© Ben Houdijk

This is what makes The Netherlands a sporty nation

The Netherlands prides itself on being a sporty nation. In fact, about two-thirds of the adult population take part in athletic activities each week. With abundant water-filled landscapes, picturesque green expanses and state-of-the-art facilities, there’s certainly enough reasons to get your heart rate going. Football, hockey, tennis, running and volleyball are all popular, but you can also surf, skate and even head to the racetrack to spot some Formula One champions. In fact, 2021’s summer features a surfeit of sporting events that are already etching their way into the history books. Check them out.

  • Find out about the biggest sporting events in the Netherlands.
  • Discover the best places to take part in sports throughout the country.
  • Learn why the Dutch pride themselves on being a sporty, active nation.

Holland: A footballing nation

Football is a religion in the Netherlands, a die-hard footballing nation. You can often see supporters clad in their team’s colours filling up public spaces with passionate chants and cheers for their club. And so, it was a huge honour for Amsterdam’s Johan Cruiff Arena to host several games for the UEFA European Championship 2020 (held in 2021). Though the national team were eventually knocked out by the Czech Republic, they have had a lot of success in the past, especially in the World Cup. The Dutch introduced the concept of ‘total football’ to the world with legendary player Johan Cruyff, who has namesake football courts dotted around the country. The Dutch women’s football team is also flourishing, and was crowned European Champions in 2017.

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Johan Cruijff Arena

Discover the home base of the famous Ajax soccer club.

Football women among the top: international top goal scorers and European champions in 2017!

Get your Formula One fix in Zandvoort

Like football, Formula One is well-loved in the Netherlands. That passion has recently been reinvigorated by the roaring victories of young homegrown talent Max Verstappen, who looks set to become one of the sport’s greatest ever drivers. To help Formula One fever take hold in the Netherlands, the country is set to host its own Grand Prix event in 2021 for the first time in 36 years. The Heineken Dutch Grand Prix will take place in September at Circuit Zandvoort. Meanwhile, motorcycle enthusiasts can get their fix at the Assen TT, which traditionally takes place at the end of June.

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Circuit Zandvoort

The Dutch Formula 1 racing circuit.

Take part in a game or two of tennis

Tennis enthusiasts are well served in the Netherlands. Throughout the country there are a plethora of public and private courts to train up your skills, and the country hosts many prestigious tournaments. The Dutch National Tennis Association (KNLTB) numbers around 550,000 tennis players. The biggest tournament in the annual tennis calendar is the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, which features the world’s biggest players.

Excelling in the Olympic and Paralympic Games

As an active and sporty nation, the Netherlands generally performs well in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. With wide-open expanses and plentiful bodies of water, it’s probably no surprise that Dutch athletes excel in swimming and cycling. And, as ice skating is something that you generally learn as soon as you can stand in the Netherlands, Dutch athletes dominate the competition in the Winter Olympics. The total number of medals won are crystal clear: a grand achievement for a small country such as the Netherlands!

Jogging, running, racing and everything in between

Famously flat and with an abundance of spectacular urban and natural landscapes, the Netherlands makes running a real pleasure. That’s probably why it’s so common to see people jogging along the many scenic trails spread throughout Dutch cities and countryside. The country hosts many world-leading races as well, with the biggest events being the annual Amsterdam Marathon and the NN Marathon Rotterdam. Also in the Dutch capital, the Dam tot Damloop sees around 50,000 runners race from Dam square in Amsterdam to Dam square in Zaandam. Other notable events include the Kustmarathon Zeeland, and the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, or Four Days Marches, the largest multi-day marching event in the world.

Bikes + Holland, what more can we say?

When people think of the Netherlands they generally think about bikes! The country’s flat landscape, mild climate and more than 37,000 kilometres of cycling lanes means it’s a safe, fun way to get around. The Dutch love of cycling also translates into the country taking cycling as a sport very seriously indeed. In fact, in 1954, Amsterdam became the first place outside of France to host the Grand Départ – or starting stage – of the Tour De France. Since then, the country has hosted the competition a further six times, and Rotterdam and The Hague are bidding to host the Grand Départ again in either 2024 or 2025. Another major world event in cycling – the Giro d’Italia – also has a history in Holland, having launched in the country on three separate occasions. In 2022, the Spanish cycling event La Vuelta will begin in the Dutch provinces of Utrecht and Noord-Brabant.

Get wet and wild with Dutch water sports

With 26% of Holland lying below sea level, it’s no wonder that water sports are well-loved in the country. Whether sailing, swimming, surfing or something in between, opportunities to take part in water sports are everywhere. The country also plays host to big events, such as the HISWA Boat Show, the North Sea Regatta sailing competition and even the Skûtsjesilen Championships, in which traditional Frisian Skûtsjes boats compete to become sailing champions. One of the best locations for water sports in the Netherlands is Friesland, which has the largest chain of connected inland lakes throughout Europe.

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Water sports in Holland

Holland consists of about 16% water. Enjoy it and come sailing, sup boarding, surfing, kiting, diving, and much more...

Friesland has everything water sports enthusiasts dream of: lakes, canals, ditches and waterways and the largest chain of connected inland lakes in Europe.

Coastline Brouwersdam
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You can take a kite not just to the beach, but also to the water.

An honourble mention

Though there are a few sports that we have missed, we couldn’t publish a page about Dutch sport without mentioning golf. Increasingly popular in the Netherlands, more and more golf clubs are springing up around the country. Want to know where to tee-off in the Netherlands? Check out our golf page.

Discover the green fairways amidst the beautiful landscape: play a great round of golf on a Dutch golf course.