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Discover the Netherlands, Province by Province: Start with North Holland

Posted on Jan 8, 2022 by

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The Netherlands, small as it is, is divided into twelve provinces, each one having its own capital, coat of arms, and, sometimes, dialect. To really get to know the country, one needs to discover more than just one area or just one city. This article marks the start of a series on this blog, one that aims to discover the entire Netherlands, province by province. Here are the twelve Dutch provinces: Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Zeeland, Noord-Brabant, Limburg, Utrecht, Gelderland, Flevoland, Overijssel, Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen.

Map provinces Netherlands
Source: Wikipedia

Each month we will focus on one province, here on Amsterdamian. We will travel and show you at least four locations from that area, in articles, photos and videos. We will try to introduce you to some stories and people as well, while discovering all the Dutch provinces. There is no standard way a province will be presented, because we are not fans of strict rules. The articles can be a full guide to a city, a top of cities or villages, an interview, a nature area walk, or a museum visit – whatever sparks our interest. It won’t be exclusive either, meaning that we will write about other provinces or subjects as well during that month. The theme being a certain province means merely that one area will be the star of the month, with the most articles dedicated to it. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to visit also the Caribbean Netherlands this year, so maybe that’s something for the future 🙂

It’s a hard task and we won’t claim that you will know everything about that province at the end of the month – we need to leave some things for later enjoyment, of course. We hope you will tag along with this journey and that you will enjoy it. Now, let’s start with the first one: Noord-Holland (or North Holland). Over the years, you have read mostly about this province here, on this website; many stories have been told, already, but there is still much to discover. You can save the articles that interest you for future visits, since at the moment the travelling is restricted or too complicated.

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North Holland Province

Population of 2,877,909 (in 2019) and a total area of 4,092 km2.

North Holland, or Noord-Holland in Dutch, is a captivating province that sits atop the Netherlands like a crown jewel. The province is located in the northwestern part of the country, stretching from Amsterdam to the island of Texel. Surrounded by water – The North Sea, the Wadden Sea, IJsselmeer, and the Markermeer, North Holland has a bounty of amazing, sandy beaches. Its landscape is mostly polders, with fields intercepted by hundreds of drainage canals and ditches, peppered with windmills and farms. Most of the land is at or below sea level.

The province of North Holland, as we know it today, traces its origins back to the period of 1795 to 1813, a time marked by significant changes in the Dutch system of provinces. It was the first time when the idea of dividing the County of Holland in smaller parts appeared, and there were various reorganisations along the centuries, until we reached the 12 provinces of today’s Netherlands.

October in Amsterdam 08

North Holland is the most visited and known province of the Netherlands, so much that Holland became the nickname of the country and it was used even in the official tourism promotion up till 2020, when it was decided that dropping the nickname will help battle the over-tourism in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas. However, many people still refer to the Netherlands as Holland, even if they are aware of the distinction.

But Noord-Holland is just a part of this beautiful country, as you can see on the map above. The province’s largest city is Amsterdam, which is the capital of the Netherlands, but the provincial capital is the pretty city of Haarlem. Most of the province is north of Amsterdam, but the lower border goes below Amsterdam, incorporating the area known as Het Gooi.

North Holland is divided in a few regions but we’re not going too deep on this here. If you want to read more about them, check out Wiki Travel.

What to visit in North Holland

North Holland has an abundance of amazing places to visit, and each one of them can be a day-trip from Amsterdam, because the distances between places are not that big. Many tourists who visit the Netherlands don’t manage to see any other province, and there’s a good reason for that: there’s so much history, nature and culture to discover here! All the Dutch “symbols” are well represented in North Holland: windmills, tulips, cheese markets, fishing villages.

Notable cities and towns of Noord Holland: Amsterdam (no introduction needed), Haarlem (the smaller replica of Amsterdam), Alkmaar (famous for its cheese market), Hoorn (with a rich history, one of the richest cities in the Netherlands in the Golden Age), Den Helder (maritime center), Schagen, Enkhuizen, Zaandam, Volendam (old fishing village), Edam (another cheese market), Monnickendam, Medemblik (castle and big marina), Muiden, Purmerend, Hilversum. Each of these cities has its own style and a rich cultural heritage to learn about.

There are many beautiful villages to be discovered in this area and nature areas as well: Marken, Broek in Waterland, De Rijp, Naarden, Huizen, Bergen, Koog aan de Zaan, etc.

From the popular resort of Zandvoort in the south to Julianadorp aan Zee and Texel in the North, you can choose your favourite (if you can!). The entire west coast is one large stretch of sand, bordered by a line of sand dunes which offer protection for the inland regions and create enchanting natural reservations.

The Texel island is an unspoiled natural beauty, and a great destination for beach holidays (as far as a beach holiday can be had in the Netherlands). On the eastern side of the province, you’ll find smaller beaches on the Ijsselmeer and the Markermeer. This area was once connected to the North Sea, having an exit to what was then called the Zuider Zee (the Southern Sea). Today, the North Sea exit is blocked by the Afsluitdijk, the dike protecting the country from flooding.


Attractions in Noord Holland

Noord Holland is home to some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions: Amsterdam with its many museums and unique attractions, Zaanse Schans (open air windmills museum), the fishing villages of Volendam and Monnickendam, the cheese markets in Alkmaar and Edam, the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen, a part of the tulip fields areas, Beemster Polder, Muiderslot Castle, Radboud Castle Medemblik, historical train ride from Hoorn to Enkhuizen, the Texel Island, mud walking on the Wadden Sea, and more.

Tulip Fields 01

Nature in Noord Holland

From sea to lakes, from woods to dunes, from flower fields to heather fields, the natural landscape is quite varied and not as boring as you would expect from such flat lands. The most beautiful natural areas of Noord-Holland are: Zuid-Kennemerland National Park (dunes and forest close to Haarlem), Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, Noordhollands Duinreservaat (dunes area from Castricum to Egmond aan Zee), Schoorlse Duinen, Bergerbos (forest near Bergen), Heilooerbos (forest between Heiloo and Alkmaar), Amsterdamse Bos, Naardermeer, National Park Duinen van Texel.

Sand dunes North Holland

A few links where you can read more about Noord Holland:


Holland above Amsterdam

Laag Holland


Gooi and Vecht



Hot to get there

To plan your trip, use Google Maps, NS train schedule and

That’s all for now about this first province. Stay tuned for the articles with a focus on Noord-Holland and let me know if there’s any particular area you would like me to visit.

P.S. (2022) At the moment there is a lockdown in the Netherlands, that’s why I started with Noord-Holland, because I don’t have to travel far to discover places. Hopefully by February the lockdown will be lifted, so I can visit museums, shops and restaurants as well. However, I wanted to assure you that I will be travelling responsibly (most of the time by train) and I will make sure to respect all the measures.

Update 2023: check out this collection of all the articles part of “Discover the Netherlands” project.

Dutch Provinces: Noord-Holland

”Discover the Netherlands, Province by Province” project – each month of 2022 is dedicated to one Dutch province.

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