The Netherlands is a country in northwestern Europe, (north of Belgium and to the West of Germany) is known for a flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII.
Canalside mansions and a trove of works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the city's 17th-century "Golden Age" of capitalist expansion, exploration, discovery, colonisation and involvement in slavery.
After many years of conflict The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579. During the 17th century, the Netherlands became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, and the defeat of the French at the battle of Waterloo, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815.
In 1830, Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered German invasion and occupation in World War II, which included the forced expatriation of its labour force and the Nazi extermination of the Jews, as exemplified by the horrors as exemplified in the diary of Anne Frank.
A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU) and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. In October 2010, the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands - Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba - became special municipalities in the Netherlands administrative structure. The larger islands of Saint Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The culture of the Netherlands is diverse, reflecting regional differences as well as the foreign influences built up by centuries of the Dutch people's mercantile and explorative spirit. The Netherlands and its people have long played an important role as centre of cultural liberalism and tolerance. The Dutch Golden Age is popularly regarded as its zenith.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, about 89% of the total population have good knowledge of English, 70% of German, 29% of French and 5% of Spanish.
The Netherlands ; Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərˌlɑnt] ( listen)), often referred to as Holland, is a country located mostly in Western Europe with a population of seventeen million. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht(forming the Randstad megalopolis), and Eindhoven (leading the Brabantse Stedenrij). Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet, and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the world's largest outside Asia.
"Netherlands" literally means "lower countries", influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are artificial. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass. With a population density of 414 people per km2 – 510 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is classified as a very densely populated country. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate as well as its highly developed intensive agriculture. The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have elected representatives controlling the government's actions; it has been administered as a parliamentary democracyand a constitutional monarchy since 1848, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870 and had women's suffrageintroduced in 1917. Regarding the LGBT community, it became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriagein 2001.
The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD, and WTO, as well as being a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial cooperation agency Eurojust and the United Nations Detention Unit. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital." The country also ranks second highest in the world's 2016 Press Freedom Index, as published by Reporters Without Borders. The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2016 according to the IMF. In 2017, the UN World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the sixth-happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.[nb 1] The 2018 OECD Better Life Index also ranks the Netherlands first in the world for work–life balance. The Netherlands has a generous welfare state that provides universal healthcare, good public education, and infrastructure, as well as a wide range of social benefits. That welfare system, combined with its strongly redistributive taxing system, makes the Netherlands one of the most egalitarian countries worldwide. It also ranks joint third highest in the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, along with Australia.
The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters.
Daytime temperatures vary from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer.
Since the country is small there is little variation in climate from region to region, although the marine influences are less inland.
Rainfall is distributed throughout the year with a dryer period from April to September.
Especially in fall and winter strong atlantic low-pressure systems can bring gales and uncomfortable weather. Sometimes easterly winds can cause a more continental type of weather, warm and dry in the summer, but cold and clear in the winter with temperatures sometimes far below zero. The Netherlands is a flat country and has often breezy conditions, although more in the winter than in the summer, and more among the coastal areas than inland.
Holidays and Festivals
One traditional festivity in the Netherlands is the feast of Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas. It is celebrated on the evening before Sinterklaas' birthday on December 5, especially in families with small children.
In the United States the original figure of Dutch Sinterklaas has merged with Father Christmas into Santa Claus. In the Netherlands, gift-bringing at Christmas has in recent decades gained some popularity too, but Sinterklaas is much more popular.
Dutch national holidays
There are two national holidays in the Netherlands: King’s Day (Koningsdag), known for its nationwide vrijmarkt ("free market"), at which many Dutch sell their secondhand items and for celebration of the national colour, and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag).
Dutch public holidays
The commonly recognised public holidays in the Netherlands are the Dutch national holidays, New Year’s Day, and a few Christian holidays.
Other holidays and festivals
A widespread tradition is that of serving beschuit met muisjes when people come to visit a new-born baby and his mother. Beschuit is a typical Dutch type of biscuit, muisjes are sugared anise seeds.
Other traditions are often regional, such as the huge Easter Fires or celebrating the feast of Sint Maarten on the evening of November 11 when children go door to door with paper lanterns and candles, and sing songs in return for a treat. This day is celebrated in some parts of Groningen, North Holland and the southern part of Limburg and to a lesser extent in South Hollandand Zeeland. This feast is the beginning of the dark period before Christmas and the long days of winter.
The same thing happens on January 6 with Epiphany in some areas in the South of the Netherlands. In the past self-made lanterns were used, made from a hollowed out sugar beet.
In North-Brabant, Limburg and some other parts of the Netherlands people celebrate Carnaval similar to the carnival of the German Rhineland and Belgium Flanders.
Food In the NETHERLANDS
Dutch cuisine is characterized by its somewhat limited diversity, however, it varies greatly from region to region.
The southern regions of the Netherlands for example share dishes with Flanders and vice versa. The Southern Dutch cuisine is the only Dutch culinary region which developed an haute cuisine, as it is influenced by both German cuisine and French cuisine, and it forms the base of most traditional Dutch restaurants.
Dutch food is traditionally characterized by the high consumption of vegetables when compared to the consumption of meat. Dairy products are also eaten to great extent, Dutch cheeses are world-renowned with famous cheeses such as Gouda, Edam and Leiden.
Dutch pastry is extremely rich and is eaten in great quantities.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages wine has long been absent in Dutch cuisine (but this is changing during the last decades).
Traditionally there are many brands of beer and strong alcoholic spirits such as jenever and brandewijn.
The Dutch have all sorts of pastry and cookies, many of them filled with marzipan, almond and chocolate.
