The Netherlands, a parliamentary monarchy in Western Europe, is a country well known for its tolerant atmosphere, the promotion of a liberal lifestyle and a great emphasis on personal and social freedoms. Moreover, the country is a popular vacation spot thanks to its picturesque cities and long North Sea coastline. The Netherlands, sometimes referred to as Holland, has been the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage, maintains a liberal drug policy and ranks among the Top Ten countries in the World Happiness Report.

With only a little more than 40,000 km² in area – not counting overseas territories – the Netherlands belongs to Europe’s smaller countries, but it makes up for the lack of size by assuming an important role in international trade and politics. It has Europe’s busiest port, was a founding member of the European Community and is home of the International Court of Justice.

Apart from the tulips and vegetables grown in the Netherlands, both of which are a staple to the country’s image across the continent, the country is famous for its traditional windmills. They are a remnant of the time when their power was needed to drain the land from water – a necessary task because about a fourth of the country lies below sea level. Today, they dot the scenery everywhere in the Netherlands.

The most-visited place in the country is its largest city, Amsterdam. Famous for the many canals built in the 17th century that lend the city its moniker “Venice of the North”, Amsterdam boasts a range of world-class museums and is home to a very multicultural population. Rotterdam, the country’s second-largest city, is home to Europe’s largest seaport and incorporates several waterways in its cityscape.

In addition to other noteworthy towns such as The Hague and Utrecht, the Dutch coast is a popular vacation spot for many Europeans from the neighboring countries, particularly in Friesland. The province of North Holland, with places such as Zandvoort, Hoorn or the island of Texel all register high annual visitor numbers.

PopulationAreaCurrencyEU MemberSchengen area
17,663,50041,865 km²Euroyesyes

List of articles on The Netherlands:

Places to seeNetherlands Good to know
The Dutch tulip heritage