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North Holland

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North Holland

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North-Holland [1] (Dutch: Noord-Holland) is a province in the West of the Netherlands. It compasses the northern half of the old County of Holland, not to be confused with the Northern Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen (province) and Drente). Obviously the city of Amsterdam is the place-to-be for tourists and the economic heart of the country, but the City Region around it consists of green and flat polder landscapes with thousands of canals, windmills and farm houses, and are considered typical for the country. Especially the Zaanse Schans, Volendam, Marken and the less-touristed Edam make for a typical Dutch day-trip, with their clogs, traditional costumes and windmills. Also typical Dutch are it's dykes, of which the Afsluitdijk and the Markerwaarddijk connect the province with respectively Friesland and Flevoland.

In the summer, many Dutch tourists head out to the sandy beaches of Kennemerland on the west coast, of which Zandvoort is the most prominent. Another way to take some time off here is in one of the national parks. The historic towns of Haarlem and Alkmaar are also popular among tourists, the latter for it's typical Dutch cheese market. West-Friesland, not to be confused with the province of Friesland, is a distinctive area with it's own dialect. Many historic trade towns from the Dutch Golden Age can be found here, like Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Medemblik. De Kop van Noord-Holland is an area off the beaten path, except for Texel, one of the West-Frisian Islands and a great tourist resort. Last but not least, the Gooi and Vechtstreek is a great area for cycling through the heath lands. Naarden has one of the best preserved fortified towns in the world, while Hilversum places an emphasis on modern architecture and is the city where almost all radio and TV stations and studios are.


North-Holland is the northern half of the former County of Holland. It can be divided into 6 historic regions:

Regions of North-Holland
Famous capital for it's canals, architecture and liberal culture, and the surrounding urban sprawl
Gooi and Vecht Region
Known as the Garden of Amsterdam with plenty of opportunities for cycling
Dunes, beaches and national parks, as well as some historic towns
Kop van Noord-Holland
Some beach resorts and the gateway to the West Frisian Islands
Waterland and Zaan Region
Traditional Dutch villages, polders, clogs and windmills
This area has a distinct culture, language and VOC history


  • Haarlem — Capital of North-Holland with plenty of tourists visiting its ancient city center, shops and numerous museums.
  • Alkmaar — Historic town, well-known for it's cheese market.
  • Amsterdam — The place-to-be for tourists for it's buildings, canals, museums, weed, red light district and nightlife.
  • Den Helder — Mostly visited for it's seaside resorts, beaches and the ferry to Texel.
  • Hilversum — Starting point for cycling tours around architectural marvels, forests and the heath.
  • Hoorn — Historic town from the Dutch Golden Age.
  • Zaandam — Probably one of the oldest industrial areas in the world, which makes for an unusual day-trip.

Other destinations


North-Holland is one of the twelve provinces and consists of about 60 municipalities.


With the exception of immigrants, most people in North-Holland speak standard Dutch, with standard pronunciation. Many speak English.

Get in

By car

  • The highway E22/A7 passes over the Afsluitdijk from Friesland

By bus

By plane

As it is home to Schiphol Airport, North-Holland is easy to reach by plane.

By train

International train services connect Schiphol/Amsterdam with Germany as well as Belgium/France.

Get around

There is an excellent public transport network throughout the Netherlands and particularly in the highly populated province of North-Holland. Buses and railways criss-cross the region with services reaching all but the most remote villages. Amsterdam also has trams and light railways (metros) [2]. Planning routes across the region (and throughout the country) is exceptionally easy because of the co-operation between the service providers. OV9292 [3] provides a comprehensive point-to-point public transport route planner covering all major transport types.



  • The lovely canals of Amsterdam with their characteristic houses.

Defence Line of Amsterdam

Defence Line of Amsterdam

The Defence Line of Amsterdam (Stelling van Amsterdam) is a 135 km long ring of fortifications around Amsterdam. It consists of 42 forts about 10 to 15 kilometers from the city center. It's surrounded by lowlands, which could easily be flooded in time of war. It was constructed between 1880 and 1920, but the invention of the airplane made the forts obsolete almost as soon as they were finished. It received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

There is no one place to visit, as the forts and remains are spread all over North-Holland.

Traditional Dutch villages

  • The Zaanse Schans. It is an open air conservation area and museum, on the bank of the river Zaan, north of Amsterdam in Zaandam (Zaanstad). It displays the traditional architecture of the area (green wooden houses) and has several functioning windmills and craftmen's workplaces, which are open to visitors.

Fortified and historic towns

  • Alkmaar, Hoorn, Haarlem
  • Medieval castle Muiderslot. In Muiden, just outside and east of Amsterdam. With 17th Century-style herbal and vegetable gardens. Website castle (in Dutch, but a lot of images and video).
  • The nearest small fortified town from Amsterdam is Weesp (14 minutes by train), with a quiet historic centre on the river Vecht and windmills. At the station in Weesp you can rent bicycles for a ride to the fortified towns of Muiden (3 km) and Naarden (9 km). Information on day trips in the region on this link page.


  • The Afsluitdijk. A 32km long dike connecting North-Holland and Friesland. Built in 1930 to close what is now the IJsselmeer from being flooded by the North Sea. The dike was built as part of a plan to reclaim land in the IJsselmeer; this land became the province of Flevoland.
  • The Kazematten Museum. The bunkers defending the entrance to the Afsluitdijk were a vital part of Hollands defence plan during the Second World War. Some of the bunkers have been restored, with period-appropriate weapons, equipment and everyday items giving an overview of the soldiers' life inside the bunkers in 1940.
  • Het Monument. A small statue of a dike-builder which has been placed on the spot where the dike was closed in 1932. Next to the monument is a plaque, cafe and a watchtower where (because of all the water) you can see the Wadden islands on a bright day.
  • Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen.



  • Cycle your way through the center of Amsterdam.
  • Visit the Anne Frank House.
  • Visit one of the many Amsterdam.
  • Visit the Rijksmuseum, the largest museum in the Netherlands.


  • Visit the old city centre of Haarlem, voted best shopping city in the Netherlands.
  • Haarlem's Great Market is one of the most beautiful in the world.
  • Visit one of the beaches in Bloemendaal or Zandvoort.
  • Go to the National Park of Zuid-Kennemerland.
  • Visit the Teylersmuseum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands.


  • Walk thru the romantic narrow streets in the city centre of Alkmaar.
  • Visit the Cheese Market famous all over the world.

Other areas



Get out

North-Holland has borders with Flevoland, Friesland, South-Holland and Utrecht (province). Major cities such as The Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam and Utrecht can easily be reached by car and train. Typical Dutch destinations surrounding the province are Delft, Keukenhof, Kinderdijk, Urk and Schokland.

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