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The Netherlands (Holland) - Leisure, Entertainment and Sports

Amsterdam is world-renowned for its lively nightlife and diverse range of entertainment and leisure facilities, including numerous pubs, nightclubs, bars and cafes, theatres, cinemas and casinos. Jazz clubs and experimental theatre are particularly popular, and restaurants serve food from around the world, with cuisine from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia being a specialty of the city. The rich artistic heritage of the Netherlands, which was home to Masters such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, is celebrated in Amsterdam's 42 museums and around 60 art galleries. The seedier side of the city with its famous red-light district is in itself a tourist attraction, and Amsterdam is renowned for the free availability of soft drugs for purchase over the counter in many bars and cafes.

Many other cities and large towns in the Netherlands, such as Eindhoven, The Hague, Rotterdam and Zandvoort, also boast a good range of entertainment and cultural facilities and dining options. Holland has the highest concentration of museums in the world.

Cycling can be regarded as both the national pastime and the most common form of transport in the Netherlands, and there is at least one bicycle per head of population and 15,000 km of cycle paths. The flat terrain is conducive to both cycling and walking, another popular pursuit, and this helps to reduce traffic congestion in the towns and cities. Ice skating is also very popular when the canals and ponds freeze over in winter, and the 200km skating marathon held in the Friesland countryside whenever January brings a big freeze is a popular participant and spectator event, with nationwide interest. However, the most popular spectator sport by far is football, with the Dutch being passionate about their national team.

Dutch festivals, when much partying takes place, include Carnaval in February, Koninginnedag (Queen's Day), the Holland Festival - an arts festival held in Amsterdam and the Hague every June - and the North Sea Jazz Festival, reputedly the world's biggest jazz festival, celebrated in The Hague in July.

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