Where the River Rhine crosses the border from Germany into Holland, it branches off into a series of smaller distributaries such as the Waal, Nederrijn and the Lek that converge again further north at the River Meuse. The Meuse then flows northward through northern Holland and Belgium before emptying into the North Sea. These branch rivers are in turn interlocked by an extensive network of waterways and man-made canals which criss-cross the fertile countryside and enable large areas of Holland and Belgium to be explored by boat.
From flower-filled fields and impressive windmills to historic cities and picturesque villages that line the banks of these waterways, a river cruise is a perfect way to see the beautiful lowlands of Holland and Belgium. Itineraries generally sail at the height of spring, ensuring that the passing landscape is at its most rewarding with tulips in full bloom whilst you travel between some of the region’s most enthralling and historic towns and cities such as Amsterdam, Kinderdijk and Antwerp.
The Netherlands’ legendary capital is one of the most popular cities with holidaymakers the world over, let alone river cruisers. Amsterdam’s proximity to the Dutch Waterways makes it a natural starting and finishing point for the vast majority of itineraries which explore the region. Many lines will offer you an overnight in port, so you’ll have plenty of time to see the famous sights, such as the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum and enjoy a canal cruise through the city's most historic quarters.
Dutch Waterways itineraries are an absolute must for nature-lovers, as they often give you the chance to see for yourself the world’s largest and most spectacular flower garden, Keukenhof. The Netherlands will forever be synonymous with tulips and this incredible place offers the world’s finest showcase of this seasonal favourite, with many itineraries operating in the spring to display this beautiful and timeless flower at its best.
If there’s another icon aside from tulips which springs to mind when we think of Holland, it's windmills and one of the best places to see them for yourself is another Dutch Waterways itinerary favourite. Kinderdijk is a port which offers an enlightening look at traditional Dutch life, with guided tours of a working windmill typically offered as a cruise excursion in the village. It’s quite a sight as you sail down the Lek and Noord Rivers through this enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains historic structures that date back as far as 1740.
Though it doesn’t, in fact, lie in the Netherlands but in neighbouring Belgium, Antwerp is one of a number of Belgian ports which features frequently on many itineraries which explore the region. Antwerp’s near-coastal location ensured its reputation as one of the world’s leading ports throughout its history not least because of its leading role in the diamond trade. You can explore this legacy when you visit, but this beautiful city is also home to a wealth of stunning architecture, such as its elegant and expansive railway station, St Paul’s Church and the Cathedral of Our Lady.
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