The Netherlands is known as the country of windmills, clogs, tulips and flat lands, with a great reputation around the world thanks to thriving multicultural cities like Amsterdam.
It’s also a very interesting country with a rich history and lots of funny quirks and intriguing facts.
So let’s have a look at top interesting facts about the Netherlands.
1. Calling it Holland is wrong
A lot of people refer to the Netherlands as “Holland” because the regions of North and South Holland in the country were the strongest from an economic point of view. That’s how they became very well-known, but they continue to be regions of the broader country, and therefore not a correct reference for the whole country itself.
2. It’s the first country with same-sex marriage
It was in the Netherlands that same-sex marriage first became legal. This took place in 2001.
3. Dutch men are the tallest in the world
This is not a myth. Dutch women have an average height of 169 cm, making them second tallest, while Dutch men have an average height of 182.5 cm.
The Dutch didn’t use to be as tall, but over the last 200 years have grown in average 20 cm in height, compared just 6 cm for Americans. It appears that this is in part linked to DNA, and in part to the high levels of equality in Dutch society, overall good universal healthcare and nutrition, an interesting fact about Netherlands.
4. The Netherlands are the real home of gin
While we tend to think of gin as a British drink, it was in the Netherlands that it was first distilled actually. Gin was invented in the 16th century and William of Orange brought it to Britain when he occupied England.
The term “Dutch courage” is allegedly linked to the use of gin by the British and Dutch during the Thirty Years’ War.
5. They do have a lot of windmills
Another myth which is actually true: this country still have over 1,000 windmills dating back to the 1850s, an interesting fact about Netherlands. Windmills were so useful to the Dutch for milling grain but also for irrigation, and many of them have been preserved and turned into various other buildings (although some still operate commercially as windmills). There is an area of 19 traditional windmills designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, called Kinderdijk.
6. The Netherlands export 80% of the world’s bulbs
The Netherlands is the biggest exporter of tulips in the world, and they form the majority of bulbs exported by them every year. Tulip fields are a chief attraction to visit in the Netherlands, and the Dutch take tulip growing very seriously. All new varieties are carefully recorded in a royal almanac which contains over 8,000 types to date.
7. But tulips didn’t originally grow there
Despite the instant association of tulips with the Netherlands, the flowers actually originate from Turkey. They became so popular that lots of farmers switched their main crops to growing tulips in the 1630s and then were plunged into poverty when they lost popularity. However, the Dutch continued to grow them and, during World War II, discovered that tulip bulbs could be a food source, an interesting Netherlands fact.
Tulips are back to the top of the Dutch agenda and are celebrated every year on the third Saturday in January for National Tulip Day.
8. There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands
Another stereotype that is actually true about the Netherlands: their love of cycling. Dutch people cycle an average of 2.9 km per day and rely on bikes almost entirely for commuting, shopping, and casual transport. They use bikes for more than a quarter of all trips. In total, there are c. 18 million bikes in the Netherlands (and just over 17 million people!).
9. They love licorice
The Dutch consume over 32 million kilos of licorice annually, which makes them the world’s largest consumer of the sweet.
10. Cheese is massive in the Netherlands
Dutch people love cheese and dairy products, and this part of their diet is also linked with how tall everyone is in the Netherlands. An interesting fact about Netherlands is that they have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance in the world. According to Oxfam, they are also the top country for nutritious and affordable food.
11. Schiphol Airport is actually below sea level
A large part of the Netherlands is built on land reclaimed from the sea and swampy land. This has led to most houses in Amsterdam, for example, to be built on wooden poles which are 12 meters deep.
In fact, only about half the country is above sea level. As for Schiphol Airport, it was built on the bottom of a drained lake, Haarlemmer Lake, emptied in 1852. This means it’s 4m below sea level.
12. The Netherlands has villages with more canals than roads
In the village of Giethoorn, there are actually more canals than roads. It’s known as “the Venice of the Netherlands.”
13. They have the only addiction clinic in Europe
The Smith & Jones clinic in Amsterdam is the only type of clinic in Europe dedicated to treating addictions. Patients here look for cures to gambling, substance or video game addictions – basically any addiction you could come across.
14. They made carrots orange
Carrots were originally of many different colors such as black, yellow, red, purple or white. In the Netherlands, an orange variety was developed in honor of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family, an interesting fact about Netherlands. And this led to the most popular carrot we all know today!
15. The Netherlands is home to the biggest bar in Europe
You can find the biggest bar in Europe in Groningen: the “Drie Gezusters” (“Three Sisters”) can accommodate 3,700 people.
The Netherlands has a very eclectic culture and interesting set of tourist destinations given its centuries as a world power and sea-faring nation, which led to a successful multicultural empire for some time.
I hope that this article on Netherlands facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!