Provinces of the Netherlands
LimburgZeelandZeelandZeelandZeelandZeelandGelderlandSouth HollandSouth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandNorth HollandUtrechtFlevolandFlevolandOverijsselDrentheGroningen (province)Groningen (province)Groningen (province)FrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandFrieslandNorth BrabantSint EustatiusSint EustatiusSabaSabaBonaireBonaireBonaire
Clickable map of provinces
CategoryUnitary unit
LocationKingdom of the Netherlands
Number12 provinces
3 special municipalities
PopulationsLeast: Zeeland, 391,124
Most: South Holland, 3,804,906
AreasSmallest (including water): Utrecht, 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi)
Largest (including water): Friesland, 5,753 km2 (2,221 sq mi)

There are twelve provinces of the Netherlands representing the administrative layer between the national government and the local governments, with responsibility for matters of subnational or regional importance.

The most populous province is South Holland, with just over 3.8 million inhabitants as of January 2023, and also the most densely populated province with 1,410/km2 (3,700/sq mi).[1] With 391,124 inhabitants, Zeeland has the smallest population. However Drenthe is the least densely populated province with 191/km2 (490/sq mi). In terms of area, Friesland is the largest province with a total area of 5,753 km2 (2,221 sq mi). If water is excluded, Gelderland is the largest province by land area at 4,960 km2 (1,915 sq mi). The province of Utrecht is the smallest with a total area of 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi), while Flevoland is the smallest by land area at 1,410 km2 (544 sq mi). In total about 10,000 people were employed by the provincial administrations in 2018.[2]

The provinces of the Netherlands are joined in the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO). This organisation promotes the common interests of the provinces in the national government of the Netherlands in The Hague.

Politics and governance

Main article: Provincial politics in the Netherlands

The government of each province consists of three major parts:


The members of the provincial council are elected every four years in direct elections. To a large extent, the same political parties are enlisted in these elections in the national elections. The chosen provincial legislators elect the members of the national Senate within three months after the provincial elections. The elections for the water boards take place on the same date as the provincial elections.

The last provincial elections were held in 2023. The next provincial elections are scheduled for 2027.


The provinces of the Netherlands have seven core tasks:[4]

  1. Sustainable spatial development, including water management
  2. Environment, energy and climate
  3. Vital countryside
  4. Regional accessibility and regional public transport
  5. Regional economy
  6. Cultural infrastructure and preservation
  7. Quality of public administration


To a large extent, the provinces of the Netherlands are financed by the national government. Also, provinces have income from a part of the Vehicle Excise Duty. Several provinces have made a large profit in the past from privatising utility companies originally owned or partly owned by the provinces. Essent, which was originally owned by six provinces and more than a hundred municipalities, was sold for around 9.3 billion euros.[5]


The constituent country of the Netherlands, being the largest part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is divided into twelve provinces (provincies in Dutch) and three overseas special municipalities; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba in the Caribbean Netherlands that are not part of any province. Previously these were part of public bodies (openbare lichamen).

European Netherlands

Flag Location Province Capital Largest
(since 2023)
Total area[1] Land area[1] Water area[1] Population
(1 January 2023)[1]
Density Land[1] GRDP in
million euros
GRDP per
capita (€; 2019)[6]
km2 mi2 km2 mi2 km2 mi2 /km2 /mi2
Drenthe Assen Emmen Jetta Klijnsma PvdA
2,680 1,035 2,633 1,016 48 18
191 490
Flevoland Lelystad Almere Arjen Gerritsen VVD
2,412 931 1,410 544 1,002 387
315 820
Friesland Leeuwarden Arno Brok VVD
5,753 2,221 3,340 1,290 2,413 932
197 510
Gelderland Arnhem Nijmegen John Berends CDA
5,136 1,983 4,960 1,915 176 68
430 1,100
Groningen Groningen René Paas CDA
2,955 1,141 2,316 894 639 247
257 670
Limburg Maastricht Emile Roemer SP
2,210 853 2,145 828 65 25
526 1,360
North Brabant 's-Hertogenbosch[A] Eindhoven Ina Adema VVD
5,082 1,962 4,902 1,892 181 70
536 1,390
North Holland Haarlem[B] Amsterdam[B] Arthur van Dijk VVD
4,092 1,580 2,663 1,028 1,429 552
1,109 2,870
Overijssel Zwolle Enschede Andries Heidema CU
3,421 1,321 3,317 1,281 104 40
357 920
South Holland The Hague[C] Rotterdam Jaap Smit CDA
3,308 1,277 2,698 1,042 609 235
1,410 3,700
Utrecht Utrecht Hans Oosters PvdA
1,560 602 1,484 573 76 29
935 2,420
Zeeland Middelburg Terneuzen Han Polman D66
2,933 1,133 1,780 687 1,154 445
220 570
Netherlands Amsterdam 342 41,543 16,040 33,647 12,991 7,896 3,049
529 1,370

