As flat as a local pannenkoek, the Netherlands is a land of colourful tulip fields and canals, sophisticated cities and some of the most striking coastline in Northern Europe. It punches well above its weight culturally, laying claim to the likes of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Mondrian, amongst others.
At the head of the state sits the country’s constitutional monarchy, whose palaces dominate many of the larger cities, including The Hague and the capital city, Amsterdam. The latter, renowned for its step-gabled houses, ubiquitous bikes, seedy red light district and hazy coffeeshops, is bisected by a UNESCO-listed network of waterways, many of which are spanned by beautiful, latticed bridges.
To the south lies Rotterdam, an industrial port city that has benefitted from a complete makeover in recent years, acquiring a slew of excellent museums and an unlikely affinity for hip-hop in the process.
The butt of many a northern joke, the southern city of Maastricht lies in the much-maligned Limbourg region. Despite the teasing, this is a city of delicate beauty, dotted with churches, bisected by a mighty river and home to what is almost certainly the best bookshop in the world, Selexyz Dominicanen.
Back towards the coast, the Netherlands becomes more stereotypically Dutch, with vast colourful fields of tulips dotted with windmills and dairy farms producing the wheels of cheese for which the country is so famous. The low-lying Dutch countryside is scattered with a network of charming towns and villages such as Edam, Haarlem and Leiden, which have changed little over the centuries.
Best of all though, are the sandy, North Sea beaches of Zeeland, which stretch for an almost unbroken 650km (403-miles). With more sunshine than any other part of the Netherlands, Zeeland is the Dutch riposte to the Caribbean – and with better cycling trails and museums, if not the hot weather, to boot.