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Where is Amsterdam?

Where is Amsterdam? That is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive here at DutchAmsterdam.

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:

Video: Why do people call The Netherlands ‘Holland’?

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.”

Difference Holland Netherlands
You want Holland? We’ll give you Holland — along with the rest of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Board of Tourism at one point gave up trying to teach Americans the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. 1

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

Overtourism has by now inspired the Dutch government to rethink its international image. There’s more to the Netherlands than just Holland, tulips, windmills, and cheese (or whatever else come to mind when you think about our country).

Therefore a new, less ‘touristy’ Netherlands logo has been introduced.

Map: Where is Amsterdam

So anyway, back to the “Where’s Amsterdam” question.

Here’s the big picture:

Map of Europe
Map of the world, with the continent of Europe shaded blue

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 shares borders with Belgium in the South, Germany in the East and the Northsea in the North and West.

Where is Amsterdam
Continent of Europe, showing the location of the Netherlands. The call-out shows the location of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam sits in the south of the province of North Holland:

Netherlands map
Map of the Netherlands, with its twelve provinces

Amsterdam on Google Maps

Explore Amsterdam on Google Maps. That’s an excellent way to orientate yourself. Zoom out to see Greater Amsterdam and beyond. Note where in the Netherlands it is located. Zoom out further to see its position in Europe and the rest of the world.

Amsterdam Visitors Guide

Speaking of Amsterdammers: DutchAmsterdam is published by Amsterdam locals — the Amsterdam Experts. We’ve put together this handy visitors guide for you.

Oh, and you’ll fit right in with us locals if you talk about the current weather.

Amsterdam Video

Video: Amsterdam proudly presents the city as an international meetings and conventions destination. Amsterdam is among the top 10 most important commercial centres in the world, and is the fourth most influential business centre in Europe, following only Frankfurt, Paris and London.

Amsterdam Facts

  • Amsterdam is located in the Netherlands
  • Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands
  • Amsterdam 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?
Amsterdam is known notorious for its tolerant attitude toward a range of social issues.

Where did this tolerance come from? Are the Dutch really that progressive? And is Amsterdam really as tolerant as people seem to think?

Heads up: You’ll learn some Dutch words along the way. The concepts of gedogen and the poldermodel help explain Amsterdam’s approach.

Notes:

  1. 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.
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This post was last updated: Dec. 9, 2019