5 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands

Welcome to the Netherlands! A country known for its tulips, windmills, bikes, and its laid-back café culture. And, its beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites in Netherlands!

This is the country that gave us the Dutch artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh, as well as, the influence on architecture as seen in the Golden Age gabled houses.

Surprisingly there are only 13 historical sites in Netherlands. With so many cute Dutch towns, most of the designated UNESCO sites in the Netherlands are nature and landscapes.

Now let’s take a look at these historical sites in the Netherlands.

List of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands

canal with bridge in unesco amsterdam

There are a total of 13 UNESCO Netherlands sites.

  • Colonies of Benevolence
  • Beemster Polder
  • Dutch Water Defense Lines
  • Van Nellefabriek
  • Willemstad, Harbour Curacao
  • Canal Ring of Amsterdam
  • Rietveld Schröder House
  • Mill Network
  • Eisinga Planetarium
  • Frontiers of Roman
  • Wouda Pumping station
  • Schokland
  • Wadden Sea

The landscape in the Netherlands is pretty unique.

Almost the entire country is flat and is actually below sea level. This makes for the perfect conditions for agriculture and is likely why almost two-thirds of the country is farmland.

To accommodate the sea, there are rows of polders (areas of drained land). This unique feature appears on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Netherlands list.  

You can even see this unique rows of polders in the countryside near Amsterdam.

Now let’s look at 5 of the best ones in the Netherlands.

Highlighting 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites Netherlands

1. UNESCO Amsterdam: the Canal Ring

canal with bridge and buildings is UNESCO amsterdam
Experienced by Emma of Emma Jane Explores (photo by Renee Hannes of Dream Plan Experience)

Arguably the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands is the famous Amsterdam canal ring. This maze of waterways encircles the city and makes visiting this destination a truly unique experience. Of all the Netherlands historical sites this is one to add to your list!

It has been on the Amsterdam UNESCO sites list since 2010 and was designated for demonstrating the urban development and industry of the city throughout its growth of the city in the 17th century.  

Today, one of the best things to do in Amsterdam is take a boat tour through the canal ring where you’re able to take in the city from the water and truly appreciate the ingenuity of this stunning architectural concept.  

There are around 1500 bridges that cross the canals throughout Amsterdam and many of these are adorned with brightly coloured flower boxes and bikes. A perfect day out in the city consists of a few gentle strolls around the canal banks to enjoy the scenery.  

2. Dutch Water Defense Lines

castle with moat is UNESCO Netherlands
Experienced by Rachel Heller of Rachel’s Ruminations

The Dutch are known as experts in water, and that isn’t a recent phenomenon. The Water Defense Line in the Netherlands is a UNESCO site comprising a series of fortifications, dikes, and other water systems meant to help defend the Netherlands, but not against flooding, as you’d expect.

It was to defend it from military attacks. It’s a truly unique system, which is why it qualifies as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While the Water Defense Line was officially established in the 19th century, it incorporates older elements, part of an earlier water defence line. An example is Muiderslot, a medieval castle incorporated into the defence of Muiden outside Amsterdam.

The idea of the Water Defense Line, essentially, is that when an army is approaching, low-lying fields, normally kept dry using things like pumps, dikes and sluices, can be flooded on command, stopping the army’s approach and forcing the fighting to a few easily-defensible spots. It was a very clever way to defend a large area of land with few soldiers.

3. Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

windmills on lake as Netherlands historical sites
Experienced by Zoe from Together In Transit

If you are looking for a beautiful UNESCO site situated in the southern Netherlands, Kinderdijk is the place to visit and learn. This beautiful location of 19 windmills has been situated here since 1740 but was officially acknowledged as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. 

It was designated as a UNESCO site due to the importance and handmade historical matter of significance for the Netherlands.

As much of the Netherlands is below sea level even to this day, it was important for locals to make sure they could manage their land, through draining and hydraulic technology, as well as protect themselves from future water surges in the region.

One can visit here all year round, making it a beautiful destination in all seasons. Plus, it’s well worth your time to take a local tour by one of the 200 volunteers at Kinderdijk. This way you can truly learn the history while seeing Kinderdijk in person. 

4. Rietveld Schröder House

white geometric house is considered a UNESCO Netherlands site
Experienced by Renee Hannes of Dream Plan Experience

The Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht is considered one of the icons of the Modern Movement in architecture. Architect, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, was commissioned by Ms. Schröder-Schräder, to build a small family home based on the 1920s De Stijl movement.

This architectural style is well known for its use of seamless transitions from the outside to the inside. In addition to the use of primary colours, such as red, yellow, white, gray, black, and blue.

Built in 1924, the house is a mix of horizontal and vertical straight lines accented by colour. The upper floor introduced a revolutionary system of sliding walls, which can transform the space into a divided area of bedrooms or an open space depending on what was needed. 

Today, the Rietveld Schröderhuis is a museum. Perfect for fans of design and architecture the house was carefully restored, and is now in excellent condition and under the regular care of the Centraal Museum of Utrecht.

And, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. This is one of the things to do in Utrecht that you’ll want to add to your list.

5. Willemstad, Curaçao

pastel colour houses with clay tile roofs
Experienced by Elena of The Carry-On Chronicles

The colourful capital city of Curacao, Willemstad was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical significance, harbour entranceway, and interesting architecture.

This historic port city was originally established as an important trading center back in 1634, along with the construction of Fort Amsterdam.

The Punda neighbourhood, in particular, is the oldest in Willemstad. It dates back to the 17th century and previously included defensive ramparts and walls. In addition, Willemstad is also home to the oldest standing synagogue in the Americas.

One of the most remarkable attributes of Willemstad is its vibrant architecture, which conveys Dutch influence, as well as influence from Africa and the Americas.

Today, it’s easy to see why a visit to Willemstad is one of the most popular Curacao activities, as travellers can’t resist the charms of this fascinating Dutch Caribbean city.

Some of the most highly frequented and heavily photographed spots include the iconic Queen Emma Bridge, the Penha Building, and the Scharloo neighbourhood.

Beyond UNESCO Netherlands: Other UNESCO Sites in Europe

Beyond the UNESCO sites in Netherlands, here are other countries you might be interested in.

As a Holidaymaker

Most people travel to the Netherlands and visit only Amsterdam. Don’t. Explore beyond it. And, let this list of designated UNESCO sites Netherlands be your inspiration.

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