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The Netherlands were united, along with neighboring regions, as the Low Countries in 1433 by the Duke of Burgundy, and the territory was later expanded by Charles V, who also ruled the Holy Roman Empire and Spain. War erupted between the provinces of the Low Country and Spain in 1568, which became known as the Eighty Years' War. During the war, the Union of Utrecht was formed as a defense treaty. The provinces declared independence in 1581 with the Act of Abjuration. The war finally ended in 1648, with the Spanish recognition of their independence as the Dutch Republic.
The Dutch Empire briefly became part of the French Empire, after which it became the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, adding the Southern Netherlands to its territory. The Netherlands were seafarers and sent many exploration expeditions, establishing colonies across Africa and the New World as part of the Dutch Empire. The Netherlands became a dominant world trade power with the Dutch East India Company. Some of its largest colonies were the Cape Colony in South Africa and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and Suriname.
In modern times, the Netherlands was a battleground during World War II despite declarations of neutrality, and suffered invasions from Nazis and the Holocaust. The country became very involved in the conflict, with the inclusion of its colonies in the fight. After the war, the Netherlands struggled economically for a short period, but reconstruction helped bring recovery to the country, which is today one of the world's most prosperous and developed.
The Netherlands share borders with Belgium and Germany, as well as maritime borders with the United Kingdom.
- Amsterdam (capital)
- The Hague (seat of government)
The Netherlands, as its name, meaning “low country” suggests, is a low lying country with about 20% of its territory below sea level. The Netherlands is a country known for its land reclamation, using a system of dikes, levees, and canals to pump water out and utilize the lands.
One significant feature of the geography of the Netherlands is that it lies at the estuary of 3 major rivers: the Rhine, the Meuse (Maas), and the Scheldt. The rivers dissect the land of the Netherlands into two segments - the north and west flat lands and the hilly east and south. The flat region contains most of the reclaimed lands, and sits mostly at or below sea level. Terrain of the flat lands includes coastal dunes. The higher lands of the Netherlands are located in the Ardennes foothills, with the highest point, Vaalserberg, at an elevation of 322.7 meters (1,059 feet).
Points of Interest
The Netherlands is home to many historic sites and cities, with unique architecture and city design, like the canals of Amsterdam, the capital. Other important cities include Utrecht, which features medieval architecture, like its churches, and Maastricht, with ancient monuments in a beautiful setting. Travelers interested in international affairs and politics will want to visit The Hague, where many international organizations meet.
Outside of cities, attractions in the Netherlands include Hoge Veluwe National Park, which features heathlands and sand dunes, and the countryside of the Netherlands from the 19 iconic windmills of Kinderdijk to the expansive tulip fields of Keukenhof. For traditional Dutch villages, many tourists visit the Waterland and Zaan region, to enjoy Dutch architecture and cultural experiences.
The Netherlands are well connected to the rest of the world via plane, train, boat, and road transport. As part of the Schengen Agreement, travel between many European countries and the Netherlands is very easy. The main airport in the Netherlands is Schiphol Airport, outside of Amsterdam, which is a major international hub with service all over the world. The other major airports include Maastricht / Aachen Airport, Eindhoven Airport, and the Rotterdam Airport. Another option for air travel to the Netherlands is to take flights into Brussels Airport or Düsseldorf International and take a high-speed train into the country.
Train is a good option for travel to the Netherlands, with frequent high-speed service from many destinations, but cheaper and faster air travel is often available. Train service is available from France, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark, with connecting trains making it possible to reach the Netherlands from just about anywhere in Europe. Bus service is quite inexpensive and available from Brussels, with connections to Brussels from Paris and London. Roads into the Netherlands are well developed and maintained, and car ferries and passenger boats are even available from the UK.
The Netherlands also boasts a good public transportation system with local options as well as longer distances. Amsterdam and Rotterdam both have metro systems, while those cities as well as The Hague and Utrecht also have light rails. Of course, bicycles are a very popular way of getting around in the Netherlands, and rentals can be found all over.
Last Updated : March 19, 2014