The Netherlands has 12 diverse provinces, each boasting its unique charm. North and South Holland are known for their historic cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, housing world-renowned museums and iconic Dutch landscapes. Utrecht, Overijssel, and Gelderland offer a blend of medieval architecture, scenic nature, and vibrant culture.
Friesland and Groningen in the north exhibit a distinct local culture, while the eastern provinces of Drenthe and Limburg are known for their peaceful landscapes and archaeological treasures. Zeeland and North Brabant in the south offer coastal beauty and lively festivities, while Flevoland, the youngest province, showcases remarkable land reclamation projects.
So why wait? Let’s dive in and discover all that these amazing provinces has to offer.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.~ Anne Frank
North Holland is a region northwest of the Netherlands that offers a delightful combination of culture, history and natural beauty.
The region is popularly known for its iconic windmills, vast tulip fields and picturesque fishing villages, perfectly capturing Dutch life’s essence.
The capital city, Haarlem, is home to remarkable medieval churches and a bustling market square, making it an excellent destination for architecture enthusiasts.
Amsterdam, a world-renowned city, is also located in North Holland, where art and history intersect in museums like the Van Gogh and Anne Frank House.
Visitors can bike along the scenic canals, indulge in delicious Dutch cheese in Edam or explore the vast dunes of the North Sea coastline.
North Holland offers diverse experiences, from tranquil to vibrant, promising a truly immersive Dutch experience.
Located in the western part of the Netherlands, South Holland is a mesmerising blend of historic charm and modern allure. It’s best known for its magnificent cityscapes and thriving cultural scene.
The Hague, which houses the country’s political centre, boasts remarkable government structures and the Peace Palace, all situated in South Holland.
The bustling metropolis of Rotterdam, renowned for its contemporary architecture and vibrant nightlife, also lies within its borders.
Here, you can experience the world-famous Keukenhof gardens, bursting with millions of tulips in spring, or explore the historic city of Delft, with its blue pottery and Johannes Vermeer’s heritage.
A stroll through the windmill-dotted landscape of Kinderdijk or a visit to the bustling cheese market in Gouda offers an unforgettable taste of traditional Dutch culture.
South Holland offers a multitude of diverse experiences that represent the rich history and modern-day culture of the Netherlands.
Situated northeast of the Netherlands, Drenthe is a verdant gem best loved for its idyllic rural landscapes and rich prehistoric heritage.
Drenthe is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and cyclists, with extensive networks of paths meandering through dense forests, heathlands, and sparkling lakes.
The Hunebedden, ancient megalithic tombs, are the country’s most famous and oldest monuments. Drenthe is also home to the charming villages of Assen and Emmen, where you can immerse yourself in local culture and history.
The region proudly houses the Kamp Westerbork transit camp memorial and the unique Museum Village of Orvelte, transporting visitors back to 19th-century rural life.
Take advantage of the opportunity to explore the Drents-Friese Wold National Park, one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. Peaceful, historical, and intriguing, Drenthe provides an off-the-beaten-path Dutch experience.
Situated in the centre of the Netherlands, Flevoland stands as a testament to Dutch engineering brilliance, as it’s the country’s youngest province, entirely reclaimed from the IJsselmeer Lake.
This flat, open landscape is ideal for those seeking a peaceful retreat, marked by expanses of fields and forests laced with biking and walking trails.
Flevoland is home to the New Land Heritage Centre, showcasing the history and technology behind land reclamation.
Its capital, Lelystad, houses the Batavia Shipyard, where you can explore a full-size replica of a 17th-century ship.
For nature lovers, the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve offers a unique wilderness experience with its large grazing animals and diverse bird species.
From exploring modern cities like Almere to discovering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Schokland, Flevoland embodies a fascinating blend of natural beauty and innovative human endeavour.
Perched in the northern part of the Netherlands, Friesland, or Frisian Fryslân, is a unique province that truly marches to its own beat.
Best known for its scenic lakes and canals, it’s a haven for watersport enthusiasts, offering excellent sailing, fishing, and ice skating during the winter.
It’s home to the Frisian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Leeuwarden, its capital and the European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Here, one can experience the Frisian language, its own distinct flag, and age-old traditions, like the celebrated Elfstedentocht, an epic ice-skating tour.
Friesland is also famous for its Frisian horses and the unique Holstein Frisian cow breed.
From visiting the planetarium in Franeker, and exploring charming seaside villages, to tasting the local delicacy, Frisian sugar bread, Friesland offers a vibrant cultural experience amidst the tranquillity of nature.
Located in the eastern part of the Netherlands, Gelderland, the country’s largest province, is best known for its diverse landscapes, from the sandy dunes of Veluwe to the rolling hills and vineyards of the Achterhoek region.
It’s a paradise for nature lovers, offering ample hiking, cycling, and wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Gelderland is home to the historic city of Arnhem, famous for the World War II battle ‘Operation Market Garden’ and its open-air museum, which showcases Dutch life over the centuries.
