is holland the same as the netherlands

Is Holland the Same as the Netherlands? Know the Difference

Are you planning a trip to the Netherlands or Holland? Or are you simply researching for a project based on either of those places? In either case, you’re likely wondering why Holland and the Netherlands are being used interchangeably. If you’re wondering, “Is Holland the same as the Netherlands?” you’re not alone.

Don’t worry; your sources aren’t wrong. The Netherlands and Holland are often confused for one another due to many reasons. In this guide, we explain how this happened and help clear your confusion so you can keep on with your research. Let’s start!

The History and Origin of the Netherlands


The region we know as the Netherlands today has a long history. Its complex origin story is where we need to begin to understand why it’s often mixed up with Holland. Here’s where it all begins.

Republic of the Seven United Netherlands

It was in 1579 that the region we call the Netherlands today started to take its shape in geographic and political terms. Before this point, the Netherlands, along with some regions of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, were all part of Spain’s territory under the rule of King Philip II of Spain. But Spain’s rule would soon come to an end in 1579.

The revolt of the Netherlands began in 1566 and concluded with the union of the cities and provinces that successfully resisted Spanish rule. This union led to the birth of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

The Seven United Netherlands consisted of:

• The County of Holland
• The County of Zeeland
• The Lordship of Utrecht
• The Duchy of Guelders (Gelderland in Dutch)
• The Lordship of Overijssel
• The Lordship of Frisia
• The Lordship of Groningen and Ommelanden

Batavian Republic

Then came the period of the Dutch Golden Age (1588 to 1672). This was when Dutch trade, art, science, and military flourished and became known around the world. The wealthiest and most advanced was the County of Holland because it made the most contributions to the Republic’s economy.

All seven provinces of the Republic had independent governments, so the regions were identified mainly by their names.

But this period came to an end with the arrival of Napoleon’s French troops in 1795. In a couple of years, Napoleon would turn the country into a kingdom by appointing his brother Louis as the King.

In 1806, the region took on a new name and became known as the Batavian Republic.

United Kingdom of the Netherlands

In 1815, the Batavian Republic once again saw a change of hands and a new name. This resulted from Napoleon’s defeat and the assumption of power by William VI of the House of Orange.

The region was named the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was a fusion of territories that were already a part of the Batavian Republic.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

In the following years, Belgium and Luxembourg (both territories under the United Kingdom of the Netherlands) gained independence. This naturally led to the map of the Netherlands being redrawn.

While the region did undergo a conservative period and more changes after this, the map that emerged can be considered the foundation of the Netherlands as we know it today.

The present-day map of the Netherlands consists of 12 provinces:

• Groningen
• Friesland
• Drenthe
• Overijssel
• Flevoland
• Gelderland
• Utrecht
• North-Holland (Noord Holland)
• South-Holland (Zuid Holland)
• Zealand
• North Brabant
• Limburg

Today, the official name of the country is the Kingdom of the Netherlands or Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. King Willem-Alexander has been its ruler since 2013.

What About Holland?


Holland is the name of two of the 12 prominent provinces in the Netherlands. The regions of North Holland and South Holland are situated to the west of the country.

Due to its historic origin, the name Holland is also used to refer to the Netherlands. This is especially common with tourists and anyone who hasn’t lived in or visited the Netherlands or Holland.

There are many reasons for this confusion. Let’s take a close look at them.

Why Are Holland and Netherlands Used Interchangeably?

If you look at the history and origin of the Netherlands, you’ll see that during the Dutch Golden Age and before the Netherlands became a country, the provinces all existed as prominent and independent counties. The country of Holland was famous for being one of the wealthiest and most urbanized regions in the world – it was so famous that it had its own independent identity.

When the sailors set sail during the 16th and 17th centuries, they, too, referred to the region they hailed from as Holland since it was their city-state. This was only natural, considering that all seven provinces of the Republic had their own independent governments. Ultimately, the name stuck.

Over time, the region didn’t separate from the Netherlands but only divided into north and south territories in 1840. Much later, the area came to be identified with the title of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Modern Holland

Today, North and South Holland are quite often mistakenly referred to as the Netherlands. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll also find that the provinces that make up the Netherlands are all self-governing.

This confusion is further worsened by the fact that Holland and the Netherlands are both associated with the same general characteristics that have become quite famous over the years. Examples include windmills, tulips, Gouda cheese, wooden clogs, and beautiful land near the sea. But this is no coincidence because they are in the same region and share essentially the same history and geography.

Another reason for the confusion is that the Netherlands has often used the name Holland in most of its tourism branding.

In addition, the capital of the Netherlands – Amsterdam – is situated in North Holland. So every tourist that enters the capital city lands in Holland and remembers that name as where they are the whole time.

What’s more, the area in the Netherlands that receives the highest number of tourists is also located in Amsterdam. As a result, most tourists only flock to that area and don’t really know much about the other parts of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is also the economic hub of the Netherlands. This means most of the Netherlands’ popular exports, like tulips, Gouda cheese, and Edam cheese, all come from Amsterdam, which is part of Holland. This adds to the commonalities between Holland and the Netherlands, further leading to the names being used interchangeably.

Of the total population of the Netherlands, which is 17 million, approximately 6 million live in North and South Holland. So, a large portion of the Dutch residents (people of the Netherlands) are likely to refer to their place of origin as Holland when they go abroad.

Is Holland the Same as the Netherlands?


Yes, but there’s more to it. To put it simply, Holland is a part of the country of the Netherlands. But the Netherlands isn’t a part of Holland.

Here are some additional facts that can help you get your facts straight:

• The Netherlands is a country located to the West of Europe.
• The Netherlands is a country of 12 provinces and some Caribbean islands.
• Holland makes up two of the 12 provinces in the country of the Netherlands.
• Holland is the collective term for the provinces of North Holland and South Holland.
• The main cities of Holland, which are Amsterdam, the Hague, and Rotterdam, are also the main cities of the Netherlands.
• People from Holland often refer to themselves as “Hollanders,” whereas those from other parts of the Netherlands refer to themselves as “the Dutch.”
• Dutch is the official language spoken in Holland and the Netherlands.

A Rebranding of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been struggling with the high influx of tourists to Holland for a long time. The Dutch government in 2020 decided to stop using the terms “Holland” and “the Netherlands” interchangeably. The reason was to eliminate the confusion between the two and promote tourism to other provinces.

To put it into practice, they began to remove the term “Holland” from all of its official websites and tourism campaigns.

The government also decided to change its logo to convey a cohesive brand message that is distinct to the Netherlands. Its earlier logo was that of an orange tulip beside the word Holland, which was associated more with Holland’s offerings and not the entirety of the Netherlands.

The new logo features the letters NL with a stylized tulip within.

Can Holland and the Netherlands Be Used Interchangeably?

It isn’t considered controversial or offensive to use the Netherlands and Holland interchangeably. In fact, a majority of Dutch people do so. However, with the new updates in the government’s branding, you might want to use the terms more consciously to show your appreciation for their efforts.

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