18 Interesting Facts to Know About The Netherlands (aka Holland)

by Janis on May 21, 2017

The flag of the Netherlands.

In anticipation of an upcoming trip to Amsterdam, we wanted to learn a little more background about the Netherlands, also commonly referred to as Holland.

18 Interesting Facts to Know About The Netherlands (aka Holland)

1. The Netherlands is a densely populated country of 17 million people located in Western Europe with three island territories in the Caribbean. The country’s official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest. On the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, the Netherlands shares a border with France.

Map of The Netherlands (including the special municipalities of Saba, Saint Eustatius and Bonaire; the Caribbean Netherlands)-created by Alphathon.

This map details the 12 provinces of The Netherlands, and shows the special municipalities of Saba, Saint Eustatius and Bonaire; the Caribbean Netherlands. Map created by Alphathon.

2. The Netherlands is made up of 12 provinces. (See map above.)

3. While the Netherlands are often informally referred to as Holland, the Netherlands is the correct name. The name “Holland” is properly used when referring to two specific provinces of the Netherlands: Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland. In other words, the name “Holland” actually refers only to the parts of the Netherlands in the North Holland and South Holland provinces.

4. The confusion with the name of the country goes back to 1795 when the Republic of Seven United Netherlands was conquered by French troops and became the Batavian Republic. In 1806, Napoleon turned the country into a kingdom and appointed his brother Louis as king. The Netherlands remained a kingdom after Napoleon’s defeat in the 1813 Battle of Leipzig. At that time, the area called “Holland” made the biggest contribution to the entire nation’s economy, and therefore became commonly used to indicate the entire country.

Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands since 2013. Photo by Holger Motzkau and edited by César. 

Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands since 2013. Photo by Holger Motzkau and edited by César.

5. The Netherlands is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Since 2013, King Willem-Alexander is the head of state. In addition to his royal duties, King Willem-Alexander has been a “guest co-pilot” for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for years. For more than a decade, the 50-year-old Dutch King has worked as co-pilot on KLM flights about twice a month.

Mark Rutte is Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Photo by Nick van Ormondt.

Mark Rutte, Dutch politician and leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, is Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Photo by Nick van Ormondt.

6. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands leads the government. Mark Rutte has been Prime Minister since October 2010.

7. Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, but the country’s government resides in The Hague.

The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, which is the seat of the International Court of Justice.

The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, which is the seat of the International Court of Justice.

8. Opened in August, 1913, the Peace Palace is an international law administrative building in The Hague. The building houses the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law and the Peace Palace Library. Scottish-American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie contributed US$1.5 million ($40 million in current dollars) to build the Peace Palace.

9.  Dutch is the language of the Netherlands, which is why citizens of the Netherlands are referred to as the “Dutch” in English. However, it’s important to note that residents of the Netherlands consider themselves “Nederlanders” rather than Dutch. People who live in one of the two Holland provinces are called “Hollanders.”

10. The Netherlands covers an area of approximately 1o.2 million acres, slightly larger than the combined size of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

11. A relatively flat country, the word “Netherlands” literally means “lower countries.” About 26 percent of the Netherlands is located below sea level, and only about 50 percent of its land is more than three feet above sea level. Most of the areas below sea have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is entirely below sea level with the lowest point sitting 11 feet below sea level.

A scale measuring the water level in a polder near Zoetermeer, Netherlands. This location is roughly 18 feet below sea level. Photo by Vincent van Zeijst.

A scale measuring the water level in a polder near Zoetermeer, Netherlands. This location is roughly 18 feet below sea level. Photo by Vincent van Zeijst.

12. The Dutch have a long history of developing techniques to drain wetlands and make them usable for agriculture and other development. The Netherlands is frequently associated with polders — a low-lying tract of land, reclaimed from the sea or other body of water and protected by dikes. The Netherlands’ first polders date to the 11th century; today the country has more than 3,ooo of them.

The Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier, part of the Netherland's Delta Works. Photo by Job van de Sande.

The Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier, part of the Netherland’s massive Delta Works. Photo by Job van de Sande.

13. Following the North Sea flood in 1953 that killed more than 1,800 people, the Dutch government instituted the largest flood protection system in the world.  Constructed over 30 years, the “Delta Works” are comprehensive set of dikes throughout the Dutch coast created to reduce flood risk in South Holland and Zeeland to once per 10,000 years. This project raised 1,864 miles of outer sea-dikes and 6,214 miles of inner, canal, and river dikes, and closed off the sea estuaries of the Zeeland province. The American Society of Civil Engineers consider the Delta Works as one of the seven wonders of the modern world

The Port of Rotterdam. Photo by Joris

The Port of Rotterdam. Photo by Joris.

14. The Netherlands is home to two of Europe’s five largest ports. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port and one of the world’s largest. The Port of Amsterdam is Europe’s fourth largest port.

15. On average, men from the Netherlands are the world’s tallest. The average Dutch man is 6 feet tall, a higher average height for men than in any other country.

16. The Netherlands exports two-thirds of the world’s total fresh-cut plants, flowers, and flower bulbs.

There are approximately 1 million more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. Photo by Bèrto 'd Sèra, taken in Utrecht.

There are approximately 1 million more bicycles than people in the Netherlands. Photo by Bèrto ‘d Sèra, taken in Utrecht.

17. There are at least 18 million bicycles in the Netherlands, more than the country’s 17 million residents. The country has twice as many bicycles as motor vehicles on the road, and 36 percent of Dutch residents list the bike as their most frequent mode of transport on a typical day.

18. People in the Netherlands have a tradition of learning foreign languages; 90 percent of the total population can converse in English, 70 percent in German, and nearly 30 percent in French.

Learn more about the Netherlands with these resources:


Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands


DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: The Netherlands


What fun fact can you add about the Netherlands? 

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