South Holland

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South Holland
Province of the Netherlands
Flag of South Holland
Coat of arms of South Holland
Coat of arms
Anthem: Lied van Zuid-Holland (Song of South Holland)
Location of South Holland
Country Netherlands
Established 1840 (split-up of Holland)
Capital The Hague
Largest city Rotterdam
 • King's Commissioner Jaap Smit (CDA)
 • Land 2,818 km2 (1,088 sq mi)
 • Water 585 km2 (226 sq mi)
Area rank 5th
Population (2011)
 • Land 3,528,324
 • Rank 1st
 • Density 1,300/km2 (3,200/sq mi)
 • Density rank 1st
ISO 3166 code NL-ZH
Religion (2005) Protestant 20%
Roman Catholic 15%
Muslim 8%
Hindus 2%

South Holland (Dutch: Zuid-Holland [ˈzœy̆t ˈɦɔlɑnt] ( )) is a province of the Netherlands. It has a population of just over 3.5 million (as of 2013)[1] and a population density of about 500 /km2 (1,300 /sq mi),[2] making it the country's most populous province and one of the world's most densely populated areas. Situated on the North Sea in the west of the Netherlands, South Holland covers an area of 3,403 km2 (1,314 sq mi), of which 585 km2 (226 sq mi) is water. It borders North Holland to the north, Utrecht and Gelderland to the east, and North Brabant and Zeeland to the south. The provincial capital is The Hague, while its largest city is Rotterdam.


Early history[edit]

The Binnenhof by the Hofvijver, 1625.
The liberation of Leiden in 1574.

Archaeological discoveries in Hardinxveld-Giessendam indicate that the area of South Holland has been inhabited since at least ca. 5500 B.C., likely by nomadic hunter-gatherers. Agriculture and permanent settlements likely originated around 2,000 years later, based on excavations near Vlaardingen. In the classical antiquity, South Holland was part of the Roman Province of Germania Inferior, and the border of the Roman Empire ran along the Old Rhine and reached the North Sea near Katwijk. The Romans built fortresses along the border, such as Praetorium Agrippinae near modern-day Valkenburg, Matilo near modern-day Leiden, and Albaniana near modern-day Alphen aan de Rijn. A city was founded near modern-day Voorburg, Forum Hadriani. It was built according to the grid plan, and facilitated a square, a court, a bathhouse and several temples.

After the departure of the Romans, the area belonged to the Frisian Kingdom, after which it was conquered by the Frankish king Dagobert I in 636. In 690, the Anglo-Saxon monk Willibrord arrived near Katwijk and was granted permission to spread Roman Catholicism by the Frankish king Pepin II. He accordingly founded a church in Oegstgeest, after which the entire area gradually Christianised. The area was appointed to East Francia in the Treaty of Verdun in 843, after which the king granted lands to Gerolf, who had helped him claim the lands. This was the birth of the County of Holland. Gerolf was later succeeded by Dirk I, who continued to rule Holland under the Frankish king. In 1248, count William II ordered the construction of the Ridderzaal, which was later finished by his son and successor Floris V.

The first city in South Holland to receive city rights was Dordrecht, which did so in 1220. The city retained a dominant position in the area until it was struck by a series of floods in the late 14th century. The same century also saw a series of civil wars, the Hook and Cod wars, concerning the succession of count William IV. Both his daughter Jaqueline and his brother John, the latter supported by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, claimed the throne. The conflict ended in 1490, with John victorious. Overall, the area of South Holland remained largely agrarian throughout the late middle ages. This changed around 1500, when Holland became Europe's most urbanised area. During the Eighty Years' War, the area of South Holland was the scene of the Capture of Brielle, the Siege of Leiden and the assassination of William the Silent.

The United Netherlands declared their independence in 1581, and Holland quickly emerged as the country's dominant province, with important trading cities such as Leiden, Delft, Gouda and Dordrecht. In 1575, the Netherlands' first university was founded in Leiden by William the Silent. The Hague, which had originated around the castle of the counts of Holland, became its new political centre. Both the States of Holland and the States General seated in the Binnenhof. The Dutch Golden Age blossomed in the 17th century. The south of Holland, back then often referred to as the Zuiderkwartier (literally "South Quarter"), was the birthplace and residence of scientists such as Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and Christiaan Huygens, philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza and Pierre Bayle, and painters such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Steen.

As a province[edit]

The centre of Rotterdam in ruins after the Rotterdam Blitz.

