Holland Without the Cheese! 

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The Netherlands offers visitors much more than Edam, tulips and bicycles, as travel writer Sara Darling discovered. Here is her planet-friendly guide to two of Holland’s greenest and hippest cities, with no Gouda in sight.

The Netherlands offers visitors much more than Edam, tulips and bicycles, as travel writer Sara Darling discovered. Here is her planet-friendly guide to two of Holland’s greenest and hippest cities, with no Gouda in sight.

There is more to Holland than Amsterdam, so say the bags from sustainable fashion and lifestyle retailer Make My Day in Nijmegen. This piqued my interest in the alternative options cropping up in one of the smallest and most urbanised countries in Europe.

It’s hard to be a responsible tourist when you kick off a trip with arrival by plane but Holland is already ahead of the game for Brits. It is easily accessible by Eurostar, which takes just over three hours to reach Rotterdam from London. Once you’re settled into your sustainable hotel, you can tick another box by joining the locals and whizzing around by bike.



I started my journey in Breda, in the southern part of the Netherlands and just a short train ride from Rotterdam. With just over 180,000 inhabitants and a rich cultural history, it is working towards being a zero-waste zone. It is dedicated to reducing CO2 emissions, ditching plastic and enabling a culture of upcycling.

This pretty, cobbled city was destroyed by a fire in 1534 and 90% of the dwellings were damaged. However, the Grote Markt in the main square is now the hub of activity, offering plenty of cafes and bars for you to get your bearings.

As a pedestrianised city, you can walk everywhere and the surrounding streets offer lots of boutique shops and galleries. If you prefer to chill out, grab a spot under a tree in the large central Valkenberg Park.

Head to the man-made city beach for an alternative to the park. Belcrum Beach is situated on the riverbank and can be accessed by electric boat or bicycle. With a sandy spot for kids and decking for grown-ups, they serve locally sourced food and drinks to planet-loving locals.

It’s also adjacent to the unique co-workspace STEK, which provides units for sustainable entrepreneurs. This hive of activity is a modern utopia, where visitors congregate to buy hand-produced crafts, tiles and second-hand clothes. You can even stop for a craft beer at the bar or get your whiskers cut at an eco-friendly barber.

With a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, you could easily spend a couple of days enjoying the city. Try staying in the Hotel Nassau Breda, once a convent. Other cities carry the green beacon but it’s also a great start for exploring.

Holland has an undisputed eco-friendly image, with cities providing safe, accessible bike lanes, wind-powered electricity and electric cars. Don’t be surprised if you see electric Tesla taxis in some cities. So, you shouldn’t feel too guilty about hopping on an electric train to get to another green destination.

Breda & Nijmegen Travel Holland


Close to the German border, Nijmegen holds the crown for being the Netherlands’ European Green Capital. It is a thriving heartland for all things sustainable and promotes a happier, healthier lifestyle for its citizens.

There are a staggering 60km of cycling ‘superhighways’, with the Snelbinder cycling bridge the latest addition. E-bikes are also being pioneered, together with mobility services such as electric vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs for those whom regular cycling isn’t possible. Even buses run on green fuel and there are initiatives to encourage car-sharing.

Not only is this a pretty city with its terracotta buildings, but it is also filled with trees and blooms. Flanked by the River Waal, the car-free centre has happy pedestrians and fresh air.

With plenty of students, the vibe is young, and there are countless options to shop with a conscience. Lange Hezelstreet is the oldest shopping street in the Netherlands and is filled with unique, independent shops and vintage stores.

Stikke Hezelstraat is home to the most wonderful lifestyle stores. Check out Make My Day, the green department store Het Duurzame Warenhuis and concept store 512, which sells the heady combination of edgy clothes, plants, tea and stroopwafels!

Along with green shopping, you can dine at Emile van der Staak’s Michelin Green Star restaurant De Nieuwe Winke, which offers truly breath-taking plant-based gastronomy. You can watch his chefs preparing fresh dishes plucked by hand from the city’s ever-expanding Food Forest Ketelbroek, founded by activist Wouter van Eck.

Designed in 2009 on a bare field of 2.5 hectares, Wouter has established a healthy habitat for wildlife. The huge variety of bushes and trees offers multiple benefits in terms of food production, water retention and biodiversity.

Emile van der Staak uses forest gardening as the basis of his botanical cuisine and uses his position to highlight global challenges from climate change to social inequality- with a goal to use fewer animals and more plants on our plates.

The result is a mouthwatering fusion of uniquely blended micro-seasonal ingredients, complemented by organic wines and juices. Your tastebuds will never recover and you’ll feel slightly smug knowing by eating plant-based food, you are helping save the planet one mouthful at a time.

You don’t have to push the boat out and dine at Restaurant De Nieuwe Winke, though. In fact i’s so popular, you’ll have to book weeks in advance. There are countless options for vegetarian and vegan dining throughout the city but it is worth it for a special occasion.

Nijmegen is a must-stop destination for anybody interested in sustainable living, as it is part of the city’s DNA. It is also only a hop, skip and train ride away from Almere Centrum, host to the giant botanical festival, Experience Floriade Expo 2022, on until 9th October. From there, you can catch the Eurostar from Amsterdam to complete your eco-friendly journey home.

In fact, everywhere in the Netherlands is easily accessible by train and with hotels like Guesthouse Vertoef ramping up their sustainability credentials, it’s not long before Holland will be in pole position for Brits looking for a travel destination with a conscience.

Sara’s top tips for a sustainable stay:

Stay Hotel Nassau Breda or Guesthouse Vertoef

Shop Make My Day Concept Store, 512 & Het Duurzame Warenhuis


Play Belcrum Beach

Experience Floriade Expo 2022

Sara Darling is a fashion, travel and lifestyle writer as well as a podcast host. Follow Sara Darling on Instagram or check out her website here.

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