Netherlands Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Holland – geography

The topography, economy and history of the Netherlands are determined by the country’s location on the North Sea and lower reaches of the rivers IJssel, Rhine and Maas. Higher sea levels and peat digging gradually led to the formation of lakes behind the high dune belt along the North Sea coast that already existed around the year 1000. In the Middle Ages, the sea penetrated the formerly fresh Flevo Lake and formed the sea arm Zuidersøen, Zuiderzee, which stretched from Waddenzee to the edge moraines between Zwolle and Hilversum; also the land between the great rivers was exposed to floods. The cities arose by river and canal dikes or behind the dune range on the North Sea coast. In the 1500’s and 1600’s. the area’s maritime trade with Europe and the foreign continents grew in competition with Portugal, Spain and England. Several cities, first and foremost Amsterdam, gained international importance. The existence of the individual cities depended on shipping and thus on the changes of the river courses as well as canal and dike construction. From the culmination in the middle of the 1600’s. the international significance of the Netherlands diminished over the following centuries. Only with the construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg V for Rotterdam in 1872 and with the Noordzeekanaal with locks at Velsen in 1876 did Amsterdam become an important European city again. At the same time, Rotterdam’s development into a port city for large parts of the Rhine’s, especially the German hinterland, and later into the world’s most important port of the time, gained momentum. The development of the Netherlands’ busy maritime network and position in world trade has made the country a NV-European service and industrial region and a gateway to Europe. At the same time, Rotterdam’s development into a port city for large parts of the Rhine’s, especially the German hinterland, and later into the world’s most important port of the time, gained momentum. The development of the Netherlands’ busy maritime network and position in world trade has made the country a NV-European service and industrial region and a gateway to Europe. At the same time, Rotterdam’s development into a port city for large parts of the Rhine’s, especially the German hinterland, and later into the world’s most important port of the time, gained momentum. The development of the Netherlands’ busy maritime network and position in world trade has made the country a NV-European service and industrial region and a gateway to Europe.


The country is divided into twelve provinces and has 393 residents per km2 (2006) one of Europe’s most densely populated states. Approximately 4/5 of the population is Dutch, of which about 400,000 hairdressers. Almost 1/10 are of non-western origin, including from Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco, Antilles and Suriname. The population of the Netherlands has over time been characterized by immigration from other parts of Europe, since the 1960’s from the Mediterranean countries. In addition, there is a German minority (2.5%).

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provinces population (1996)
Drenthe 457316
Flevoland 272843
Friesland 612028
Gelderland 1876299
Groningen 558113
Limburg 1133669
North Brabant 2290904
Noordholland 2468432
Overijssel 1053966
Utrecht 1070585
Zeeland 367354
Zuidholland 3332860

The population is growing by almost 0.5% annually (2006), and the country has a small emigration surplus of approximately 35,000 (estimated 2006). The average age rises less in the Netherlands than in most other European countries. The regional distribution is very uneven, as approximately 45% live in the western part of the country in the provinces of Noord- and Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. The largest population growth has taken place in a number of years in Flevoland in Central Holland, the smallest in the country’s peripheral areas in Zeeland and Limburg in the south and in Friesland and Groningen in the north.

The cities

9/10 of Holland’s population lives in cities of over 10,000 residents (estimate 2003). In the big cities, there has been extensive urban renewal in recent decades. The suburbs are characterized by low, dense buildings, which are very popular in the Netherlands, and by high-rise buildings. The provinces of South and North Holland are the most and Drenthe the least urbanized. Overall, just over 61% is agricultural area, which is declining, and approximately 12% is forest and nature areas.

