1. Holland does not mean the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is made up of 12 different provinces. Holland is the name for two of those provinces: North and South Holland. Saying Holland is fine if you’re in that area, otherwise say the Netherlands to avoid confusion.
But why did the Netherlands stop using “Holland” to refer to the whole country? It wasn’t just about being geographically correct. The country officially stopped using Holland as a nickname at the end of 2019 as part of a big rebranding campaign. After all, if all tourists see just Holland then they’ll gather in those two provinces alone instead of exploring the whole country.
That all being said, in everyday conversation, many locals and the Belgian neighbors to the south lovingly still call it Holland.
2. A Dutch man invented Bluetooth.
We need to thank the Dutch for helping us stay connected. Dutch engineer Dr. Jaap Haartsen first created a wireless connection between devices in 1994. He got the idea while he was working for Ericsson in Sweden. In 2015, Dr. Haartsen was added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the United States. According to Volkskrant, Bluetooth is used on over 3 billion devices worldwide!
3. Dutch people are some of the nicest people in the world!
According to a survey by Jetcost in 2019, the Netherlands locals were the friendliest in Europe. While you’re travelling around the Netherlands, you’re sure to find friendly locals.
They’re also known for being quite direct and straight-forward, which we personally appreciate!
4. The longest Dutch word is 53 letters long.
Kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedenplan. No, that wasn’t a keyboard smash. That 53 letter word was forever immortalised in the Guinness Book of World Records of 1996. But what does it mean? Kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedenplan means preparation activities for a children’s carnival procession. We’ve yet to hear it in casual conversation, though. It’s just a fun fact about the Dutch language.
5. Amsterdam has over 60 miles of canals.
Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the north for a reason! Added up together, Amsterdam’s 165 canals are over 60 miles (100 km) long.
6. The motto of Rotterdam means ‘stronger through battle’
Here’s a historical fact about Rotterdam you won’t forget. Look at Rotterdam’s coat of arms and you’ll see the phrase “‘Sterker door strijd” beneath it. The Dutch phrase means stronger through battle. It’s similar to the New York motto of ‘stronger through effort’, but Rotterdam has a different reason for its saying.
The motto was adopted after World War II by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who admired the strength and perseverance of the Rotterdammers. WWII wasn’t easy on Rotterdam; the city suffered through various battles and even had their harbour destroyed.
7. The most famous bridge in Rotterdam is known as ‘De Zwaan’ to locals.
Most of the time, the famous bridge of Erasmusbrug is called simply by its name. But, over time, the locals gave it the name ‘De Zwaan’ meaning The Swan for its graceful swan-like shape. Though the bridge looks elegant, almost delicate, Erasmusbrug is quite strong! The bridge can hold up to 6,800 tons - that’s 1,700 elephants!
8. The first civilian airport in Europe opened in the Netherlands in 1920.
Vliegveld Waalhaven (Airport Waalhaven) was the very first civilian airport to open in Europe. It wasn’t always so easy to travel across the world! On its very first day, Airport Waalhaven sent out a plane filled with post to London. The airport spent a few years mostly by sending out cargo, but quickly gained attention in the 1930s as a good place to go for a day trip around Rotterdam.
So why does Airport Waalhaven no longer exist? This airport was taken off the map during WWII by the Nazi invasion. While Airport Waalhaven is no longer around, there’s still plenty of airports to welcome you to the Netherlands.
9. The lights of Rotterdam have a hidden meaning.
Wander through the streets of Rotterdam at night and you’ll soon come across a trail of LED lights. Rotterdam is bordered by a 12 km trail of red lights. These lights look beautiful at night, but also remember an important part of the city’s history.
In 1940, on the 14th of May, the German bombers rained down on Rotterdam. A lot of the city was destroyed from the bombs, but even more was damaged from the fire that followed in their wake. Even the water pipes were destroyed, so Rotterdam was on fire for days. In 2017, 70 years after this event, the city lined its once singed border with red lights. This whole walking route is 12 km long.
What about the green lights?
But Rotterdam doesn’t just have red lights. Here’s one fact you might not notice while you’re in the city. Wander over to the Northern Island of Rotterdam (Noordereiland) and you’ll find green lights illuminating this part of the city in the evening. The lights commemorate damage during WWII by friendly fire.
10. Even Kings can make mistakes in Dutch.
When Lodewijk Napoleon became the King of Holland in 1806, he tried to learn some Dutch. But it didn’t quite go as planned. Lodewijk Napoleon was trying to say ‘I am the King of Holland’ but instead said ‘I am the rabbit of Holland’ (“Iek bien konijn van Olland”.) Close, but no cigar!
