The Netherlands (also known as Holland) has its name for a reason: the country is extremely flat and about a quarter of the country is below sea level. The highest ‘mountain’ is no more than a hill about 320 metres high (the Vaalserberg). Water can be found everywhere, in the form of lakes, rivers, canals and the sea.The parts of the Netherlands below sea level would be flooded if there were no dikes, dunes and other fortifications. The city of Utrecht and most of the province of Utrecht– you might find this reassuring to know – are above sea level!
Holland’s relatively small area of slightly over 41,000 square kilometres. With 17 million inhabitants a population density of 488 people per km2, the Netherlands is the monst densely populated country of the European Union.
The Netherlands versus Holland
The Netherlands is a kingdom. Its official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It consists of the Netherlands itself and the six islands of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. The country’s name in Dutch is Nederland, meaning ‘low country’ and refers to the fact that much of the land is at or below sea level. Today the Netherlands is also called ‘Holland’, a name that is derived from the names of the two western coastal provinces, North and South Holland. These were the most developed and wealthiest parts of the country in the seventeenth century and played a dominant role in the country’s history.
Holland is situated in the west of Europe and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south and the North Sea to the norht and west.
Utrecht is situated in the centre of the Netherlands, about 30 minutes from the capital city of Amsterdam. Utrecht is an excellent base should you wish to visit other European countries. There are excellent transport links to all major European cities by air, car and train. Schiphol Airport is approximately 30-45 minutes away from Utrecht. As an indication:
|Distances (approx.)||In kilometres||In flying time|
|Athens (Greece)||2133 km||3 hrs 10 mins|
|Berlin (Germany)||564 km||1 hrs 40 mins|
|London (Great Britain)||365 km||1 hrs|
|Madrid (Spain)||1785 km||2 hrs 20 mins|
|Paris (France)||409 km||1 hrs|
|Prague (Czech Republic)||688 km||1 hrs 30 mins|
The Netherlands has four seasons: winter (January – March), spring (April – June), summer (July – September) and autumn (October – December). The weather is best characterised by its instability: what looks like a rainy day in the morning might turn out to be a warm and sunny day and the other way around. Extreme weather (snow, tropical temperatures) is rare and does not usually last long. You will find the Dutch love to talk about the weather.
|Temperature||Hours of sun p/day|
(Temperature: average maximum temperature in ° C. Hours of sun: average hours of sun per day. All measured in De Bilt, a village near Utrecht where the KNMI – , the national research and information centre for climate, climatic change and seismology – is located.)