Randstad Holland, an imprecisely delimited, cohesive metropolitan area with the country’s four largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), make up almost half of the country’s population and are one of Europe’s most important metropolitan regions, with the most extensive urban development taking place. The area is so strongly linked to its eastern and southern neighboring towns as Arnhem, Nijmegen, Eindhoven and Breda that it is a cohesive, ring-shaped urban area, which encloses a larger green area that in the Middle Ages was a beach lake.. As this so-called green heart is under pressure, urban growth is sought here limited. The urban ring is connected by a dense network of congested motorways and by railways that act as a local railway network and in several places are supplemented by metros. Randstad Holland is part of the metropolitan belt from Milan over Frankfurt to London and is increasingly linked to Berlin, the Ruhr district and southern Britain. This is reflected in the country’s infrastructure, where not only ports and canals, but also motorways, railways and airports are being developed with a view to international connections, e.g. connected to the European high-speed rail network. Randstaden’s major airport, Schiphol, is one of Europe’s largest with a very large freight turnover. The river and canal traffic, which connects all parts of the Netherlands, serves partly national and local purposes, partly international.

The city’s large old, independent cities still have their own distinctive features and their own functional profile. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has financial, cultural and scientific functions, and Storamsterdam’s industry is characterized partly by traditional occupations such as diamond grinding and processing of tropical products, and partly by high technology. With Europoort, Rotterdam is one of the world’s most important port cities. Along the almost 40 km long waterway, which leads through Rotterdam and Europoort to the Maasvlakte, lies a varied harbor, warehouse and industrial landscape. The port is called by all kinds of ships from river vessels over bulk carriers (eg with grain and ore) to container ships and supertankers. The raw material processing industry takes up a lot of space. The Hague is the city of residence of the Dutch government and the seat of The International Court of Justice. Utrecht in the eastern part of Randstad Holland is an important traffic hub, research and education center and industrial city.

Outside Randstaden, Eindhoven, the headquarters of the industrial group Philips, plays an important role as the largest city in south-eastern Holland. The urban area, which stretches from Bergen op Zoom over Breda to Nijmegen and Arnhem, is almost contiguous. The service center Arnhem and the industrial city of Nijmegen on the north and south sides of the Rhine Valley are old, traffic-important cities. Lelystad is a local center town in Flevoland. The industrial city of Enschede near the German border is the largest of the Twente region’s old textile industrial cities, where machines and chemicals are also manufactured. Groningen is the center of administration and service for the province of the same name. Maastricht is the capital of the province of Limburg and the center of the growing tourist activities and the significant chemical industry.

The open country

A larger part of the areas outside the city center are excursion areas. This applies to the dune belt, the hilly heath and forest landscape Hoge Veluwe, areas along the Veluwemeer canal and other areas in Flevoland as well as the islands and wetlands in Zeeland and Limburg. The older settlements of the open country have almost everywhere a location and a character that reflects local natural conditions. Farms and villages in the lowest regions are located on artificial elevations, yards, on dikes or on the natural elevations created by the rivers, the so-called levers. The farms are often gathered in terraced settlements by dikes, along terrain or along the canals of the old raised bog colonies. The ditches show how the old property and field boundaries radiate from the terraced buildings. In Friesland there are the special onesterp settlements, ie. villages in large shipyards. In the large new polders in Haarlemmermeer and Flevoland and in cultivated areas between the rivers, completely different building and field patterns are seen, as the farms here are usually not located on elevations and are always located centrally on their lands, individually or two to four together in a square or rectilinear pattern.


Dutch agriculture is among the world’s leaders. The mild and humid climate is especially beneficial for the grass growth of the polders and the horticulture of the sandy soils. Almost 1/3 of the Netherlands consists of low-lying grassland, which can not be shifted to other crops. Therefore, cattle breeding dominates in provinces such as Friesland, Drenthe, Noordholland and Utrecht. Arable farming on well-drained land is found especially in Zeeland, Flevoland and Groningen. The Netherlands is known for its areas of specialty crops: flower bulbs are grown behind the dunes south of Haarlem, vegetables under glass south of The Hague, and orchards spread along the rivers. Flowers for export are grown in greenhouses near Schiphol. Agriculture and horticulture employ less than 3% of the working population, but account for at least 20% of export earnings. Cereals and feed must be imported, while there is still a large export of cheese, butter, eggs, meat, vegetables and flowers. Significant cultivated areas are taken out of operation for nature conservation to meet national and European nature conservation interests.

