In Bergen Op Zoom

Part of the monumental Stadhuis (Town Hall), on the Grote Markt, is a beautiful 14th-century castlelike structure (reconstructed after being destroyed by a fire). Three more buildings were attached to the complex in subsequent centuries.

In Breda

In the old center, Kasteel Breda (Breda Castle), dating from 1536, is now a military academy. On the Grote Markt, the town's main square, the Grote Kerk (Great Church), also known as the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), contains the striking sculptured tombs of the lords of Breda Count Engelbrecht I of Nassau-Dillenburg (1380-1442) and his grandson Count Engelbrecht II (1451-1504).

The Breda's Museum, Chasséepark Breda, Parade 12-14 (tel. 076/529-9300;, in the former Chassé Kazerne (Barracks), has an extensive collection focusing on the town's history and on products manufactured in the region. It has a collection of religious objects belonging to the bishop of Tilburg. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from 10am to 5pm (closed Jan 1 and Dec 25). Admission is 3.50€ ($5.60) for adults, 2.30€ ($3.70) for seniors and children ages 4 to 13, and free for children 3 and under.

Parks that offer open-air relief from sightseeing include Valkenburg, Brabant, Sonsbeek, and Trekpot. Breda is surrounded by beautiful rural estates, many of which open their grounds to the public, and by public forests such as the Mastbos and Liesbos, whose ancient trees form peaceful retreats.

Van Gogh's Birthplace -- Art lovers will surely want to stop by the village of Zundert, 15km (9 miles) southwest of Breda, on N263. This is the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh (1853-90). There's a touching statue (1963) here of the painter and his devoted brother, Theo, commissioned by the townspeople and sculpted by Ossip Zadkine. The spot where the van Gogh family home stood until it was demolished in 1903 is now occupied by the Vincent van Gogh Huis, Markt 27 (tel. 076/597-8590;, a museum of remembrance of van Gogh and a gallery that has temporary exhibits -- but not of original van Gogh paintings. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is 5€ ($8) for adults, 2€ ($3.20) for students and children ages 13 to 18, and free for children 12 and under.

Nobody's Town -- Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog, an oddity of a town 20km (12 miles) southeast of Breda, can't make up its mind whether to be in Belgium or in Holland -- so it exists in both. Houses use colored number plates to identify their citizenship. If the figures are blue, the occupants are Dutch; if they're black on a white background with a black, yellow, and red vertical stripe, the occupants are Belgian. Must get confusing!

The Biesbosch National Park

The Nationaal Park De Biesbosch (Forest of Reeds), south of Rotterdam, shared between the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Zuid-Holland, bears the imprint of constant flooding by tidal surges and overflow from the rivers Maas and Waal. Once dry land, this area of marshland, meadows, and willow woods was formed during the great St. Elisabeth flood of 1421, when 16 villages were submerged and what had been polders became an inland sea. It has since been shaped by the interplay between the rivers and the tides. A unique culture developed on these isolated and partly drowned islands, where islanders harvested reeds that grew on the marshy land.

Since 1970, when the Haringvliet Dam, part of the Delta Works, was constructed at the seacoast, the Biesbosch has been a freshwater delta of creeks and inlets on and around the two rivers. An ecologically rich wetland, the Biesbosch is slowly being dried out by the flood-control measures that bring security to the coastal cities.

Its 90 sq. km. (35 sq. miles) of marshes and islands are a habitat that supports a large and varied bird population. A boat trip into the Biesbosch is a journey into a different world from the nearby polders. Kingfishers dart along reed-clogged channels, while a discord of bleeps, twitters, and honks -- music to any bird-watcher's ears -- escapes from ponds and marshes where heron, storks, geese, spoonbills, ducks, and cormorants make their homes. Beavers, last seen in the wild here in 1826, have been successfully reintroduced. Leisure activities in the Biesbosch include rowing and canoeing along its labyrinth of creeks, and hiking.

In Zuid-Holland, the visitor center, Biesboschcentrum Dordrecht, Baanhoekweg 53, Dordrecht (tel. 078/630-5353;, is open May to September daily from 9am to 5pm, and October to April Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm (closed Jan 1-2 and Dec 25); admission is free. To get there from Rotterdam, on A15/E31 take junction 23, pass through Papendrecht, and then follow the signs. From Breda, take A16 to Dordrecht and N3 toward Papendrecht; then follow the signs east across the Merwede River.

On the Noord-Brabant side, the visitor center, the Biesbosch Bezoekerscentrum Staatsbosbeheer, Biesboschweg 4, Drimmelen (tel. 0162/682-233;, 17km (11 miles) north of Breda, is open Tuesday to Sunday (daily July-Aug) from 10am to 5pm (closed Jan 1 and Dec 25, 26, and 31); admission is free.

Near Den Bosch

The village of Heusden, 15km (10 miles) northwest of Den Bosch on the Maas River, illustrates North Brabant's penchant for hiding tiny glittering gems in places where you almost have to stumble upon them. Heusden could be a blueprint for the ideal Dutch town. Its windmills, canals, bridges, 16th-century houses, star-shaped defenses, and air of tranquil well-being recall an open-air museum. But Heusden seems unsurprised by its miniature perfection and makes no great fuss about it.

Near Eindhoven

Nuenen -- Driving N265 east from Eindhoven's brings you to the village of Nuenen, 8km (5 miles) from the city; you also can get here on bus 21 from outside Eindhoven rail station. In Nuenen rectory Vincent van Gogh lived for 2 years (1883-85), fretted about the human condition, painted early masterpieces like The Potato Eaters (1885), and painted and sketched scenes in and around the village. Visit Nuenen's Dokumentatiecentrum Vincent van Gogh, Papenvoort 15 (tel. 040/283-9615; The documentation center is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Admission is 3€ ($4.80) for adults, 1.50€ ($2.40) for seniors and children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Note: The center is due to move to nearby Berg 29 in Nuenen toward the end of 2009.

A Nearby Bell Museum -- The small town of Asten, 19km (12 miles) east of Eindhoven, is home to Royal Eijsbouts, the world's leading producer of large-scale carillon and swinging bells. Its bells grace church towers, town halls, university campuses, and memorials in Holland, Belgium, elsewhere in Europe, the United States, and beyond.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.