What Are The Provinces Of The Netherlands? Fully Explained

April 10, 2021

Every country in the world is divided into different states or provinces. Even a small country like the Netherlands has quite a few different provinces, each with its own unique characteristics. In this blog, I will discuss this in more detail and answer the question "What are the provinces of The Netherlands?".

The Netherlands consists of twelve provinces. The provinces of the Netherlands are Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Zeeland, Noord-Brabant, Utrecht, Flevoland, Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland, and Limburg.

There is an awful lot to tell about the Dutch provinces. Each province has its own unique characteristics, such as nature, culture, and culinary specialties. So read on to find out what the Dutch provinces are. In this blog, I will also answer the question "What regions are in the Netherlands?". So definitely keep on reading if you would like to know how the Netherlands is divided into different provinces and regions.

What are the Dutch Provinces?

The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces, with each their own leaders and rules. The important decisions about the country are made by the parliament, but smaller, more local decisions get made by the provinces.

These decisions can be about nature, culture, economy, infrastructure, and more. Below you will find all of the Dutch provinces listed so you can get an idea of what each province is like.

Noord-Holland

Noord-Holland is one of the most important provinces of the Netherlands since it is home to the capital city of our country, which is Amsterdam. The capital city of Noord-Holland is not Amsterdam though, but Haarlem. Noord-Holland is home to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which is not only the biggest airport in the Netherlands, it’s also the third biggest airport of all of Europe. Noord-Holland is also the province of the Dutch Wadden Island, Texel.

Where is Noord-Holland located?

Noord-Holland is a province located in the northwest of the Netherlands and covers 4.092 km² (1.580mi²). A big part of Noord-Holland consists of a peninsula between the North Sea, the Wadden Sea, and the Ijsselmeer lake. The south of the province borders the provinces Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. It also borders with Flevoland and Friesland through bridges and dikes.

What is Noord-Holland known for?

Besides being the home to Amsterdam, which is the best known Dutch city in other countries, Noord-Holland has more to offer. There are a lot of museums honoring Dutch legends, such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Frans Hals Museum, and the Anne Frank house. Noord-Holland is perfect for getting to know Dutch history amidst the crowded cities that are of great importance nowadays. Noord-Holland is also home to the Beemster, which is a polder that is UNESCO World Heritage

The city of Hilversum is also located in Noord-Holland. Hilversum is the most important city for Dutch television because of the Mediapark. A lot of radio stations and television stations are located at the Mediapark in Hilversum. Besides that, Noord-Holland is also home to the Ziggo Dome. This is a big venue where big concerts get hosted. Another big venue is the Johan Cruijff Arena, which is home to soccer club Ajax.

Zuid-Holland

Zuid-Holland is the most densely populated province of the Netherlands with 1374 inhabitants per square kilometer. The capital city of Zuid-Holland is The Hague, which is the home of the Dutch Parliament. The biggest city of the province is Rotterdam, which is known for the Port of Rotterdam. This port is the largest seaport in all of Europe.

Where is Zuid-Holland located?

Zuid-Holland is a province in the west of the Netherlands that covers 3403 km² (1314mi²). The South of Zuid-Holland borders with Zeeland and Noord-Brabant, the East of the province borders with Gelderland and Utrecht. The North of Zuid-Holland borders with Noord-Holland.

What is Zuid-Holland known for?

Next to the Port of Rotterdam and the parliament, there are some more things Zuid-Holland is known for. The Circustheater in Scheveningen is known for being the theater where the most successful Dutch musicals get performed. Examples are Anastasia, the Lion King, and Mary Poppins.

Zuid-Holland is also one of the provinces with the most universities and graduate schools. The Universities located in Zuid-Holland are the Technical University Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Leiden University.

Although Zuid-Holland is mostly known for its economical contributions, it also has some notable nature. For starters, there is National Park the Biesbosch. It is a protected area with lots of flora and fauna. Zuid-Holland is also home to the Green Heart. This is a big peatland where you can enjoy a walk through nature as well.

Zeeland

Zeeland is one of the most southern provinces of the Netherlands. The capital city is Middelburg, which is also the biggest city. About 39 percent of the province is made up of water. People in Zeeland held on to wearing traditional clothing for quite a while and although nowadays people don’t wear it as much anymore, there are several opportunities to get yourself photographed in such clothing while visiting Zeeland.

Where is Zeeland located?

Zeeland is located in the southwest of the Netherlands and covers 2933 km² (1132mi²). The province is made up of several peninsulas and borders with Dutch provinces Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant. The South of Zeeland borders with Belgium.

What is Zeeland known for?

If you were to ask a Dutchman what they think is typical in Zeeland, chances are they will say Zeeuwse Bolussen. A Zeeuwse Bolus is a sweet, sugary type of bun that is loved in the whole country but has its roots in Zeeland. Another popular food that originates in Zeeland is the boterbabbelaar, this is a buttery piece of candy.

