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A map of the NetherlandsA map of the Netherlands The Netherlands is sometimes known as Holland (although this name really refers only to part of the country). Much of the land is so low-lying that large areas have had to be protected, or “reclaimed”, from the sea. Just inland of the line of sand dunes lining the west coast are the reclaimed lowlands, known as polders. Many are planted with colourful tulip fields. Zeeland, in the southwest, is largely made up of the delta of three large rivers: the Rhine (Rijn), the Maas (Meuse) and Scheldt (Schelde). In the southeast, the land rises slightly to the plateau region of Limburg, the foothills of the Ardennes. The east and the northeast of the country, farmland and heathland regions, are slightly higher in elevation too. The Netherlands has a cool, temperate climate, affected by winds from the North Atlantic. Summers are warm, while winters are mild and rainy. 

A map of the NetherlandsA map of the Netherlands
Bicycle parking at Utrecht railway stationBicycle parking at Utrecht railway station


Holland is made up of two provinces: Noord (North) Holland and Zuid (South) Holland. The Netherlands’ three largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, are located here. As these cities have grown, their suburbs have started to merge together. Along with the city of Utrecht, they now make up a single, large urban area (conurbation) known as the Randstad. This is one of Europe’s most densely populated areas—but not all of it is urban: pockets of countryside have deliberately been left between the cities. Many people live in these quieter areas and commute into the cities for work.

Although it is frequently used as an alternative name to the Netherlands, “Holland” officially refers only to two coastal regions of the Netherlands: Noord (North) Holland and Zuid (South) Holland.

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