Still, Lodewijk Napoleon was pretty popular with the locals despite that fumble. Eventually, his brother, the infamous Napoléon Bonaparte, had to exile him since Lodewijk was getting to be a bit too ambitious for his liking. It goes to show that if you make a little effort with the local language, you might just get popular. Or get exiled. This story doesn’t quite work. But you get what we mean.
12. Dutch men are the tallest in the world!
These guys really do reach new heights. The average Dutch man will never struggle to get something down from the kitchen shelf. At an average height of 6ft tall (183cm), Dutch men are the tallest men in the world. The Netherlands military has actually been tracking this on their records and the average height has increased by 20cm in 200 years.
13. The Netherlands is partly under the sea.
It’s better down where it’s wetter and it really shows in the Netherlands. Almost ⅓ of the country is below sea level. It’s no wonder that the Netherlands means “the lowlands”. The lowest point in the Netherlands is Zuidplaspolder, at 6.7m below sea level, just northeast of Rotterdam.
14. The Netherlands is famous for its windmills.
And it’s no surprise. The Netherlands has over 1,000 windmills on its land from sawmills, windmills, and more.
The most famous place for windmills is Kinderdijk, located in South Holland. Kinderdijk is home to 19 beautiful windmills to prevent flooding and is one of the most iconic sights to see in the Netherlands.
15. The Dutch take great pride in their culture, especially art.
The Netherlands has a deep cultural heritage. One thing that the Dutch love about their history is their artistry. Some of their most famous artists include; Hieronymus Bosch, Vincent van Gogh, Rachel Ruysch, and Leo Beukeboom. You’ll find traces of the Dutch Golden Age of art in their galleries and museums, but the country also has modern aplenty, a thriving culture of slam poetry, and more.
The Dutch government subsidies art to the tune of millions of euros every year, including 385 million in 2021 to support the arts industries throughout the COVID pandemic.
16. The Netherlands is one of the happiest countries in the world.
The Netherlands ranks as number 5 on the World Happiness Report of 2020 out of 156 countries. The Dutch people do have plenty to smile about! The Netherlands ranked very well for employment, levels of institutional trust, and much more. But, the Netherlands was beaten out of the top spot by Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, and Finald.
17. The Stock Market was born in the Netherlands.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange opened its doors all the way back in 1602. Founded by the Dutch East India Company, the stock exchange was the first in the world to trade in company stocks.
18. The Netherlands has more bikes than people.
The Netherlands is home to around 18 million people and 22 million bikes. Since the roads are so flat, it’s easy to get around by bike in the Netherlands. But the bike craze may have gotten a bit out of hand!
19. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage.
The Netherlands isn’t known for its progressive outlook for nothing, you know. On the 1st of April in 2001, the Netherlands legalised gay marriage and allowed same-sex couples to adopt children all in one swoop. But the story doesn’t end there.
Amsterdam is one of the most LGBT+ friendly places in the world.
The night same-sex marriage was legalised, Amsterdam’s mayor was really busy. Mayor Job Cohen married no less than four couples at midnight to celebrate the occasion. Amsterdam is known for its annual Gay Pride parade, but everyday the areas of Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat are LGBT+ firiendly places with bars and hang out spots all over the place. Don’t miss out on the party!
20. 2.2% of people speak Frisian as their first language.
The Frisians began as a Germanic tribe of people indigenous to the northern province of the Netherlands. They became a distinct tribe around 200 BCE. While a lot of tourist focus is spent on Amsterdam, we have to say that Friesland has a fascinating history worth checking out.
Friesland joined the Netherlands in the 1600s. The Frisians are proud of their distinct, local culture and have their language, West Frisian, as an official language alongside Dutch.
21. The Hague is also known as the “International City of Peace and Justice”.
The Hague is known by the nickname the “International City of Peace and Justice” because of its long history of human rights and law. International treaties were signed in The Hague, located in South Holland, to dictate the limits of war and proper process in 1907 and 1899, including the definitions of war crimes and that excessive violence should be avoided.
The Peace Palace
While not everyone knows the history of The Hague, everyone definitely sees the Peace Palace. Known as Vredespaleis in Dutch, the Peace Palace is one of the most important courts in Europe. It houses the International Court of Justice (a branch of the United Nations) and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
22. Amsterdam is built on wooden poles.
We bet you didn’t know this. Amsterdam is built above a bog. Buildings and houses are supported by long wooden poles (at least 13m long) to keep the city above sea level. There’s around 11 million poles supporting Amsterdam!
23. The Dutch eat the most licorice in the world.
The people of the Netherlands chow down on over 2000 grams (4 pounds) of licorice per person every year. Black licorice is the most popular, but other varieties like salty licorice are available if you want to switch things up a bit.
24. The cassette tape was invented by a Dutch engineer.
The Dutch are a nation of inventors. Lou Ottens, a Dutch engineer, was well-known in his field for the creation of the cassette tape in the 1960s when he worked at Phillips as the head of new product development. Ottens kept working at Phillips and also helped to develop other audio technologies like the CD.
25. The Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of tulips.
The Dutch love their tulips. Every year, the Netherlands sends out 2 billion tulips to the rest of the world. Now that’s flower power!
26. The Dutch national anthem is the oldest in the world.
Composed around 1572, the Dutch national anthem of “Wilhelmus van Nassouwe" (The William) wasn’t actually recognised as the official anthem until 1932. The lyrics take you through the true story of William of Orange, a steward of the Netherlands during the Dutch Revolt against the King of Spain.
Fun fact! No one actually knows who wrote the Netherlands national anthem. Some say it was written by the mayor of Antwerp, Philips of Marnix, or Dutch writer Dirck Coornhert. What do you think?
27. The Netherlands is known for its wooden clogs.
Known as Klompen, these iconic wooden shoes were made to withstand hard work and tough conditions in farms to protect the feet of workers. Kind of like steel capped shoes today, but with more style. Traditionally made from willow or poplar wood, Klompen are still sold today. Mostly, Klompen are bought by tourists, but you’ll see them around at historical events, the occasional farm, and even some garden centres.
28. Utrecht has over 300 bee sanctuaries at its bus stops.
They’re called bee stops. So cute! To improve biodiversity in urban spaces, the city of Utrecht came up with the buzzing idea to transform 316 bus stops into bee sanctuaries. They work just like regular bus stops, but are covered in plants and flowers. They also have LED lights for energy efficiency and bamboo benches for extra eco-friendly points. This is definitely one of the weirder Netherlands facts on our list.
29. The city of Delft is famous for its iconic Delft Blue pottery.
Delftware is known for its iconic blue and white style of earthenware ceramics. The style started in the 1600s, but Delft Blue had its boom around the 18th century. The pottery is still being made, but is not as popular as it once was.
30. Holland has narrow buildings because of taxes.
Now here’s an obscure but still interesting fact about the Netherlands. As you explore the canals of Amsterdam by boat or on foot, one thing you might notice is the narrow buildings on either side. Throughout Holland, the buildings are so narrow and tall because of a specific tax law. Back in the day, your taxes would be higher if your building was wider so tall but narrow buildings became the best way to avoid higher taxes.
31. The Netherlands created gin. You’re welcome.
Trace back the origins of gin and you’ll find records of it being used in the Netherlands all the way back in the 16th century. Gin, it seems, was first used to treat stomach aches and gallstones. Juniper berry was added to the mix for its beneficial properties, so the Netherlands gin was named Jenever.
32. Carrots are orange thanks to the Netherlands.
This is a fun one. Remember what we said about the national anthem? William of Orange led the charge for Dutch independence against Spain. In his honour, Dutch farmers developed the orange carrot that we all know today.
33. The Rotterdam police employ rat detectives.
No, really. The Rotterdam police force has been using rats since 2013 to sniff out drugs and explosives. It turns out that rats have an excellent sense of smell and it’s faster than taking things back to the lab. Fun fact! The first rats to join the Rotterdam police were named Poirot, Derrick, Thomson and Thompson, and Magnum - all after iconic fictional detectives.
34. Cocoa powder was invented in the Netherlands.
Van Houten created the cocoa powder pressing method in 1870. Of course, cocoa was well-known long before his time but making it into powder made it way easier to use.
35. Friesland is home to the longest ice race in the world.
A unique event, the ‘Elfstedentocht’ (11 Cities Ice Skating Competition) has historically been held about every 15 years. When the canals of the Friesland are completely frozen, skaters glide out to complete the 200 km track (120 miles) through 11 charming cities in just 24 hours. All skaters have to join the Association of the Eleven Frisian Towns, so the event is ore for locals to compete while tourists enjoy the show.
When is the next Elfstedentocht?
We don’t know when the next Elfstedentocht will be. According to experts at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, climate change has reduced the chances of having the next race to 5.5%. Locals have been waiting around 24 years for it! Still, whether Elfstedentocht happens or not, skating will always be at the heart of Friesland.
36. Bringing your own bags is the norm in Dutch supermarkets.
Most locals in the Netherlands prefer bringing their own bags to the supermarket when doing their food shopping. Recently, the Netherlands has also been reducing plastic bags with Albert Heijn and ALDI no longer providing free plastic bags for fruits and vegetables. Other supermarkets in the Netherlands like Jumbo and Lidl offer paper bags or other eco-friendly alternatives. So bring your own bags when you’re out shopping in the Netherlands and you’ll look more like a local!
37. You are allowed to smoke cannabis in Amsterdam.
One unique thing about Amsterdam is the city’s attitude towards cannabis. The law is a little more complicated than you’d expect, though most tourists just come here to smoke a bit and have fun. The thing is, cannabis is not technically fully legalised in the Netherlands.
Dig in a little deeper and you’ll find very specific rules. You can carry some cannabis around with you legally in Amsterdam, but it has to be for personal use and below 5 grams (0.18 ounces).
38. The Dutch love their coffee.
Around 40% of Netherlands locals drink an average of 3-4 cups of coffee every single day. Coffee shops are extremely popular in the cities as a place to meet up and relax after work or during lunch. Around ⅓ of all the coffee shops in the Netherlands are located in Amsterdam, making it the coffee capital of the country!
39. A coffee shop might not be what you think in the Netherlands.
If you’re looking for that caffeine fix, just be sure you’re going to the right coffee shop. The Dutch also have establishments called Coffeeshops. It's sort of a catch all term for alcohol-free places where you can try weed, hash and marijuana. This could really be a fun fact, if you are so inclined.
40. Trains are wind powered!
No, not by that kind of wind (yikes, can you imagine the smell!). The Dutch electric trains are all powered by renewable energy since the 1st of January 2017. Apparently, “one windmill running for one hour can power a train for 120 miles!” according to the national railway company of the Netherlands. Now that is a cool fact about the Netherlands, here’s hoping more countries catch on soon!
41. The fake village of Hogeweyk is Dementia-friendly.
The complex is a village created for Dementia patients. The village contains a town square, theatre, houses, hair salon, and more. Just like what you’d expect from a regular Dutch village, but with 250 members of staff to help patients.
42. The Netherlands abolished slavery in 1863.
Slavery was abloished in the Netherlands on 1 July 1863, including in the colonies which freed 33,000 slaves in Suriname alone.
43. Three islands make up the Netherlands Antilles.
The Netherlands Antilles are three islands in the Caribbean that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These islands are Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The islands are essentially autonomous countries within the kingdom. Curaçao is the largest part of the Netherlands Antilles at 444 km (171 sq miles).
44. The Dutch have one of the lowest rates of lactose intolerance in the world.
Here’s another weird one! Around 65% of all the adults in the world are lactose intolerant. But the Netherlands are one of the exceptions to the rule due to a history of dairy farming and a love of cheese. The Netherlands has the 6th lowest rate of lactose intolerance in the world at 12%.
45. Groningen is home to the biggest pub in Europe.
De Drie Gezusters (The Three Sisters) is the biggest pub in Europe. During the day, De Drie Gezusters is a restaurant and cafe. Located in the Grote Markt of Groningen, De Drie Gezusters has four connected buildings, 20 bars, and five entrances. The maximum capacity of the pub is a whopping 3750 people. Now that’s one place for a night out.
46. Rain jackets are better than umbrellas.
Thanks to the wind, the people of the Netherlands usually prefer to wear a rain jacket when it's pouring down. If you’re travelling to the Netherlands, leave your umbrella at home and pack a rain jacket instead!
47. The Netherlands was one of the founding countries of the European Union.
The Netherlands is known as one of the “Inner Six” as it was one of the six countries to found the EU alongside Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, and West Germany in the 1950s.
48. 70% of the world’s bacon comes from the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest food exporters. Everyone is pigging out on Dutch food without knowing it! In 2016, the Netherlands exported a massive amount of pork (over a billion kilos!).
49. Thousands of bikes are dredged up from the waters every year in Amsterdam.
Always lock your bike to something when you’re next to the canal! Around 20,000 bikes were fished up from the canals of Amsterdam in 2015.
50. Tulips aren’t a native plant of the Netherlands.
But the tulips are an iconic symbol of the Netherlands! We know. But here’s the thing. Tulips were imported to the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), yet the flowers thrived in the Dutch soil.
Now you know a whole lot more about the Netherlands! You're more than prepared for a trip to this tulip-obsessed nation. Lucky for you, we’ve done all the work and have picked out hundreds of fun and authentic things to do in the Netherlands. Hop on over to our Netherlands guide, explore the map, find your faves, and you’ll be ready to go!