A truly huge amount of different pies and cakes can be found, most notably in the southern provinces, especially the so-called Limburgish vlaai.
Places to visit
Gouda is a typical Dutch city with lots of old buildings and pretty canals, and is a popular destination for a day trip, thanks to its great rail- and highway connections. The city is famous for its cheese, its stroopwafels (syrup waffles), candles and its clay pipes. Attractions in Gouda include the beautiful 15th century town hall and the amazing glass windows in St. Janskerk. The compact city center is entirely ringed by canals.
Rotterdam is the Netherlands most modern city today.
It is very bike friendly like Amsterdam, Rotterdam boasts several historic districts for visitors to explore.
The popular Delfshaven district is where the pilgrims launched sail from in 1620, and the summertime festivals and carnivals there attract visitors from nearby European countries every year.
Erasmus Bridge is highly unique and imposing, but highly regarded as a work of art, as it soars over Europe’s largest harbor. By far, the most popular visitor stop is at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, where artworks on display span from the Middle Ages to modern times, including masterpieces by Dali, Van Gogh, Bosch, and Rembrandt.
This culturally diverse university city is small but boasts two colleges, making it the main place to visit in the northern part of the Netherlands.
Museum lovers never tire in Groningen, as the Groninger Museum is one of the most innovative and modern in all of Holland, and there is additionally a graphical museum, comics museum, maritime museum, and a university museum.
Music and theater abound in Groningen, and many street cafes feature live entertainment. Because of its high student population, nightlife hotspots are a huge attraction, with The Grote Markt, the Peperstraat, and the Vismarkt being the most popular.
The center of the tulip bulb-growing district, Haarlem is unofficially dubbed Bloemenstad, which means ‘flower city’ and is naturally the home of the Annual Bloemencorso Parade.
This quiet bedroom community lies along the shoreline of the Spaarne River and boasts numerous intact medieval structures around town.
Visitors enjoy shopping and perusing the stunning architecture and museums along the Grote Markt city center. Popular museums in Haarlem include the oldest museum in the country, the Teylers Museum, which specializes in natural history, art, and science exhibits.
Art aficionados find themselves drawn to the Franz Hals Museum where many Dutch masters’ works rest.
The rich Middle Age history of Utrecht is very apparent in the city’s architecture, with its most unique feature being the inner canal wharf system that was created to stave off parts of the Rhine River from invading the city center.
Utrecht’s has the largest college in Holland, the University of Utrecht. Another notable visitor attraction in Utrecht includes the awe-striking Gothic Cathedral of Saint Martin, a 200-year structural feat that began in 1254. Architecture and museum enthusiasts should not miss the Dom Tower, the Rietveld Schroder House, and the Museum Speelklok, which boasts a vast collection of striking clocks, music boxes, and self-playing musical instruments.
Best known for its dynamic city square, the Vrijthof, Maastricht in southern Holland is home to the impressive Saint Servatius Church, the Saint Jan’s Cathedral, and the old fortifications, or Vestigingswerkens, are huge draws for visitors here.
Many annual festivals take place at the Vrijthof, with local favorites arriving in autumn and winter, and this bustling town square also boasts amazing cafes, hip bars, and interesting galleries and shops. Other popular attractions in Maastricht include the St. Pietersberg Caves and the Helpoort, the oldest surviving town gate of its kind in the Netherlands.
Best known for the contemporary art exhibits at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague is arguably one of the most extraordinary places to visit in the Netherlands.
Known as the Royal City by the Sea due to its Dutch Royalty citizens, visitors often enjoy spending time along the North Sea in the warmer months at the sea town of Scheveningen. Several notable monuments and historic districts are easily traversable in The Hague, and travellers can peruse the luxury department stores, cozy shops, and international art galleries with ease. The Binnenhof, the seat of the government of the Netherlands is also located in The Hague even though Amsterdam is the capital. Other attractions in The Hague include the miniature city, Madurodam and a 360 degree panoramic view of the Scheveningen Sea in the 19th century at Panorama Mesdag.
From the Renaissance style City Hall building on the Market Square to the city’s traditional Holland canals, architecture, and vibe, Delft is a progressive town that has worked diligently to restore its antiquated appearance. This unspoiled town is an ideal day trip destination or vacation destination if the busy streets of Amsterdam are undesirable for a long stay. Popular sites include The Prinsenhof, where the bullet holes still remain from the death of William of Orange. This museum tells the tale of the Eighty Years’ War and also features many intriguing artworks. Those looking for a Johannes Vermeer souvenir or print cannot miss stopping by Vermeer Centrum in Delft.
The picturesque city of Leiden is a great place to visit for its scenic, tree-lined canals that are marked with old windmills, wooden bridges and lush parks. A boat ride down one of these lovely canals makes for an unforgettable experience.
Attractions in Leiden include the numerous museums that range from science and natural history to museums dedicated to windmills and Egyptian antiquities. The Hortus Botanicus offers sprawling botanical gardens and the world’s oldest academical observatory.
Visitors can also admire the beautiful architecture of the 16th century Church of St. Peter and check out its association with several historic people, including the American pilgrims.
One of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Amsterdam is widely known for its party atmosphere, cannabis practice and the red light district. With over 1500 fabulous monumental buildings and just as many bridges, visitors to Amsterdam spend much of their time exploring the eccentricities and marvelous museums dotting the 60 miles of canals across the city. The Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum Museum are the most popular stops for history and art seekers, while the Prinsengracht area is one of the best places for shopping, gallery viewing, pub crawling, and checking out the unique coffee shops in Amsterdam.
What language are spoken
Dutch is the official language, however over 90% of people speak English, and there are German and French influences too, as you may expect from a truly European country.