Approximately 1/5 of the working population is employed in industry, mainly based on foreign trade, the expanded infrastructure and qualified labor. Products from the Mediterranean countries and the East were already from the 1600’s. processed in Dordrecht, Haarlem and Zaan. The grinders, saws and hammers of the early industry were most often driven by the wind; later, peat became an important source of energy. Holland’s industrialization did not really start until around 1900, and its dependence on infrastructure and transport, especially internationally, has created industrial companies in the ports and Randstad of the Netherlands. Location in eg northern and eastern Holland is due, among other things. public support, which aims to create and maintain jobs.

There is a large electrical, IT, metal, plastic and chemical industry, to which is added the production in agriculture and horticulture with associated industries. This is reflected in exports, where oil products, gas and chemicals as well as products from agriculture and horticulture, especially cut flowers, must be highlighted.

Energy and raw materials

The Netherlands imports far more than its own production of oil and oil products, of which well over half are re-exported. In 1959, one of the world’s largest natural gas fields was found at the Slochteren near Groningen. Later, natural gas and then oil were also found in the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Natural gas for use in power plants, industry, horticulture and for residential heating has had great commercial significance. The known natural gas deposits turned out to be so large that large parts of the production periodically came from smaller fields, so that the large deposit at Groningen could partly be kept in reserve. In addition, nuclear power. There is extensive electricity, natural gas and oil trade with neighboring countries.

The windy climate of flat Holland was early exploited by thousands of wind turbines that powered mills, crafts, land reclamation and drainage. The supply crises of the 1970’s inspired the construction of wind farms, at IJsselmeer, Harlingen, Delfzijl, Den Helder and Vlissingen.

Peat, which is now largely only excavated for sphagnum production in Drenthe, was for centuries an important source of energy, so important that the peat excavation led to a growth in the water areas, which thereby became a threat to the cities. The many, long peat pits north and south of Amsterdam are reminiscent of this. The coal mines in Limburg were closed in 1966-75, so the province’s mining is now reduced to excavation for lime and gravel.


The larger Dutch landscape forms continue in the neighboring countries. A wide dune belt in the west follows the North Sea coast from Westerschelde to Den Helder and continues over the West Frisian Islands, the Wadden Islands, north of the Wadden Sea. The adjacent lowland consists of dammed areas as well as meadows and bogs. More than 1/4 of the Netherlands’ total area is below sea level. This so-called Low Netherlandsconstitutes the Dutch polder landscape, ie. areas protected from flooding by dikes or by the dune belt. The individual polders are drained by ditches and canals, from which the water in one or more steps is pumped up into rivers or to the sea. The lowest point, 6.7 m below sea level, is north of Rotterdam. The Low Netherlands also includes some of the most densely populated areas. The south-west and north of Holland in particular have many old small polders; over 1000 km2 was dammed before 1500. The following 200 years of land reclamation added approximately 1800 km 2 more. The land acquisition, which was promoted by the economic and cultural growth in the 1600’s, has especially included the western and southwestern Netherlands.

The High Netherlands or the gesture, ie. the ice age landscape between the polder landscapes and the German border, is characterized by raised bogs and sand escape areas. The high country between Lek and IJssel is dominated by large marginal moraines, which make up the hilly heath and forest landscape Hoge Veluwe, one of the metropolitan area’s old excursion areas. To the south are sandy river plains, and in the southern, elongated province of Limburg, the landscape is characterized by tributaries of the Ardennes. Here is the highest point in the Netherlands, Vaalserberg, 322 m. In Limburg there are also fertile loose deposits.

