Physical geography

Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany. Total area: 37,330 sq km, land area: 33,920 sq km. Land boundaries: total 1,027km - Belgium 450km, Germany 577km. Coastline: 451km. Terrain: mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders); some hills in southeast.


Temperate; marine; cool summers and mild winters.

Economic geography

This highly developed and affluent economy is based on private enterprise. The trade and financial services sector contributes over 50 per cent of GDP. Industrial activity provides about 25 per cent of GDP and is led by the food-processing, oil-refining, and metalworking industries. The highly mechanised agricultural sector employs only four per cent of the labour force, but provides large surpluses for export and the domestic food-processing industry. Indeed, the Netherlands ranks third worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the US and France. Many of the economic issues of the 1990s will reflect the course of European economic integration.

Industries: agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, fishing, construction, microelectronics.

Agriculture: accounts for 4.6 per cent of GDP; animal production predominates; crops - grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits, vegetables; shortages of grain, fats and oils.


Population: 15,452,903 (July 1995 est.).


Roman Catholic 34 per cent, Protestant 25 per cent, Muslim three per cent, other two per cent, unaffiliated 36 per cent (1991).


One hour ahead of GMT.


The guilder (fl or Dfl) made up of 100 cents.

Official holidays (all offices closed)

1 January, New Years Day - Easter Monday - 30 April, Queen's Birthday - Ascension Day (mid May) - Pentecost Monday - 5 December (early closing for St Nicholas Day) - Christmas Day - 26 December.

Languages spoken by nationals

Dutch, but most people speak excellent English.

What one should not fail to see

Amsterdam: tour the famous canals on foot or by boat including the Jordaan area; Anne Frank's House; Rijksmuseum; Stedelijk modern art museum; Van Gogh Museum; Spui area with 'hidden' Beginjnhof; Rembrandt's house; and, of course, the infamous red light district...

Utrecht: Cathedral with the highest church tower in the country; Centraal Museum (the oldest in the Netherlands); Catherijne Convent Museum of religious paintings; Speelklok tot Pierement museum of organs.

Den Haag: Binnenhof - Parliament; Royal Picture Gallery - Mauritshis collection; Gevangenpoort prisoner's gate museum - originally part of the city walls.

Arnhem: Doorwerth and Rosendaal castles near the town. Also tour Delft, Home of 17th-century Delft pottery.

What to eat and drink

Sit in a 'brown cafe' and watch the world go by. Raw herring with gherkins and chips are often sold by the roadside. Sample Dutch cheeses. Amsterdam particularly is known for a wide variety of restaurants, especially Indonesian.

Main holiday sports

Cycling, walking.

What to buy

Flower bulbs, cheeses.

Frontier formalities

Citizens of EU countries, Australia and New Zealand need only a passport for a stay of up to three months. For longer stays an extension visa is often necessary, US and Canadian citizens do not need an entry visa for trips of 90 days or less. After this time a residency permit must be requested.


For EU nationals the limit for duty free leaving the country is 90 litres of wine or 110 of beer. US and Canadian visitors can take up to 200 cigarettes and one litre of alcohol.

How to get there

Regular flights from all major airports fly to Amsterdam. You can travel by ferry or take the train overland, including the Eurostar from the UK.