The province of South Holland as it is today has its origins in the period of French rule from 1795 to 1813. This was a time of bewildering changes to the Dutch system of provinces. In 1795, the Batavian Republic was proclaimed and the old order was swept away by a series of constitutional changes in the following years. In the Constitution enacted on 23 April 1798, the old borders were radically changed. The republic was reorganised into eight departments with roughly equal populations. The south of Holland was split up into three departments. The islands in the south were merged with Zeeland and the west of North Brabant to form the Department of the Scheldt and Meuse. The north of the area became the Department of the Delf. A small region in the east of the area became part of the Department of the Rhine, which spanned much of Gelderland and Utrecht. In 1801, the old borders were restored when the department of Holland was created. The reorganisation had been short-lived, but it gave birth to the concept of a division of Holland, creating less dominant provinces. In 1807, Holland was reorganised once again. This time, the department was split in two. The south, what would later become South Holland, was called the Department of Maasland. This also did not last long. In 1810, all the Dutch provinces were integrated into the French Empire, and Maasland was renamed Bouches-de-la-Meuse.

After the defeat of the French in 1813, this organisation remained unchanged for a year or so. When the 1814 Constitution was introduced, most borders were restored to their situation before the French period. The north and south of Holland were reunited as the province of Holland. However, the division hadn't completely been undone. Since its re-establishment in 1814, Holland had always had two King's Commissioners, one for the north and one for the south. Even though the province had been reunited, the two areas were still treated differently in some ways and the idea of dividing Holland remained alive. In 1840, it was decided to once again split Holland into North and South Holland, because the province of Holland was deemed too dominant in area, population and wealth. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, three municipalities were transferred from South Holland to Utrecht; Oudewater in 1970, Woerden in 1989, and Vianen in 2002.

The construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg in 1863 marked the start of the growth of the Port of Rotterdam. On 14 May 1940, during the Second World War, the centre of Rotterdam was destroyed by a German bombardment. The subsequent German occupation of the Netherlands resulted in anti-Jewish measures, and many members of Dutch resistance were captured and executed on the Waalsdorpervlakte. At the same time, the Atlantikwall was constructed along the coast. After the Second World War, in 1953, the south of South Holland was heavily struck by the North Sea flood, which took the lives of 677 South Hollanders. After this, the Dutch government decided for the construction of the Delta Works, which came to an end with the completion of the Maeslantkering in 1997.


A topographic map of South Holland as of 2013.

South Holland covers an area of 3,403 km2 (1,314 sq mi), of which 585 km2 (226 sq mi) is water. It borders the North Sea to the west, North Holland to the north, Utrecht and Gelderland to the east, and North Brabant and Zeeland to the south. Beside the dunes along the North Sea coast, the province is almost entirely flat and mostly consists of polders. The centre of South Holland and the area along the coast in the west are largely urban, part of the Randstad conurbation, while the east of the province is more agrarian and belongs to the Groene Hart, literally Green Heart. The south of the province is a collection of islands in the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. For census reasons, South Holland is divided into four regions: Rijnmond, South, West and East.

The Duin- en Bollenstreek is a region in the north-west of South Holland, around Katwijk, that features coastal dunes and the cultivation of flower bulbs. To the south of the region lie mostly pastures on sand soil, that form the transition to more urban area. This urban area runs along the Old Rhine, from Katwijk via Rijnsburg to Leiden and Zoeterwoude-Rijndijk. South of Leiden and north of The Hague lies an area where a landscape of dunes bordering the North Sea in the west transitions to one of peat more to the east. The easternmost tip of South Holland is part of De Biesbosch, one of the largest national parks of the Netherlands and one of the last freshwater tide areas in Europe. Other parks in South Holland, although no national parks, include Delftse Hout east of Delft,[3] Ackerdijkse Plassen, a bird reserve north of Rotterdam,[4] and Buytenpark and Westerpark near Zoetermeer.[5] The Kagerplassen are a collection of lakes north-east of Leiden, popular for boating, watersports, fishing, camping and walking.

A satellite image of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta, showing the islands of South Holland.

