Provinces of the Netherlands

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Provinces of the Netherlands
Provincies van Nederland  (Dutch)
Category Unitary unit
LocationFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Number12 provinces
PopulationsMinimum: Zeeland, 381,568
Maximum: South Holland, 3,650,222
AreasMinimum (including water): Utrecht, 1,450 km2 (560 sq mi)
Maximum (including water): Friesland, 5,700 km2 (2,200 sq mi)
Government Provincial-Executive
Subdivisions Municipalities

There are currently twelve provinces of the Netherlands (Dutch : provincies van Nederland), representing the administrative layer between the national government and the local municipalities, with responsibility for matters of subnational or regional importance.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Cabinet of the Netherlands all ministers and secretaries of state of the current Dutch government

The cabinet of the Netherlands is the main executive body of the Netherlands. The current cabinet of the Netherlands is the Third Rutte cabinet, which has been in power since 26 October 2017. It is headed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his deputies Hugo de Jonge, Kajsa Ollongren and Carola Schouten.


The most populous province is South Holland, with over 3.65 million inhabitants in 2009. With approximately 381,500 inhabitants, Zeeland has the smallest population. In terms of area, Friesland is the largest province with a total area of 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi). If water is excluded, Gelderland is the largest province in terms of area at 4,972 km2 (1,920 sq mi). Utrecht is the smallest at 1,385 km2 (535 sq mi). In total about 13,000 people were employed by the provincial administrations in 2009. [1]

South Holland Province of the Netherlands

South Holland is a province of the Netherlands with a population of just over 3.6 million as of 2015 and a population density of about 1,300/km2 (3,400/sq mi), making it the country's most populous province and one of the world's most densely populated areas. Situated on the North Sea in the west of the Netherlands, South Holland covers an area of 3,403 km2 (1,314 sq mi), of which 585 km2 (226 sq mi) is water. It borders North Holland to the north, Utrecht and Gelderland to the east, and North Brabant and Zeeland to the south. The provincial capital is The Hague, while its largest city is Rotterdam.

Zeeland Province of the Netherlands

Zeeland is the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands. The province, located in the south-west of the country, consists of a number of islands and peninsulas and a strip bordering Belgium. Its capital is Middelburg. Its area is about 2,930 square kilometres (1,130 sq mi), of which almost 1,140 square kilometres (440 sq mi) is water, and it has a population of about 380,000.

Friesland Province of the Netherlands

Friesland, also historically known as Frisia, is a province of the Netherlands located in the northern part of the country. It is situated west of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of North Holland, and south of the Wadden Sea. In 2015, the province had a population of 646,092 and a total area of 5,100 km2 (2,000 sq mi).

The provinces of the Netherlands are joined in the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO). This organisation promotes the common interests of the provinces in the national government of the Netherlands in The Hague and within the European Union in Brussels.

The Association of Provinces of the Netherlands is the association of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. The association looks after provincial interests and forms a platform for exchanging knowledge and experience among the twelve Dutch provinces. The IPO also stimulates and takes the initiative in reform programmes.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

Politics and governance

The government of each province consists of three major parts:


The States-Provincial is the provincial parliament and legislative assembly in each of the provinces of the Netherlands. It is elected for each province simultaneously once every four years and has the responsibility for matters of sub-national or regional importance. Each States-Provincial is directly elected by the voters within the relevant province, and the number of seats in each States-Provincial is proportional to its population.

The Provincial-Executive is the executive branch of government of a province of the Netherlands.

Kings Commissioner head of a province in the Netherlands

The King’s Commissioner is the head of a province in the Netherlands. The officeholder chairs of both the States-Provincial and the Provincial-Executive, but has a right to vote only in the latter. When the reigning monarch is a female, the office is Queen's Commissioner. As there are twelve provinces in the Netherlands, there are twelve King's Commissioners.


State coat of arms of the Netherlands.svg
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The members of the States-Provincial are elected every four years in direct elections. To a large extent, the same political parties are enlisted in these elections in the national elections. The chosen provincial legislators elect the members of the national Senate within three months after the provincial elections. The elections for the water boards take place on the same date as the provincial elections.

Senate (Netherlands) upper house of the Netherlands

The Senate is the upper house of the States General, the legislature of the Netherlands. Its 75 members are elected on lists by the members of the twelve States-Provincial and three Caribbean electoral colleges for the Senate every four years, within three months of the provincial elections. All provinces and colleges have different electoral weight depending on their population.

Elections in the Netherlands

Elections in the Netherlands are held for five territorial levels of government: the European Union, the state, the twelve Provinces, the 25 water boards and the 380 municipalities. Apart from elections, referenda are also held occasionally, a fairly recent phenomenon in Dutch politics. The most recent national election results and an overview of the resulting seat assignments and coalitions since World War II are shown at the bottom of this page.

The last three provincial elections were held in 2007, 2011 and in 2015.


The provinces of the Netherlands have seven core tasks: [3]

  1. Sustainable spatial development, including water management.
  2. Environment, energy and climate
  3. Vital countryside
  4. Regional accessibility and regional public transport
  5. Regional economy
  6. Cultural infrastructure and preservation
  7. Quality of public administration


To a large extent, the provinces of the Netherlands are financed by the national government. Also, provinces have income from a part of the Vehicle Excise Duty. Several provinces have made a large profit in the past from privatising utility companies originally owned or partly owned by the provinces. Essent, which was originally owned by six provinces and more than a hundred municipalities, was sold for around 9.3 billion euros.


The country of the Netherlands, being the largest part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is divided into twelve provinces (provincies in Dutch) and three overseas special municipalities, the Caribbean Netherlands that are not part of any province. Previously these were part of public bodies (openbare lichamen).

List of provinces

ProvinceArmsCapitalLargest municipalityKing's CommissionerTotal area [4] Land areaPopulation
[upper-alpha 1] [5]
DensityDensity excluding water GRP in million euros (2016) [6] GRP per capita in euros (2016)
Flag Drenthe.svg  Drenthe
Drenthe wapen.svg
Flag of Assen.svg  Assen
Emmen vlag.svg  Emmen
Jetta Klijnsma
2,6801,0352,6411,020492,100184/km2 (480/sq mi)186/km2 (480/sq mi)14,11928,802
Flevolandflag.svg  Flevoland
Flevoland wapen.svg
Flag of Lelystad.svg  Lelystad
Almere vlag.svg  Almere
Leen Verbeek
2,4129311,418547411,670171/km2 (440/sq mi)290/km2 (750/sq mi)12,95931,923
Frisian flag.svg  Friesland [upper-alpha 2]
Friesland wapen.svg
Flag of Leeuwarden.svg  Leeuwarden
Arno Brok
5,7492,2203,3421,290647,268113/km2 (290/sq mi)194/km2 (500/sq mi)18,58128,743
Gelderland-Flag.svg  Gelderland
Gelderland wapen.svg
VlagArnhem.svg  Arnhem
Flag of Nijmegen.svg  Nijmegen
Clemens Cornielje
5,1361,9834,9721,9202,060,103401/km2 (1,040/sq mi)414/km2 (1,070/sq mi)70,78934,673
Flag of Groningen.svg  Groningen [upper-alpha 3]
Groningen provincie wapen.svg
Flag of Groningen City.svg Groningen
René Paas
2,9601,1432,333901582,944197/km2 (510/sq mi)250/km2 (650/sq mi)24,10241,295
NL-LimburgVlag.svg  Limburg
Flag of Maastricht.svg  Maastricht
Theo Bovens
2,2098532,1518301,117,198509/km2 (1,320/sq mi)519/km2 (1,340/sq mi)39,32935,213
North Brabant-Flag.svg  North Brabant
Noord-Brabant wapen.svg
Flag of 's-Hertogenbosch.svg  's-Hertogenbosch [upper-alpha 4]
Flag of Eindhoven.svg  Eindhoven
Wim van de Donk
5,0821,9624,9161,8982,528,286498/km2 (1,290/sq mi)514/km2 (1,330/sq mi)107,88843,058
Flag North-Holland, Netherlands.svg  North Holland
Noord-Holland wapen.svg
Flag Haarlem.svg  Haarlem [upper-alpha 5]
Flag of Amsterdam.svg  Amsterdam [upper-alpha 5]
Johan Remkes
4,0911,5802,6711,0312,831,182692/km2 (1,790/sq mi)1,060/km2 (2,700/sq mi)148,24352,998
Flag of Overijssel.svg  Overijssel
Overijssel wapen.svg
Flag of Zwolle.svg  Zwolle
Flag of Enschede.svg  Enschede
Andries Heidema
3,4211,3213,3261,2841,151,501337/km2 (870/sq mi)346/km2 (900/sq mi)39,05934,083
Flag Zuid-Holland.svg  South Holland
Zuid-holland wapen.svg
Flag of The Hague.svg  The Hague [upper-alpha 6]
Flag of Rotterdam.svg  Rotterdam
Jaap Smit
3,4181,3202,8151,0873,681,0441,077/km2 (2,790/sq mi)1,307/km2 (3,390/sq mi)150,67541,437
Utrecht (province)-Flag.svg  Utrecht
Utrecht provincie wapen.svg
Flag of Utrecht.svg Utrecht
Willibrord van Beek
1,4495601,3855351,295,484894/km2 (2,320/sq mi)935/km2 (2,420/sq mi)61,45248,045
Flag of Zeeland.svg  Zeeland
Zeeland wapen.svg
Middelburg vlag.svg  Middelburg
Terneuzen vlag.svg  Terneuzen
Han Polman
2,9331,1331,787690382,304130/km2 (340/sq mi)214/km2 (550/sq mi)12,24232,097


  1. As of 1 January 2018.
  2. Friesland in Dutch; the official name Fryslân is in the West Frisian language. [7]
  3. Grönnen in Gronings; Grinslân in West Frisian.
  4. Also Den Bosch in Dutch.
  5. 1 2 Amsterdam is the national capital of the Netherlands. [8] Haarlem is, however, the capital of the province in which both Amsterdam and Haarlem are situated.
  6. Den Haag or 's-Gravenhage in Dutch. The Dutch parliament and the Dutch government are located in The Hague along with the Supreme Court and the Council of State. [8]


Flags of the provinces near the Hofvijver in The Hague Flags of Dutch Provinces The Hague.jpg
Flags of the provinces near the Hofvijver in The Hague
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP in 2016.png
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP in 2016
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP per capita in 2016.png
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP per capita in 2016

Nearly all Dutch provinces can trace their origin to a medieval county or duchy, as can the provinces of regions in Belgium. Their status changed when they came under a single ruler who centralised their administration, reducing their powers. There were 17 in total: from these unified Netherlands, seven northern provinces from 1588 formed the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, namely Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel and Groningen.

The Republic's lands also included Drenthe (one of the 17, but without the autonomous status of the others), and parts of the Duchy of Brabant, Duchy of Limburg and County of Flanders, which were considered to be "conquered lands" and were governed directly by the States General, hence their name Generality Lands. They were called Staats-Brabant, Staats-Limburg and Staats-Vlaanderen, meaning "governed by the States General". Each of these "Netherlands" had a high degree of autonomy, cooperating with each other mainly on defense and foreign relations, but otherwise keeping to their own affairs.

On 1 January 1796, under the Batavian Republic, Drenthe and Staats-Brabant became the eighth and ninth provinces of the Netherlands. The latter, which had been known as Bataafs Brabant (English: Batavian Brabant), changed its name to Noord Brabant, North Brabant, in 1815 when it became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also contained (then) South Brabant, a province now in Belgium. This new unified state featured the provinces in their modern form, as non-autonomous subdivisions of the national state, and again numbering 17, though they were not all the same as the 16th century ones. In 1839, following the separation of Belgium, the province of Limburg was divided between the two countries, each now having a province called Limburg. A year later, Holland, the largest and most populous of the Dutch provinces, was also split into two provinces, for a total of 11. The 12th province to be created was Flevoland, consisting almost entirely of reclaimed land, established on 1 January 1986.

French period

During the Batavian Republic, the Netherlands was from 1798 to 1801 completely reorganised into eight new departments, most named after rivers, inspired by the French revolutionary example, in an attempt to do away with the old semi-autonomous status of the provinces. They are listed below, with their capitals and the territory of the former provinces that they mostly incorporated:

Batavian Departments
English nameDutch nameCapitalTerritory contained
Department of the Ems Departement van de Eems Leeuwarden Northern Friesland, Groningen
Department of the Old IJssel Departement van de Oude IJssel Zwolle Southern Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Northern Gelderland
Department of the Rhine Departement van de Rijn Arnhem Central Gelderland, Eastern Utrecht
Department of the Amstel Departement van de Amstel Amsterdam Area around Amsterdam
Department of Texel Departement van Texel Alkmaar Northern Holland minus Amsterdam, Northwestern Utrecht
Department of the Delft Departement van de Delft Delft Southern Holland up to the Meuse, Southwestern Utrecht
Department of the Dommel Departement van de Dommel 's-Hertogenbosch Eastern Batavian Brabant, Southern Gelderland
Department of the Scheldt and Meuse Departement van de Schelde en Maas Middelburg Zeeland, Southern Holland under the Meuse and Western Batavian Brabant

After only three years, following a coup d'état, the borders of the former provinces were restored, though not their autonomous status. They were now also called "departments" and Drenthe was added to Overijssel. In 1806 the Kingdom of Holland replaced the republic to further French interests. It was during this administration that Holland was first split in two, with the department of Amstelland to the north and that of Maasland to the south. East Frisia, then as now in Germany, was added to the kingdom as a department in 1807 and Drenthe split off again making a total of 11 departments.

When the Netherlands finally did become fully part of France in 1810, the departments of the kingdom and their borders were largely maintained, with some joined together. They were however nearly all renamed, again mainly after rivers, though the names differed from their Batavian counterparts. Following are their names and the modern day province they mostly correspond to:

Map of the subdivisions of the Netherlands during French administration; eastern Friesland is not included in this later map Netherlands during French administration 1810-1814.png
Map of the subdivisions of the Netherlands during French administration; eastern Friesland is not included in this later map
French departments in the Netherlands
English nameFrench nameDutch nameModern territory
Department of the Zuiderzee Département du Zuyderzée Departement van de ZuiderzeeNorth Holland and Utrecht
Department of the Mouths of the MeuseDépartement des Bouches-de-la-Meuse Departement van de Monden van de MaasSouth Holland
Department of the Mouths of the ScheldtDépartement des Bouches-de-l'Escaut Departement van de Monden van de ScheldeZeeland
Department of the Two NethesDépartement des Deux-Nèthes Departement van de Twee NethenWestern North Brabant and Antwerp
Department of the Mouths of the RhineDépartement des Bouches-du-Rhin Departement van de Monden van de RijnEastern North Brabant and southern Gelderland
Department of the Upper IJsselDépartement de l'Yssel-Supérieur Departement van de Boven IJsselNorthern Gelderland
Department of the Mouths of the IJsselDépartement des Bouches-de-l'Yssel Departement van de Monden van de IJsselOverijssel
Department of FrisiaDépartement de la Frise Departement FrieslandFriesland
Department of the Western EmsDépartement de l'Ems-Occidental Departement van de Wester EemsGroningen and Drenthe
Department of the Eastern EmsDépartement de l'Ems-Oriental Departement van de Ooster EemsEastern Friesland

With the defeat and withdrawal of the French in 1813, the old provinces and their names were re-established, Holland was reunited and East-Frisia went its separate way. The 17 provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands were for a significant part based on the former French departments and their borders, in particular in what would later become Belgium. [9]

There is continuous discussion within the Netherlands about the future of the provinces. Before 2014, the national government was planning to merge the provinces Flevoland, North Holland and Utrecht into a single province (Noordvleugelprovincie). Due to significant protest the plan was abandoned. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Limburg (Netherlands) Province of the Netherlands

Limburg is the southernmost of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. It is in the southeastern part of the country, stretched out from the north, where it touches the province of Gelderland, to the south, where it internationally borders Belgium. Its northern part has the North Brabant province to its west. Its long eastern boundary is the international border with the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Much of the west border runs along the River Maas, bordering the Flemish province of Limburg, and a small part of the Walloon province of Liège. On the south end, it has borders with the Flemish exclave of Voeren and its surrounding part of Liège, Wallonia. The Vaalserberg is on the extreme south-eastern point, marking the tripoint of Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces, was a confederal republic that existed from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Drenthe Province of the Netherlands

Drenthe is a province of the Netherlands located in the northeastern part of the country. It is bordered by Overijssel to the south, Friesland to the west, Groningen to the north, and Germany to the east. In January 2017, it had a population of 491,867 and a total area of 2,683 km2 (1,036 sq mi).

Overijssel Province of the Netherlands

Overijssel is a province of the Netherlands located in the eastern part of the country. The province's name translates to "across the IJssel", from the perspective of the Episcopal principality of Utrecht by which it was held until 1528. The capital city of Overijssel is Zwolle and the largest city is Enschede. The province had a population of 1,142,360 in 2015.

North Holland Province of the Netherlands

North Holland is a province of the Netherlands located in the northwestern part of the country. It is situated on the North Sea, north of South Holland and Utrecht, and west of Friesland and Flevoland. In 2015, it had a population of 2,762,163 and a total area of 2,670 km2 (1,030 sq mi).

Seventeen Provinces Union of states in the Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries

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  1. (in Dutch) IPO: did you know about the provinces (in Dutch).
  2. (in Dutch) Provinciale Staten
  3. (in Dutch) IPO, core task of provinces
  4. "Regionale kerncijfers Nederland". CBS Statline (in Dutch). CBS. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  5. "Regionale kerncijfers Nederland". CBS StatLine (in Dutch). 13 December 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  6. "Regionale kerncijfers; nationale rekeningen" (in Dutch), GDP by province according to Statistics Netherlands.
  7. ICTU. " - Standaard elementen".
  8. 1 2 Daum, Andreas (2005). Berlin - Washington, 1800–2000 Capital Cities, Cultural Representation, and National Identities. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13, 38. ISBN   0521841178. Amsterdam is the statuary capital of the Netherlands, while the Dutch government resides in De Hague. (sic) (p. 13) The Netherlands' seat of government is The Hague but its capital is bustling Amsterdam, the national cultural center. (p. 38)
  9. Luious, Bizaan (4 August 2014). "Alle kortingscodes om flink te besparen". Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  10. "Geen Noordvleugelprovincie - Provincies" (in Dutch). Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties. Retrieved 27 July 2017.