First time Bouldering in the Netherlands

Hi!~ Are you an expat, exchange student, or a holiday goer in the Netherlands? Or just for some other reason being in the Netherlands? And you want to try out a fun activity called bouldering? Let us help you!

Bouldering is a climbing sport that has recently (~the last 3 years) become popular in the Netherlands. It is an accessible sport for first-timers. You just need to know a few rules and you are good to go. So, what does it look like? An indoor boulder gym has several walls with climbing holds attached to them. The wall is about 4 up to 5 meters tall (outside of the Netherlands this may vary). Underneath there’s a thick mat you can safely fall on. A combination of climbing holds form a boulder route: start at the beginning  of this route and try to climb to the end of this route.  Bouldering requires a combination of technique, strength and thinking:

  • Technique: with proper climbing technique you can climb efficiently and make more use out of your body (for example your reach).
  • Strength: think of relative strength, compared to your body weight.
  • Thinking: boulder routes are like puzzles; to climb more efficient imagine beforehand how you would climb the route.

pofzak_wall_the_netherlands_1 bouldering  pofzak_wall_the_netherlands_2 bouldering

Bouldering can be done alone

The reason why bouldering is an accessible sport is that you can do this on your own. Bouldering itself challenges your mind in terms of thinking but also perseverance. You can decide your own pace and progress. You can have a relaxed bouldering day but also a serious training day. Some even trade the traditional fitness school in for the boulder gym. You can find people of different ages (16 – 60 years) in the gym.

Bouldering is different from top roping

With top roping (or top rope climbing) you need to use climbing gear, have a climbing partner and a climbing certificate. Bouldering does not require climbing gear, a partner nor a certificate. With bouldering you can fall from 4 meters high on a thick mat, or you can climb down. With top roping you let loose of the wall and your partner (which you are strapped on to) will lower you down. Top roping requires more preparation (checking the climbing gear and using the gear).

Boulder routes are shorter: the time you are climbing varies from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Compare this to top rope routes which are at least 3 times as long. Top rope walls are also much higher (14 ~ 20 meters). So bouldering is more explosive,  and top roping is more stamina. There are subtle differences in climbing styles and technique.

Visiting a boulder gym

So you know what bouldering is (kinda). How about preparing your visit to the boulder gym? Check out our list of boulder gym in the Netherlands.


Any gym has a pay desk, cafe, changing rooms, training area and boulder area. Most gyms also have showers and a kids area. The pay desk is almost always near the entrance of the building. It is required to register there first. Just have a chat with one of the staff there. If you say it is your first time they will gladly help you out.


Most first-timers can happily climb for 1 hour. They will get fatigued and their hands have been worn out. Sometimes the skin on their hands has become thin, got calluses or blisters. After a number of visits your hands and body can endure more, so a climbing session takes about 2-3 hours. It also depends on if you take breaks inbetweens climbs.

Dutch atmosphere

In the gym you can find people that are alone, couples or small / big groups. It is okay to watch other people climb; some say that will even improve your own climbing. It is also okay to ask for advice if you’re stuck on something and you just saw someone else climb the route. Be careful with giving advice; first ask if the person wants to receive advice. Sometimes people are training their “thinking” so they have to figure it out on their own.

There are some noticable differences between Dutch gyms: some lean more to “gezelligheid” (cosy) and others to hardcore training.

What’s next?

Now you have had a small introduction to bouldering in the Netherlands. Now go check out our list of boulder gym in the Netherlands. Pick one and start bouldering!

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