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Read all about Holland

Netherlands vs Holland

Facts & Figures

The monarchy

Dutch culture

Dutch cuisine

Dutch music


Holland, also known as the Netherlands, is a small but unique country. Despite its small size, it has been successful in many ways throughout the history up till present.

Holland and Water

Holland and water are bounded together. Water is Holland’s best friend, but also it’s worst enemy.

The total size of the Netherlands is 41,500 km2 of which 7,700 km2 is water. Three large European rivers, the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt enter the Netherlands to find their ways to the North Sea. A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level.

Throughout the centuries, the Dutch have fought against the natural power of water. Wind mills were used to control the water level and dykes were built to create land. As of today, many advanced storm barriers, such as the Afsluitdijk and Europort Barrier, control the water and protect against floods.

Worldwide known are the Delta Works. These storm barriers protect the land in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta. The Delta Works were built after the tremendous floods of 1953 when nearly 2000 people died and more than 150,000 hectares of land were flooded.


Its close bonds with water also gave the Dutch a lot of wealth and prosperity.  The 17th century is known as the Golden Age in the Netherlands, when the Dutch became a strong seafaring trading power. The sail ships of the Dutch India Company - VOC  (Verenigd Oost-Indische Compagnie) crossed the oceans trading in merchandise, varying from spices and tea, to fabrics and porcelain. The VOC is often considered as the first multinational corporation in the world and it was the first company to issue stocks.

From the Golden Age onwards, Holland is an important international player in transport over water. Nowadays, the port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe with an annual output of 450 million tons. About 30,000 seagoing ships and 110,000 inland vessels visit the port of Rotterdam every year. Living for centuries with water has made the Dutch internationally acclaimed experts in water management and logistics. 

Dutch Art

During the 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting was among the most acclaimed in the world. From the 1620s onwards, the Dutch painters developed a more realistic style of depiction, unlike the previous Baroque style, and was now more concerned with the real world. In the next two centuries the Dutch painting style dominated European art. These types of paintings included historical paintings, portraiture, landscapes and cityscapes, still lives and genre paintings.

Portrait painting thrived in the Netherlands during the 17th century. Many wealthy individuals commissioned portraits paintings. Also many groups commissioned paintings, such as prominent members of a city’s civilian guard, regents, board of trustees, etc. Often group portraits were paid by each portrayed person individually. The amount of payment determined the individual’s place in the picture, which could be prominent with head to toe in the forefront, or only a face in the back of the group portrait. This lead to quarrels among group members who paid equal amount of money.


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) is generally considered as one of the greatest painters in European art. His greatest creative works are exemplified in his portraits of contemporaries, self-portraits and scenes from the bible. One of his most famous paintings is the Night Watch, which was completed in the 1642, at the peak of Holland’s Golden Age. This painting was commissioned to be hung in the banquet hall of the Musketeers’ Meeting Hall in Amsterdam. Nowadays, the Night Watch has the most prominent spot in the hall of honor in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) was another famous Dutch painter specializing in domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer worked slowly and with great care. He is particularly known for his mastery treatment and use of light in his work. One of his most famous works is the Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). This painting can be seen in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art. His painting are known for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold colors. His works include portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and still life depictions, trees, flowers, etc. Van Gogh’s works are among the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold. His paintings are exhibited in major museums around the world. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the largest collection of works by this artist.  

Dutch Design

The term Dutch Design indicates design from the Netherlands, in particular product design. Dutch designers are known for design esthetics such as being minimalist, experimental, innovative, quirky and humorous. Dutch designers are able to make fun of themselves, often combining things that usually don't combine at all, or using materials that look worthless. As a result, Dutch Designers create new value. 

Until the 1980s design in the Netherlands was mainly known for graphic design. From the 1990s onwards, Dutch product designers started to gain international recognition. Designers such as Maarten Baas, Jurgen Bey, Richard Hutten, Hella Jongerius, Wieki Somers, Hester van Eeghen and Marcel Wanders gained prominence at major international design exhibitions. Moreover, firms such as Droog and Moooi have become internationally recognized design companies. Dutch Design now even extend to fashion design, with designers such as Viktor & Rolf and architecture, with famous architects such as Rem Koolhaas and Francine Houben.

The emergence of internationally recognized designers is backed with a strong educational system for design. The Design Academy in Eindhoven has worldwide recognition. Also the Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam is well-known.

An important factor for the prominence of design, is that design is an integral part of product development in the Netherlands. From the earliest phases of product innovation, designers are included in the product development process.  For instance Dutch electronics multinational Phillips has 450 people working on design at 12 offices around the world.

Dutch agriculture and food

The Netherlands are one of the largest exporters of agricultural and food products in the in the world. Mainly because of its innovative technology, the agriculture and food sector has developed into a sustainable source of healthy and safe food. With the global trend of urbanization, there is an increasing pressure on urban areas to deliver sustainable and healthy food supplies. Security of food is a crucial factor to economic development. 

Because the Netherlands has a rather large population with limited space of land, agriculture in the Netherlands is one of the most intensive, sustainable and efficient in the world. Its fertile soil, rich agricultural knowledge, intensive farming, quality of produce and trading expertise led to the worldwide export of both plant- and as well as animal-based products such as livestock, poultry and eggs. 

Related global export products are machines used for the processing of agro-food products, such as fruit picking robots, automated meat separators, potato processing machines, etc. The knowledge of food processing attracts many multinational companies. 12 of the top 40 food and beverages multinationals have set up R&D centers in the Netherlands, including Danone and Heinz. 

Excellent education and research in the field of agricultural and food further contributes to the prominent position of Holland in agriculture and food. Wageningen University is regarded as the number one university for agriculture worldwide. This institute attracts students and researchers from all over the world. 


Holland around the world

Holland has been engaging in international trade ever since the Golden Age of the 17th century. Because the local market is rather limited due to its small population, Dutch entrepreneurs always had an international outlook. As a result, Dutch multinational companies are active globally. And although their brand names are known worldwide, many might not be aware of their Dutch origins.

Some examples of successful multinationals with Dutch origin:


Phillips is a Dutch technology company with its headquarters in Amsterdam, with primary focus on electronics, healthcare and lightning. It was founded in the city of Eindhoven in 1891 by Gerard Philips and his father Frederik. As of today it is one of the largest companies in the world with about 105,000 employees across more than 60 countries.


Heineken is a Dutch brewing company founded in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam. Presently, the company owns over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries and employs approximately 76,000 people. Besides Heineken Lager Beer, the company brews and sells more than 250 other international premium, local and specialty beers, such as: Amstel, Cruzcampo, Birra Moretti, Murphy’s, Ochota, Sol, Star, Tiger, Zagork and Zywiec. With an annual output of 181,3 billion hecotliters, Heineken ranks as the third largest brewery after Anheuser-Bush Inbev and SABMiller. The original brewery in Amsterdam is now preserved as a museum called Heineken Experience.


Unilever is a British Dutch multinational consumer goods company with its headquarters in Rotterdam and London. Unilever was founded in 1930 by the merger of Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie and the British soapmaker Lever Brothers.
Unilever’s products include food, beverages, cleaning products, and personal care products. It is the third largest consumer goods company in the world after Procter & Gamble and Nestlé. Unilever has over 400 brands, but focusses on 14 brands: Axe/Lynx, Dove, Omo, Becel/Flora, Heartbrand, Hellman’s, Knorr, Lipton, Lux, Magnum, Rama, Rexona, Sunsilk and Surf, which are available in around 190 countries.


Shell is a British Dutch multinational oil and gas company with its headquarters in the The Hague. The company was created in 1907 by the mergers of Royal Dutch Petroleum and UK based Shell Transport and Trading. Royal Duch Petroleum Company was founded in 1890 to develop an oilfield in Sumatra. Currently, Shell is the second largest oil company in the world. Shell is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration, production, refining, distribution, marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading. Moreover, it is active in renewable energy such as biofuels and wind. Shell operates in over 90 countries and produces about 3.1 million barrels of oil per day.


ING Group is a Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation with its headquarters in Amsterdam. The ING Group was founded in 1991 through merger. It traces its roots to two major Dutch insurance companies and the banking services of the Dutch government. In 2012 ING was the world’s largest conglomerate in banking and insurance. ING serves over 48 million individual and institutional clients in more than 40 countries. It employs over 75,000 persons worldwide.

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