The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a small country in northwestern Europe. It covers an area of 41,848 sq km (16,158 sq mi). It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, with Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. The Netherlands also includes territories in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is often known in its entirety in English as Holland, although tha name North Holland and South Holland refer only to two of the twelve provinces of mainland Netherlands.
Guide to Netherlands Hotels
Here's a list of hotels in Netherlands that you can book online, listed by city, with full description, star rating, address, location map, evaluation, and prices as offered by different booking sites.
The Netherlands, as its name suggests, is a low country. It is divided into two main parts by three large rivers, the Rhine, the Waal and the Meuse. These rivers used to function as natural separation for early fiefdoms that appeared in the country.
For centuries the Dutch has been building a series of defences to keep the sea at bay, an activity that has been on-going for over a thousand years. This is necessary as a good part of the country is below the sea level. Man-made hills, called terps,were built in the first millennium. These were later connected by dikes. Windmills became a common feature of the country. They are used to pump water out of areas that are below sea level. They were also later used to drain lates to create new lands called polder.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy since 1815, and a parliamentary democracy since 1848. The head of state is Queen Beatrix. The country has a population of 16.6 million. Its capital and largest city is Amsterdam, a city with a metropolitan area population of 2.1 million. It is the most densely populated country in Europe but ranks 25th in the world.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, which is spoken and understood by most of its people. A second official language, Frisian, is primarily used in the northern province of Friesland. There are other dialects spoken in the country, including Nedesaksisch (Low Saxon), in the north and east, and Tweants in the Twente region. About 70% of the people are conversant in English, 55-59% in German and 19% in French.
Netherlands is composed of 12 administrative provinces, each headed by a governor. The provinces are subdivided to municipalities totaling 431 as of 1 January 2010. The country is also subdivided by water districts, each with authority over water management. These water districts, created as early as 1196, are older than the country itself, and are one of the oldest democratic entities in the world that is still functioning.
The currency used in the Netherlands is the Euro (EUR). The following are the latest rates for Euro in the last 24-hours.
Planning your visit to Netherlands
The Netherlands is a member of the Schengen Agreement, meaning visitors from the European Union and EFTA only need to bring an approved ID card to enter it. Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to enter a Schengen country: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Netherlands, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.
Schiphol Airport, serving Amsterdam, is the biggest international airport in the Netherlands. As with all international airports in the EU, it is divided into Schengen and non-Schengen areas. If you are flying in from a non-Schengen country, you will need to clear Immigration and Customs. Likewise if you are transiting from a non-Schengen country to a Schengen country, and vice versa.
From Schiphol Airport, you can take a train to Amsterdam Central Station. It only costs €3.80 (or €7.00 for a same-day return ticket). There are four or five trains to Amsterdam every hour. The same trip by taxi will cost you at least €40 or more.
The Netherlands is connected by train to all the major cities in Western Europe. The Thalys high-speed train links the Netherlands to France and Belgium. If you are going to Brussels or Antwerp, another option is to take the Benelux train, which is almost as fast, and run hourly from Amsterdam via Schiphol, The Hague and Rotterdam, among others. The German ICE high speed train also connect Amsterdam with cities in Germany such as Cologne, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, terminating in Basel, Switzerland.
A good way to explore the Netherlands is by train. There are Intercity trains that go between cities, and commuter trains that stop at all stations. Most of the routes are operated by Nederlandse Spoorwegen. When taking the local trains, always make sure you are in the right carriage. Many trains comprise more than one section, with different section continuing to different destinations.
My favorite travel guidebook for further reading in preparation of your trip is the Netherlands Eyewitness Guide, because it follows a format that I find useful to users, not to mention I have also contributed to some of the titles in the Eyewitness series of guidebooks.