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Nederland (Dutch)
Nederlân (Frisian)
Flag of the Netherlands
Coat of arms of the Netherlands
flag coat of arms
Motto : Je maintiendrai ( French )
"I will withstand"
Official language Dutch
West Frisian ( Province of Friesland )
Papiamentu ( Bonaire )
English ( Sint Eustatius and Saba )
capital city Amsterdam
Seat of government The hague
State and form of government parliamentary monarchy
Head of state King Willem-Alexander
Head of government Prime Minister Mark Rutte
area 41,543 km²
population 17,474,693 (as of January 1, 2021)
Population density 413 inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 0.6% (2017)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 907.2 billion ( 17. )
  • $ 1,028.6 billion ( 27. )
  • 52,646 USD ( 12. )
  • 59,693 USD ( 14. )
Human Development Index   0.944 ( 8th ) (2019)
currency Euro (EUR)
US Dollar (USD) ( BES Islands )
independence July 2, 1581 ( Proclamation )
1648 recognized ( Peace of Westphalia )
National anthem Het Wilhelmus
National holiday Koningsdag
Time zone UTC + 1 CET
UTC + 2 CEST (March to October)
License Plate NL
ISO 3166 NL , NLD, 528
Internet TLD .nl
Phone code +31
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The Netherlands (in German plural; Dutch Nederland and Frisian Nederlân , singular, informal Holland ) are one of the four autonomous countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands . The country, which is largely in northern Western Europe , is bounded there by the North Sea in the north and west, Belgium in the south and Germany in the east. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam , the seat of government is The Hague . The official color of the country is orange ( Oranje ).

The area of ​​the Netherlands, which is represented in this article, includes, in addition to the twelve provinces of the European part, the Caribbean islands of Bonaire , Sint Eustatius and Saba (including their respective subsidiary islands), which are special municipalities of the country. Other Dutch Caribbean areas are not part of the Netherlands, but autonomous countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands . These are the countries of Aruba , Curaçao and Sint Maarten .

After belonging to the Middle Kingdom , Eastern Franconia and the Holy Roman Empire , the year 1581 with the Plakkaat van Verlatinghe is considered the birth of the United Netherlands , which was finally recognized in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia . The Netherlands became a major trade , colonial and maritime power. The 17th century is described as the golden age . The constitution of the Netherlands goes back to the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15.

Together with Belgium and Luxembourg , the Netherlands form the Benelux Union. The Netherlands are a founding member of the Coal and Steel Community from 1951, from which several successors and in 1992 the European Union (EU) developed.

Country name

The country's official name is Nederland in Dutch . This is also the name that the Dutch take for granted in everyday language. In German, however, the country is called "Netherlands" (plural); in the German colloquial language one often says "Holland". The name " Holland " refers to a former county in the west of the Netherlands. In 1815 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded. Holland was initially a province until it was divided into the provinces of Noord-Holland (capital Haarlem ) and Zuid-Holland (capital The Hague ) in 1843 .

In Dutch, the term Holland or Dutch is used occasionally, ironically or to emphasize Dutch folk art. In football, too, the self-designation is Holland , for example in the battle cry Hup Holland Hup . The Dutch tourism industry uses the internationally better known Holland for marketing in English, German and other languages.

However, in 2019 a round table of government and business decided that the country should present itself as the Netherlands. It is feared that the term Holland will be associated with clichés such as tulips and windmills, while the country prefers to see itself as modern and cosmopolitan. One would also like to divert the flow of visitors to the other areas and thus relieve the capital Amsterdam.

The country name Netherlands (in the plural) results from history. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Netherlands was part of the dominion of the House of Burgundy . In the 15th century, under Charles the Bold, their lands were divided into the upper lands (the duchy and the free county of Burgundy and neighboring countries) and the lower lands ( Flanders , Artois with part of Picardy , Brabant , Holland , Luxembourg and others). In 1482 the Burgundian inheritance came to the House of Habsburg . Whose hereditary lands were divided at that time even in low -, Inner - and Upper Austria (to Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck), the coastal land (on the Adriatic) and the foreland (the Upper Rhine). So the designation Netherlands , Burgundian Netherlands or Habsburg Netherlands (initially Spanish Netherlands , since 1714 Austrian Netherlands ) arose more or less consistently . (The Burgundian Oberland - the duchy around Dijon, which had always been outside the imperial borders, i.e. today's region of Burgundy  - was lost to France in 1493, as was the Free County of Besançon, today's Franche-Comté .)

In Dutch, the historical regions are also referred to as de Lage Landen , i.e. the low or low lying countries, as there are no mountains in the Netherlands and only a few elevations. The northern Dutch provinces of the Union of Utrecht (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Groningen and Fryslân) declared themselves independent from the sovereign Philip II of Spain on July 26, 1581 . In the Treaty of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, independence from the Holy Roman Empire was proclaimed, the area roughly corresponded to the later Netherlands. The southern part of the area, including Flanders, however, remained with the empire; later it became the state of Belgium. One then spoke of the northern and southern Netherlands.

The Congress of Vienna united north and south as an independent state Koninkrijk der Nederlanden again for a short time. However, as early as 1830, the southern Netherlands declared itself independent under the name of Belgium . Belgica is the name of an ancient Roman province; since the Renaissance the expression was used as the Latin name of the Netherlands, also for their northern provinces.

In Middle Dutch , the adjectives dietsc ( corresponding to German, German ) denoted the Dutch language . This is where the English name Dutch came from .

Batavia is an earlier Latin name for what is now the Netherlands and refers to the Germanic Batavian tribe who settled near the Rhine delta . The Dutch called today's capital of Indonesia, Jakarta , also Batavia during their colonial days.


Areas of the Netherlands below sea level
The dike built in 1932 separates the IJsselmeer from the North Sea
The Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier is part of the Delta Works


About half of the country is less than a meter above sea level and around a quarter of the country is below sea level (measured near Amsterdam; see picture on the right). The flat areas are usually protected from storm surges by dikes, which have a total length of about 3,000 km. At 877 meters, the highest point in the Netherlands is Mount Scenery on the Caribbean island of Saba . The highest point on the mainland, the Vaalserberg in the extreme south, in the province of Limburg in the border triangle with Germany and Belgium, is 322.5 m above the Amsterdam level .

Parts of the Netherlands, such as almost the entire province of Flevoland , have been reclaimed from the sea through land reclamation. They are called polder (on the German North Sea coast Koog or Groden). The largest land reclamation project is related to the Zuiderzee Works . In 1932, the 29 km long final dike , which separated the Zuiderzee bay from the North Sea, was completed. Several freshwater lakes were created in the area of ​​the former bay, of which the IJsselmeer makes up the largest part. The Flevopolder is the largest of the polders . It is (depending on how it is calculated) the largest artificial island in the world.

The most important rivers in the Netherlands ( de grote rivieren - the great rivers) are the Rhine , Meuse and Scheldt . They divide the country into a north and a south. The Rhine River comes from the German North Rhine-Westphalia and is for a short stretch of the border river. It soon branches out, thanks in part to canals that have been set up to better distribute the water masses. The branches of the Rhine finally connect with the Meuse, which comes from Belgium. Only parts of the river are still called Rhine, Nederrijn or Oude Rijn. The rivers shape the west of the Netherlands, the Rhine-Maas Delta . An important arm flows through Rotterdam and then into the North Sea at Hoek van Holland , other arms connect the rivers with Amsterdam and the IJsselmeer. The mouth of the Scheldt is only north of Antwerp, Belgium, in the Netherlands.

The main wind direction is southwest, which results in a temperate maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. Especially in the west of the country, on the North Sea coast, the climate is more strongly Atlantic (mild winters, cool summers). Towards the east, the Atlantic influence decreases somewhat, so that near the German border one can speak of a sub-Atlantic climate with somewhat colder winters (mild to moderately cold) and slightly warmer summers.