Coastal protection and land reclamation

The landscapes in the Low Netherlands and in the large river valleys up to the German border have been created by coastal protection, land reclamation, drainage and through physical planning. The completion of the storm surge barrier in the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1996 became a milestone in the Dutch’s long struggle against the sea and the rivers. The barrier completed the Delta Plan in southwestern Holland with combined coastal protection and the development of waterways as well as other parts of the infrastructure and an improved regulation of the fresh and brackish water basins behind the sea dike. The plan linked Zeeland closer to the rest of the Netherlands. It is one of the consequences of the storm surge disaster in 1953, where approximately 1800 human lives and 2000 km2lost. In 1971-86, dams and locks were built, which closed the river branches Haringvliet, Grevelingen and Ooster Schelde and eased coastal protection inside the delta. Securing Rotterdam’s port functions and the improved land and sea connections between Rotterdam and Antwerp have been of great importance. The delta plan is one of two regional construction projects in the 1900’s, which has meant that the Dutch dikes have become much shorter, higher and in practice storm surge safe. The second project, the Zuidersøværkerne, was from the beginning a coastal protection, land reclamation and cultivation project. The dam Afsluitdijk (1932) secures the entire IJsselmeer region towards the North Sea. The Wieringermeer, the first IJsselmeer polder, was drained in 1930, followed by drainage, cultivation, cultivation and settlement. Here, the methods that have been used in the younger and much larger polders were developed: Noordostpolder, Oostelijk Flevoland and Zuidelijk Flevoland, which were pumped dry in respectively. 1942, 1957 and 1968. Cultivation of new agricultural land plays an increasingly smaller role in the younger polders, which are increasingly used for housing and industry as well as as excursion areas for the big cities.

Recent climate and environmental threats have led to the construction of buildings that can be adjusted to changing water levels. They can thus be adapted to future water level rises both global and local, such as from the Rhine or the Maas.


The Netherlands is part of the northwestern European lowlands and, like the rest of northwestern Europe, has a temperate oceanic climate characterized by migratory low pressures, winds from the west and prolonged rain or showers. Especially in the spring and early summer, periods of dry weather occur. The small height differences and the small extent of the country mean that the climate varies only slightly from region to region.

Holland – language

Dutch is the official language throughout the Netherlands. The standard language has in recent times pushed the dialects back a lot; only in the eastern and southern provinces do they still stand strong. In the province of Friesland, where there are approximately 400,000 Frisian speakers, who also speak Dutch, are the official Frisian language alongside Dutch. Immigrants and people from the former colonies usually have a mother tongue other than Dutch. See also Frisian and Dutch. For culture and traditions of Netherlands, please check aparentingblog.

Holland – religion

Population over 18 years is divided between the following faiths (2005): Catholics 26%, Protestants 26%, others (including Muslims immigrated from Turkey, Indonesia and Suriname, among others) 8%, none 40%. The southern provinces (Limburg and North Brabant) are Catholic, while the western and especially the northern provinces are Protestant (Dutch Reformed and Calvinist). This division dates back to the 1500’s, when the struggle for independence of Catholic Spain was linked to the transition to Calvin’s Reformation with its encouragement to turn Christianity into action. The Netherlands became a Protestant country where Catholics were only just tolerated.

Among the Protestants, there has been a tension between the biblical and doctrinal beliefs that require the application of religious principles in all matters, and the more moderate and liberal ones. In the 1800’s. two conservative free churches were formed, in 1892 merged as De Gereformeerde Kerken van Nederland (Calvinist), while the liberals are called Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk (Dutch Reformed).

Since the Catholics in the second half of the 1800-t. began to assert itself in society, at the so-called verzuiling there was a division into several “pillars” (one Catholic, one Protestant and one neutral in worldview) with parallel organizations in politics, trade unions, press, radio, television , sports and education. Since the 1960’s, secularization has increased and denominational ties have weakened; one now organizes oneself to a greater extent according to common interests, and there is talk of a “process of debugging”. There is a collaboration between the Calvinist, the Dutch Reformed and the Lutheran Church with a view to the formation of one Protestant church.

Since the 1960’s, the Catholic Church has sought to lead a progressive line toward Rome.

Netherlands Geography