Provinces of the Netherlands

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Provinces of the Netherlands
Provincies van Nederland  (Dutch)
Map of the Netherlands, linking to the province articles Map provinces Netherlands-en.svgLimburgZeelandZeelandZeelandZeelandZeelandGelderlandSouth HollandSouth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandUtrechtFlevolandFlevolandOverijsselDrentheGroningen (province)Groningen (province)Groningen (province)FrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandNorth BrabantSint EustatiusSint EustatiusSabaSabaBonaireBonaireBonaire
Map of the Netherlands, linking to the province articles
Category Unitary unit
Location Netherlands
Number12 provinces
PopulationsMinimum: Zeeland, 383,488
Maximum: South Holland, 3,708,696
AreasMinimum (including water): Utrecht, 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi)
Maximum (including water): Friesland, 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi)

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 January 2020, and also the most densely populated province with 1,374/km2 (3,559/sq mi). [1] With 383,488 inhabitants, Zeeland has the smallest population. However Drenthe is the least densely populated province with 188/km2 (487/sq mi). 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 by land area at 4,964 km2 (1,916 sq mi). The province of Utrecht is the smallest with a total area of 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi), while Flevoland is the smallest by land area at 1,412 km2 (545 sq mi). In total about 10,000 people were employed by the provincial administrations in 2018. [2]

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:


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: [4]

  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

ProvinceDutch nameCoat of armsCapitalLargest municipalityKing's CommissionerNumber of
Total area [1] Land area [1] Population [upper-alpha 1] [1] Population density [1] GRP in
million euros
(2019) [5]
GRP per
capita in euros
(2019) [5]
Flag of Drenthe.svg  Drenthe Drenthe
Drenthe wapen.svg
Jetta Klijnsma  (PvdA)
2,6801,0352,6331,016493,682188/km2 (490/sq mi)15,70131,853
Flag of Flevoland.svg  Flevoland Flevoland
Flevoland wapen.svg
Leen Verbeek  (PvdA)
2,4129311,412545423,021300/km2 (780/sq mi)14,75635,151
Frisian flag.svg  Friesland [upper-alpha 2] Friesland
Friesland wapen.svg
Arno Brok  (VVD)
5,7492,2203,3361,288649,957195/km2 (510/sq mi)20,72831,947
Flag of Gelderland.svg  Gelderland Gelderland
Gelderland wapen.svg
John Berends  (CDA)
5,1361,9834,9641,9162,085,952420/km2 (1,100/sq mi)81,75739,326
Flag of Groningen.svg  Groningen [upper-alpha 3] Groningen
Groningen provincie wapen.svg
René Paas  (CDA)
2,9601,1432,324897585,866252/km2 (650/sq mi)24,66942,174
Flag of Limburg.svg  Limburg Limburg
Johan Remkes  (VVD)
2,2108532,1478291,117,201520/km2 (1,300/sq mi)45,84841,058
North Brabant-Flag.svg  North Brabant Noord-Brabant
Noord-Brabant wapen.svg
's-Hertogenbosch [upper-alpha 4]
Ina Adema  (VVD)
5,0821,9624,9051,8942,562,955522/km2 (1,350/sq mi)120,86947,328
Flag of North Holland.svg  North Holland Noord-Holland
Noord-Holland wapen.svg
Haarlem [upper-alpha 5]
Amsterdam [upper-alpha 5]
Arthur van Dijk  (VVD)
4,0921,5802,6651,0292,879,5271,081/km2 (2,800/sq mi)177,73362,005
Flag of Overijssel.svg  Overijssel Overijssel
Overijssel wapen.svg
Andries Heidema  (CU)
3,4211,3213,3191,2811,162,406350/km2 (910/sq mi)45,51739,258
Flag Zuid-Holland.svg  South Holland Zuid-Holland
Zuid-holland wapen.svg
The Hague [upper-alpha 6]
Jaap Smit  (CDA)
3,3081,2772,7001,0433,708,6961,374/km2 (3,560/sq mi)169,11845,815
Utrecht (province)-Flag.svg  Utrecht Utrecht
Utrecht provincie wapen.svg
Hans Oosters  (PvdA)
1,5606021,4855741,354,834912/km2 (2,360/sq mi)77,44557,431
Flag of Zeeland.svg  Zeeland Zeeland
Zeeland wapen.svg
Han Polman  (D66)
2,9331,1331,782688383,488215/km2 (560/sq mi)14,39137,549
35541,54316,04033,67113,00017,407,585527/km2 (1,360/sq mi)810,24746,714

Caribbean Netherlands

Special MunicipalityCoat of ArmsCapitalLargest cityArea [7] Population [7]
(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 January 2020
  2. Friesland in Dutch; the official name Fryslân is in the West Frisian language. [6]
  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. [8]

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. [9]

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).

Limburg (Netherlands) Province of the Netherlands

Limburg is the southernmost of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. The province is in the southern 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 western and southern boundary is the international border with the Belgium, much of it delineated by the Meuse river, across from the Belgian Liège Province and the Belgian province also named Limburg. The Vaalserberg is on the extreme south-eastern point, marking the tripoint of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

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).

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.

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.

North Holland Province of the Netherlands

North Holland is a province of the Netherlands in the northwestern part of the country. It is located 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.

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

The Seventeen Provinces were the Imperial states of the Habsburg Netherlands in the 16th century. They roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e., what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and most of the French departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais (Artois). Also within this area were semi-independent fiefdoms, mainly ecclesiastical ones, such as Liège, Cambrai and Stavelot-Malmedy.

Provinces of Belgium Subdivisions 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.

States General of the Netherlands Legislature of the Netherlands

The States General of the Netherlands is the bicameral legislature of the Netherlands consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both chambers meet at the Binnenhof in The Hague.

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."

National Reserve Corps

The National Reserve Corps is a part of the Royal Netherlands Army. NATRES is a corps in the sense that it has a specialized task. The reservist is, like all Dutch military personnel, a military volunteer.

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.

Armorial of the Netherlands

The coats of arms of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands are shown here.

Essent N.V. is a Dutch energy company based in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. It is a subsidiary of E.ON. It is a public limited liability corporation. Essent is the largest energy company in the country. Belgium is their second home market. Essent provides customers with gas, electricity, heat and energy services. Essent has over 90 years of experience with generating, trading, transmitting and supplying electricity.

Provincial council (Netherlands) Provincial parliament in the Netherlands

The provincial council, also known as 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. The number of seats in a provincial council is proportional to its population.

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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Regionale kerncijfers Nederland" [Regional key figures Netherlands]. CBS Statline (in Dutch). CBS. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  2. "Personeelsmonitor Provincies". A&O-fonds Provincies (in Dutch). 2 July 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  3. Provinciale Staten (in Dutch)
  4. Core tasks of provinces, Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO) (in Dutch).
  5. 1 2
  6. "Provincies". (in Dutch).
  7. 1 2
  8. "When the Netherlands finally did become fully part of France in 1810 the | Course Hero". Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  9. "Superprovincie gaat definitief niet door" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 October 2019.