Natural sights


Population development

Population pyramid of the Netherlands 2016
Population development
year population
1900 5,104,000
1910 5,585,000
1920 6,754,000
1930 7,825,000
1940 8,834,000
1950 10,026,773
1960 11,417,254
1970 12,957,621
1980 14.091.014
1990 14,892,574
2000 15,863,950
2010 16,574,989
2017 17.132.911
2019 17,290,688
Largest migrant groups in the Netherlands
rank Country Population
(January 1, 2016)
1. TurkeyTurkey Turkey 397,000
2. MoroccoMorocco Morocco 386,000
3. IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 367,000
4th GermanyGermany Germany 360,000
5. SurinameSuriname Suriname 349,000
6th former Netherlands AntillesNetherlands AntillesNetherlands Antilles  151,000
7th PolandPoland Poland 150,000
8th. BelgiumBelgium Belgium 116,000
9. former YugoslaviaYugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia  84,000
10. United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 84,000

With 17,196,180 inhabitants and over 510 inhabitants (February 5, 2018) per square kilometer of land area (33,718 km²), the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated territorial states in the world (for comparison: global average 48, Ireland  60, Germany  231, North Rhine-Westphalia  528, Namibia  2.4). On February 28, 2018, the Netherlands had 17,194,974 inhabitants, around half of whom lived in the Randstad , the densely populated west of the country. In 2016, 91 percent of the population lived in cities or urban areas, making the Netherlands one of the most urbanized countries in the world.

The Dutch are statistically the people with the tallest physically in the world, averaging 1.83 m (men) and 1.72 m (women). The average life expectancy in 2015 was 79.4 years for men and 83.1 years for women.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 Sinti and Roma and around 30,000 so-called woonwagenbewoners live in the Netherlands . They are also disparagingly called kampers , preferring even the term Reizigers . They live in a fixed location in stationary caravans. Many have outpatient jobs. Most of them go back to impoverished Dutch farmers, farm workers and peat cutters in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their number has increased significantly since the end of the Second World War in connection with labor migration and housing costs due to the influx of the majority population. The group-internal language Bargoens is a Dutch-based special language, which is comparable to the German Rotwelsch or Jenisch .

People from all over the world have immigrated to the Netherlands. Apart from many newcomers from neighboring countries (including Germany, Belgium and England), many people from other parts of the world live here today, such as from Morocco and Turkey, from the former crown colonies Indonesia, Suriname and from the Caribbean .


The official language in the entire state is the Dutch language ( Standard Dutch ), which arose from Lower Franconian dialects in the Netherlands ( Dutch dialects ). In the province of Fryslân , the related West Frisian is also the administrative language.

Lower Franconian dialects are spoken in the south-western half of the country. The local dialects in the southeast belong to Ripuarian and in the northeast to Lower Saxony . Lower Franconian, Ripuarian and Lower Saxon dialects are also spoken in the dialect continuum across states in Germany , and Lower Franconian and Ripuarian dialects are also spoken in Belgium .

In the overseas parts of the empire (in the Caribbean) Dutch is the official language, alongside either Papiamento or English . A branch of Dutch, which is now a standard language of its own , is Afrikaans in South Africa and Namibia.


Traditional religious relationships before the church was removed from the Church (status 1849)

The Dutch population is now considered to be one of the least religiously or church-bound in Europe. In 2018, the percentage of sectarian Dutch citizens over the age of 18 fell to 48%, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). At the same time, the number of people with no religious affiliation rose to 52% for the first time. Half of the Dutch who are currently members of a religious community are distributed among the different religions as follows: 23% Roman Catholic, 15% Protestant, and another 10% belong to other religions such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism.

There are clear geographical differences in terms of distribution. While in the urbanized west (e.g. Noord-Holland 67%, Zuid-Holland 52%) and the north (e.g. Groningen 68%, Drenthe 62%) there are mostly non-denominational people, the south has the highest proportion of Catholics. The number of regular churchgoers also shows significant differences. While only a sixth of the national average attend church services on a regular basis, the number in the Protestant Bible belt that stretches across the Netherlands is significantly higher.

According to a study published by Radboud University Nijmegen in 2016, no less than 67.8% consider themselves to be religiously unbound in the Netherlands . Only 11.7% see themselves as Catholics, 8.6% as Protestants, 4.2% as otherwise Christian, 5.8% as Muslim, 2% as Hindu or Buddhist. When it comes to belief in the existence of God, skepticism dominates: 24% said they were atheists, 34% described themselves as agnostics, and a further 28% did not believe in gods, but in an undefined supernatural power. Only 14% believed there was one or more gods.

The traditionally largest population group was that of the Protestants (almost 60 percent in 1849). Due to the secession of the church, however, it was outnumbered by non-denominational people and also by Catholics (around 38 percent in 1849) in the course of the 20th century. Protestants are in the Netherlands predominantly Calvinists , after especially in Geneva acting French reformer in the 16th century, John Calvin . The Low German Reformed Church (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk), which was founded in Emden in 1571 , is considered the “early church” of the Reformed in the Netherlands. Today, Calvinism is institutionally united with the Lutherans in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands ( Uniate Church ).

In the 19th century, two different Calvinist tendencies emerged in the Netherlands, the more moderate and numerically stronger ones and the strictly religious reformers . Both words mean “reformed” and were originally used indiscriminately. In German, the difference cannot be reproduced, which is why the Reformeerden sometimes reads “old reformed ” (although from an organizational point of view it is the more recent direction, a split from the Nederlands herrormde kerk ) or “strictly reformed” or “strictly Calvinistic”.

Since a reorganization in 2004 there is the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, which is supposed to unite both directions. However, some of the strict believers have remained independent, such as the “liberated” Reformed , the second largest Protestant church association.

Smaller Christian churches each have less than one percent of the total population as members. These include various Protestant free churches such as the “liberated” Reformed or Baptists and Mennonites ( Doopsgezinde ). During the Reformation , the Netherlands was one of the centers of the Anabaptist movement (see Menno Simons ). There is also the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, which was built in the 18th century and has the seat of the Archbishop in Utrecht , from which the Old Catholic Churches that arose after the First Vatican Council descended.

The north and west of the country were traditionally Protestant, while in the south and east the Catholics made up the majority of the population, and some still do. In the middle of the country there is a so-called Bible belt ( Bijbelgordel ) with an increased proportion of reforming earth . Catholics still (as of 2018) make up the majority of the population in some areas south of this biblical belt, for example 54.7% in Limburg (612,000 Catholics out of a total population of Limburg in 2018). North and west of the Bible Belt, the non-denominational people are clearly in the majority. There is no church tax in the Netherlands.

The king is of the Reformed denomination (to become prominent) . Because of the synodal organization of Calvinist churches, however, the monarch does not have a formal leadership role in the Dutch Reformed Church , as was previously to be found with Lutheran rulers in Germany and Scandinavia.

Bless you

In 2016, the Netherlands maintained its first place at the top of the annual Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI), which compares health systems in Europe, scoring 916 out of a maximum of 1,000 points. The Netherlands is among the top three countries in each of the reports published since 2005. For 48 indicators such as patient rights, information, accessibility, prevention and outcomes, the Netherlands achieved its top position among 37 European countries for the sixth time in a row. The Netherlands ranked first in a 2009 study comparing health systems in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand. The health system is quite effective compared to other western countries, but not the cheapest.

Since a major reform of the health system in 2006, the Dutch system has received more points in the index every year. According to the HCP (Health Consumer Powerhouse) there is a “ chaos system” in the Netherlands , which means that patients are largely free to choose where to take out their health insurance and where to get their medical care. The difference between the Netherlands and other countries is that the chaos is managed.

The health insurance in the Netherlands is mandatory. The healthcare system in the Netherlands is subject to two types of statutory insurance:

  • Zorgverzekeringswet (ZVW), often referred to as “basic insurance”, covers the usual medical care .
  • Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten (AWBZ) covers long-term care and maintenance (since 2015 Wet Langdurige Zorg , WLZ).

While Dutch residents are automatically insured by the government for the AWBZ, everyone must take out their own basic insurance (Basisverzekering), with the exception of those under the age of 18 who are automatically covered by their parents' premium. Those who do not take out insurance risk a fine. Insurers must offer a universal package for everyone over the age of 18, regardless of age or state of health. It is forbidden to refuse an application or to impose special conditions. Unlike many other European systems, the Dutch government is responsible for the accessibility and quality of the health system in the Netherlands, but not for its management.

Health care in the Netherlands can be divided in several ways: into three levels, into somatic and mental health care and into health care (short-term) and long-term care (long-term).

The health care system in the Netherlands is financed by a dual system that came into force in January 2006. Long-term treatments, especially those that require semi-permanent hospitalization, as well as disability costs, are subject to mandatory state-controlled insurance. This is laid down in the Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten ("General Law on Exceptional Healthcare Expenses"), which first came into force in 1968. In 2009 this insurance covered 27% of all health care costs. On January 1, 2015, the AWBZ was replaced by the Law on Long-Term Care (the Wet Langdurige Zorg , WLZ).

For all regular (short-term) medical treatments, there is compulsory health insurance with private health insurers . These insurance companies are obliged to provide a package with a certain number of insured treatments. This insurance covers 41% of all health care expenses.

Other sources of health care are taxes (14%), own expenses (9%), additional optional health insurance packages (4%) and a number of other sources (4%). The financing is secured by a system of income-related allowances and of individual and paid by the employer income-related premiums.

In 2014 there were around 3.35 doctors for every 1000 inhabitants in the Netherlands . The average life expectancy is almost a year higher than that of Germany. In 2016, 20.4% of the population were severely overweight , which is below the European average.

Development of life expectancy
period Life expectancy
in years
period Life expectancy
in years
1950-1955 71.9 1985-1990 76.7
1955-1960 72.9 1990-1995 77.3
1960-1965 73.5 1995-2000 77.9
1965-1970 73.6 2000-2005 78.7
1970-1975 74.1 2005-2010 80.2
1975-1980 75.2 2010-2015 81.3
1980-1985 76.1

Source: UN


In the Netherlands, compulsory schooling is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. In practice, however, after lengthy proceedings , the courts more often exempt individual parents from compulsory schooling for their children in order to enable home schooling or unschooling instead .

A major difference to the school system in Germany is that everyone in the Netherlands is free to set up their own schools - albeit financed by the state - based on their religion or on the basis of certain pedagogical principles. It is therefore not surprising that two thirds of all students in the Netherlands attend a private school. Most schools are either “openbaar” (“public”), Catholic or Protestant, although the Netherlands is one of the most denominationalized countries in the world. The “non-public” schools are usually run by foundations.

The schools are free to choose the teaching methods. The contents are, however, formulated in state guidelines and are binding for all schools. Nationwide, state tests are used to regularly check whether the students meet the performance requirements specified therein. This also applies to schools attended by minorities. Since the mid-1980s, parents have been able to send their children to Islamic or Hindu primary schools, for example.

Parents can also choose whether to send their children to a category school where only one type of school applies, or to opt for a school community. This houses several types of schools. The Dutch schools are generally not comprehensive schools , at most “cooperative comprehensive schools” with several types of school under one roof. Since the end of the 1990s, many schools have merged with one another for financial reasons, as this saves director positions.

The Dutch elementary schools ( basisschool ) comprise eight classes, which are referred to here as groepen (groups). Group 1 denotes the four-year-olds and group 8 usually the twelve-year-olds. These groups include both the pre-school sector (kindergarten) and the secondary school. Lessons from 4 to 5 years of age (groups 1–2 ) can be compared in terms of content with kindergarten pedagogy in Germany. However, here it is usually more integrated into the primary school curriculum. From group 3 onwards , the children start learning to read, write and do arithmetic. English lessons begin in the last two base years; other foreign languages ​​are only offered in school trials.

In the last year of primary school, they take a central examination . With the arrival of the 8th school year, a preliminary examination ( entreetoets ) takes place, with the result of which a preparation for the actual test ( eintoets ) is possible. Unlike in Germany, where the choice of a secondary school is based only on the opinion of a primary school teacher, in the Netherlands a binding assessment is made based on the examination results and an opinion by the primary school, prepared by the class teachers of the last school years and a non-teaching companion Recommendation made, which can only be deviated from in justified exceptions. Registration for secondary school also takes place in the primary school, which forwards the recommendation and test results directly to the secondary school.

After elementary school, there is a secondary school for students between the ages of 12 and 18. The secondary education can be completed in the following facilities:

  • Institutions of "pre-university education" (vwo)
  • General secondary education institutions (havo) and
  • Institutions for secondary vocational education (vmbo).

The first year of secondary schools of all three forms is the so-called transition class ("brugklas"). Above all, it serves to orient the pupil on his future school career.

According to the Times Higher Education Ranking 2018/19 , the best universities in the Netherlands are Delft University of Technology (58th place worldwide), Wageningen University (59th place), Amsterdam University (62nd place), Leiden University (68th place) and the Erasmus University in Rotterdam (70th place).

In the 2018 PISA ranking, Dutch students rank 7th out of 77 countries in mathematics, 12th in science and 24th in reading comprehension, which is above the average for the OECD countries .


History of the Benelux countries
Franconian Empire
Middle Kingdom (Lotharii Regnum)
various noble possessions
Wapen Prinsbisdom Luik.png
Hochstift Liège

Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Burgundy)


Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Habsburg)

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
Spanish Netherlands
Republic of the Seven United Provinces
1579 / 1581–1795
Spanish Netherlands
Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg
Austrian Netherlands
Flag of the navy of the Batavian Republic.svg
Batavian Republic
Flag of France.svg
France ( First Republic )
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of Holland
Flag of France.svg
French Empire (First Empire)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)

Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House of Orange-Nassau)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)
from 1830
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium
(House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
from 1830
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House Nassau-Weilburg)
from 1890

Middle Ages and early modern times

Adriaen Thomasz Key, Wilhelm von Nassau-Dillenburg , Prince of Orange , founder of the Netherlands, around 1575

After the division of the Franconian Empire , the lower lands belonged to the East Franconian Kingdom (Regnum Teutonicum) and then to the Holy Roman Empire . Under Emperor Charles V , who was also King of Spain , the country was divided into seventeen provinces and also included what is now Belgium (with the exception of the bishopric of Liège ) and parts of northern France and western Germany. From 1566 onwards, under Charles' successor, Philip II , there were a series of uprisings. These had religious, political and economic causes. Philip II sent the Duke of Alba to the Netherlands and tried to suppress the uprising. But this tough policy had the opposite effect: in 1572 almost all cities in the province of Holland sided with William of Orange , who led the resistance against Alba. In the next few years the other Dutch provinces also joined this uprising.

William of Orange's ideal of a peaceful coexistence of denominations quickly collapsed because of realities. The rift between Catholics loyal to Spain and radical Calvinists was too deep and led the Calvinist provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht to form a defensive alliance in 1579, the Union of Utrecht . This treaty became the charter of a new state, the Republic of the United Netherlands . In 1581 the States General  - the general assembly of estates - took the last step and declared their independence from the Spanish crown. In this act of abjuration, a king enthroned by God was declared deposed for the first time in history. Only after an eighty year war was the independence of the Netherlands from Spain recognized in the Peace of Westphalia on May 15, 1648. This date is considered the birthday of today's Netherlands, which separated from the Reich at the same time as Switzerland . The southern Netherlands - today's Belgium - remained with Spain, so that the Netherlands was divided from then on.

Golden age

Flag of the Netherlands during the Golden Age

As a result, the Netherlands grew as the Republic of the Seven United Provinces to become the greatest trading and economic power of the 17th century. This era is known as the Golden Age . During this time trading posts were set up all over the world. However, this did not come from the state, but from the first two public companies in history, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC) .

Well known is the establishment of New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam), which was later renamed New York . In Asia, the Dutch created their colonial empire, the Netherlands Indies (Nederlands-Indië) , today's Indonesia , which became independent in December 1949. The Netherlands also gained colonies in northeastern South America . Suriname gained independence in 1975. In the Netherlands, only a few islands remained in the Caribbean. A dark chapter of the Golden Age was the slave trade , in which the Dutch were heavily involved.

In Europe, the Netherlands was a great power in the 17th century, led by bourgeois politicians like Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and Johan de Witt . At the height of their power they asserted themselves against England in the Anglo-Dutch War in 1667 and even halted the expansion of the French Sun King Louis XIV . Domestic politics was characterized by a constant process of coordination between the assemblies of the individual provinces. “This was a major difference to almost all other European countries, in which power was strongly centralized and concentrated in the hands of a monarch,” says historian and Netherlands expert Christoph Driessen . This is where the “early democratization of the Netherlands” originated.

The expansion of the small country went hand in hand with a cultural heyday that produced painters like Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer , philosophers like Baruch de Spinoza and scientists like Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and Christiaan Huygens .

Further naval wars with England for supremacy in the 17th and 18th centuries. Century shaped the fight at sea.

Napoleonic period and 19th century

1795 with French support the Batavian Republic founded (named after the Germanic tribe of the Batavians , who had inhabited the area between the Rhine and Maas first); In 1806, the French Emperor Napoleon I made it the Kingdom of Holland. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte , a brother of the emperor , became king .

Emperor Napoleon L. was not satisfied with the way his brother ran the new kingdom. In July 1810 he therefore dissolved the Kingdom of Holland. The Netherlands was annexed to Napoleonic France .

The Netherlands regained their independence in 1813. William I of the House of Orange-Nassau became sovereign prince of the Netherlands; In 1815 he became king. The Congress of Vienna added the southern Netherlands, now Belgium , to the kingdom in 1815 . It was intended that France would in future be bounded by a strong state in the north . The constitution of the Netherlands that was adopted at the time is still in force today, albeit with numerous changes. The most important, from 1848, introduced ministerial responsibility and paved the way for the parliamentary system.

The Congress of Vienna also elevated the Duchy of Luxembourg to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and awarded Luxembourg to William I personally as compensation for the loss of his territories in Germany ( Nassau-Dillenburg , Siegen , Hadamar and Diez ). The southern Netherlands gained independence after the Belgian Revolution of 1830 , although this was not recognized by William I until 1839.

The Dutch king had also been Grand Duke of Luxembourg since 1815 , where the Lex Salica did not allow a female head of state. When Wilhelm III. left only one daughter (Queen Wilhelmina ) on his death in 1890 - his sons had died - the Luxembourg throne passed to a different line of succession in the Nassau family and Wilhelm's cousin Adolf von Nassau took over the government there.

20th century

The Netherlands remained officially neutral during World War I and could also stay out of the war. However, they kept their troops mobilized until the end of the war and, moreover, had to deal with a large wave of refugees from Germany-occupied Belgium. After the First World War, the Netherlands granted exile to the previous German Kaiser Wilhelm II .

Rotterdam after the German air raid, May 1940

When the Second World War broke out , the Dutch government initially tried to keep the country out of the war. However, Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy Belgium and the Netherlands . so that Germany had well-located air bases for air raids on Great Britain after the victory, which was considered likely. After five days of fighting, the German troops forced the Netherlands to surrender on the evening of May 14, 1940. The main reason for this was the bombing of Rotterdam . The royal family had fled to England beforehand. The Netherlands was held by the Wehrmacht from then until April 1945. The National Socialist Movement (NSB) under Anton Adriaan Mussert worked together with the German occupation forces, but did not gain any relevant influence in the population or in the occupation regime. The Netherlands had the largest contingent of foreign volunteers in the Waffen SS ; serious estimates range from around 25,000 to 40,000 Dutch who joined the SS during the course of the war.

After the invasion there was persecution of the Jews by the German occupiers . The February strike against the deportations in 1941 was brutally suppressed. Of the 160,000 Jewish Dutch and 20,000 Jewish refugees at the beginning of the war, only about 30,000 were still alive at the end of the war. The fall of Anne Frank is a symbol of the persecution of the Jews . Roma and Sinti (Manoesje) from the Netherlands also fell victim to deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau . The southern part of the Netherlands was liberated from the advancing Allies in the second half of 1944; the north of the country only at the end of the war.

Dutch military column during the first “police operation” in the Dutch East Indies, summer 1947

On January 11, 1942, the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies began . The Dutch surrendered on March 1, 1942. Immediately after the Japanese surrender, the Indonesian nationalists proclaimed independence on August 17, 1945 . Only after military clashes, "police actions" called, was Indonesia formally granted independence on 27 December 1949th Until 1954 there was still a loose Dutch-Indonesian union . The western part of the island of New Guinea remained with the Netherlands until 1962 .

From 1949 to 1963, as part of the Dutch annexation plans after the Second World War, West German municipalities from the district of Geilenkirchen-Heinsberg ( Selfkant ) and the municipality of Elten (near Emmerich ) were placed under Dutch administration. Efforts by the Dutch government to incorporate parts of Lower Saxony as well as the western Münster and Rhineland into the Netherlands ( Bakker-Schut Plan ) were not successful.

The experience of the occupation brought about a reorientation of Dutch foreign policy. Since the policy of neutrality had failed, the Netherlands joined NATO and in 1952 founded the European Coal and Steel Community (and with it the later European Union ) together with Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy . However, they aimed at an economic community and not a political union. On the one hand, they feared that they would not be able to have a decisive say in the politics of such a large group of states as a small country; on the other hand, they viewed an EU dominated by France and Germany as a potential threat to their close relationship with the United States. Traditionally, the Netherlands is oriented towards the Atlantic rather than the continent. The Netherlands was also a founding member of the Benelux Economic Union (planned since 1944, established on February 3, 1958, and entered into force on November 1, 1960).

The first decades of the post-war period were marked by an economic miracle similar to that in Germany. National income was already higher in 1950 than before the Second World War. At that time, the Netherlands was one of the ten largest economic powers in the world with international corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell , Unilever and Philips . This made it possible to build a generous welfare state.

Protests against the NATO double resolution in The Hague in October 1983

In terms of social policy, the 1960s in particular marked a deep turning point. The " pillar ", ie the strict separation of the social milieus of Protestants, Catholics, liberals and socialists, began to dissolve. The number of members and the influence of the churches dwindled. While this upheaval was accompanied by severe social upheavals in countries like Germany and France, it took place almost silently in the Netherlands. There was no student unrest - as early as 1970, the parliament in The Hague passed a higher education law that gave student representatives extensive rights of co-determination. From 1973 to 1977, the cabinet of the Social Democratic Prime Minister Joop den Uyl chose the motto “The imagination for power”. “The way in which the representatives of the authorities dealt with these cultural changes demands respect,” says historian James C. Kennedy. The country, which was previously characterized by strict Calvinism, has now become a pioneer of liberalism and social pluralism. The Netherlands was one of the first countries to tolerate the consumption of small amounts of “soft drugs” such as hashish. The relationship between government and opposition, but also between employers and employees, was shaped by a culture of consensus, which is referred to by the term polder model . At the end of the 1990s, this model was considered the Dutch variant of the Third Way propagated by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair . In 1993 the Süddeutsche Zeitung described the Netherlands as "the most progressive country in Europe".

