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, 383,689
Maximum: South Holland, 3,705,625
AreasMinimum (including water): Utrecht, 1,449 km2 (559 sq mi)
Maximum (including water): Friesland, 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi)
Government Provincial-Executive
Subdivisions Municipalities

There are 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.


The most populous province is South Holland, with just over 3.7 million inhabitants as of November 2019, [1] and also the most densely populated province with 1,317/km2. With 383,689 inhabitants, Zeeland has the smallest population. However Drenthe is the least densely populated province with 188/km2. In terms of area, Friesland is the largest province with a total area of 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi). [2] If water is excluded, Gelderland is the largest province in terms of area at 4,967 km2 (1,918 sq mi). The province of Utrecht is the smallest in land area at 1,380 km2 (530 sq mi). In total about 10,000 people were employed by the provincial administrations in 2018. [3]

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.

Politics and governance

The government of each province consists of three major parts:


State coat of arms of the Netherlands.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

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.

The last provincial elections were held in 2007, 2011, 2015 and in 2019. The next provincial elections are scheduled for 2023.


The provinces of the Netherlands have seven core tasks: [5]

  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; Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands that are not part of any province. Previously these were part of public bodies (openbare lichamen).

European Netherlands

ProvinceCoat of ArmsCapitalLargest municipalityKing's CommissionerTotal area [6] Land areaPopulation
[upper-alpha 1] [7]
Population density GRP in million euros (2018) [8] GRP per capita in euros (2018) [9]
Flag of Drenthe.svg  Drenthe
Drenthe wapen.svg
Flag of Assen.svg  Assen
Emmen vlag.svg  Emmen
Jetta Klijnsma  (PvdA)
2,6801,0352,6341,017493,449188/km2 (490/sq mi)15,09030,662
Flag of Flevoland.svg  Flevoland
Flevoland wapen.svg
Flag of Lelystad.svg  Lelystad
Almere vlag.svg  Almere
Leen Verbeek  (PvdA)
2,4139321,413546422,202299/km2 (770/sq mi)14,01033,832
Frisian flag.svg  Friesland [upper-alpha 2]
Friesland wapen.svg
Flag of Leeuwarden.svg  Leeuwarden
Arno Brok  (VVD)
5,7492,2203,3241,283649,988196/km2 (510/sq mi)19,83730,638
Flag of Gelderland.svg  Gelderland
Gelderland wapen.svg
VlagArnhem.svg  Arnhem
Flag of Nijmegen.svg  Nijmegen
John Berends  (CDA)
5,1361,9834,9671,9182,084,478420/km2 (1,100/sq mi)78,26537,882
Flag of Groningen.svg  Groningen [upper-alpha 3]
Groningen provincie wapen.svg
Flag of Groningen City.svg Groningen
René Paas  (CDA)
2,9601,1432,325898585,881252/km2 (650/sq mi)24,96342,784
Flag of Limburg.svg  Limburg
Flag of Maastricht.svg  Maastricht
Theo Bovens  (CDA)
2,2108532,1488291,118,223521/km2 (1,350/sq mi)44,50339,853
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  (CDA)
5,0821,9624,9081,8952,562,566523/km2 (1,350/sq mi)116,09045,767
Flag of North Holland.svg  North Holland
Noord-Holland wapen.svg
Flag Haarlem.svg  Haarlem [upper-alpha 5]
Flag of Amsterdam.svg  Amsterdam [upper-alpha 5]
Arthur van Dijk  (VVD)
4,0921,5802,6621,0282,877,9091,082/km2 (2,800/sq mi)166,94158,735
Flag of Overijssel.svg  Overijssel
Overijssel wapen.svg
Flag of Zwolle.svg  Zwolle
Flag of Enschede.svg  Enschede
Andries Heidema  (CU)
3,4211,3213,3231,2831,162,215350/km2 (910/sq mi)43,21937,453
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  (CDA)
3,4191,3202,8141,0863,705,6251,317/km2 (3,410/sq mi)163,80544,330
Utrecht (province)-Flag.svg  Utrecht
Utrecht provincie wapen.svg
Flag of Utrecht.svg Utrecht
Hans Oosters  (PvdA)
1,4495591,3805331,353,596981/km2 (2,540/sq mi)71,52254,967
Flag of Zeeland.svg  Zeeland
Zeeland wapen.svg
Middelburg vlag.svg  Middelburg
Terneuzen vlag.svg  Terneuzen
Han Polman  (D66)
2,9341,1331,783688383,689216/km2 (560/sq mi)13,57835,482
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
41,54516,04133,48112,92717,399,821521/km2 (1,350/sq mi)774,03944,920

Caribbean Netherlands

Special MunicipalityCoat of ArmsCapitalLargest cityArea [11] Population [12]
(January 2019)
Flag of Bonaire.svg Bonaire
Bonaire wapen.svg
294 km2 (114 sq mi)20,10469/km2 (180/sq mi)
Flag of Saba.svg Saba
Saba wapen.svg
The Bottom
13 km2 (5.0 sq mi)1,915148/km2 (380/sq mi)
Flag of Sint Eustatius.svg Sint Eustatius
Sint Eustatius wapen.svg
21 km2 (8.1 sq mi)3,138150/km2 (390/sq mi)
Total328 km2 (127 sq mi)25,15777/km2 (200/sq mi)


  1. As of 1 November 2019.
  2. Friesland in Dutch; the official name Fryslân is in the West Frisian language. [10]
  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. 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.


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; East Frisia is not included in this later map Netherlands during French administration 1810-1814.png
Map of the subdivisions of the Netherlands during French administration; East Frisia 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 EemsEast Frisia

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. [13]

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. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Friesland Province of the Netherlands

Friesland, 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. As of January 2020, the province had a population of 649,944 and a total area of 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi).

Holland Region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands

Holland is a region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The name Holland is also frequently used informally to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. This usage is commonly accepted in other countries, and sometimes employed by the Dutch themselves. However, some in the Netherlands, particularly those from regions outside Holland, may find it undesirable or misrepresentative to use the term for the whole country.

Limburg (Netherlands) Province of the Netherlands

Limburg is the southernmost of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. The province is in the southeastern part of the country, stretched out from the north, where it touches the province of Gelderland. Its northern part has the province of North Brabant 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 which is also named Limburg. On the south end it borders the Walloon province of Liège. The Vaalserberg is on the extreme south-eastern point, marking the tripoint of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

South Holland Province of the Netherlands

South Holland is a province of the Netherlands with a population of just over 3.7 million as of November 2019 and a population density of about 1,373/km2 (3,560/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 3,419 km2 (1,320 sq mi), of which 605 km2 (234 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 Dutch seat of government The Hague, while its largest city is Rotterdam. The Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta drains through South Holland into the North Sea. Europe's busiest seaport, the Port of Rotterdam, is located in South Holland.

Groningen (province) The northeasternmost province of the Netherlands

Groningen is the northeasternmost province of the Netherlands. It borders on Friesland to the west, Drenthe to the south, the German state of Lower Saxony to the east, and the Wadden Sea to the north. As of November 2019, Groningen had a population of 585,881 and a total area of 2,960 km2 (1,140 sq mi).

Utrecht (province) Province of the Netherlands

Utrecht Province is a province of the Netherlands. It is located in the centre of the country, bordering the Eemmeer in the north-east, the province of Gelderland in the east and south-east, the province of South Holland in the west and south-west and the province of North Holland in the north-west and north. The province of Utrecht has a population of 1,353,596 as of November 2019. With an area of approximately 1,449 square kilometres (559 sq mi) of which 69 square kilometres (27 sq mi) is water, it is the smallest of the twelve Dutch provinces. Apart from its eponymous capital, major cities in the province are Amersfoort, Houten, Nieuwegein, Veenendaal, IJsselstein and Zeist. The busiest railway station in the Netherlands, Utrecht Centraal, is located in the province of Utrecht.

