The Netherlands (Nederland in Dutch) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a constitutional monarchy. It is located in northwestern Europe and borders the North Sea, Belgium and Germany. The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated and geographically low-lying countries in the world and is famous for its dikess, windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and perceived social tolerance. Its liberal policies are often mentioned abroad. This country is also host to the International Court of Justice and is often - technically incorrectly - referred to by the collective name of its two main provinces: Holland (North and South Holland). Amsterdam is the official capital (as the constitution states). The Hague is the administrative capital (the seat of government), the home of the Queen, and the location for most of the embassies.

Koninkrijk der Nederlanden
(In Detail) ()
National motto: Je Maintiendrai
(French, I will maintain)
Official languageDutch
(+Frisian in Friesland)
CapitalsAmsterdam, The Hague'''¹
Largest CityAmsterdam
Prime ministerJan Peter Balkenende
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 131st
41,526 km˛
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 59th
 - Declared
 - Recognised
Eighty Years' War
July 26, 1581
CurrencyEuro², Dutch euro coins
Time zoneUTC+1
National anthemHet Wilhelmus
Internet TLD.NL
Calling Code31
(1) Seat of government
(2) Prior to 1999: Guilder

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces & Dependencies
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links


Main articles: History of the Netherlands, Dutch monarchy

Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also includes most of present-day Belgium. After gaining formal independence from Philip II, the son of Charles V in 1648, the Dutch, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century, referred to as the Golden Age in the Netherlands, establishing colonies and trade posts all over the globe.

After being incorporated in the French empire under Napoleon, a Dutch kingdom was formed with present-day Belgium and Luxembourg in 1815. The Belgians soon gained independence however (1830); Luxembourg fell under the Dutch monarchy as well but had different rules of ascendancy and broke away after the death of King William III. During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialize compared to neighbouring countries.

After remaining neutral in World War I, the country was occupied by Nazi Germany in May 1940, to be fully liberated only in 1945. After the war, the Dutch economy prospered again, being a member of the economic Benelux and European Economic Community unions. The Netherlands also became a member of NATO.

The Netherlands was among the founding members of the European Union when it was formed in 1992.


Main article: Politics of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815, after it had been a republic from 1581 to 1806 (it was occupied by France between 1806 and 1815).

Head of state, since 1980, is Queen Beatrix of the House of Orange-Nassau. Formally, she appoints the members of the government. In practice, once the results of parliamentary elections are known, a coalition government is made (a process which might take several months), after which the government formed in this way is officially appointed by the queen.

The parliament consists of two houses. Elections for the 150 members of the Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) take place every four years, or earlier when the Lower House has taken a no-confidence motion against the government. The less important Senate (Eerste Kamer, or First Chamber) is chosen every four years after the provincial elections by the just chosen members of the provincial parliaments. Together, the First and Second Chamber are known as the Staten Generaal, the States General.

Political scientists consider the Netherlands a classic example of a consociational state.

Provinces & Dependencies

Main articles: Provinces of the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba

Map of the Netherlands | Larger size

The Netherlands is divided into 12 administrative regions, called provincies (provinces):

All provinces are divided into municipalities (gemeenten), together 489 (from 2004: 483); see Municipalities in the Netherlands, and also Cities of the Netherlands.

A number of islands in the Caribbean Sea are dependencies of the Netherlands: the Netherlands Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen), a group of five islands, and Aruba, formerly part of the Antilles.


Main article: Geography of the Netherlands

A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is the flatness of the country. About half the country is less than 1 meter above sea level, and large parts of it are actually below sea level (see map showing these areas). The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the southeasternmost point of the country, is 321 m high. Many low areas are protected by dikes and sea walls. Parts of the Netherlands, for example almost all of Flevoland province, have been reclaimed from the sea - these areas are known as polders.

The country is divided into two main parts by three rivers Rhine (Rijn), Waal and Meuse (Maas). There are slight linguistic differences between the Dutch that is spoken north and south of these great rivers.

The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is southwest, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.

Also of interest: National parks (Netherlands), Zuiderzee Works.


Main article: Economy of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which the government has successfully reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial activity is predominantly in food-processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than 4% of the labor force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Dutch rank third worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the US and France. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners.

As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced its former currency, the guilder, on January 1 1999 along with the other adopters of the single European currency, with the actual euro coins and banknotes following on January 1 2002.


Main article: Demographics of the Netherlands

Dutch population pyramid
(in % of total population)
% Male Age Female %
0.36     85+     1.05
0.60     80-84     1.18
1.14     75-79     1.74
1.55     70-74     1.95
1.93     65-69     2.13
2.30     60-64     2.33
2.77     55-59     2.69
3.73     50-54     3.60
3.65     45-49     3.54
3.93     40-44     3.81
4.27     35-39     4.08
4.25     30-34     4.05
3.63     25-29     3.54
3.04     20-24     2.93
2.96     15-19     2.83
3.11     10-14     2.97
3.20     05-09     3.06
3.11     00-04     2.98
Data: International Data Base (2000)

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with more than 400 inhabitants per square km.

There are two official languages, Dutch and Frisian, both of which are Germanic languages. Frisian is only spoken in the northern province of Friesland, and it is the language which most resembles English. In addition to Dutch and Frisian, several dialects of Low Saxon are spoken in much of the north; they have no official recognition. At the national borders in the south, the Dutch language shifts into other varieties of Low Franconian speech, which may or may not be best classified as Dutch, most notably West Flemish.

The main religions are Catholicism (18% in 1999) (dioceses) and Protestantism (15%). About 63% of the Dutch don't consider themselves to be members of a church. The part of the country south of the three rivers is (or was) generally Catholic, with the northern part Protestant (mostly of the Dutch Reformed Church).

The Dutch are known as a tolerant people. Their image abroad is mainly based on trade, tulips, windmills, wooden shoes, cheese and Delftware pottery. More recently the liberal Dutch policies on recreational drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia have received international attention; Amsterdam is widely perceived abroad as a city where 'anything goes'. See also Drugs policy of the Netherlands .


Main article: Culture of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has produced many great painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of the "Dutch Masters" such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century are Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. A both famous and infamous Dutch master art forger is Han van Meegeren.

The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza, and all of Descartes' major work was done there.

In the Golden Age, Dutch literature flowered as well, with Joost van den Vondel, P. C. Hooft as the two most famous names. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard van het Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. The Diary of Anne Frank was also written in the Netherlands.

See also: Sport in the Netherlands, Music of the Netherlands, List of Dutch people

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's DayNieuwjaar 
March/AprilEasterPasenThe Dutch celebrate two days of Easter.
April 30Queen's dayKoninginnedagOriginally, Koninginnedag was celebrated on the birthday of the queen,
Queen's day is now celebrated on the birthday of the current queen's mother,
as this gives better weather.
May 4Remembrance of the deadDodenherdenkingRemembrance of those who died during the Second World War.
May 5Liberation dayBevrijdingsdagCelebration of the 1945 capitulation of German forces in World War II.
40 days after EasterAscension DayHemelvaartsdag 
7 weeks after EasterPentecostPinksterenThe Dutch celebrate two days of Pentecost.
December 5Saint Nicholas's EveSinterklaasA predecessor of Santa Claus, Sinterklaas gives presents to the children.
December 25, December 26ChristmasKerstmisThe Dutch celebrate two days of Christmas.

Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Holland Village, Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang, China.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe