The early history of the Netherlands is marked by a variety of tribes who were not at all unified. When The Romans arrived in 57 BC, and that is when the country’s written history begins. The Romans held control for over four centuries, and this greatly impacted the culture and legal system of the region.
Eventually, three groups of people, the Frisians, Low Saxons and Franks, were established in the region. By the 8th century Anglo-Saxon missionaries had introduced Christianity, which was widely accepted. Eventually, the Franks and the Dutch language came to be the predominate culture of the land.
As the Romans began to be less of a force in the region, the local noblemen rose to power, and this resulted in several independent duchies and counties throughout what is now the Netherlands. In 1433, the idea of a unified Dutch-speaking nation was first conceived by the Duke of Burgundy, but his dream was not realized, because Charles V and Phillip II of the Habsburg Empire brought Burgundian Netherlands under their power.
When the Protestant Reformation came to Europe, William of Orange, a Calvinist, began to push for freedom from the Catholic Spaniards. From 1566 until 1648, the people of the Netherlands fought against the Spanish. Finally, the Dutch Republic was born during the Peace of Westphalia. This tolerant nation was made of Protestants, Jews and Catholics, a type of unity that was uncommon in Europe at the time.
This led to the Dutch Golden Age, a time when trade, the arts and the sciences were strong in the Dutch Republic, and Amsterdam rose to become one of the most important cities of the new Republic. The Dutch empire even held some overseas colonies during this period.
In the mid-18th century, the Dutch Republic began to decline. Wars with the English and French and the wealthy regents who held power in the government were disastrous for the economy. Soon, unrest among the people made it possible for Napoleon and his French troops to turn the Republic into the Kingdom of Holland under French rule, in the early 1800s.
When the French empire fell at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, the Netherlands were once again granted their own sovereignty under the house of Orange, and this was confirmed at the Vienna Conference in 1815. King William I, first king of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, was also granted rule over Belgium, which he held until 1831 when the Belgian Revolution created a separate country. By 1848, the Netherlands had established a constitution that provided for a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch as the head.
When the World Wars hit, Netherlands remained neutral throughout the first war, but when the Nazis invaded the country in 1940, they could not maintain neutrality in World War II. Thousands of Dutch Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust, and the Nazis remained in control until 1945 when the Dutch were finally liberated by Canadian forces.
This led to a period of mass emigration, as the Dutch left behind their colonial holdings and many of their former colonists emigrated to the Netherlands. The country struggled economically for a while, until finding a groove in the second half of the 20th century. By the 21st century, the Netherlands was known as a stable and successful nation with a high standard of living.
- The Netherlands is also commonly known as Holland, but both names refer to the same country.
- The Dutch people are some of the tallest people not only in Europe, but also in the entire world. They also have one of the youngest populations in the European Union.
- Amsterdam serves as the capital of the Netherlands. However, Hague is the actual seat of government.
- Throughout modern history, the Netherlands has been one of the world’s richest countries. In 1820, it had one of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Today, it enjoys the 4th highest GDP per capita within Europe.
- A full 25 percent of the land in the Netherlands is below sea level.
- The Dutch people almost always have a display of fresh flowers in their living rooms.
- The Netherlands has its own version of Venice, the village of Giethoorn, where there are no roads and all transportation is over water through a network of canals.
- The windmills that many people think of when they think of the Netherlands are actually still quite common. The nation has 1,180 windmills.
- Orange colored carrots were first bred in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Prior to their discovery, carrots were yellow, purple, red, black or white.
- Keukenhof Park – Visit the largest flower garden in the world, but be prepared for a lot of people to rub elbows with.
- Haarlem – If you love history, this cozy town is the place to visit, with its excellent museums and historically important sites.
- Amsterdam – A trip to Holland is not complete without a visit to Amsterdam, with its stunning galleries and museums.
- Maastricht – This city has a vibrant nightlife. During the day you can explore its medieval streets, and at night you can party with the Dutch populace.
- Hoge Veluwe National Park – The largest national park in the Netherlands, this has sand dunes, marshland and forest, all in one, as well as a museum worth the trip in and of itself.
- Rotterdam – This is the place to visit if you wish to explore Dutch architecture, and you can find a few vibrant clubs as well.
- Delta Project – If you picture dykes when you think of historic Holland, then you will want to see the Delta Project for yourself.
- Texel Island – Sand dunes, forests, beaches and a resort-like blend of hotels make this a popular tourist stop.
- Delft – If you want to get your hands on some of Holland’s famous blue-and-white china, you will want to plan a shopping trip to Delft.
- Frisian Islands – If you want to spend time on the beach or cycling along some of the Netherlands’ most idyllic coastlines, plan a day or two to spend in the Frisian Islands.
How to Get Cash
- To acquire euros during your trip to the Netherlands, consider visiting an ATM. You should be able to find one outside of banks, in airports and in train stations. As long as you have a Cirrus network card, you will normally be able to use them, but watch for maximum daily withdrawal amounts. This is typically the cheapest way to get cash while in the country.
- Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Holland. However, there will be a surcharge on credit charges if you use your card in a store, typically around 5 percent.
- Banks in the Netherlands are usually hesitant to change travelers’ checks, so you’ll be better off traveling with some other form of getting cash.
- If you need to use a moneychanger, consider using GWK Travelex. You can find branches in most major cities.
- For emergency cash shortages, look for Western Union or similar wire transfer stations to allow someone back home to send money to you. These are expensive but available in an emergency situation.