Your comprehensive travel guide to the Netherlands- All in one place!
The Netherlands (also known as Holland) is known everywhere as the land of windmills, canals, and tulips, and today's visitors certainly will find these among its many tourist attractions. But along with the breathtaking gardens and picturesque villages, they'll also find a vibrant capital filled with museums showcasing the country's rich heritage of artists. There are medieval castles and cityscapes, a 13,800-acre national park, and a tide control system that's been named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. All these attractions and things to do are within a relatively compact area, and the landscape is quite flat (the highest elevation is barely a thousand feet above sea level). So it's easy to do at least a little sightseeing by bicycle. Many communities actively encourage the use of pedal-power and provide free bikes to explore the sights. However you choose to see the Netherlands, you're guaranteed a great time in one of the friendliest and most liberal cultures in Europe.
The Netherlands is a very flat country with almost 25% of its land at, or below sea level. Low rolling hills cover some of the central area, and in the far south, the land rises into the foothills of the Ardennes Mountains. Vaalserberg the country's highest point is located there, rising to 322 m (1,053 ft).
Over many centuries severe floods devastated the Netherlands, killing tens of thousands. Determined to save their homeland and reclaim it from the sea, the Dutch used countless windmills to pump water out of low-lying areas. They constructed man-made hills, raising the level of farms and villages. In the early 1930's the damming of the sea efforts continued when the dike Afsluitdijk was built.
In 1953, extremely high water caused nearly 2,000 deaths, mostly in the southern reaches of the country. Subsequently, the country needed a major change, and so began the Delta Project.
The plan was to construct a large series of outer sea-dikes, and inner canal and river dikes to protect this fragile land from disastrous flooding brought on by the constant pressures applied to it by the North Sea. All would be supported by gigantic pumping stations designed to control and protect groundwater levels.
Today nearly 50% of the land here remains just above sea level. The massive and costly Delta project and other engineering marvels have to date prevented the North Sea from doing any significant damage. However, climate change and rising waters could prove daunting to the Netherlands in the future.
The cultural life of the Netherlands is varied and lively. Dutch painting and crafts are world-renowned, and Dutch painters are among the greatest the world has ever known. The Dutch themselves take great pride in their cultural heritage, and the government is heavily involved in subsidizing the arts while abjuring direct artistic control of cultural enterprises. Indeed, the long-enduring tradition of Dutch freedom of expression has undoubtedly played a significant role in the flowering of Dutch culture through the ages.
As of March 9, 2011, the Netherlands has a population of 16,805,037. It is currently ranked as the 64th most populated country in the world.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, and it is spoken by a vast majority of the country’s population. It closely resembles German and borrows terms from both French and English. The secondary language of the Netherlands is Friesian, which is spoken by approximately a half-million citizens of the Dutch province of Friesland.