One important heritage value is the extent to which it can be perceived, in other words how it is seen, heard, felt, experienced, used, changed, passed on or improved. Being able to see, perceive and experience heritage is also one of the conditions for being able to transfer it and often also preserve it.

Experience where we come from

However, experiencing heritage is also fun and educational. What is more enjoyable than finding out where you come from? Heritage offers us the opportunity to re-experience the past and discover very beautiful parts of the Netherlands. Examples include the Dutch Water Defence Line, which is tucked away in the landscape. The dykes, canals and bunkers make this landscape unique and tell us the story of this largest National monument in the Netherlands that protected us from the enemy during times of war.

Heritage is often hidden away in beautiful nature areas

Heritage also represents an opportunity to combine nature with culture because our heritage is often hidden away in beautiful nature reserves. Examples include the protected Radio Kootwijk transmission building that is located in the heart of the Veluwe national park in a wide open area of heathland and sand drifts, or the forts and bunkers of the green Grebbelinie, the defence line which runs from Rhenen, via Amersfoort, to Bunschoten. Nature and monuments present a wonderful opportunity to explore the country and learn about our heritage.

Heritage benefits us all

Heritage is from and for all of us. The Dutch government is therefore trying to ensure that as many people as possible can experience our heritage. All kinds of initiatives contribute to this goal. Examples include events such as Open Monuments Day, when thousands of wonderful monuments throughout the Netherlands are open to the public free of charge, or the National Windmill Day which is organised every year around the month of May. Then there are the National Archaeology Days which are organised every year in October and which bring the past to life through hundreds of activities organised throughout the country.

Experiencing heritage is educational

Experiencing our heritage gives us the possibility of reliving the past. The well-known Loevestein Castle, for example, tells the story of the 17th century lawyer Hugo de Groot who escaped in a wooden chest used to carry books. Similarly the Limes, or borders of the Roman Empire, teach us about how the Romans used to live. It is fun and educational to go on a journey through the history of our motherland and our heritage provides an excellent way of doing so. You should not forget that the story that you can experience yourself makes more impression than a history book.

Experiencing means preserving

Being able to see, perceive and experience heritage is one of the conditions of being able to hand it down to generations and preserve it. Experiencing and perceiving our heritage generates income which we can use to maintain it. Heritage that is not experienced will decline. Consequently experiencing also means preserving.

Experiencing offers opportunities

Heritage offers opportunities to develop leisure pursuits. For example, you can experience the Wadden Sea (World Heritage Site) by walking on the mudflats and going on sailing trips where the emphasis is on their creation and use over the years. However, local authorities can also use their heritage as a marketing tool to promote their own town or city. Then there is the example of the Limes Route which attracts numerous walkers every year and therefore offers opportunities for tourism.

The Dutch government regards heritage as a binding force in our society, as described in the document entitled Culture in an open society. Precisely in a time in which it seems that social connections are becoming more fleeting and societal conflicts are increasing, this is a quality not to be underestimated. The government will therefore encourage as many people to participate as possible. Heritage is from and for everyone, irrespective of where you live, which family you have come from, or which cultural background you have and also irrespective of your age, gender, disability or education. This means that heritage has to be easily accessible, both in urban areas and in the more remote regions. It also means that stories told about heritage must appeal to as many people as possible and link up with the composition and interest of the residents of today's Netherlands.

In addition, Dutch policy is intended to bridge across the divides between cultural policy and other policy areas. That applies not only to the link between care and well-being, but also to the links with the creative industry, sport, tourism and economic policy (business climate).

The scope of heritage via the Internet has increased in recent years. Research in the countries of the European Union has shown that at least half of the population finds out about cultural heritage via the Internet. In the Netherlands this is even 83%. That is why the government's policy is focused on investing in the digital accessibility of heritage. Digital design agencies are offering new possibilities for experiencing heritage and sharing heritage-related stories.

There are numerous possibilities for experiencing heritage in the Netherlands. Our national, provincial and municipal monuments, valuable geographical sites and our ten World Heritage Sites. The following is a selection of the many possibilities:

  • Cycle the 900 kilometre long Cycle across borders route over the borders from Gelderland and through what used to be the Overkwartier (Limburg and North Rhine-Westphalia). Cross borders and discover the variety of the Achterhoek, the Veluwe, the Rivierengebied and the Overkwartier regions. Alternatively you can look for ongoing heritage-related activities on the Heritage Festival website set up by the provincial government of Gelderland.
  • Discover the rich church heritage of the province of Brabant and choose one of the six cycle routes that go past the churches. Alternatively you can cycle all the routes! You can find them in the Brabant church booklet.
  • Find out more about heritage in the province of Brabant on the Brabant heritage website which has made its heritage accessible.
  • Travel along the Liberation Route in Zeeland and get an insight into the fierce fighting during the Second World War when the Allies were forced to capture Zeeland because they needed a harbour to supply their troops.
  • Go on a nice cycle tour using our National monuments map and National cycle routes on Open Monuments Day.
  • Go on a walk along the Roman Limes Path. This long-distance walk starts at Katwijk aan Zee and connects the dozens of Roman forts and watchtowers which the Romans intended to use to protect themselves against attacks by the barbarians from the North. You can also cycle the Roman Limes route!
  • Visit the former Zuiderzee island of Schokland which is a symbol of the country's battle against water.
  • Experience the churches in Friesland, where there is the greatest density of churches in Europe.

Tips for heritage managers to attract more people to heritage sites:

  • Provide information in several languages.
  • Arrange guided tours for people from groups that are difficult to reach.
  • Make sure there is good offline and online accessibility, including for people with a disability or chronic disease.