The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy that includes a country in northwestern Europe with territories in the Caribbean. About 20% of the country in Europe, often incorrectly referred to as Holland, is below sea level. A further 50% is less than one metre above sea level. For this reason the country's name in Dutch (Nederland), English and many other European languages means 'The Low Countries'. The reason for this unusual geography results from centuries of badly controlled peat extraction. And from the 16th century onwards land reclamation started in earnest - an activity that resulted in industrial sites that are now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Despite this disruption of the land, the Netherlands still has an extraordinary archaeological and historical record. The oldest evidence of human occupation being from Neanderthal communities living near what is today Masstricht.
This temporary exhibition takes us back to Rome in 1600 when a new aesthetic was emerging. With 60 exquisite artworks the beginnings of the Baroque period in Rome is explored. And a focus on the painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) and the sculptor Bernini (1598-1680).
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium
Flanders has five provinces:
Antwerp (Antwerpen in Dutch, Anvers in French): capital city is Antwerpen
East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen, Flandre orientale): Gent
Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant, Brabant flamand): Leuven
Limburg (Limburg, Limbourg): Hasselt
West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen, Flandre occidentale): Brugge
Wallonia also has five provinces:
Hainaut (Henegouwen in Dutch, Hainaut in French): capital city is Mons
Liège (Luik, Liège): Liège
Luxembourg (Luxemburg, Luxembourg): Arlon
Namur (Namen, Namur): Namur
Walloon Brabant (Waals-Brabant, Brabant Wallon): Wavre
As of 2019, there are 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Netherlands. Nine of these sites are recognised for their cultural significance, the other (shared with Denmark and Germany) for its natural importance. One of the cultural sites is on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and covers the historic town and harbour of the island's capital Willemstad. There are a further six sites, including the Roman Lower German Limes, on the tentative list. Full list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Netherlands >>
In the 14th century, when Amsterdam was only a tiny settlement, many towns in the northern provinces of the Netherlands joined the Hanseatic League. Established as a trading union amongst Baltic Sea ports, joining the league ensured wealth. The Medieval prosperity of these Hansa towns can still be seen in the historical buildings and features from the 14th and 15th centuries - making them fascinating and picturesque places to visit today.
Guide to the Hanseatic League >>