The Netherlands is one of the low or Benelux countries which also include Belgium and Luxembourg. The country is made up of twelve provinces – Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Froningen Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland, Overijssel, South Holland, Utrecht, and Zeeland and shares borders in the north and west with the North Sea, in the south with Belgium and in the east Germany.
The name Netherlands comes from the fact that over twenty-five per cent of the entire country lies under sea level but it is also often referred to as Holland. This latter name, however, refers only to the provinces of North Holland and South Holland which have played a large role in the development of the country and as such is not really the correct term for the nation as a whole.
Because of the low-lying nature of the Netherlands, it has had a constant battle with the sea throughout the centuries. Despite this major disadvantage, the sea has also worked in the country’s favour. The fishing industry is a major earner for the Dutch and as well as this the country’s location on the estuaries of three major European rivers has also aided it greatly on the trade front. Rotterdam in the southwest is currently the largest port in the world but the Netherlands has been home to major ports since the Middle Ages.
Today the Netherlands is home to a population of over fifteen million people compared with about five million just a decade ago. This statistic should offer some indication as to just how prosperous the country is at the moment. As well as this, however, this rapid growth in population means that the Netherlands is now one of the most densely populated countries in the world with an average of four hundred and fifty people per square kilometre.
As a tourist destination, this remarkable country has a great deal to offer. Renowned the world over for its windmills and tulips, the two are still a large asset when it comes to tourism in the Netherlands but there is also much more. The major cities are home to a vast amount of museums and galleries as well as castles and monuments but for those of you who are partial to a more rural holiday, there is ample opportunity to escape urban life in a matter of minutes. And as if all this wasn’t enough, the Netherlands is also home to a host of blue flag beaches which, when the weather is suitable of course, are as impressive as any on the continent.