21st century

Signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007

In spite of all the economic successes, at the beginning of the 21st century there was an "underground stream of discontent" ( Christoph Driessen ) perceptible in Dutch society . The extent of the discontent became apparent at the end of 2001 under the impression of the terrorist attacks on September 11th with the success of the right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn . Fortuyn was shot dead by a fanatical animal rights activist on May 6, 2002, nine days before the general election. Two years later, the Netherlands was rocked by another murder: on November 2, 2004, a 26-year-old Amsterdam native of Moroccan origin shot and killed the anti-Islamic director Theo van Gogh . The murders led to heated debates about the self-image of Dutch society. Overall, the 21st century brought the country a shift to the right , because the issues of Fortuyn and his right-wing populist successor Geert Wilders were also taken up by other parties.

Same-sex marriages have been possible in the Netherlands since April 2001. This made the Netherlands the first country in the world to go beyond the status of a “ registered partnership ” and set up a legal framework for homosexual relationships.

In a referendum on June 1, 2005, the Dutch rejected the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe with a large majority of 61.6% .


Constitution and Politics

Acting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ( VVD )

The Netherlands is a parliamentary monarchy. According to the constitution , the head of state is the king, currently King Willem-Alexander . He officially appoints the Prime Minister and the Ministers, together they form the government.

The Parliament, the States General (Staten-Generaal) , consists of two chambers. The first is elected by lists by the members of the provincial parliaments, the second by the Dutch citizens. This makes the second chamber (Tweede Kamer) the more important; it corresponds to the German Bundestag or the National Council in Austria and Switzerland. The parliament does not formally determine the composition of the government, but in fact the king appoints the ministers after consulting the parliamentary groups.

The four largest parliamentary groups in the Second Chamber are the right-wing liberal VVD, the right-wing populist PVV, the Christian Democratic CDA and the left-wing liberal D66. The Christian Democrats had become the strongest force in parliament in 2006 and, from 2002 to 2010, appointed Jan Peter Balkenende as prime minister. In the June 2010 election , this party lost its leadership role due to heavy losses. After almost four months of coalition talks , the VVD and CDA agreed on the formation of a minority government supported by the PVV. The right-wing populist Geert Wilders and his party PVV gained influence over the Dutch government without being a member of it. The VVD parliamentary group leader Mark Rutte became the new Prime Minister on October 14, 2010. On April 23, 2012, he and his cabinet resigned after failed negotiations on austerity plans. A new parliament was elected on September 12, 2012 . Mark Rutte, whose VVD emerged again as the strongest force in this election, was again Prime Minister , his coalition partner was the PvdA. In the parliamentary elections on March 15, 2017 , the PvdA lost massively. After lengthy negotiations, another coalition government led by Mark Rutte, consisting of VVD, CDA, D66 and the Protestant ChristenUnie, took office on October 26, 2017 .

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 22.9 out of 120 167 of 178 Stability of the country: sustainable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 8.96 out of 10 9 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World 98 of 100 --- Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 9.67 out of 100 6 of 180 Good situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 82 out of 100 8 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020


The Netherlands does not have a comprehensive legal regulation on parties, as there is in Germany with the Political Parties Act . A law specifically for parties has only been passed since 1997 with the law on subsidizing political parties. It defines a party as a political association that has been included in the register kept by the electoral council for election to the Second Chamber. A party with fewer than 1000 members does not receive any state subsidy, however, it is not obliged to disclose the origin of its funds, such as donations. The state subsidy is such that one party receives a certain amount per member. This amount is higher in election years.

In a Dutch party, the party leader is responsible for the functioning of the party apparatus and is comparatively less prominent. The political leader (or party leader, politieke unfortunately or partijleider ) is elected separately and is the top candidate in elections, i.e. lijsttrekker .

The plenary hall of the Tweede Kamer in The Hague

In the 2021 election , members of the following parties came to the Second Chamber:

There is also the Onafhankelijke Senaatsfractie (OSF) in the First Chamber : It is a single MP who mainly represents smaller groups that only work at the provincial level. The PVV is not a party in the sense of the German member parties, as it has only one member, namely Geert Wilders .


The Dutch legal system is based on the French Civil Code, influenced by Roman law and traditional Dutch customary law.

The Netherlands apply civil law . Its laws are in writing and the application of common law is exceptional. The role of jurisprudence is theoretically small, although in practice in many areas it is impossible to understand the law without considering the relevant jurisprudence.


Politie patrol car in Rotterdam

The police, which is centrally organized in the European part of the country ( Nationale Politie ), has around 63,000 employees and, since a reform in 2013, has been divided into a national unit, a police service center and ten regional police districts.

For the Caribbean part of the Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba) there is an independent police corps, the Korps Politie Caribisch Nederland .

The Koninklijke Marechaussee with around 6,800 employees is organizationally part of the Dutch armed forces . It has tasks such as border protection , guarding the airports and personal protection for the royal family.


The Dutch Armed Forces are formally an institution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , not the country of the Netherlands. However, since the government of the Netherlands has the supreme command of the armed forces according to the constitution , they are in fact attributed to the Netherlands. General conscription was suspended indefinitely in 1996. The Netherlands now has a professional army . The armed forces comprise 53,130 people in total, of which the army 23,150, the Air Force 11,050 and the Navy 12,130 soldiers . There is also the Koninklijke Marechaussee , which has been an independent part of the armed forces since 1998. The military expenditure in 2017 amounted to 1.2% of GDP (compared to Germany 1.2% United States 3.1%) or almost 10 billion US dollars. The Dutch Army (Koninklijke Landmacht) is also linked to the German Federal Armed Forces through the 1st German-Dutch Corps .


Peace Palace in The Hague, seat of the International Court of Justice

The country stimulated the introduction of the euro in 1999 ( Maastricht Treaty ) as the currency unit of the EU . Since January 1, 2002, the euro has been the official currency unit that replaced the Dutch guilder .

The following international institutions, among others, have their headquarters in the Netherlands:

Provinces and municipalities

Bonaire Sint Eustatius Saba Karibisches Meer Karibisches Meer Zeeland Südholland Baarle (zu Belgien) Nordbrabant Groningen Bundesrepublik Deutschland Limburg Friesland Flevoland Drente Nordholland IJsselmeer Utrecht Overijssel Gelderland Frankreich Belgien Nordsee
Administrative division of the Netherlands into twelve provinces in Europe and the special municipalities in the Caribbean

The Netherlands is a decentralized unitary state. Below the national level there are the provinces (Dutch provincies ). In 1579 there were initially seven provinces. Later the so-called Generalitätslande (Dutch Generaliteitslanden ) were added as the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg. Drenthe also became a province of its own, and the dominant province of Holland was split into Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland in 1840. It was not until 1986 that Flevoland was founded as the youngest province, so there are now twelve.

There have been repeated plans to change the provincial division, all of which have been abandoned. Most recently, a reform proposed by then Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk was put on hold in 2014 .

The provinces, in turn, are divided into 355 municipalities ( gemeenten ; as of January 1, 2019). There is no division into counties below the provincial level. The 355 parishes each belong to one of the twelve provinces. There are also the waterschappen , which deal with dike protection and water management .

The provinces each have a parliament ( Provinciale Staten ) and a government ( Gedeputeerde Staten ) . The college consists of the King's Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koning) and deputies elected by the Provincial Parliament. Similarly, in the municipalities there is a local council and a magistrate ( College van burgemeester en wethouders ) , which consists of the mayor and assessors ( wethouders ) elected by the council .

The king's commissioners and mayors are appointed by royal resolution by the government, generally on the proposal of the states or the municipal council. In the case of the provinces and large cities, the distribution of political power in the national parliament is taken into account. Many mayors pursue mayorical careers in which they serve in different parishes in turn (for a period of six years, which can be renewed). A mayor is therefore not the elected representative of the municipal council or the local population. For years there have been discussions about introducing an elected mayor. A prerequisite for this was created in 2018 through a constitutional amendment that removed the king's appointment of the mayor from the constitution.

Caribbean areas

The Quill rises above St. Eustatius.

As of 1986, the Kingdom of the Netherlands consisted of three countries: the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Aruba, which previously belonged to the Netherlands Antilles, was given the status of a single country in 1986. With the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, the Caribbean islands received a new division on October 10, 2010:



The Netherlands are part of the European single market . Together with 18 other EU member states (blue) they form a monetary union, the euro zone .

The Netherlands has a well-functioning, rather liberal economic system. Since the 1980s, the government has largely scaled back its economic interventions. With the consent of trade unions, employers and the state, wages were reduced in the country. Long before its European neighbors, the country ensured a balanced national budget and successfully fought stagnation in the labor market .

The unemployment rate was 3.9% in June 2018, well below the EU average. In 2017, youth unemployment was 8.8%. In 2015, 1.2% of all workers worked in agriculture, 17.2% in industry and 81.6% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 7.67 million for 2017; 46.1% of them are women.

In the manufacturing sector, food ( Unilever , Heineken ), the chemical industry ( AkzoNobel , DSM), petroleum refineries ( Shell ) and the manufacture of electrical appliances ( Philips , TomTom , Océ ) and trucks ( DAF ) dominate. Services are extremely important. The major financial service providers ( ING , Fortis , AEGON ), the world ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam Airport) are among the five largest service providers in Europe.

The high-tech agriculture is extraordinarily productive : in addition to the cultivation of cereals , vegetables , fruits and cut flowers  - the cultivation of tulips even influenced the history of the country - there is still dairy farming on a large scale. The latter provides the basis for cheese as an important export product. Dutch agriculture employs just over 1% of the workforce, but it makes a significant contribution to exports. The Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products after the USA .

With over 15.8 million tourists, the Netherlands was the 21st most visited country in the world in 2016. Tourism revenue was $ 14 billion that same year. The most important tourist destination in the Netherlands is the city of Amsterdam. There are a total of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country .

As a co-founder of the euro zone, the previous currency, the guilder , was supplemented by the euro for banking transactions in the Netherlands on January 1, 1999 . Three years later, on January 1, 2002, the euro coins and banknotes replaced the guilder as a means of payment for consumers.

In comparison with the gross domestic product of the European Union, expressed in purchasing power standards, the Netherlands achieved an index of 129 (EU-28: 100) in 2015. The Netherlands has concluded several double taxation agreements with Germany.

According to a study by Bank Credit Suisse from 2017, the Netherlands ranked 15th in the world in terms of total national assets . The total holdings of real estate, stocks, and cash by the Dutch totaled $ 2,692 billion. The wealth per adult is $ 204,045 on average and $ 94,373 in median (in Germany: 203,946 and 47,091 dollars, respectively). The Gini coefficient for wealth distribution was 74.3 in 2016, which indicates a medium wealth inequality.

The country's gross domestic product amounted to 702.6 billion euros in 2016. The gross domestic product per capita was 39,217 euros in the same year. After the financial crisis in 2007 and the associated decline in economic output, the economy is now growing again. In 2016 the economy grew by 2.2%, which means the Dutch economy grew for the third time in a row.

The Netherlands has one of the most competitive export economies in the world. Despite its relatively small population, it was the fifth largest exporter of goods and services worldwide in 2016. The Netherlands is one of the countries in the world that is most strongly integrated into world trade. The largest trading partner in 2016 was Germany.

In the Global Competitiveness Index, the Netherlands ranks fourth out of 137 countries (as of 2017/18). In 2017, the country ranks 15th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

GDP by province 2018
rank province GDP in € million GDP / capita, PPS ,
(EU27 = 100)
GDP / capita in €
01 North Holland North Holland 00.166.941 170 58,700
02 Utrecht Utrecht 00.071,522 159 55,000
03 North Brabant North Brabant 00.116.090 132 45,800
- NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 00.774.039 130 44,900
04th South Holland South Holland 00.163,805 128 44,300
05 Groningen Groningen 00.024,963 124 42,800
06th Limburg Limburg 00.044.503 115 39,800
07th Gelderland Gelderland 00.078,265 110 37,900
08th OverijsselOverijssel Overijssel 00.043,219 108 37,500
09 Zeeland Zeeland 00.013,579 102 35,500
- EuropeEurope EU-27 13,483,857 100 30,200
10 Flevoland Flevoland 00.014,010 098 33,800
11 Drenthe Drenthe 00.015,090 089 30,700
11 Fryslân Fryslân 00.019,837 089 30,700
The Kurhaus on the beach in Scheveningen

Natural resources

The Netherlands has natural gas storage facilities from which large-scale production is carried out. The most important gas field is in the province of Groningen . Funding is also provided in the North Sea . In 1996 the Dutch natural gas production amounted to 75.8 billion m³ (according to BP ) and was in fifth place in the country comparison, after Russia (561.1 billion m³), ​​the USA (546.9 billion m³), Canada (153.0 billion m³) . m³) and Great Britain (84.6 billion m³). The production is declining and in 2016 amounted to 48.7 billion m³. Due to earthquakes triggered by natural gas production, which caused damage to buildings, production in the Groningen gas field is to be reduced to around 12 billion m³ per year by 2022 and discontinued by 2030.

There are also smaller oil reserves in the sea and in the provinces of Drenthe and Zuid-Holland , as well as larger salt deposits near Delfzijl and Hengelo . The coal mining in southern Limburg in the vicinity of Heerlen ( mining area "Oostelijke Mijnstreek") was discontinued in 1974 for economic reasons. Apart from peat (including in the Bourtanger Moor ), the Netherlands has no other mineral resources worth mentioning .

Key figures

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real Eurostat

year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
in% yoy
3.5 3.7 1.7 −3.8 1.7 1.4 −1.1 −0.2 1.4 2.3 2.2 2.9

Development of GDP (nominal), Eurostat

absolute (in billions of euros) per inhabitant (in thousands of euros)
year 2014 2015 2016 year 2015 2016 2017
GDP in billions of euros 690 708 737 GDP per inhabitant
(in € thousand)
40.4 41.3 43.0

Foreign Trade Development (GTAI)

in billion US dollars and its year-on-year change as a percentage
2014 2015 2016
Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % yoy Billion USD % year-on-year
import 382.4 −1.0 383.2 +0.2 380.6 −0.7
export 433.4 +0.1 427.3 −1.4 432.3 +1.2
balance +51.0 +44.1 +51.7

Main trading partner of the Netherlands (2016), source: GTAI

Export (in percent) to Import (in percent) of
GermanyGermany Germany 24.4 GermanyGermany Germany 15.4
BelgiumBelgium Belgium 10.8 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 14.2
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 09.5 BelgiumBelgium Belgium 08.4
FranceFrance France 08.9 United StatesUnited States United States 08.0
ItalyItaly Italy 04.3 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 05.3
United StatesUnited States United States 03.6 RussiaRussia Russia 04.1
SpainSpain Spain 03.2 FranceFrance France 03.5
United NationsU.N. other states 35.3 United NationsU.N. other states 41.1

Government spending

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures of the equivalent of 333.5 billion US dollars , compared to income of 322.0 billion US dollars; this resulted in a budget deficit of 1.4% of gross domestic product .
The national debt in 2016 was 482 billion US dollars or 62.6% of the gross domestic product.

Shares of government spending in selected areas in the gross domestic product:


Centraal Station , Amsterdam
Satellite photo of the port of Rotterdam

The Netherlands has a well-developed road network with a total length of 116,500 kilometers. With a total length of 2,808 kilometers, the rail network is the most heavily traveled in Europe. In 2018, the country ranked sixth out of 160 countries in the Logistics Performance Index , which is compiled by the World Bank . The parameters for infrastructure and the logistical time required did particularly well. The main transport company is the Dutch railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS for short . Of the total transport volume in the Netherlands, around 44% is carried by road and 30.5% by rail. The Dutch often use bridges type Dutch Bridge with its high suspended counterweight. But also some push bridges , swing bridges and lifting bridges are still in operation and used when crossing canals and canals .

The rivers Rhine , Maas and Scheldt , which flow from other European countries through the Netherlands into the North Sea, make the Netherlands a hub for European inland navigation . The port of Rotterdam was the largest port in the world for decades. However, he lost this position in 2004 to the port of Shanghai . However, the port of Rotterdam remains the largest port in Europe. Other important port cities within the Netherlands are Amsterdam , Eemshaven , Vlissingen / Terneuzen .

The Netherlands has two international airports: Schiphol and Rotterdam-The Hague . Schiphol, the largest airport in the Netherlands, also plays an important international role. It is one of the largest airports in Europe and, in terms of the number of passengers, is the 13th largest airport in the world .

In the Netherlands, three cities have a metro system, namely Rotterdam , The Hague and Amsterdam . All trams in the Netherlands, for example in Amsterdam , The Hague-Zoetermeer (Zoetermeer: RandstadRail ) or Rotterdam , use the standard gauge. City buses are officially allowed to use the track structure with a road-like surface so as not to get stuck in traffic.

The bicycle (fiets) is widespread in the Netherlands . Cyclists often have their own traffic lanes or a separate cycle path network. With an average of 37 road deaths per million inhabitants in 2017, traffic in the Netherlands is one of the safest in the EU. Germany also has an average of 37 traffic fatalities per one million inhabitants (as of 2017). North Rhine-Westphalia, which is comparable to the Netherlands in terms of population as well as population density, has an average of 25 road deaths per million inhabitants.



Krentenbollen with butter
Kaas market in Gouda

Originally, Dutch cuisine is not very different from German, in which potatoes, vegetables and sausages also play a major role (for example in the stamppot ). The best known are frieten or patat , Dutch. for french fries, with different sauces, the most famous combination of mayonnaise and peanut sauce (with onions), the patatje oorlog . Other specialties are Goudse kaas ( Gouda cheese ) and Hollandse Nieuwe ; these young herring is young, sexually immature herring. Due to the past of the Netherlands as a sea power, culinary influences from the former colonies came into the country, for example the nasibal or bamibal . These are nasi goreng or bami goreng in meatball form. Are known beyond the country's borders, the Dutch pudding custard and Bratrollen that frikandel be named, as well as the fried fish bite Kibbeling whose preparation the of chicken nuggets similar.

public holidays

In the Netherlands, Koningsdag is celebrated as a national holiday. In contrast to almost all other European countries, May 1st is not a public holiday . The end of the Second World War is remembered on May 5th (not May 8th), as the German Wehrmacht surrendered separately in the Netherlands. Whether employees have a day off on a Dutch public holiday is not determined by the legislature, but by collective and employment agreements.

date Surname German name Remarks
January 1st Nieuwjaar (sdag) New Year
Friday before Easter Goede Vrijdag Good Friday a day off for some
First Sunday and Monday after the spring full moon Phases Easter Easter Sunday and Easter Monday
April 26th or 27th (from 2014) Koningsdag Day of the king Birthday of King Willem-Alexander ; the actual Koningsdag is on April 27; If this day falls on a Sunday, it will be postponed to the previous day (e.g. 2014)
May 4th National Doden Herdenking Memorial of the dead Remembrance day for the dead of wars (no day off; two minutes of silence at 8 p.m.)
5th of May Bevrijdingsdag Liberation Day Commemoration on the occasion of the liberation from German occupation in World War II (no day off)
39 days after Easter Sunday Hemelvaartsdag Ascension of Christ
49 and 50 days after Easter Sunday Pinksteren Pentecost Whit Sunday and Whit Monday
December 5th Sinterklaasavond or Pakjesavond Nicholas Eve instead of Christmas the day on which children are given presents (no day off)
December 25th and 26th Kerstmis Christmas 1st and 2nd Christmas Day
December 31 Oudjaar, Oudejaarsdag or Oud en Nieuw (old and new) New Year's Eve (no day off)


The Concertgebouw , a famous concert hall in Amsterdam.

The Dutch School was an outstanding current of the Renaissance , but it was largely supported by Flemings , Hainauts and French . The organist and composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck exerted a great influence on the baroque North German organ school from Amsterdam in the 16th and 17th centuries. For a long time, Dutch musical life in the field of classical music was not organized at the level of other European countries. Professionalization did not take place until the end of the 19th century and numerous orchestras and chamber ensembles were formed . The best- known violinist and orchestra leader has been André Rieu since 1995 .

Important Dutch composers around 1800 were, for example, the German-born Johann Wilhelm Wilms and Carel Anton Fodor , both of whom were based on the Viennese Classic. In the 19th century, currents influenced by German Romanticism dominated musical life for a long time. represented by Richard Hol . Bernard Zweers was the first to try to develop specifically Dutch national music. He was followed by Julius Röntgen and Alphons Diepenbrock , with whom Dutch music found connection to the international musical development. Important composers in the 20th century are Willem Pijper , Matthijs Vermeulen , Louis Andriessen , Otto Ketting , Ton de Leeuw , Theo Loevendie , Misha Mengelberg , Tristan Keuris and Klaas de Vries ( list of Dutch classical music composers ).

Probably the best known Dutch rock band Golden Earring had their biggest hit with Radar Love in the 1970s . The classic rock bands Ekseption around Rick van der Linden and Focus as well as Shocking Blue with their hit Venus were also world-famous in the 1970s . Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen , who are band members of the American hard rock band Van Halen , were also born in the Netherlands .

Internationally known Dutch musicians include Herman van Veen , Robert Long , Nits , Candy Dulfer , Anouk Teeuwe , Ellen ten Damme and Tiësto . The annual North Sea Jazz Festival in Ahoy Rotterdam (previously The Hague ) is one of the most important jazz events worldwide.

For several years now, nederlandstalige muziek , music in the local language, has been very successful. The nestor of this genre is Peter Koelewijn , who has been singing rock 'n' roll in his mother tongue for 50 years. Later came the songwriter Boudewijn de Groot . At the beginning of the eighties a short-term cult of Dutch pop music emerged, the main representatives of which were Doe Maar , Het Goede Doel and Frank Boeijen . The popularity of this genus declined sharply after 1984, only to recover ten years later, but this time not only for a few years.

The most famous pop / rock bands of the new era are Bløf , the most played band on Dutch radio in recent years, and Acda en de Munnik , a duo known for their cabaret programs. Pop artists such as Marco Borsato , Jan Smit and Frans Bauer achieve even higher record sales . Well-known Dutch rappers are Ali B and Lange Frans . In addition, various types of metal are very popular in the Netherlands. Well-known Dutch metal bands are, for example, Heidevolk , Epica , Within Temptation , Delain , The Gathering or After Forever .

Since the nineties, a new style of music has emerged in the Netherlands, which is enjoying increasing popularity all over Europe and America: Hardcore techno or gabber originated in Rotterdam, trance migrated from Germany to the Netherlands, where it is most popular worldwide. Well-known representatives are Angerfist , Neophyte or DJ Buzz Fuzz . For some years now, the expanded music genres Jumpstyle , Hardstyle and Speedcore have also been very popular.

Many internationally successful DJs also come from the Netherlands. B. Armin van Buuren , Hardwell or Martin Garrix .


In the “ Golden Age ” ( De Gouden Eeuw ) of the 17th century, not only painting but also literature flourished, the most famous representatives being Joost van den Vondel and Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft .

Anne Frank wrote her world-famous diary from 1942 to 1944 while she and her family were in hiding in Amsterdam to avoid arrest or deportation to an extermination camp .

The three most important authors of the second half of the 20th century are Harry Mulisch ( The Assassination , The Discovery of Heaven , both also made into a film), Willem Frederik Hermans ( The Darkroom of Damocles , also made into a film; Never Sleep Again ) and Gerard Reve ( The Evenings, The Fourth Man , both also filmed). Maarten 't Hart , Cees Nooteboom , Jan Wolkers and Hella Haasse are among the more well-known in Germany .


This art form has a very high status in the stage arts in the Netherlands and is highly valued by the population (idioms with “grapje” (little joke) often prevail in Dutch conversation). After the Second World War, the grand masters of this subject were Wim Kan (political cabaret), Wim Sonneveld , Toon Hermans (“de grote drie”) and for decades also in Germany Rudi Carrell .


Van Gogh : Sunflowers
Rijksmuseum , Amsterdam. One of the most renowned art museums in the world

Many world famous painters were Dutch. One of the most famous early artists was Hieronymus Bosch . The heyday of the republic in the 17th century, the so-called Golden Age , produced great artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn , Jan Vermeer , Frans Hals , Carel Fabritius , Gerard Dou , Paulus Potter , Jacob Izaaksoon van Ruisdael and Jan Steen . During the Golden Age , around 700 painters worked in the Netherlands and completed around 70,000 paintings a year. Such an output of paintings is unprecedented in the entire history of art and was not achieved either in the Italian Renaissance or in France at the time of Impressionism . Famous painters of later epochs were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondrian . M. C. Escher and Otto Heinrich Treumann were well-known graphic artists .


The world famous mills of Kinderdijk
View of the Carambeí Historical Park mill and houses in Dutch architecture on the left

Dutch architects gave important impulses for the architecture of the 20th century. Particularly noteworthy are Hendrik Petrus Berlage and the architects of the De Stijl group ( Robert van 't Hoff , Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud , Gerrit Rietveld ). Johannes Duiker was a representative of the New Building . Mart Stam built the New Frankfurt and the Weißenhofsiedlung in Germany . The so-called Amsterdam School ( Michel de Klerk , Het Schip ) made a remarkable contribution to expressionist architecture .

Even after the Second World War , innovative Dutch architects emerged. Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger shaped the architectural movement structuralism . Piet Blom became known for his idiosyncratic tree houses. Under the present architects counts Rem Koolhaas and his Office Office for Metropolitan Architecture (temporarily for the most influential representatives of contemporary architecture direction based on urban experiences Deconstructivism assigned), the more world-renowned firms such as MVRDV , Mecanoo , Erick van Egeraat , Neutelings-Riedijk influenced (mostly students or former employees at OMA). Dutch architecture has had a significant impact on global architectural development since the 1990s and has continued to do so.

Science and technology

Building of the Delft University of Technology (Faculty of Architecture)

Important scholars such as Erasmus von Rotterdam , Baruch Spinoza , Christiaan Huygens and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek came from the Netherlands . René Descartes spent most of his creative time in the Netherlands. Since the early modern period, numerous persecuted scientists have found asylum and opportunities to act in the Netherlands.

The leading research areas in the Netherlands are: Biomedicine, Cognitive Sciences, Global Studies, Linguistics, Medicine, Nanotechnology, Social Psychology, Social Sciences and Water Management.

Modern sociology owes its Dutch founder S. Rudolf Steinmetz important suggestions. For medicine in the early modern period, the educational institutions in the city of Leiden (in particular the Leiden University Library ) were a relevant center from which important impulses emanated. Today there are 14 state universities in the Netherlands and numerous colleges. The European Space Agency is based in Noordwijk .

The Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN) has been managing the top-level domain of the Netherlands, .nl , since 1996 as the successor to the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica . The RIPE NCC is based in Amsterdam.

The modern Netherlands is one of the world's most innovative countries and economies. In the Global Innovation Index 2017 , which measures the innovative capacity of individual countries , the country ranks third among 130 economies examined.

newspapers and magazines

The most important traditional newspapers are De Telegraaf , AD , de Volkskrant , NRC Handelsblad and Trouw . A historically important national daily newspaper was Het Parool , which was later redesigned to become an Amsterdam city newspaper. In 1999 metro and Sp! Ts were the first free newspapers in the Netherlands, and DAG and De Pers have now been added. These and the Internet have in some cases stolen considerable market shares from the traditional newspapers. With De Groene Amsterdammer , Elsevier , HP / De Tijd , Vrij Nederland , four weekly political magazines appear.


Dutch feature film production
year number
1975 16
1985 13th
1995 18th
2005 24

As in many European countries, the television landscape in the Netherlands is divided into public and private television channels. The public broadcasters include NPO 1 , NPO 2 and NPO 3 and, for Dutch people abroad, BVN , which are operated by the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep . They are largely financed through taxes, but partly still through the member system: Originally, the radio stations were set up by ideologically oriented associations, such as the Catholic or the workers' radio.

There are some commercial broadcasters in the Netherlands, e.g. B. RTL 4 , RTL 5 , SBS 6 , RTL 7 , RTL 8 , NET 5 and Veronica . The market leader in the Netherlands is the RTL Group with RTL 4.

The foreign TV content such as American productions, which make up a large part of Dutch television, is not dubbed as in Germany , but broadcast in the original language and subtitled . Programs for children are an exception due to their synchronization.


The national teams of the Netherlands and Spain before the final of the 2010
Soccer World Cup on July 11, 2010 in Soccer City , Johannesburg
The Dutch national cricket team in Rotterdam on July 5, 2010

Football in the Netherlands is considered a national sport. The forerunner of the football association Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond (KNVB) was founded in 1889.

The Dutch women's national team is counted among the best women's teams in the world. She won the European Championship in 2017 and came 2nd at the 2019 World Cup .

The Dutch national football team for men, or Nederlands elftal or Oranje for short , was one of the strongest national teams in the world for many years. The coach has been Louis van Gaal since August 2021 . The national team has participated in nine European football championships since 1976 and won the title in 1988 . They have been represented ten times at soccer world championships since 1934 and came second in 1974 , 1978 and 2010 , and third at the 2014 World Cup . In the all-time World Cup table , the Netherlands are in 8th place, in the all-time EM table in 6th place.

Cricket used to be a popular sport, but is now overshadowed by football, but in recent years the sport has become more popular again. The Dutch national cricket team has qualified for four Cricket World Cups so far ( 1996 , 2003 , 2007 and 2011 ). The Netherlands also co-hosted the 1999 Cricket World Cup but did not participate in it. They also qualified for four Twenty20 Cups ( 2009 , 2014 , 2016 and 2021 ). The victory over England in the 2009 tournament is particularly noteworthy.

The Dutch women's national hockey team is the most successful national team at the World Hockey Championship and has won this tournament eight times (1974, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1990, 2006, 2014 and 2018). The Dutch men's national hockey team has won the World Cup three times (1973, 1990 and 1998).

Rugby Union is also played in the Netherlands. However, the Dutch national team has not yet qualified for a Rugby Union World Cup . The Netherlands are one of the participants in the Rugby Union European Championship , where they will meet other emerging national teams.

The Netherlands has already hosted major sports tournaments such as the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 2000 European Football Championship (together with Belgium).

In motorsport, the motorcycle world championship grand prix racetrack in Assen (Dutch TT), the former Formula 1 grand prix racetrack in Zandvoort and the ice stadium De Bonte Wever in Assen with its ice speedway world championship races are well known worldwide Expression.

See also

Portal: Netherlands  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the Netherlands


Web links

Further content in the
sister projects of Wikipedia:

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Wikimedia Atlas: Netherlands  - geographical and historical maps

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Coordinates: 52 °  N , 6 °  E