What Is Made In The Netherlands
"Netherlands" means "lower countries" by literal translation, and for the right reason – most of its territory is bellow the sea level.
The fact that it is a thriving country despite, some might argue, unlucky geographic and topographic features shows the innovation and resilience of the dutch nation. Hence it is not surprising that they make a lot of unique things that you might enjoy discovering.
Wooden decorated clogs is the most recognised Dutch item that everyone sees in the hottest tourists spots. Hence let's get this out of the way, before discovering more fascinating things made in the Netherlands today.
There are around 30 remaining clog factories and workshops and many of them invite people for a visit to see manufacturing process, craftsmanship and even have a go at decorating a pair.
In additional to traditional looking "klumpen" there are more modern variations – Poplars, made by Velthevree (pictured), and leather top variations. These are more popular amongst non-dutch and appreciated for the lightness and eco-credits of wooden sole.
And yes, Dutch do still wear clogs. Mostly they find them useful when working around the garden, as an easy slipper to step into.
There is a variety of very different ceramics made in the Netherlands today. And some of it was quite surprising and inspirational.
Royal Delft is most widely recognised for its heritage (made since 1653) and unique (hand painted) blue ceramics. They are so different that there is a separate category called "delftware". Read about my visit to their workshops during my trip around the Netherlands below.
Amsterdam Blonde team takes a more contemporary and playful approach to decorating ceramics. It is colourful (suspiciously often pink), whimsical and tells a story in its unique way.
On the other hand, Mosa is a big global player in the wall and floor tiles business. They design and make all of their tiles in the Netherlands but are stocked in tile shops around the world. Its design tools like Tile Pattern Generator are quite popular in interior decorators too.
Officially, Holland is the name used for two (North and South Holland) out of twelve provinces in the country of the Netherlands. This part has of the country has very turbulent history that can take you to the days of the Country of Holland, or its predescesor – Frisian Kingdom.
Hence it is normal to see "made in Holland" and "made in the Netherlands" for the same products.
Hindeloopen is a general term used to describe household items (mostly wooden furniture or accessories) painted in Hindelooper art style.
This unique art form can be traced to the trade this most northern region of the Netherlands did with Scandinavia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most wood trades for the country were passing through and which brought unique influences not seen anywhere else in the country.
Hindeloopen is also a town (in Friesland region) of fewer than one thousand people who speak very different Dutch dialect. Today it is a beautiful place good for water sports and hunting those genuinely unique art pieces in local shops
Gauke and Pieter Bootsma also run Hindeloopen painting workshops in the Skate Museum if you want to get close and personal with it.
Dutch bicycles can mean many different things to different people.
Having lived in this part of Europe, I am mostly impressed by cargo and family bikes that allow the whole hang to travel together, do school runs, and even do cargo deliveries (pictured).
Others appreciate its unique style and design with a cute basket at the front. These are reliable city runners, usually quite heavy, but last decades – while staying parked outside.
Traditional Dutch brands are Gazelle, Cortina, Batavus, Van Nicholas, Sensa and a few others. Among the family and cargo bikes, I would mention the long-standing and well regarded – BSP.
Not many people know it, but the Netherlands is home to Philips. It used to be called Royal Philips, and we all know it for making a wide range of electronics for our homes. Although their head and regional offices are still in the country, I could not find one thing they still make here.
On the other hand, a less known Techni Vorm still hand makes truly unique coffee makers. The company was founded in the '60s and has built up a following around the world.
In addition to its colourful and impressive look, it also has separate elements for brewing and hotplate, regulated volume capacity, and you can choose between glass and thermal jug.
Techni Vorm also follows the values we, as Europeans, appreciate – from a sustainability perspective, it is built to last and to repair. Electricity consumption is on the lower side amongst its peers. And all its components are fully recyclable.
There are a few sports car makers in The Netherlands, and Spyker would be one of the most recognised. It was featured in the Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction with Sharon Stone, for example.
These two door super cars come with loads of character and originality thanks to its aviation-inspired design, custom luxury details and, what we hear, a stunning engine performance.
Amongst most notable limited edition models you would find Spyker C8 Spyder, C8 Laviolette and C8 Aileron. It is not for everyone's pocket but could be an ideal car for someone looking to stand out in crowded super car world.
These cars are meticulously hand-made and customised to client's needs. I especially like the attention to details – see the interior picture.
Rotterdam has one of the largest shipbuilding industries in Europe. People have been building all types of ships here for over four centuries. That's where many of cruise ships, yachts, up to 100-meter superyachts and even submarines were built.
It is not just about ships, of course – the whole marine industry eco-system of smaller companies manufacturing components, innovating with new materials and technologies needed to construct contemporary ships and yachts. One of such companies is Royal IHC – it provides technology for ships, drenching and mining. These machines and expertise are in high demand globally.
Dutch have dominated European shipbuilding in the 16th and 17th centuries, and their international sailing capability was one of the reasons why such a small country had established so many colonies.
As part of my search for unique European makers and artisans I love meeting them in person when possible, so it was a great reason to go to the Netherlands.
And since the Dutch are renowned for their cycling culture, there is clearly no better way to discover the country than by bike. Oh boy, how glad I though of that!
It was apparent quite quickly that this country is a paradise for any cyclist. The infrastructure in the countryside is as good as in the big cities and we happily used it to get to everywhere.
It was quite funny to see how much cycling route has improved form the very first moment that we crossed the border between Belgium and The Netherlands. It went from an "ok" lane with occasional pot holes to a wide, dedicated cycling road with a perfectly smooth tarmac.
In the cities, of course, we could see everyone just cycling about – no matter what they were wearing. So you see even very formally dressed people just cycling to work, business meeting or to drop off their kids.
