Well, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, a small country in Northwestern Europe.
There are other cities named ‘Amsterdam’ — mostly in the USA. But here we’re talking about the only original city of Amsterdam.
Where is Amsterdam? In Holland or in the Netherlands?
To many people the Netherlands is better known as ‘Holland.’ But Holland is actually the name of a region which today consists of the country’s two Western-most provinces.
From the 10th to the 16th century Holland was one political region known as the County of Holland. By the 17th century — the country’s Golden Age — Holland was part of what was then the Dutch Republic. At that time the county had risen to become a maritime and economic power, dominating the other provinces.
Ships from around the world sailed to and from Amsterdam, in Holland. Back then the country was officially known as ‘Republic of the Seven United Netherlands‘ (later: Kingdom of the Netherlands). No wonder the name Holland stuck.
Actually, as this video shows there’s a bit more to the story:
1990: Dutch tourist board gives in to U.S. Holland daze
Teaching geography-challenged people to call the country The Netherlands instead of Holland was a marketing nightmare.
In 1990 the Netherlands Board of Tourism’s North America office simply gave up. Back then the Los Angeles Daily News carried an article titled, “Dutch tourist board gives in to U.S. Holland daze.”
Answer this: what country do the little wooden shoes come from? And in what country are the windmills and tulips located? If you say Holland you’re wrong —but normal, according to the Netherlands Board of Tourism.
The board apparently has tired of fighting a losing battle, and now its U.S. ads are calling that entire country — the Netherlands — by the name of one of its 12 provinces — Holland. (Actually, two of its provinces. One is North Holland. The other South Holland.)
The text of a full-page ad that ran in the travel-industry newspaper Travel Weekly refers to “one small and user-friendly country. Holland.”
“People say they’ve never been to the Netherlands — but they’ve been to Holland,” said Gerrie Davidson, director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism in San Francisco.
Davidson said the ads, the edict of the tourism board’s director for North America, Stephen Hodes, will run only in the United States.
– Source: Los Angeles Daily News, July 22, 1990
2019: Dutch government ditches Holland to rebrand as the Netherlands
Fast forward to 2019. The tourist board’s highly successful marketing campaigns have contributed to overtourism. Forecasts show that as many as 42 million people a year will visit the Netherlands by 2030 — up from 18 million in 2018. And though the country has much to offer, the focus for most of these tourists is on Amsterdam and ‘Holland.’
Small wonder, really. Amsterdam is world-renowned for a number of reasons. (Quick, what’s the first thing to comes to mind?)
In addition, many other top attractions the Netherlands is known for — such as tulips, cheese, clogs and windmills, quaint fishing villages, and miles of sandy beaches — are all located in the provinces of North- and South Holland.
Yet the rest of the country has much to offer as well — and certainly not only to tourists.
The Dutch government therefore wants to update its global image, dropping the ‘Holland’ moniker in favor of ‘The Netherlands.’
The Netherlands: co-creating pioneering solutions to global challenges
“We’ve modernized our approach,” a spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affair explained. “Under the new international branding strategy the Netherlands will position itself as ‘co-creating pioneering solutions to global challenges.’2
The Netherlands brand is meant to give a new impulse to “export, tourism, and sports — as well as to the promotion of Dutch culture, norms and values”. “We want to profile the Netherlands as open, resourceful and inclusive,” the spokesperson said.
A number of parties participated in the rebranding, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions — along with representatives from the top business sectors, major cities and sports- and cultural organizations — were also involved.
Minister Sigrid Kaag for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation alluded to the brand operation already last year in a speech for Trade Attaches in The Hague, promising ‘no more Holland promotion, but a focus on content.’
The rebranding will be officially announced well ahead of two key events next year — the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam.
It is doubtful that the current tulip logo will survive. However, orange will remain the country’s official color.
Map: Where is Amsterdam
So anyway, back to the “Where’s Amsterdam” question.
Here’s the big picture:
The blue area is Europe. (Yes, even though the UK is hellbent on leaving the EU — the European Union — it will still be part of the continent of Europe.)
The Netherlands is bordered by Belgium in the South, Germany in the East and the Northsea in the North and West.
Amsterdam is located in the south of the province of North Holland:
Amsterdam on Google Maps
Explore our Google map of Amsterdam for things to do and places to visit.
Oh, and you’ll fit right in with the locals if you talk about the current weather.
Amsterdam Visitors Guide
- Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands
- It is the capital of the Netherlands (while The Hague is the seat of government)
- It also is the financial and cultural capital of the Netherlands
- Amsterdam is not the capital of the province of North Holland. Haarlem is.
- Amsterdam consistently ranks well in various national and international surveys
- And yes… the city is home to a lot of bikes
By the way, do you know why Amsterdam is so tolerant?
- We’re not picking on Americans here. Note that as far back as 1995 the Netherlands Board of Tourism’s main office in the Netherlands registered the domain name Holland.com, which it has been using ever since to market the country worldwide. ↩
- Carolien Gehrels from Amsterdam-based Arcadis, involved in the new branding of the Netherlands, explains that co-creating stands for the cooperation that characterizes the Netherlands (the so-called ‘poldermodel‘). Pioneering emphasizes the country’s pioneering spirit, such as in the field of water management. Solutions expresses the resolving capacity for “global challenges”, challenges in which the Netherlands is an example to the world. ↩
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