In February 1953, Zeeland was a victim of the Watersnoodramp. This flood caused a lot of damage and unfortunate deaths, which resulted in a better focus on keeping the water out of our country. The Netherlands lies beneath sea levels, and we try to keep our feet dry with dikes, dunes, and the Delta works. In Zeeland, we have the Oosterscheldekering. This is the pride of the Netherlands, as it perfectly shows our craftsmanship in water management in which the Netherlands is best at.

Noord-Brabant

Noord-Brabant is among the biggest provinces of the Netherlands. The capital city is ‘s Hertogenbosch, which often gets called Den Bosch. Eindhoven is the biggest city in Noord-Brabant. Most Dutch people think of Noord-Brabant as one of the most convivial provinces in the country.

Where is Noord-Brabant located?

Noord-Brabant is located in the south of the Netherlands and covers 5082 km² (1962mi²). The East of Noord-Brabant borders with Limburg, the West borders with Zeeland and Zuid-Holland, and the North borders with Gelderland. The South of Noord-Brabant borders with Belgium.

What is Noord-Brabant known for?

The best-known thing that comes to mind when thinking about Noord-Brabant, is the Carnival. Nowhere else in the Netherlands does Carnival get celebrated the way Noord-Brabant celebrates it. There are days full of partying, beer, and silly songs, people from all over the Netherlands come to visit it.

Another typical thing from Noord-Brabant are worstenbroodjes, these sausage buns are delicious and famous in the whole country.

Utrecht

In Utrecht, the capital city has the same name as the province. The city of Utrecht is the biggest in the province as well. This is because this city is where the province originates, the city of Utrecht grew out to be a province with plenty of other cities.

Where is Utrecht located?

Utrecht is located in the middle of the Netherlands and covers 1485 km² (573.4mi²). It borders other Dutch provinces on every side. These provinces are Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland, Flevoland and Gelderland.

What is Utrecht known for?

One of the most well-known highlights Utrecht has to offer is the Dom van Utrecht. This is a big gothic church and is the highest church in the Netherlands. It is also the highest building in all of Utrecht, standing at a height of 122,32 meters (401,31 feet).

Another noteworthy monument in the province of Utrecht is the Pyramid of Austerlitz. This is located on the famous Utrechtse Heuvelrug and was built by the soldiers of Napoleon. It is an important part of Dutch history. 

Flevoland

Flevoland covers 2412 km² (931.3mi²), which makes it the smallest province of the Netherlands. It is also the youngest and consists of dried land that was once part of the Zuiderzee. Nowadays it still consists of about 41,5% water. The capital city of the province is Lelystad.

Where is Flevoland located?

Flevoland is located in the middle of the Netherlands. It borders five other Dutch provinces. In the North, we have Friesland and Overijssel, the East borders with Gelderland, the South borders with Utrecht, and the West borders with Noord-Holland.

What is Flevoland known for?

Flevoland is pretty much known for being the province that arose out of the sea. It is the biggest artificial island in the world and lies about five meters under sea level

Nature is quite important in Flevoland as well. There are several nature reserves such as the Oostvaardersplassen, Lepelaarplassen, and Horsterwold. There is even a special landscape organization for Flevoland, which is called Het Flevolandschap

Friesland

Friesland might be one of the most independent provinces of the Netherlands and with a surface of 5748 km² (2219mi²), it is also the biggest province of the Netherlands. The capital city of the province is Leeuwarden.

Where is Friesland located?

Friesland is located in the north of the Netherlands. It borders with a few Dutch provinces, namely Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel and Flevoland. Four out of the five Wadden Islands also belong to the province of Friesland. Those islands are Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.

What is Friesland known for?

Friesland is known for having its own language. Next to the traditional Dutch language which everyone in the country speaks, Frysk is the second official language. This language can be spoken in all public places and governmental instances, although it is more common in schools than it is in court, for example.

Friesland also has a sport that is traditionally Frysk and is known in the whole country. Most people practicing this sport live in Friesland though. The sport is called Fierljeppen, which is known under the English name Pole Vault.

Groningen

Groningen is yet another province where the capital city has the same name as the province. The province covers 2960 km² (1143mi²) and is the most Northern province of the Netherlands. 

Where is Groningen located?

Groningen is located in the North of the Netherlands. It borders the Dutch provinces Drenthe and Friesland, but it also borders Germany. Furthermore, it borders the North Sea.

What is Groningen known for?

Although the Netherlands should be safe from earthquakes from a geology point of view, Groningen does have problems with them. This is due to the winning of gas. This has caused many debates and even lawsuits because the inhabitants of the province aren’t happy with these earthquakes.

Something about Groningen that is more fun, are the monuments. Groningen is home to the Martinitoren. This is a big tower on the market square that most inhabitants are very proud of. Another building they are proud of is the railway station in the city of Groningen. This railway station has been named the most beautiful railway station in the Netherlands.

Drenthe

Drenthe is one of the northern provinces of the Netherlands. It is the least densely populated province in the country and has a reputation for being rural and full of nature. The capital city is Assen, which is known because of the TT Assen. This is an important motor race that takes place on the circuit in Assen.

Where is Drenthe located?

Drenthe is located in the north of the Netherlands and covers 2680 km² (1035mi²). It borders Groningen, Friesland, and Overijssel. The eastern part of the province borders Germany. For the most part, Drenthe lies above Sea levels.