Caribbean Netherlands

"Special municipality (Netherlands)" redirects here.

Main article: Caribbean Netherlands

Special Municipality Capital Largest city Area[7] Population[7]
Bonaire Kralendijk 294 km2 (114 sq mi) 20,104 69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Sint Eustatius Oranjestad 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi) 3,138 150/km2 (390/sq mi)
Saba The Bottom 13 km2 (5.0 sq mi) 1,915 148/km2 (380/sq mi)
Total 328 km2 (127 sq mi) 25,157 77/km2 (200/sq mi)


  1. ^ Also Den Bosch in Dutch.
  2. ^ a b Amsterdam is the national capital of the Netherlands. Haarlem is, however, the capital of the province in which both Amsterdam and Haarlem are situated.
  3. ^ Den Haag in Dutch. The Dutch parliament and the Dutch government are located in The Hague along with the Supreme Court and the Council of State.


Flags of the provinces near the Hofvijver in The Hague
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP in 2016
Dutch provinces by nominal GRP per capita in 2016

Nearly all Dutch provinces can trace their origin to a medieval county or duchy, as can the provinces of regions in Belgium. Their status changed when they came under a single ruler who centralised their administration, reducing their powers. There were 17 in total: from these unified Netherlands, seven northern provinces from 1588 formed the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, namely Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel and Groningen.

The Republic's lands also included Drenthe (one of the 17, but without the autonomous status of the others), and parts of the Duchy of Brabant, Duchy of Limburg and County of Flanders, which were considered to be "conquered lands" and were governed directly by the States General, hence their name Generality Lands. They were called Staats-Brabant, Staats-Limburg and Staats-Vlaanderen, meaning "governed by the States General".

Each of these "Netherlands" had a high degree of autonomy, cooperating with each other mainly on defense and foreign relations, but otherwise keeping to their own affairs.

On 1 January 1796, under the Batavian Republic, Drenthe and Staats-Brabant became the eighth and ninth provinces of the Netherlands. The latter, which had been known as Bataafs Brabant (English: Batavian Brabant), changed its name to Noord-Brabant, North Brabant, in 1815 when it became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also contained (then) South Brabant, a province now in Belgium. This new unified state featured the provinces in their modern form, as non-autonomous subdivisions of the national state, and again numbering 17, though they were not all the same as the 16th century ones. In 1839, following the separation of Belgium, the province of Limburg was divided between the two countries, each now having a province called Limburg. A year later, Holland, the largest and most populous of the Dutch provinces, was also split into two provinces, for a total of 11. The 12th province to be created was Flevoland, consisting almost entirely of reclaimed land, established on 1 January 1986.

