Exploring the Past in the Netherlands

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.

Events and Exhibitions 2020

The Rijksmuseum under a dramatic sky in Amsterdam.

Caravaggio-Bernini. Baroque in Rome
14 February to 7 June 2020
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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).

Map of Archaeology and History Sites and Museums in the Netherlands

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Find the Best Archaeological and Historical Sites and Museums

That part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe has 12 provincies, or provinces, and these are grouped together in four main regions as follows:

For now this guide covers only the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe. The special municipalities (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) and other constituent countries (Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten) in the Carribean that make up the Netherlands proper will be added in due course.

Four of the Top Tours and Activities in the Netherlands

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands

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 >>

The Taos Pueblo added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1992.

Mill Network at


D.F. Wouda Steam Engine
Pumping Station

Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA.

17th Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam

One of a number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, eight of which were added to the UNESCO list in 2109.

Historic area of
Willemstad, Curaçao

The Medieval city walls of Zutphen, northern Netherlands.

Hanzesteden 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 >>

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About The Author

This guide to the archaeology and history sites of the Netherlands is the principle work of Max Petterson, with contributions from Thomas Dowson and Ethan Doyle White. Having obtained his Masters degree in archaeology from Leiden University, Max is now a certified archaeologist working in the Netherlands with a focus on prehistory. His MA thesis examined the practice of human sacrifice in Iron Age Northern Europe. Read More About Us and Our Backgrounds.

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