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Italians have their stone trullis, the Spanish their ‘hobbit-like’ cave houses and the Swiss their Alpine chalets … but what about the Dutch? Below is a brief overview of traditional homes in the Netherlands.
Windmills are arguably the most eye-catching buildings in the Netherlands and draw millions of tourists every year. In the past, however, these genuine Dutch icons were not merely used to pump water or grain; but also to provide a cosy home for the miller and his family. Today visitors to Holland can explore the interior of many working examples or alternatively choose to rent a typical Dutch windmill as a quirky holiday home.
Zaanse huisjes (Zaanse houses)
Visitors who leave Amsterdam and travel north through the Dutch province of Noord-Holland will inevitably come across them – those striking, green houses known as ‘Zaanse huisjes’. Indeed, these traditional Dutch homes, which are usually made from wood, are still commonly constructed and widely lived in, particularly in the Zaanse area.
Grachtenpanden (canal houses)
The famous ‘Amsterdamse Grachtengordel’ (Amsterdam Canal Belt) has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. It’s characterised by pretty canals lined with grand, albeit it narrow houses, which boast exceptionally ornate gables. Tourists interested in the history of these traditional Dutch dwellings can enjoy a fascinating boat cruise along the Amsterdam canals, where they’ll also learn about the different types of Dutch gables, such as trapgevels (step gables), halsgevels (neck gables), klokgevels (bell gabels) and lijstgevels (frame gabels). Beautiful Dutch canal houses, however, are not only found in Amsterdam; but also in the grachtengordels of other Dutch cities, including Deventer, Groningen, The Hague and Leiden.
Dutch canals and waterways in and around major cities are typically flanked with houseboats, partly as a result of the acute housing shortage in the Netherlands during the 1950’s. Although many houseboats were originally working barges or other historic vessels that were subsequently transformed into comfortable homes, others are ‘drijvende huizen’ – floating houses that have been purpose built on solid, concrete bases. In the Randstad (an area that incorporates the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague) houseboats are often let out as sought-after holiday homes or offered as Dutch bed and breakfast accommodation with a difference. In Amsterdam, visitors can additionally benefit from a memorable stay at the Botel (floating hotel), explore the intriguing Woonbootmuseum (House Boat Museum), or even visit the rather curious “Pozenboot” – a houseboat inhabited entirely by stray cats!
Stolpboerderijen (Dutch farmhouses)
Lastly, Stolpboerderijen are the highly distinctive, square-shaped Dutch farmhouses with a pyramidal roof, which are predominantly found in Noord-Holland. First built in the 17th century, these traditional Dutch farm buildings adequately accommodated both the farmer and his family, and simultaneously provided shelter for livestock, as well as ample storage for farm tools and hay.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants.