The Dutch provinces

An introduction to the Dutch Provinces for Expats


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The Netherlands, a small country in Western Europe, is divided into 12 distinct provinces, each with its own unique flair and character. For expats considering moving to the Netherlands, understanding the different provinces can be immensely helpful in deciding where to settle down and explore the country. Let's delve into each province, highlighting their population, capital cities, key attractions, activities, and reasons why they make an excellent place to call home.

1 - Groningen

  • Capital:Groningen
  • Population: 628,300
  • Known for: Flat landscapes, agricultural fields, charming villages, lively student city of Groningen with a rich history and vibrant culture
  • Things to do: Explore the historical city center of Groningen, visit the Groninger Museum, go hiking or cycling in the Noorderplantsoen park, attend a festival or event, savor the local cuisine
  • Why live here:Groningen offers a relaxed lifestyle, a thriving cultural scene, affordable housing, and proximity to the North Sea coast.

    Groningen station, Martini tower and canal
    Groningen

2 - Friesland

  • Capital:Leeuwarden
  • Population: 650,000
  • Known for: Unique Frisian language, lakes, canals, traditional Frisian farms, historic city of Leeuwarden with a beautiful old town center
  • Things to do: Take a boat trip through the Friesland lakes, visit the Ameland or Schiermonnikoog islands, explore the historic city of Leeuwarden, attend a traditional Frisian festival, learn the Frisian language
  • Why live here:Friesland offers a tranquil atmosphere, a strong sense of community, a rich cultural heritage, and stunning natural beauty.

    Fryslan flag, Franeker and sailboat
    Friesland - Fryslan

3 - Drenthe

  • Capital: Assen
  • Population: 503,000
  • Known for: Vast forests, heathlands, peat bogs, hiking, cycling, outdoor activities, dolmens (prehistoric megalithic tombs)
  • Things to do: Hike or cycle through the Drentsche Aa National Park, visit the Van Gogh Village in Nuenen, explore the dolmens of Drenthe, attend a music festival, experience the Northern Lights (in winter)
  • Why live here: Drenthe offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle, a connection with nature, unique historical sites, and a stargazing paradise.

    Drenthe flag, lake, Hunebed
    Drenthe

4 - Overijssel 

  • Capital:Zwolle
  • Population: 1,162,000
  • Known for: Rolling hills, picturesque villages, historic towns, national parks (De Sallandse Heuvelrug, De Hoge Veluwe), charming city of Zwolle with a well-preserved medieval center
  • Things to do: Explore the castles and country estates of Overijssel, visit the Giethoorn water village, hike or bike in the national parks, attend an outdoor theater performance, savor local delicacies
  • Why live here: Overijssel offers a diverse landscape, a rich history, charming towns and villages, and a variety of outdoor activities.

    Overijssel

5 - Gelderland 

  • Capital:Arnhem
  • Population: 2,045,000
  • Known for: Veluwe hills, Betuwe river valley, major cities (Arnhem, Nijmegen, Apeldoorn), diverse landscapes
  • Things to do: Hike or bike in the Hoge Veluwe National Park, visit the Kröller-Müller Museum, explore the Burgers' Zoo, attend a music festival in Arnhem, experience the Nijmegen Four Days Marches
  • Why live here:Gelderland offers a mix of urban and rural living, stunning natural scenery, world-class museums, and a vibrant cultural scene.

    Gelderland

6 - Flevoland 

  • Capital:Lelystad
  • Population475,000
  • Known for: Modern architecture, polders (low-lying land reclaimed from water), Batavia Land (recreation of 17th-century Dutch life)
  • Things to do: Explore the Batavia Land theme park, visit the Nieuwland polder, go sailing or boating on the Markermeer lake, attend a water sports event, cycle around the car-free island of Schokland
  • Why live here:Flevoland offers a unique blend of history and innovation, a modern living environment, ample water sports opportunities, and a close connection to nature.
    Flevoland


7 - Utrecht 

  • Capital: Utrecht
  • Population: 256,000
  • Known for: Medieval canals, centuries-old buildings, lively student atmosphere, city of Utrecht
  • Things to do: Explore the Utrecht canals by boat, visit the Centraal Museum, climb the Dom Tower, attend a concert or theater performance, enjoy the bustling nightlife
  • Why live here:Utrecht offers a vibrant city life, a rich history, a diverse cultural scene, and a central location within the Netherlands.

    Utrecht aerial view, Domtower, Utrecht canals
    Utrecht


    8 - Noord-Holland 

  • Capital: Amsterdam
  • Population2,800,000
  • Known for: Capital city of Amsterdam, coastal towns (Haarlem, Zandvoort, Bloemendaal), world-famous tulip fields
  • Things to do: Explore the canals and museums of Amsterdam, visit the Keukenhof tulip gardens, go cycling through the dunes, relax on the beaches, attend world-class events
  • Why live here: Noord-Holland offers a cosmopolitan atmosphere, cultural attractions, stunning natural beauty, and a unique blend of urban and rural living.

    Zaandam hotel, Zaanse Schans and Amsterdam canals
    Noord-Holland

9 - Zuid-Holland

  • Capital: The Hague
  • Population: 3,733,000
  • Known for: Major cities (Rotterdam, The Hague, Leiden), industrial heritage, beautiful beaches, historical attractions
  • Things to do: Visit the port of Rotterdam, explore the Binnenhof in The Hague, admire the Pieterskerk in Leiden, relax on the beaches of Scheveningen, discover the historic windmills of Kinderdijk
  • Why live here: Zuid-Holland offers a dynamic mix of cities, history, industry, and coastline, providing a diverse and exciting living environment.

    Flag, Rotterdam and Delft city
    Zuid-Holland

10 - Zeeland

  • Capital: Middelburg
  • Population: 858,000
  • Known for: Beaches, water sports, unique delta landscape, many islands and peninsulas
  • Things to do: Go swimming, sailing, or kitesurfing, explore the beaches and islands, visit the Delta Works, attend a water sports festival, savor fresh seafood
  • Why live here: Zeeland offers a laid-back coastal lifestyle, stunning natural scenery, a variety of water sports activities, and a unique island culture.

    Zeeland bridge, Middelburg
    Zeeland

11 - Noord-Brabant 

  • Capital: 's-Hertogenbosch a.k.a. Den Bosch
  • Population: 2,584,000
  • Known for: Diverse cities (Eindhoven, Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch), rich cultural heritage, bordering Belgium
  • Things to do: Explore the PSV Stadium in Eindhoven, visit the Grote Markt in Breda, wander through the canals of 's-Hertogenbosch, attend a carnival celebration, experience the border culture
  • Why live here: Noord-Brabant offers a mix of urban and rural living, a vibrant cultural scene, a strong sense of community, and easy access to neighboring Belgium.

    Meadows with cows, Breda, Den Bosch
    Noord-Brabant

12 - Limburg

  • Capital: Maastricht
  • Population: 1,095,000
  • Known for: Hilly landscapes, forests, charming villages, historic city of Maastricht with a rich cultural heritage
  • Things to do: Hike or bike through the Limburg hills, visit the Valkenburg Caves, explore the Maastricht city center, attend a music festival, savor regional gastronomy
  • Why live here: Limburg offers a picturesque landscape, a welcoming atmosphere, a rich cultural heritage, and a close connection to nature.

    Limburg flag, Limburg landscape, Maastricht town hall
    Limburg

Each of the Dutch provinces has its own distinct charm and character, offering something unique for expats to explore and experience. Whether you seek the bustling city life of Amsterdam, the tranquility of the Frisian countryside, or the rugged beauty of the Limburg hills, the Netherlands has a province that perfectly suits your lifestyle and preferences.