But most fun we had was cycling through the countryside. It is here that for the first time I saw so many dedicated signs for bikes and roads so easily crossing most highways with dedicated tunnels underneath.
It is also here that for the first time in my life I saw the bicycle speed bumps too.
One cannot visit the Netherlands and not pass by the beautiful Zaanse Schans. This area is a heritage site that preserves traditional Dutch houses and iconic windmills from the 18th and 19th centuries.
In addition to enjoying these truly unique views, we passed by the traditional workshops making clogs and barrels, as well as Verkade Chocolate and Biscuit Factory, World of Windmills and the Weaver’s House and Cooperage.
It is a great place to discover traditional handcraft through workshops, tasting sessions or by simply buying some of those handmade things from the craft shop.
It was an insightful visit on our "what is made in the Netherlands" journey, and I would recommend it to everyone, especially if you can hire a bike and cycle around.
Dutch are famous for their colourful wooden "klumpen" which is not just a tourist souvenir. Although not as popular as it used to be, people still use clogs, especially for working in the garden.
We passed by the Den Dekker clog factory in a picturesque traditional Dutch village, on the way to Amsterdam.
Due to covid, we could not see everything, but it was pretty impressive to observe how a lump of solid wood is turns into footwear. They do use some machines to carve out the interior, but the true fun starts when wood worker shapes it by hand and then artists skilfully decorate it.
Just like other visitors, we could have a go at decorating our own wooden footwear. Even with my best efforts, it was nowhere close to the design displayed in the shop, but it is a fun activity to do while testing your creativity and appreciating artisan work for what it is worth.
It is a story about a grandfather clockmaker inspiring his grandson to continue with the trade, but with new ideas more suitable to the current times.
Arjan Ros designs and makes modern pendulum wall clocks and mantel clocks in a creative hub Bink36, in the suburbs of Haag. His unique design inspired by the modern Dutch touch can excite people about owning a wall clock again.
They come in a variety of colours and designs. I especially like the initial design with no numbers on it – as it seems more minimalistic that way.
Thanks to the Swiss quartz movement, these wall clocks make much less noise than the traditional pendulum clock (with a bird flying out every hour) my grandparents used to have.
This is a modern Dutch design, creativity and handcraft at its best.
It is hard to think of another city that would have the vibe and the atmosphere of Amsterdam. Probably this is due to the charm of the canals and the cycling culture. It is just a completely different world with its unique commuting, chilling and socialising. It is hard to describe it by words, it is definitely worth seeing it yourself.
A lot of things made in Amsterdam are for the huge traffic of tourists passing by, and not all of them are truly authentic or of the good quality. Even taking that into account, it would be hard to meet all of the makers I liked – but here are the few that had me truly excited.
What happens when you mix cycling culture, engineering degree from one of the top universities and passion for innovation?
This is the founding story behind the newest dutch start up making futuristic electric bikes Moku Mono. Two brothers are paving the way to upgrading how our bikes look, and being electric, how fast we can go.
In addition to its unique and "wow factor" design, it comes with electric motor capable of going the distance of up to 150 km, belt chain, GPS tracker and integrated lights.
It is also a new and innovative step in manufacturing process. The frame is made by moulding and joining, rather than soldiering the tubes together by hand. And that means automated, small scale manufacturing locally. For more – read my Moku Mono electric bicycle review.
Another really interesting innovation that everyone admires when they see it is the vast bicycle parking structures. Dutch just had to be innovative to find the space to park all those bikes at the frequently visited spots like train stations or shopping districts.
One of the most famous bicycle parking garages is in front of Amsterdam's Central Station. Purpose-built metal construction has four parking levels, and I remember cycling all the way up, trying to find an empty spot.
See a quick video of my ride through the sea of bikes and imagine how many bicycles are there. I am afraid to wonder how this part of town would look like if all those people came to the station by car.
I only saw such structure in the Netherlands so far, but I hear other cities are learning from this experience and implementing similar concepts.
Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, has always been dominated by the shipping industry. Its Port of Rotterdam is the largest sea port in Europe and you can feel it once you in town – there are loads of ships and containers.
To my surprise, the city feels very modern and spacious. We still enjoyed cycling lanes, canals and cute restaurants but the vibe was very different from the rest of the country. There was a lot of energy in the evenings, with people going out and socialising. And a lot of large scale architectural statements – like the Erasmus bridge in the picture.
I knew about Secrid secure wallets for many years now, as it is famous for its colourful options and modern take on what the wallet should look like.
Its seamless aluminium case comes in all colours imaginable and then you can combine it with various other accessories, like leather holder, capacity or cash band, to match your needs.
This modern design that required high tech experience in aluminium production can be traced to the ship building, which is still a very strong industry in the country, especially the Rotterdam.
Although Secrid wallet parts are made in various locations around the Netherlands, it all comes together in its flagship shop in the centre of Rotterdam. As a buyer you can pick and chose various parts and options and see your customised wallet being assembled in front of your eyes.
Just outside Rotterdam, in a historic town of Delft we found Royal Delft – a legendary ceramics workshop making Delft Blue ceramics since 1653.
It was fascinating to see the artisans turning a lump of white clay to plates, clocks, vases and other decorative accessories appreciated around the world.
It is a multistep process that requires a lot of skill and craftsmanship that is often passed on from one generation to the other. This is a unique tradecraft that is named by the city for a reason – it is only made here.
There are six artists in this workshop, who hand paint every single Blue Delft ceramic piece that comes out of this shop. It is a slow process but the result in quality and artisanship is all definitely worth it.
Just next to the workshop, there is a museum and a cafe – it is worth paying a visit, if you are planning of visiting the Netherlands.
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