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The Netherlands has carved out a unique niche within Europe - literally. Much of the country has been reclaimed from the sea and the Dutch people hold a real sense of pride in their homeland. With one of the most liberal Western societies in the world, the Netherlands is startling, and somewhat refreshing, in its openness. It is part self-indulgent hedonistic culture and part tourist showpiece, and areas like the red light district in Amsterdam can be mesmerizing. There's a surprisingly large mix of things to see and do in such a small country. The art galleries are world-class and showcase the finest of the Dutch masters, museums abound and ...

The Netherlands has carved out a unique niche within Europe - literally. Much of the country has been reclaimed from the sea and the Dutch people hold a real sense of pride in their homeland. With one of the most liberal Western societies in the world, the Netherlands is startling, and somewhat refreshing, in its openness. It is part self-indulgent hedonistic culture and part tourist showpiece, and areas like the red light district in Amsterdam can be mesmerizing. There's a surprisingly large mix of things to see and do in such a small country. The art galleries are world-class and showcase the finest of the Dutch masters, museums abound and Anne Frankhuis (Anne Frank House Museum) in Amsterdam is particularly compelling. A string of modern urban cities blend charming and dignified Dutch architecture with a modern European culture. Nothing is more Dutch than bicycles, and they are perfect for exploring the flat countryside. The cliché of windmills and flower fields in riotous color certainly holds true, but scratch beneath the postcard surface and you'll find warm hospitality, quaint villages and a fascinating blend of dour Calvinist living with a very liberal society.

Alan Murphy
About the Expert

Alan Murphy is coauthor of Lonely Planet's Britain, Scotland, India and North India. He has been writing and updating travel guidebooks for the past 12 years.

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Alan Murphy for Triporati

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