It also hosts the medieval city of Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands with Roman roots.
From wandering in the royal gardens of Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn, exploring the magnificent Hoge Veluwe National Park, to indulging in local flavours at a countryside farmhouse, Gelderland offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical richness.
Located in the far north of the Netherlands, Groningen is an energetic province known for its youthful vibrancy and rich cultural tapestry.
It’s best known for its eponymous capital city, dubbed the “World Cycling City” for its bike-friendly infrastructure and bustling student population.
The University of Groningen, one of the Netherlands’ oldest and most prestigious universities, adds to the city’s dynamic spirit.
Visitors can explore the contemporary art scene at the Groninger Museum or enjoy live music at the renowned Vera Club.
Alternatively, you can stroll through the picturesque medieval streets of the city centre.
The province is also home to the Lauwersmeer National Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts, bird watchers, and water sports lovers. From its lively city vibes to peaceful rural landscapes, Groningen offers a unique Dutch experience.
Nestled in the southeastern corner of the Netherlands, Limburg is a captivating region known for its hilly landscape, a rarity in the otherwise flat country.
It’s an ideal destination for hiking and biking enthusiasts, offering stunning views and picturesque routes.
Limburg is home to Maastricht, one of the country’s oldest cities, renowned for its vibrant cultural scene and the Maastricht Treaty, which birthed the Euro.
It also hosts the town of Valkenburg, with its maze of marl caves and a hilltop castle.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of experiences, from exploring Roman ruins and medieval architecture in Maastricht, enjoying the local cuisine with its famous Limburg pie, to partaking in the festive Carnival season, a significant cultural event in the region.
Limburg offers a charmingly different slice of Dutch life with its unique geography and distinct culture.
Located in the southern part of the Netherlands, North Brabant is a lively province brimming with rich history, cultural festivities, and natural beauty.
It’s renowned for its friendly atmosphere, best encapsulated in the exuberant Carnival celebrations that transform its towns and cities yearly.
North Brabant is home to bustling Eindhoven, a hotbed of innovation and design, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, famous for its medieval architecture and delicious ‘Bossche Bol’ pastry.
The province also houses two magnificent natural reserves: De Biesbosch National Park, one of Europe’s largest freshwater wetlands, offering kayaking, bird-watching, and hiking experiences, and De Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park, often called the ‘Brabant Sahara’ for its vast sand dunes and pine forests.
From exploring modern cityscapes, and indulging in vibrant festivals, to immersing in stunning landscapes, North Brabant presents a dynamic and diversified Dutch experience.
Situated in the eastern Netherlands, Overijssel is a charming province distinguished by its lush countryside, historical towns, and winding waterways.
Ideal for nature and history lovers, it’s known for the unique landscapes of the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, Europe’s largest fen, offering delightful boating, cycling, and hiking experiences.
Overijssel is home to the Hanseatic cities of Kampen, Deventer, and Zwolle, each teeming with well-preserved medieval architecture and vibrant cultural scenes.
Visitors can journey back in time in the open-air museum of Ootmarsum, relish the Dutch Venice charm of Giethoorn with its idyllic canals and thatched-roof houses, or enjoy the tranquillity of the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park.
Whether exploring the bustling city markets, wandering through the picturesque countryside, or unwinding by serene lakes, Overijssel offers a captivating blend of Dutch heritage and natural beauty.
Situated in the heart of the Netherlands, Utrecht is a vibrant province combining rich history with a lively, youthful energy.
It’s best known for its eponymous city, characterised by its unique split-level canals and the iconic Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.
Utrecht city is also home to Utrecht University, one of the oldest in the country, infusing the city with a dynamic student population.
In Utrecht, visitors can explore the medieval city centre, enjoy a waterfront dining experience in the cellars by the canals, or learn about the country’s religious history in the Museum Catharijneconvent.
The province is also home to the stunning Kasteel de Haar, the largest castle in the Netherlands.
From climbing the Dom Tower for breathtaking views, discovering charming castles, and cruising down serene canals, Utrecht offers an immersive Dutch urban experience.
Located in the southwest of the Netherlands, Zeeland is a serene province defined by its sprawling coastline, consisting of several islands and peninsulas.
It’s a haven for beach lovers and watersport enthusiasts, offering a range of activities such as sailing, surfing, and diving.
Zeeland is also home to the monumental Delta Works, an impressive series of dams and storm surge barriers designed to protect the area from flooding, which has been dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Visitors can experience the charming maritime atmosphere in the historic towns of Middelburg and Veere, indulge in the local delicacy of mussels and oysters, or relax on the expansive, sandy beaches of the Schouwen-Duiveland island.
With its rich history, unique culture, and unspoilt landscapes, Zeeland delivers a tranquil yet fascinating Dutch coastal experience.
A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.Lucy Larcom