The Netherlands

SchiermonnikoogPhoto: Mark Doherty/Corbis


A set of recent green-minded urban-renewal initiatives has ­propelled Rotterdam, the ­Netherlands’ youngest and most multi­cultural city, even further into the future. Rem Koolhaas is to thank for the freshly completed De ­Rotterdam complex—with three mixed-use glass towers that sit CGI-like on a previously barren stretch of the south bank of the Maas River—as well as the Nhow hotel (from $176;, where the 30-meter-high terrace overlooks the port. The city’s ­central train station has been overhauled with a brand-new retail strip; a short stroll away are Michelin-star-winning chef ­François Geurds’s two ­restaurants: the seasonal FG Food Labs, and FG, whose tasting menu includes quail jelly and venison.


Drive two and a half hours from Rotterdam past rolling farmland to Lauwersoog, and catch the 45-minute ferry. Arrive at the smallest of the Wadden Islands—technically a national park—where only a few of its 950 residents have permits to keep vehicles. But either a bus or cab will zip you to one of the island’s B&Bs like Herberg Rijsbergen (from $141; Travel pristine dunes on horseback—a guided jaunt along the desolate beach costs $48—or take advantage of the many bike paths. Most restaurants close at nine (night owls tend to opt for nearby Texel), but enjoy a drink with the locals at the Hotel van der Werff taproom, and stroll home under the cover of darkness: The only light is from the 19th-century red lighthouse on the western edge of the island.

The Netherlands