North Brabant (mostly just called Brabant) is the second-largest Dutch province after Gelderland. It’s famous for being a design and industrial hub. Besides, it offers visitors a lot of nature and history. Just like its neighboring province Limburg, Brabant is also known for its love of the bourgondische lifestyle. Read on for our list of recommendations on what to see and do in Brabant.
Sights & Activities in Brabant
De Efteling is the most famous tourist destination in Brabant. This large theme park has welcomed the young and young at heart to its ‘World of Wonders‘ since 1952. It’s a popular destination for both locals and tourists, attracting around 5 million visitors a year.
The Efteling is made up of four realms: the Fairy Realm (where fairytales and enchantment abound), the Adventure Realm (for the roller-coaster loving adrenaline-junkies), the Alternative Realm (where forbidden cities and haunted castles are located), and the Travel Realm (where you can go through the park by boat or train).
Read more about De Efteling in our tips for a day in De Efteling.
Another event that draws a lot of attendance from locals and foreigners alike is the Carnaval (Carnival). It’s held every February over a long weekend preceding Lent. While in some Dutch provinces Carnival is almost non-existent, it’s a major event in Brabant!
The Carnival is a centuries-old tradition, with the earliest known Dutch carnival images dating around the 15th century, thanks to paintings created by Dutch painter Jheronimus Bosch.
Traditionally, the Carnival is a feast of role reversal and suspension of norms. For example, Catholic Church norms are suspended during this festival, and the locals, anonymous through their carnival masks and costumes, are free to ridicule church and city officials.
Today, the Carnival is not thought to be related to religion at all, and it’s simply seen as an event to have fun, forget rules, and let loose.
Safaripark Beekse Bergen
The Safaripark Beekse Bergen, located between Tilburg and Hilvarenbeek, is the biggest wildlife park in the Benelux region. It’s an amazing place to visit when traveling with kids. There are many safari tours you can take, such as the boat, car, bus, and walking safaris, as well as the birds of prey safari.
For a unique experience, stay the night and sleep amongst the animals at the park’s Safari Resort.
National Parks in Brabant
Brabant is rich in national parks. Here are a few must-visits if nature and tranquility are what you seek.
De Biesbosch National Park
Biesbosch National Park is a wildlife conservation area and the EU’s most extensive freshwater tidal zone. As such, you’ll come across a lot of streams and willow swamps here. Boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, biking, bird-watching, and even horseback riding are popular activities. The Biesbosch Museum Eiland is located within the park, and it features seven themed pavilions where visitors may learn about the Biesbosch’s history and current state.
Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide National Park
Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide National Park, a cross-border park between North Brabant and Antwerp (Belgium), is an oasis for bird watchers. It’s the only nature reserve where you can see every kind of Dutch woodpecker, as well as hawks, tree pipits, falcons, and others. It also offers excellent hiking and cycling routes.
Loon and Drunen National Park
Dunes of Loon and Drunen National Park is known as the Brabant Sahara thanks to its 30 km² of shifting sands. However, it’s more than just a dessert, with a diverse range of flora and fauna to offer visitors. Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are also popular activities.
Museums in Brabant
There are a few interesting museums in Brabant, mostly in Eindhoven.
The DAF Museum in Eindhoven is a point of pride for the Dutch. That’s because DAF is a truck manufacturing company that became known for its development of the world’s first car with a continuously variable transmission (the Variomatic). This became popular with the elderly, who didn’t have to shift gears while driving. The museum highlights the company’s (and Dutch) inventiveness from the 1920s till the present day.
The world-famous brand Philips has its roots in Eindhoven. This is where in 1891, Gerard Philips produced the company’s first lightbulbs. It’s no surprise that you’ll find the Philips Museum in Eindhoven! A visit will take you through the company’s 125+ year history of innovation.
Another notable museum is Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, where you’ll see over 30,000 items all dedicated to the people, art, and history of North Brabant.
North Brabant is unofficially called the ‘Beer Province of the Netherlands’, which is due to the emergence of many small breweries in the area in recent years. As such, beer brewery hopping is a thing. You can do this independently or avail of beer tour packages (e.g., Tilburg Beer Pilgrimage).
Getting Around North Brabant
There’s so much to see in Brabant, and you can do that on foot or on a bike. There are plenty of walking routes, such as the Monestary Trail, Zuiderwaterlinie Footpath, and Townwalk Willemstad, to name a few.
And just like other Dutch provinces, Brabant has an impressive network of biking and cycling paths such as the Van Gogh, Strabrechtse Heide, and the Biesbosch cycling routes.
If you’re into history, then we recommend the Liberation Route Brabant. You can choose from eight different biking routes, each of which takes you through a different province region. Each course will recount the tale of the liberation and the impact WWII had on the people of Brabant at the time.
Accommodations in North Brabant
Since Brabantians are known for their love of the luxurious lifestyle, unique accommodations can be found all over the province. For instance, there are boutique hotels focused on wine, art, food, nature, wellness, and even horses! For the more budget-conscious, campsites in parks and farms, bed and breakfasts, and holiday park accommodations are also available.