French period[edit]

During the Batavian Republic, the Netherlands was from 1798 to 1801 completely reorganised into eight new departments, most named after rivers, inspired by the French revolutionary example, in an attempt to do away with the old semi-autonomous status of the provinces. They are listed below, with their capitals and the territory of the former provinces that they mostly incorporated:

Batavian Departments
English name Dutch name Capital Territory contained
Department of the Ems Departement van de Eems Leeuwarden Northern Friesland, Groningen
Department of the Old IJssel Departement van de Oude IJssel Zwolle Southern Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Northern Gelderland
Department of the Rhine Departement van de Rijn Arnhem Central Gelderland, Eastern Utrecht
Department of the Amstel Departement van de Amstel Amsterdam Area around Amsterdam
Department of Texel Departement van Texel Alkmaar Northern Holland minus Amsterdam, Northwestern Utrecht
Department of the Delft Departement van de Delft Delft Southern Holland up to the Meuse, Southwestern Utrecht
Department of the Dommel Departement van de Dommel 's-Hertogenbosch Eastern Batavian Brabant, Southern Gelderland
Department of the Scheldt and Meuse Departement van de Schelde en Maas Middelburg Zeeland, Southern Holland under the Meuse and Western Batavian Brabant

After only three years, following a coup d'état, the borders of the former provinces were restored, though not their autonomous status. They were now also called "departments" and Drenthe was added to Overijssel. In 1806 the Kingdom of Holland replaced the republic to further French interests. It was during this administration that Holland was first split in two, with the department of Amstelland to the north and that of Maasland to the south. East Frisia, then as now in Germany, was added to the kingdom as a department in 1807 and Drenthe split off again making a total of 11 departments.

When the Netherlands finally did become fully part of France in 1810, the departments of the kingdom and their borders were largely maintained, with some joined. They were however nearly all renamed, again mainly after rivers, though the names differed from their Batavian counterparts. Following are their names and the modern day province they mostly correspond to:

Map of the subdivisions of the Netherlands during French administration; East Frisia is not included in this later map
French departments in the Netherlands
English name French name Dutch name Modern territory
Department of the Zuiderzee Département du Zuyderzée Departement van de Zuiderzee North Holland and Utrecht
Department of the Mouths of the Meuse Département des Bouches-de-la-Meuse Departement van de Monden van de Maas South Holland
Department of the Mouths of the Scheldt Département des Bouches-de-l'Escaut Departement van de Monden van de Schelde Zeeland
Department of the Two Nethes Département des Deux-Nèthes Departement van de Twee Nethen Western North Brabant and Antwerp
Department of the Mouths of the Rhine Département des Bouches-du-Rhin Departement van de Monden van de Rijn Eastern North Brabant and southern Gelderland
Department of the Upper IJssel Département de l'Yssel-Supérieur Departement van de Boven IJssel Northern Gelderland
Department of the Mouths of the IJssel Département des Bouches-de-l'Yssel Departement van de Monden van de IJssel Overijssel
Department of Frisia Département de la Frise Departement Friesland Friesland
Department of the Western Ems Département de l'Ems-Occidental Departement van de Wester Eems Groningen and Drenthe
Department of the Eastern Ems Département de l'Ems-Oriental Departement van de Ooster Eems East Frisia

With the defeat and withdrawal of the French in 1813, the old provinces and their names were re-established, Holland was reunited and East-Frisia went its separate way. The 17 provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands were for a significant part based on the former French departments and their borders, in particular in what would later become Belgium.[citation needed]

There is continuous discussion within the Netherlands about the future of the provinces. Before 2014, the national government was planning to merge the provinces Flevoland, North Holland and Utrecht into a single province Noordvleugelprovincie [nl]. Due to significant protest the plan was abandoned.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Regionale kerncijfers Nederland -> Perioden - Jaren: 2023" [Regional key figures Netherlands]. CBS StatLine (in Dutch). CBS. 18 December 2023. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Personeelsmonitor Provincies". A&O-fonds Provincies (in Dutch). 2 July 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  3. ^ Provinciale Staten (in Dutch)
  4. ^ Core tasks of provinces, Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO) (in Dutch).
  5. ^ "ONZE GESCHIEDENIS Energie in transitie". Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  6. ^ a b "CBS StatLine".
  7. ^ a b "Waaruit bestaat het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden? -". 19 May 2015.
  8. ^ "Superprovincie gaat definitief niet door" (in Dutch). 20 June 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2019.

External links[edit]