Visit Holland - The Netherlands

About the Netherlands - Overview

The Dutch – all 16 and a half million of them – live in 41,526 square kilometres, little more than half the size of Scotland. This makes the Netherlands one of the world's most densely populated countries.

The Netherlands is best known for its tulips, windmills and clogs. And for its low altitude and vulnerability to flooding. Less well known is that the Netherlands has the tenth largest economy in the world, and ranks sixteenth in GDP. Equally little known is that the Dutch have won Nobel prizes for chemistry, physics, medicine, economics and peace or that the world's planners and architects flock here to learn about Dutch solutions for this crowded country.

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. This means that the government includes not only the ministers and the state secretaries, but also the monarch (currently King Willem-Alexander). The monarch is also the head of state.

The government (ministers and state secretaries) prepares and implements legislation, oversees local government, carries out the day-to-day business of government and maintains international relations.

Parliament is made up of two houses. The Senate has 75 indirectly elected members, who only have the power of veto in the legislative process. The House of Representatives has 150 members elected directly by the people.

The Dutch Economy
The Netherlands is one of the world’s top ten economies in export volume and ranks among the top twenty for GDP, despite being geographically one of the smallest countries in the world. The Netherlands owes its high rankings in large part to its advanced transport infrastructure – with the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport as its hubs – and its highly developed telecoms infrastructure. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport, and the fourth largest in the world in terms of container activity, while Schiphol is western Europe’s fourth largest airport. Together, they have helped build the Netherlands’ reputation as ‘the gateway to Europe’.

The Netherlands is a popular holiday destination. In 2010, about 11 million tourists visited the Netherlands, from Europe and from farther afield (the United States and Canada, and emerging economies such as China and India). Foreign tourists spend about €10 billion a year in the Netherlands – more than the annual earnings from the export of plants and flowers.

Amsterdam is the most popular destination for foreign tourists. The museums, such as the Rijksmuseum and the Vincent van Gogh Museum, the ring of canals lined with elegant town houses, the atmosphere of freedom and creativity – many foreigners want to see these with their own eyes.

But the Netherlands is also famous for its flowers: the bulb fields of North and South Holland, with their daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, particularly in April and May.

The Netherlands has a long coastline, with many interesting towns and villages and areas of natural beauty. The beaches and dunes are ideal for many recreational activities such as cycling, walking, sailing and swimming. There are also excellent conditions for water sports further inland on lakes, rivers and canals.

The Dutch themselves often explore the country by boat or bike, and many tourists
do the same. The Netherlands is criss-crossed by thousands of kilometres of cycle track, making it possible to tour the country by bike. Cycling in the flat landscapes of the Netherlands is easier than in most other countries – as long as you’re not cycling against the wind!

To find out more about the Netherlands and plan tourist excursions before you visit, check out Tourists in the Netherlands can obtain information from one of the many tourist information (VVV) offices around the country.

The weather
The Netherlands’s long coastline on the North Sea gives the country a temperate maritime climate. This means mild winters, cool summers and a fair amount of rain. Find out more:

Family visits
If you want to visit relatives in the Netherlands, you must meet a number of conditions. Find out what you need to do and what documents you will require with the Residence Wizard of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

Living in the Netherlands
If you want to live in the Netherlands, you’ll have a lot to consider: applying for a visa or residence permit, taking out insurance, etc. On the New to Holland website, you can compose a personal checklist of matters you’ll have to take care of if you’re coming to live in the Netherlands temporarily or permanently. The site will also guide you to the government organisations you may have to deal with. Find out more:

If you come to live in the Netherlands, you will find its culture, customs and rules very different from those you’re used to at home. Find out more about life in the Netherlands:

Working in the Netherlands
If you want to work in the Netherlands, you probably have many questions. How do you get a visa? Do you have to do the civic integration examination? Are you allowed to work in the Netherlands? And what is it like to live in the Netherlands?

You will find answers to many of these questions on You can also find helpful information on the websites of other organisations.

The website for instance, provides information to residents of the European Union and the European Economic Area about job applications, contracts and the recognition of foreign qualifications. Find out more:

Use the Residence Wizard of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) to find out what requirements you have to meet and what documents you need if you want to work in the Netherlands. Find out more:

Are you a European citizen already working in the Netherlands or considering working in the Netherlands? If so, the brochure "Information for European workers in the Netherlands'' by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment will help you. It contains basic information about work, social security, accommodation, medical expenses, education and learning Dutch. The brochure also explains where you can find further information. Download it in pdf via

Facts & Figures
Did you know that...

* "the Netherlands" and "Holland" are used to describe the same country?
* one quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level?
* the International Court of Justice is at the Peace Palace in The Hague?
* the Netherlands has approximately 488 inhabitants per square kilometre?
* with only 0.008% of the world's area, the Netherlands is the world's third largest agricultural exporter?
* the Netherlands was one of the European Union's founding nations?
* the Netherlands has at least 15,000 km of cycle tracks?
* Dutch is also spoken in Belgium, northern France, Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba?
* the Netherlands still has about 1,000 traditional working windmills?
* the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe?
* Amsterdam is entirely built on poles?
* the Netherlands always has a coalition government, which makes it a country of compromises?
* the Netherlands has nearly 1,000 museums, with 42 in Amsterdam alone?
* almost every Dutch person has a bicycle and there are twice as many bikes as cars?
* the Netherlands is the world's eighth largest exporter?
* people in Holland eat raw herring with onions on top?
* about 30% of all Dutch babies are born at home?
* you can see 22 paintings by Rembrandt and 206 by Van Gogh in Amsterdam?
* the Netherlands has the highest number of part-time workers in the EU (four in ten people)?
* the Netherlands' highest point is 323 metres high and is therefore called a " mountain"?
* Saint Nicholas’ Eve on 5 December is the number 1 tradition of the Netherlands?
* There is no country in the world where more liquorice is consumed than in the Netherlands (on average 32 million kilos per year)....and on average, the Dutch eat 14.3 kg of cheese per year?
* you'll find a bunch of flowers in almost every Dutch living room?
* Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, but The Hague is the seat of government?
* most Dutch people speak at least one foreign language?
* of those languages can also be Frisian, another language only spoken in the province of Friesland?
* one in every three Dutch people belongs to a sports club?
* after Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world's biggest coffee drinkers?
* more than 170 different nationalities live in Amsterdam?
* the Netherlands has one of the youngest populations in the EU?
* The Dutch saying “Act normally and that’s crazy enough” fits the Dutch like a glove?
* Since 1901, sixteen Dutch have been awarded the Nobel Prize?
* when your plane arrives at Schiphol, it lands 4.5 metres below sea level?
* the Netherlands has the highest cable density in Europe?
* Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges?
* the Netherlands Antilles as a political entity no longer exists? Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became municipalities of the Netherlands in 2010, while Aruba St. Maarten and Curaçao are countries within the Kingdom.
* when Dutch schoolchildren pass their exams, they hang a Dutch flag and a school bag outside their homes?

The Hague, city of peace and justice
"The Hague is a good place for justice". This was a phrase recently heard in the streets of Nairobi, by someone coming from The Hague, while talking to a group of Kenyans. He'd struck up a conversation with the men about the wave of violence that had hit Kenya in late 2007, shortly after the elections. The events cost 1500 people their lives, over a very short period, and hundreds of thousands of citizens took flight.

The Kenyans our tourist spoke to in Nairobi were quite clear about one thing. Only the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague was capable of bringing the suspected perpetrators of the brutal violence of 2007 to justice. "The Hague is a good place for justice".

The Hague, International City of Peace and Justice. Anyone who thinks that this is just a clever city marketing slogan, invented by smart advertising boys, is on the wrong track. If you should travel to Sarajevo, Nairobi or Kabul, you would discover that in these towns the name of that far-away city The Hague stands for hope. Hope for millions of people that the evil-doers who murdered their fathers, raped their mothers and took their children for soldiers will not go unpunished.

Today, The Hague is home to no less than 131 international institutes and agencies - both NGOs and government institutions. The numerous institutions and organisations create a climate in which debate and the exchange of ideas can flourish. By accommodating such important institutions as the ICJ and the ICC, but also all those tiny ngo's, The Hague wants to create and maintain exactly this ambience of Peace and Justice. The Hague works hard to continue to be a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world.

International Court of Justice
After New York, The Hague is the second UN-city. Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the only one not located in New York. The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and therefore of great importance. Only recently the international press gathered in The Hague when the ICJ gave judgement on the construction of the Israeli separation walls.

International Criminal Court
The creation of the Rome Statute and the founding of the International Criminal Court were milestones in the history of human kind. The establishment of these milestones was preceded by more than 100 years of discussions, starting with the famous first Peace Conference in The Hague. At the end of the twentieth century, after the Cold War, the ICC finally became reality, partly thanks to the requisite lobby of various NGOs.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a United Nations court of law dealing with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990's. Since its establishment in 1993 it has irreversibly changed the landscape of international humanitarian law and provided victims an opportunity to voice the horrors they witnessed and experienced. War crimes that had not occurred since the Second World War. The era in which committers of crimes against humanity get away with it is over.

International Day of Peace
Each year, on September 21st, the inhabitants of The Hague celebrate the International Day of Peace. During this day there is a Peace walk for hundreds of children, a big Peace event in the city centre, a unique Open Day at all the international organizations, and so forth. On this day the people of The Hague bring to light efforts to end conflict and promote peace, and show their commitment to peace and justice.

International Institute for Global Justice
The Hague will soon be hosting a new institute on Global Justice. The Institute for Global Justice will bring together all available knowledge in a wide variety of fields pertaining to international law, non-violent resolution of conflicts, human rights, peace keeping, as well as security and development issues. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States, has accepted our request to take a seat in the supervisory board of this institute.