The southern part of South Holland consists of a number of islands of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. Although technically islands in the sense that they are surrounded by rivers, canals or other bodies of water, most of these islands are well connected to the rest of the province via bridges, tunnels and dams. The southern islands, most notably Goeree-Overflakkee (1 on the map), Tiengemeten (2), Hoeksche Waard (6) and Voorne-Putten (4/5), are largely agrarian, while more to the north, the islands are more urban, such as Dordrecht (7), IJsselmonde (9) and Rozenburg (10), while other islands, like Rozenburg (10), are mostly used for petrochemical industry. Together, these cities form the Rijnmond conurbation, centred around the city of Rotterdam. Together with Haaglanden (centred around The Hague) and Delfland (centred around Delft) in the north, and the Drechtsteden to the south-east, this conurbation in turn forms the South Wing of the Randstad conurbation, which spans across South Holland, North Holland and Utrecht.

Other regions in South Holland include Alblasserwaard, Gouwestreek ("The Gouwe Area"), Hoeksche Waard, Krimpenerwaard, Rijnland ("Rhineland"), Rijnstreek ("The Rhine Area"), Vijfheerenlanden and Westland (roughly including Hoek van Holland and the municipalities of Westland and Midden-Delfland).


Like the rest of the Netherlands, South Holland experiences a temperate oceanic climate, a Cfb-class according to the Köppen climate classification. The climate is influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, which results in relatively cooler summers and milder winters. Rain showers are common in the fall and winter seasons. Because of the flat surface, wind storms are also not uncommon in the winter. Although rain occurs all year long, there is a relatively dryer period between April and September. Eastern winds can result in a temporary continental climate with relatively warm and dry summers and cold and stormy winters. The temperature varies between the 2°C and 6°C in the winter and 17°C and 20°C in the summer.

Climate data for Rotterdam The Hague Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.1
Average high °C (°F) 6.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.6
Average low °C (°F) 0.8
Record low °C (°F) −17.1
Precipitation mm (inches) 69.1
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 12 10 12 9 9 10 10 10 12 12 13 13 132
Avg. snowy days 6 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 23
 % humidity 88 85 83 78 77 79 79 80 84 86 89 89 83.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 62.5 83.8 124.0 174.9 213.9 203.6 213.1 196.6 137.6 106.9 60.4 46.7 1,623.8
Source #1: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (1981–2010 normals, snowy days normals for 1971–2000)[6]
Source #2: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (1971–2000 extremes)[7]


Map of South Holland (2013)
One of South Holland's historical towns is Delft, a stronghold of tourism and of (mainly technical) science.
Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden.
The Koornbrug (Grain Bridge) in Leiden, also a historical university city in South Holland.
Scheveningen is the Netherlands' most popular seaside resorts.
Road through the dunes near Noordwijk, a second main seaside resort in this province.
Zoetermeer, the third largest population centre in this province, was a typical South Holland village until the late 1960s.
A view of the newly built nowadays Zoetermeer town centre.
A canal at Dordrecht, which town is the oldest in Holland (North and South together) and has a rich history and culture.
The 15th century town hall of Gouda, another historically rich town in South Holland.

South Holland is divided into 65 municipalities.

