Smaller Dutch Towns and Cities

I usually blog from my apartment in Utrecht, but now that the corona measures have been considerably lifted, I am finding that I can indeed blog from wherever I like.

Right now, I am on a train to Den Helder from Utrecht, and I am extremely grateful for how easy it is to get around using public transport in this country. Because if you’re Dutch and you’re reading this, you know that Den Helder is FAR from the more central parts of the country.

One of my favorite things about taking the train in the Netherlands is to of course get a good view of the country-side and the quaint towns and cities you pass by. The route from Utrecht to Den Helder is no exception.

Of course, you first pass by Amsterdam. And even if you’re not a city person, you have to admit that the view of Amsterdam and its canals absolutely takes your breath away.

Dutch buildings in Amsterdam on a canal.

Because I am a city person, and I live in a decently sized city in the Netherlands, those are indeed where most of my experiences in the country come from.

But today, I don’t want to talk about big cities. I want to talk about the little towns and smaller cities. Because that is such a different way of living! Okay, maybe not vastly different, but still quite different.

When I moved to the Netherlands, while I moved to Amsterdam, I actually found work in a town outside the city. So everyday, I would take the train in to work, and get to experience a different side of the Netherlands.

The things that struck me the most were not the differences between the bigger cities in the Netherlands versus the smaller cities and town, but rather, how the less urban places in the Netherlands compared to the less urban places in the US.

Dutch towns are absolutely adorable! They are complete with charming houses and cobblestone streets. My first week of work, I was completely fascinated by the smaller streets and local cafes. It looked like something out of a movie.

When I think about Dutch towns and try to compare them to places in the US, I can only think of fake towns in TV shows or movies. Like “Stars Hollow” in Gilmore Girls. But even that doesn’t quite come close.

The thing about visiting these little towns—or even smaller cities—in the Netherlands is that the houses, stores, and cafes in them can be old and beautiful. Which makes them unique! I had never seen a grocery store with a thatched roof before.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is that many of these towns have a church. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t matter how small the town, you’ll probably find a church in it. I just did a quick search, and turns out, there are 6,900 churches in the Netherlands! For a country with 17 million people, that’s a lot of church to go around.

Being the American that I am, I of course wanted to surround myself with as much old European beauty as possible. Well, the churches definitely help with that. I felt like my life was complete when I would walk along the cute cobblestone streets with a coffee in my hand, surrounded by these beautiful houses and a church in the background.

This is life in the Netherlands!

I am a big city person, so the fact that these Dutch towns are making me at least consider moving out of the city is a HUGE DEAL. I probably won’t be making this leap any time soon, but I can say that after living in the Netherlands for a while, I have come to appreciate what these towns have to offer.

Dutch homes in a small town in the Netherlands.

Can we talk about how there always seems to be a town square? Like, how amazing is that?! And often, there is a market during the week or weekend in the square for people to buy more reasonably priced produce, bread, and cheese. Okay, to be clear, big cities in the Netherlands have squares too. A lot of them. But I was surprised at how this was part of the smaller towns.

The one thing that is similar between American and Dutch towns is the fact that you will most likely find one main street that houses many of the cafes and stores. I absolutely love this. The the town where I work, I can get a croissant from a bakery (delicious) and simply pop in to the cafe next to it to get a fresh brew of coffee to-go (also delicious). Sometimes it’s nice when places are so close to each other!

The difference between American and Dutch towns, though, is of course that in the US, the larger stores and shops are all often located in one shopping plaza. Because of these plazas, you can go to a movie, restaurant, and a HUGE shop like Walmart all in one place. I don’t mind these so much, but they’re not particularly pretty.

This is not to say that you won’t have to drive to larger stores if you’re in a small town in the Netherlands. I think by definition, that’s often the case. But while I’ve seen larger buildings and stores scattered across roughly the same part of a suburb, I have yet to see the infamous strip malls and shopping plazas that we have in the US.

What I am really impressed by in the Netherlands is that there seems to be fairly decent access to public transport even to the smaller towns. The trains are less frequent and you may have to transfer, but you can still get there! Of course, the US is quite big so to have that kind of connection to most of the smaller towns would be quite the undertaking. I don’t think we’re there yet.

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