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When people think of Holland, Amsterdam is usually the first place that comes to mind. Shockingly, places like Rotterdam and The Hague prove there is more to the country. Really!
A traveler is often able to deduce certain things from the name of a destination. In the case of Rotterdam, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing is rotting. Well, maybe something in the bottom of a fridge somewhere, but nothing in the public arena. Instead, Rotterdam is a vibrant, fairly modern Dutch city.
Rotterdam sits at the confluence of a couple of rivers and what appears to be a collection of canals designed on an child's etch a sketch board. Despite this and nearly being wiped out in World War II, the city has a get on with your business kind of feel to it. Unlike Amsterdam, you'll actually feel like you’re interacting with the Dutch in their daily lives. The rejuvenation of the city, however, has cost Rotterdam a bit of a character. There isn't much to see, but the nightlife is hopping and museums carry collections from Monet and van Gogh.
Known as the City of Peace and Justice, this is a place you want to watch your Ps and Qs! Home to such institutions as the War Crime Tribunal and International Criminal Court, The Hague definitely has the justice thing down pat. The city is actually a very nice place to visit with stunning architecture and cultural sites ad nauseum. On top of this, there are beaches and excellent wooded areas for hiking. The Japanese gardens in Park Clingendael are worth a trip. All and all, The Hague is more or less Amsterdam without the edginess.
If you start to burn out on Amsterdam, hop a train to Haarlem. In fact, just blow off Amsterdam and head directly to Haarlem. The city is a great place to see the "real Holland". A funky place, Haarlem has everything Amsterdam does, but you'll also find windmills outside of town.
If you want to get garden envy, visit the Keukenhof Gardens to the south of Haarlem. The Gardens consists of miles of…gardens. Every plant known to mankind can be found and the fields of tulips and colors will temporarily blind you. If Buddha returned to the earth, this is where he would make his home. You can literally spend days just walking around drinking in the visual treat. Once you see it, you'll never look at your backyard the same way again.
Amsterdam is the hot travel destination in Holland. If you fail to venture out of the city, however, you'll be missing some incredible places.