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, borders North Brabant to the east and South Holland to the north, consists of a number of islands and peninsulas and a strip bordering the Flemish provinces of East and West Flanders. Its capital is Middelburg with a population of 48,544 as of November 2019, the largest municipality in Zeeland is Terneuzen Zeeland has two seaports; in Vlissingen and Terneuzen. Its area is 2,934 square kilometres (1,130 sq mi), of which 1,151 square kilometres (440 sq mi) is water, and it has a population of 383,689 as of November 2019.

North Brabant Province of the Netherlands

North Brabant, also unofficially called Brabant, is a province in the south of the Netherlands. It borders the provinces of South Holland and Gelderland to the north, Limburg to the east, Zeeland to the west, and the Flemish provinces of Antwerp and Limburg to the south. The northern border follows the Meuse westward to its mouth in the Hollands Diep strait, part of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. North Brabant has a population of 2,562,566 as of November 2019. Major cities in North Brabant are Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda and its provincial capital 's-Hertogenbosch.

Geography of the European Netherlands

The geography of the European Netherlands is unusual in that much of its land has been reclaimed from the sea and is below sea level, protected by dikes. It is a small country with a total area of 41,545 km2 (16,041 sq mi) and ranked 131st. With a population of 17.4 million and density of 521/km2 (1,350/sq mi) makes it the most densely populated country in Europe, and the 12th most densely populated country in the world, behind only three countries with a population over 16 million. Consequently, the Netherlands is highly urbanized.

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 the German state of Lower Saxony to the east. As of November 2019, Drenthe had a population of 493,449 and a total area of 2,680 km2 (1,030 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 1,162,215 as of November 2019.

Gelderland Province of the Netherlands

Gelderland, also known as Guelders in English, is a province of the Netherlands, located in the central eastern part of the country. With a total area of nearly 5,136 km2 (1,983 sq mi) of which 169 km2 (65 sq mi) is water, it is the largest province of the Netherlands and shares borders with six other provinces and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

North Holland Province of the Netherlands

North Holland is a province of the Netherlands in the northwestern part of the country. It is on the North Sea, north of South Holland and Utrecht, and west of Friesland and Flevoland. In November 2019, it had a population of 2,877,909 and a total area of 4,092 km2 (1,580 sq mi), of which 1,430 km2 (550 sq mi) is water.

Provinces of Belgium subdivision of Belgium

The country of Belgium is divided into three regions. Two of these regions, the Flemish Region or Flanders, and Walloon Region, or Wallonia, are each subdivided into five provinces. The third region, the Brussels Capital Region, is not divided into provinces, as it was originally only a small part of a province itself.

The Generality Lands, Lands of the Generality or Common Lands were about one fifth of the territories of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, that were directly governed by the States-General. Unlike the seven provinces Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Overijssel, Friesland and Groningen, these territories had no States-Provincial and were not represented in the central government. From an economic point of view, they were exploited with heavy taxes and levies. As one author puts it: "Back in the Dutch lap, these so-called Generality countries were for a long time governed as a sort of internal colonies, in which Catholics were seen as second-class citizens."

The Estates, also known as the States, was the assembly of the representatives of the estates of the realm, the divisions of society in feudal times, called together for purposes of deliberation, legislation or taxation. A meeting of the estates that covered an entire kingdom was called an estates general.

States-provincial provincial parliament of the Netherlands

A 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.

Kingdom of the Netherlands Kingdom in Europe and the Caribbean

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, commonly known as the Netherlands, is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with the large majority of its territory in Western Europe and with several small West Indian island territories in the Caribbean Sea.

2019 Dutch provincial elections Dutch provincial elections held in 2019

Provincial elections were held in the Netherlands on 20 March 2019. Eligible voters elected the members of the Provincial States in the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. The elections were held on the same day as the 2019 Dutch water boards elections and, in the Caribbean Netherlands, island council elections.


  3. "Personeelsmonitor Provincies". A&O-fonds Provincies (in Dutch). 2 July 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  4. Provinciale Staten (in Dutch)
  5. Core tasks of provinces, Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO) (in Dutch).
  8. [
  9. [
  10. "Provincies". (in Dutch).
  13. "When the Netherlands finally did become fully part of France in 1810 the | Course Hero". Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  14. "Superprovincie gaat definitief niet door" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 October 2019.