Life is good in the Brabant country. That is sung in a song from several decades ago and is still a fact. North Brabant is one of the nicest destinations in the Netherlands. The province covers the northern part of what used to be the Duchy of Brabant. The other two provinces that emerged from this are in Belgium. These are Antwerp and Brabant (formerly known as South Brabant). It is not for nothing that culturally there are quite a lot of similarities between these provinces. The Dutch province is known, among other things, for the annual carnival party, during which a large part of the Brabant people spend the last days of Lent in pubs and halls, dancing and singing.
From a tourist point of view, North Brabant is very popular. There are countless cycling and walking routes, some of which take you past authentic ice cream farms and cozy cafes. Large cities with many historic buildings are interspersed with cozy rural villages. Cities such as Breda, Den Bosch and Eindhoven are attracting more and more tourists who are looking for a pleasant and exciting city trip destination. On the other hand, North Brabant also offers a lot of tranquility, including in unique nature areas that inspire and have inspired many photographers and painters. Think of Vincent van Gogh, for example. It is the variety that makes North Brabant a destination with endless possibilities.
Top 10 sights of North Brabant
#1. National Park De Biesbosch
According to polyhobbies.com, North of Breda, against the province of South Holland, lies a unique nature reserve: De Biesbosch. Since 1994, this wooded and wetland area has been granted national park status. The freshwater area is demarcated by the Beneden Merwede in the north and the Nieuwe Merwede in the south. The number of small islands give the area a fascinating appearance. Many birds and other aquatic animals live here under excellent conditions. You can regularly see sea eagles, otters and beavers.
There are several options for making a trip on the water. For example, you can rent a sloop from various places with which you can explore the Biesbosch. You do not need a boat license for this. Timely reservation is definitely recommended for days with good weather. On sunny summer days, the sloops cannot be towed. A boat trip is not necessary to explore the beauty of the Biesbosch. This nature park is also beautiful from land. There is a beautiful cycling route through the Biesbosch and you can take various walks. Some of the routes run through parts where you cannot or are not allowed to go by car.
#2. The Efteling
For the Dutch, Efteling is centrally located in Brabant the theme park of the Netherlands. Once started as a fairytale park and over the years it has grown into the most visited theme park in the low countries. This fairytale park in Kaatsheuvel has been open to the public since 1952. The fairytale forest, including Sleeping Beauty’s castle, is still very popular. Slowly the park has expanded from there to a very large amusement park where you can take a ride in the Python while screaming. The magic jester and park mascot Pardoes is the face of Efteling. His job is to keep the fantasy and belief in fairy tales alive. And since 2005 he has been accompanied by Princess Pardijntje.
Efteling is now open all year round and has several options for accommodation. This once started with the Efteling Hotel, but nowadays you can also sleep in beautiful holiday parks such as Efteling Bosrijk. That way you get even more out of your visit to Efteling. As an overnight guest, you can enter the park half an hour earlier in the morning than day tourists.
#3. Fortified places
A fortified city or fortress town is a city or settlement fortified with fortifications for the purpose of controlling strategic points. The province of North Brabant has a total of 17 fortified towns and fortified places. Because of the often (partly) intact fortifications, the typical street patterns, the narrow streets and the historic buildings, these kinds of places are often worth a visit. It is not for nothing that many of the smaller fortified towns are included in lists of the most beautiful villages and small towns of a destination. You will see several fortified towns between the most beautiful villages in North Brabant, such as Heusden, Willemstad and Grave.
Eleven of the Brabant fortified towns belong to the Zuiderfrontier, also known as the Zuiderwaterlinie. A walking path with a total length of no less than 290 kilometers runs along these Brabant fortified towns. Of course you don’t have to walk this one in one go. This walking route starts at Bergen op Zoom station and ends in Grave.
If you want to visit a fortified town in North Brabant, we would prefer Willemstad. Here you can walk on the old ramparts. Grave and Heusden are also highly recommended.
Nowadays it is a trend to transform old industrial buildings, complexes and even entire neighborhoods into new places to live, work and relax. In this way, the heritage of a city is incorporated into a new version of that city. Strijp-S is a good example of how an old factory can be turned into a cool place that adds something extra to a city. In this case to Eindhoven. This site used to be part of electronics giant Philips. The name Strijp-S comes from the names that Philips gave to its industrial parks. Strijp-S was the first park, followed by Strijp-T and Strijp-R. Where before 2004 you could only enter with a pass intended for this purpose, the former ‘forbidden city’ is now accessible to everyone. Old factories and offices now serve as a residential complex with trendy lofts, as a restaurant, as a shop, as a hotel, as a BMX park or as a discovery factory. In addition, the squares and streets are used for events such as the Dutch Design Week, the Feelgood Market and much more.