What is Drenthe known for?

There is one thing Drenthe is most famous for, namely hunebeds. Drenthe has so many of them that there is even a hunebed route called the hunebedhighway, on which you will find 47 hunebeds. D27 is the most famous hunebed, with stones that weigh 20.000 kilograms. It has quite the mystery surrounding it, as no one knows what lies in the chamber beneath this specific hunebed.

Overijssel

The capital city is Zwolle and the biggest city in Overijssel is Enschede. Overijssel consists of three big regions, those being Salland, Kop van Overijssel and Twente. Besides this, it is an important province for transport between the Netherlands and Germany.

Where is Overijssel located?

Overijssel is located in the east of the Netherlands and covers 3420 km² (1320mi²). The South borders with Gelderland, the North borders Drenthe, and the West borders Flevoland and Friesland. The eastern part of Overijssel borders Germany.

What is Overijssel known for?

Overijssel is home to a village that is gaining fame all over the world. The idyllic town of Giethoorn is known for its rivers and small islands. You can visit this village by boat and admire the cute cottages. You can also book a boat tour and have a drink in one of the restaurants.

Besides Giethoorn, Overijssel is mainly known as the province with cute rivers and brooks, lots of polders, and plenty of places to really enjoy nature. There are a few big cities in between, so for shopping or more crowded places, you can visit Overijssel as well.

Gelderland

Gelderland is the biggest province of the Netherlands if you only look at the surface on land and not water. The capital city of Gelderland is Arnhem and the biggest city in the province is Nijmegen. Besides this, Gelderland has the third most inhabitants of all Dutch provinces.

Where is Gelderland located?

Gelderland is located in the middle and east of the Netherlands and covers 5136 km² (1983mi²). It has borders with six out of eleven other provinces. In the South it borders Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zuid-Holland. The West of Gelderland borders Flevoland and Utrecht. It also borders Overijssel and Germany.

What is Gelderland known for?

In Gelderland, you can find National Park De Hoge Veluwe. This park is full of beautiful nature and there is plenty of wildlife. This park is also home to the museum Kröller-Müller, in which you can find a lot of art by Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. The Kröller-Müller also has a garden full of statues, this is one of the biggest statue parks in Europe.

Another thing Gelderland is known for is that it is home to some of the biggest events in the Netherlands. Zwarte Cross is a good example of this, as it is the biggest paid music festival in the Netherlands. Gelderland is also home to Appelpop, which is the biggest free music festival in the Netherlands.

Besides music festivals, the city of Nijmegen, which is located in Gelderland, is home to the biggest walking event in the world! Each year in July, the Nijmegen Four Days Marches are being held. During this week, around 50.000 people participate in this event.

Limburg

Limburg is the second youngest province of the Netherlands. Its capital city is Maastricht. It is the only province in the Netherlands that has borders with not one, but two foreign countries. These two countries are Germany and Belgium.

Where is Limburg located?

Limburg is located in the South of the Netherlands and covers 2209 km² (852.9mi²). It mainly borders Noord-Brabant, but there’s a small bit in the North that also borders with Gelderland. The rest of the province only borders Belgium and Germany.

What is Limburg known for?

The landscape in Limburg is quite different from the rest of the country. The Netherlands is a mainly flat country, without any mountains. In Limburg, the country is still mainly flat, but there are some hills. Besides hills, Limburg also has some caves. This causes Limburg to be one of the most interesting Dutch provinces when looking at geology.

When asking any Dutchman about something that is typically Limburgs, they will most likely mention the Limburgse Vlaai. These flans are known throughout the country and the Dutch have mutually agreed that the best flans are to be found in Limburg.

Learn more about the Netherlands!

As you can see, some provinces are known for certain foods. Read our article about what the Dutch eat to find out which specialty each province has.

What Regions Are in The Netherlands?

If you were to divide the Netherlands into regions, you would get the North, the East, the South and, the West. 

In the North, you can find the provinces Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. About 10 percent of the Dutch inhabitants live in the North region of the country. Some of the biggest cities in the North are Groningen, Leeuwarden, Assen, Emmen, Drachten and Hoogeveen.

The East consists of the provinces Overijssel, Flevoland and Gelderland. Some of the biggest cities in the East are Zwolle, Lelystad, Arnhem, Enschede, Apeldoorn, Nijmegen and Almelo.

In the South, we have the provinces Noord-Brabant and Limburg. Although Zeeland is located in the south of the Netherlands as well, it is part of the West and not the South. Big cities in the South are Maastricht, Den Bosch, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Roermond and Venlo.

The West consists of four provinces, those being Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland, Utrecht, and Zeeland. Wadden Island Texel is part of the province Noord-Holland and therefore the only Wadden Island that is part of the West. Big cities in the West are Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Alkmaar and Middelburg.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now know what are the Dutch provinces and what makes each of them unique. Even though the Netherlands is a small country, there are several differences between these provinces. Luckily it’s only a four-hour drive from the most northerly point of the Netherlands to the most southerly point, so if you want to, you can go see all provinces when visiting the Netherlands.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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