CBS-code Municipality Population Land area (km2) Population density (/km2)
482 Alblasserdam 19,822 8.79 2,255
613 Albrandswaard 25,044 21.87 1,145
484 Alphen aan den Rijn 106,809 126.58 844
489 Barendrecht 47,375 19.83 2,389
491 Bergambacht 9,983 35.10 284
568 Bernisse 12,368 57.34 216
585 Binnenmaas 28,682 69.26 414
1901 Bodegraven-Reeuwijk 32,986 75.69 436
501 Brielle 16,306 27.56 592
502 Capelle aan den IJssel 66,177 14.25 4,644
611 Cromstrijen 12,748 54.37 234
503 Delft 99,973 22.82 4,381
505 Dordrecht 118,716 79.01 1,503
689 Giessenlanden 14,423 63.57 227
1924 Goeree-Overflakkee 48,233 262.00 184
512 Gorinchem 35,252 18.92 1,863
513 Gouda 70,923 16.86 4,207
523 Hardinxveld-Giessendam 17,736 16.92 1,048
530 Hellevoetsluis 38,918 31.56 1,233
531 Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht 28,952 10.67 2,713
534 Hillegom 20,987 12.92 1,624
1884 Kaag en Braassem 25,758 63.39 406
537 Katwijk 62,825 24.54 2,560
588 Korendijk 10,693 77.26 138
542 Krimpen aan den IJssel 28,814 7.80 3,694
1621 Lansingerland 57,188 54.28 1,054
545 Leerdam 20,586 33.79 609
546 Leiden 121,199 21.95 5,522
547 Leiderdorp 26,788 11.55 2,319
1916 Leidschendam-Voorburg 73,392 32.70 2,244
553 Lisse 22,376 15.69 1,426
556 Maassluis 32,097 8.49 3,781
1842 Midden-Delfland 18,449 47.35 390
1927 Molenwaard 29,043 118.29 246
643 Nederlek 14,095 27.82 507
569 Nieuwkoop 27,114 78.88 344
575 Noordwijk 25,689 35.48 724
576 Noordwijkerhout 15,982 22.61 707
579 Oegstgeest 22,855 7.30 3,131
584 Oud-Beijerland 23,727 18.75 1,265
644 Ouderkerk 8,188 27.07 302
590 Papendrecht 32,140 9.48 3,390
1926 Pijnacker-Nootdorp 51,068 37.36 1,367
597 Ridderkerk 45,207 23.74 1,904
603 Rijswijk 47,680 14.05 3,394
599 Rotterdam 618,467 208.80 2,962
606 Schiedam 76,487 18.02 4,245
608 Schoonhoven 11,896 6.27 1,897
610 Sliedrecht 24,528 12.83 1,912
612 Spijkenisse 72,562 26.12 2,778
617 Strijen 8,678 50.85 171
1525 Teylingen 35,723 28.55 1,251
518 The Hague 508,592 81.88 6,211
622 Vlaardingen 71,059 23.64 3,006
623 Vlist 9,706 53.71 181
626 Voorschoten 24,941 11.16 2,235
627 Waddinxveen 25,520 27.90 915
629 Wassenaar 25,786 50.92 506
1783 Westland 103,335 79.53 1,299
614 Westvoorne 13,977 53.23 263
707 Zederik 13,661 73.73 185
637 Zoetermeer 123,614 34.55 3,578
638 Zoeterwoude 8,089 21.26 380
1892 Zuidplas 40,878 59.37 689
642 Zwijndrecht 44,546 20.35 2,189

Municipal reorganisations[edit]

Since 1840, South Holland has ceded three municipalities to the province of Utrecht: Oudewater in 1970, Woerden in 1989, and Vianen in 2002.

Municipal reorganisations since 2000:

Notable residents[edit]

Two well known scientists originating from South Holland are:

As far as art concerns, several famous painters originate from this province; such as:


As of 2011, South Holland's gross regional product amounts € 123.1 billion, or € 34,883 per capita. This contributes to the gross domestic product of the Netherlands for 20.9%. South Holland's labour force amounts 1,661,000 people; 47.1% of the total population. The unemployment rate is 6.1%.[8]

Main sectors of economical activity in this province are among others:

  • Growing vegetables and flowers in greenhouses (particularly in the Westland);
  • Flower bulb cultivation;
  • Port of Rotterdam;
  • Petrochemical industry, particularly near Rotterdam neighbourhood Pernis; (Shell's refinery there is the largest oil refinery in Europe, and one of the largest in the world);
  • The service-oriented economy of The Hague, where many jobs are offered by the national government (of which the main administrative parts are settled in this town), international institutions and headquarters of several large international businesses;
  • Tourism related activities (among others in historic places like Delft, and in several seaside resorts);
  • Commercial fishing; main South Holland fishing places are Katwijk and Scheveningen;
  • Stock breeding, of which in this province dairy industry is the main sector.

Galery of bulb fields in springtime[edit]

Farmlands outside Lisse, next to Keukenhof.jpg
Tulpenroute 2012-0342.JPG
Keukenhof Field.jpg

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Amsterdam Almelo Almere Amersfoort Arnhem Assen Breda Den Haag Delft Delfzijl Den Bosch Den Helder Dordrecht Enschede Haarlem Hilversum Maastricht Middelburg Zwolle Lelystad Leiden Katwijk Nijmegen Eindhoven Vlissingen Rotterdam Leeuwarden Heerenveen Groningen Emmen Almelo Apeldoorn Alkmaar Zaanstad Tilburg Venlo Heerlen Drenthe Flevoland Friesland Gelderland Groningen Limburg North Brabant North Holland Overijssel South Holland Utrecht Zeeland
Map of the Netherlands, linking to the province articles; red dots mark provincial capitals and black dots other notable cities or towns.

Links to maps[edit]

Entries in worldwide gazetteers[edit]

Coordinates: 52°00′N 4°40′E / 52.000°N 4.667°E / 52.000; 4.667