Eating and drinking in the Netherlands is nothing less than a treat, with beautiful bistros, enchanting cafés and fabulous fine dining spread around cities such as Amsterdam, Utrecht and the Hague. For something a little wilder, both Amsterdam and Rotterdam are known worldwide for their vibrant and energetic nightlife, with cozy canal-side taverns, cutting-edge concept bars and nightclubs attracting top-billed international DJs. The legal age of drinking beer and wine is 16 years, but you must be over 18 to consume spirits.

Bars and Pubbing in the Netherlands

One of the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe, Amsterdam nightlife is all about cafés and clubbing, offering both laidback lounges to sip coffee or a local ales and people watch in a traditional tavern to full-on nights out on the town, drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning in one of the many super-clubs or lively jazz and swing lounges. Amsterdam also has its seedy side, infamous for its red light district, de Wallen, and a number of coffee shops that sell legal amounts of marijuana, space cake and other herbal stimulants.

Rotterdam is the club paradise, home to a pulsating, colorful bar scene in the evenings, with numerous nightclub venues drawing in the young and hip around midnight. Nieuwe Binnenweg is where you’ll find some of the most popular and trendy bars, and a party scene easily comparable to that of Ibiza, Berlin and London. The hottest spot at the moment is the Baja Beach Club (Karel Doormanstraat 10-12), all about atmosphere and vibe, attracting DJs from around the globe.

One of the Netherland’s smaller cities, but with evening entertainment that has earned a big reputation, The Hague offers more of a cultural experience, with a pleasant mix of dance spots, bars, theaters and classical performance venues, as well as a large casino. This University town is full of energy, day and night, attracting tourists, locals and a large student population.

Dining and Cuisine in the Netherlands

Don’t expect to find too many spicy or exotic meals in the Netherlands, as they're known for rich and hearty cuisine based around the thriving dairy and farming communities. Among the highlights of Dutch dining are a selection strong cheeses and delicious breads, as well as amazing sweets and deserts, such as waffles, yogurts, and of course, pancakes.

With large ports and waterways deep inland, the Netherlands has long been a home and rest stop for sailors and fishermen, which means great seafood. Many traditional recipes and age-old fare are built around smoked herring, mussels, shrimp, oysters, freshwater fish, and eel. Notable seafood restaurants include the Lucius Visrestaurant (spuistraat 247) and Visaandeschelde (Scheldeplain 4), both in central Amsterdam. For a tasty snack, be sure to pick up Stroopwafels, available at any local grocery store. These delectable little bites are carmel-filled waffle cookies (and we promise you can't eat just one).

While just about every city of the Netherlands offers a host of local restaurants, in recent years the country has seen a notable influx in international cuisine, with Indonesian food becoming particularly popular. For a fine example try the Blue Pepper Restaurant (Nassaukade 366) in Amsterdam, with a number of West Javanese-style dishes and some modern twists on traditional recipes. Most restaurants and hotels will include a 15 percent service charge on your bill, but tipping is still the norm, with 10 percent considered generous tip.