#5. Loonse and Drunense Dunes
With the Loonse and Drunense Duinen, we have a second national park in our top 10 places of interest in North Brabant. The nature reserve covers an area of no less than forty square kilometers. Plenty of space to entertain yourself and enjoy the special nature in the heart of Brabant. Thanks to the almost five hundred hectares of sand drifts, the Loonse and Drunense Duinen have been nicknamed “Brabantse Sahara”. Furthermore, the nature here mainly consists of forests (especially coniferous trees) and heathlands. The Loonse and Drunense Duinen are home to various animal species.
The unique thing about the nature reserve is that there is so-called living drift sand. This is the rare phenomenon in Europe that the wind can get hold of the sand and move it. Here and there you can encounter grazing sheep. Unknowingly, they are fighting a battle against the ever-receding shifting sands. They eat new vegetation and ensure that sand and wind have free play.
The best way to discover the Loonse and Drunense Duinen is by going for a walk. You can easily do this on your own. Forest ranger-led walks are also organized regularly.
North Brabant has a number of cities that are definitely worth a visit. Think of Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Bergen op Zoom and Tilburg. Our recommendation for North Brabant is Breda. Over the years, this city has grown from a regionally important city into a city trip destination for which Dutch, Belgians and even tourists from further afield come to Breda. Breda is known as a city with excellent shopping and where the typical Brabant Burgundian lifestyle is ingrained in the genes. Interesting sights in Breda include Breda Castle, the unique Begijnhof and the Stedelijk Museum.
That Breda has much more to offer can be seen and read in the story ‘ Breda in 12 hours: the highlights of Breda ‘. The basis for this day in Breda was a bike tour booked through Baja Bikes, where you cycle along the beautiful spots of Breda with a guide. If you want to participate in this bike tour, you must book in advance. If you wish, you can always cancel or reschedule for free.
#7. Beekse Bergen Safari Park
If you want to see wildlife, a trip to the African game parks is of course an ideal way to do it. If a safari in Africa is too ambitious, Safari Park Beekse Bergena good alternative to see giraffes, lions, zebras and other animal species. Part of the park is accessible by car or safari bus. You then literally drive through the residence of the animals that do not occur in the wild in the Netherlands. Other ways to discover the Beekse Bergen are by safari boat (especially nice in dry and warmer weather) and by walking. A kilometer long walking safari has been set out through the Beekse Bergen. This wildlife animal park is one of the largest animal parks in Europe.
Do you want to get the most out of your visit to the Beekse Bergen? Then spend the night in a safari tent, tree house or luxury lodge at the Beekse Bergen Safari Resort. You sleep here on the savannah, between the wild animals. How cool do you want your safari experience to be?
#8. Dintel Gorzen
The Dintelse Gorzen form a unique nature reserve in the northwest of the province of North Brabant. The combination of salty and sweet soil creates a beautiful mix of flora. As a result, a wide variety of animals feel at home in this more than five kilometer large nature reserve. Hikers can explore the area via unpaved (sometimes swampy) paths. You will undoubtedly come across the grazing Shetland ponies or the Scottish highlanders. Due to the different breeding bird species, it is not allowed to take a dog with you during a walk on the Dintelse Gorzen.
#9. Basilica of Saints Agatha and Barbara
There is a grand church building in the village of Oudenbosch: the Basilica of Saints Agatha and Barbara. This Roman Catholic church was built between 1867 and 1880. However, it has only been allowed to call it a basilica since 1912. Who previously St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican Cityhas seen will immediately strike the resemblance. The design of the Oudenbosch basilica was inspired by this most important church. This basilica is significantly smaller. The green dome of twenty meters in diameter can be seen from afar. The Brabant singer and TV personality Frans Bauer was married in this basilica. Guided tours can be booked for enthusiasts. If you just want to take a look at the neoclassical basilica, you can do so for free. Preferably you do this outside the moments when a mass takes place.
#10. Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bike path
North Brabant is a real cycling province. Numerous beautiful cycling routes have been set out where you can cycle past the highlights of Brabant and enjoy the beautiful nature that is still present in so many places along the way. We even dare to say that there is no province in the Netherlands that can show such a varied range of views. We would like to highlight a very special cycle route: the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path. The world-famous painter Vincent van Gogh was born in the Brabant town of Zundert. There you can visit his old house, which now serves as a museum. There are also various Van Gogh cycle routes through North Brabant.
A unique part has been added to the Van Gogh cycle route Eindhoven: the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path. This cycle path is inspired by ‘The Starry Night’ by master painter Vincent Van Gogh. Heijmans developed an innovative technology especially for the cycle path with artist Daan Roosegaarde in which the path is illuminated by thousands of sparkling stones. As dusk sets in, the cycle path transforms into a living version of Van Gogh’s masterpiece, but on the ground instead of in the air.