best district for vintage shopping and antiques, NDSM is home to the IJ-hallen flea market – one of the largest in Europe. Local restaurants Pllek and Noorderlicht provide a beachy atmosphere, complemented by their crowd-pleasing cuisine and sun-drenched terraces.
Spend the night in a work of architecture at the iconic Faralda Crane Hotel: an industrial crane repurposed as a boutique hotel.
Once known as Eindhoven’s ‘forbidden city’, Strijp-S was an industrial area only accessible to Philips employees. Since Philips’ production moved out of Eindhoven, the factories have been used as creative workspaces, apartments, art galleries and restaurants. The STRP technology and culture festival takes place in Strijp-S, and the neighbourhood plays an important role at Dutch Design Week every October. The shops seamlessly blend streetwear and high fashion with the industrial surroundings and edgy aesthetic. Restaurants like Radio Royaal also play with the pairing of haute cuisine and factory fixtures.
Book an overnight stay in the rock ’n’ roll themed Blue Collar Hotel housed in the Philips clock tower.
The Stadhuiskwartier in Utrecht is a favourite among savvy shoppers on the hunt for one-of-a-kind fashion items and art. Find family-owned businesses and authentic Dutch and Scandinavian brands, specialty tea houses and stores selling rare books and antique jewellery. The shopping streets are dotted with breakfast spots and cafes, many of which have expansive terraces for enjoying a glass of wine. Cultural institutions like Theater Kikker and Schiller Theater entice visitors to stay into the evening.
Complete your shopping trip with a night at Daen’s Room One – a B&B-style hotel room located above a concept store and café.
Gouden Straatjes, Haarlem
Haarlem was a prominent city during the Dutch Golden Age, and the spirit of commerce continues to run through its Gouden Straatjes (golden streets). The seven streets around the Grote Markt (including Warmoesstraat, Zijlstraat, Koningstraat and Kleine Houtstraat) are regularly proclaimed the best shopping district in Holland and feature a mixture of designer boutiques and independent shops selling gifts, artwork, homeware and accessories. There’s also a high concentration of restaurants and bars, offering everything from Mediterranean cuisine to tapas, burgers and traditional Dutch cuisine.
Make the most of the city’s breath-taking architecture by spending a night in the historic Brasss Hotel Suites on the Grote Markt.
Leeuwarden city centre
The city centre of Leeuwarden is a charming neighbourhood that abounds with interesting shops, restaurants and culture. A selection of Dutch design stores, fashion boutiques and pop-up shops are clustered around Kleine Kerkstraat and Nieuwestad, which also hosts a weekly market in front of the Fries Museum, dedicated to Frisian culture. Restaurants like By Us serve traditional Frisian dishes, Sems offers modern fine dining and Leeuwarden Lounge is a local favourite for exotic eastern flavours.
Book at stay at Post-Plaza for a luxurious experience in the city’s former post and telegraph office.
Oosterpoort’s lively atmosphere is linked to its youthful population, largely made up of Groningen’s university students. Popular among young couples and creatives, the neighbourhood is the perfect place to catch a concert or festival or to find vintage treasures in the shops and markets. Oosterpoort is as visually interesting as it is diverse, with modern architecture sitting alongside traditional fishing houses. It has a thriving cultural scene, including music venue De Oosterpoort, theatre Stadsschouwburg Groningen and bars that play live music. Restaurants vary from Michelin-star cuisine to gastropubs and character-rich cafés.
Spend the night at the Best Western Groningen, a centrally-located hotel between Oosterpoort and the city centre.
The Modekwartier (fashion district) lies in the heart of Arnhem’s Klarendal neighbourhood. As the name suggests, the area is a hot spot for design and creativity, with fashion houses, studios and galleries clustered among more than 60 shops, including names like Marlies Dinnissen, Mirte Engelhard and Het Paradijs. Fashion and food go hand in hand, and the district also boasts some impressive cafés and restaurants. Zuijders Delicatessen and Caspar have exciting menus featuring local produce and Sweet Sugar Hill displays cakes and desserts that are almost too beautiful to eat.
To immerse yourself in the design aesthetic, stay the night at Hotel Modez, where each room has been decorated by a different designer.