The windmills of Kinderdijk in the light of morning glory with a sunrise.
© Claire Droppert via NBTC Mediabank

Dutch heritage

A perfect blend of culture and landscape

Wind and water are the architects

Our heritage evolves, continuously


Windmills, tulips and Delft Blue: these are a few of our favorite things and they’re seen as quintessentially Dutch by the rest of the world. While these things are rightfully iconic, there’s so much more to Dutch heritage. Art, architecture, and even urban planning are an expression of the Dutch creative spirit. Past and present: our heritage continues to influence our modern culture.

Colorful orange field with a wind mill

Our ongoing battle against the elements is a key theme. Water and wind have played a major role in the creation and growth of our country. From the Delta Works to Amsterdam’s canals and from the reclamation of the Zuiderzee to the charming Kinderdijk windmills: the Netherlands is a country of wind and water.

Read more about the Netherlands as a country of water

Woman collects seaweed with the Delta Works and windmills in the background

Windmills and water works

They don't just look special

A life below sea level

Throughout history, the Dutch have utilized the elements to shape our country. As early as the 12th century, we used windmills to harness the power of water, such as those at Kinderdijk and De Beemster which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Mills produced flour and other goods, while their pumps controlled the water levels.

Did you know that large areas in the Netherlands are actually below sea level? In Dutch, NAP stands for Normaal Amsterdams Peil (normal Amsterdam level), which measures the average elevation of land and water relative to sea level. If land is below NAP, it means that large areas of land would be underwater unless we use locks, dikes, dams, etc. to keep the water at bay.

In the Wolderwijd off the coast of Zeewolde lies a peninsula in the shape of a tulip
A large part of the Netherlands is below sea level.

That is precisely why we are so skilled at water management. In fact, it was our mastery of our water infrastructure that allowed us to become a powerful trading nation.

Maeslantkering one of the 13 Delta Works

With the construction of the Water Lines (also UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and the impressive Delta and Zuiderzee Works, the Netherlands firmly established itself as a world leader in water management. It should come as no surprise that our current monarch, King Willem-Alexander, studied water management.

More information about UNESCO World Heritage in the Netherlands

Test site for the Delta Works Waterloopbos Noordoostpolder

Take a pick from our diverse heritage

Cheese and other trades

A nice piece of cheese can go a long way….

Gouda Cheese control on the shelf

The Netherlands has always been renowned for its cheese production. For centuries, we have been the largest exporter of this tasty and versatile product. It’s not for nothing that the cheese markets of Alkmaar, Gouda, and Edam have existed for more than 600 years and that ‘Gouda Cheese’ is known throughout the world. We also really love it and are a nation of cheeseheads. On average, a Dutch person eats 22.1 kilos of cheese per year.

The export of cheese started during the Dutch Era, when the Netherlands developed into one of the world’s largest trading nations. In addition to cheese, we also traded Delft Blue, pottery, spices, and tea from the Far East.

947 million kilos of cheese are produced annually in the Netherlands

The Dutch Masters

The wealth of this period is still reflected in the stately mansions built along Amsterdam’s Canals and in cities like Haarlem, Leiden, and Dordrecht. You can also see it in the paintings by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer and the wonderful inventions of scientists such as Christiaan Huygens.

Canal houses Dordrecht Grotekersbuurt

It should be noted that this era is also defined by colonialism and slavery, which is why there is increasing reluctance to refer to it as the Dutch Golden Age. Fortunately, these topics are discussed openly nowadays and many museums dedicate entire sections to these dark pages of our history.

Leiden Rijksmuseum Boerhaave department Christiaan Huygens

The Alkmaar Cheese Market. Then and now.

Cheese market in Alkmaar
Cheese market in Alkmaar

For years, a cheese market has been held on the Waagplein in Alkmaar. Nowadays, it is a popular event that attracts many spectators.

Traders and Tulips

A flower as a business model

In love with the tulip

People on a bike near the flower fields

The iconic tulip: imported from Constantinople, embraced and cultivated in the Netherlands. In the 17th century, the Dutch Republic became the world’s leading economic power and cities such as Amsterdam, Middelburg, and The Hague flourished. It was during this time that the tulip was first introduced from Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey.

The Dutch loved the flower and saw potential for large-scale sales. They weren’t wrong. All of Europe fell in love with tulips and for a long time they were so popular that some bulbs were worth more than a house! This was called tulip mania.

Did you know?

The word tulip probably derives from ‘tulipan’, which means turban in the Persian language?

A colourful revenue model

Nowadays, the Netherlands is the largest producer and exporter of tulips. You can find amazingly beautiful and colorful bulb fields in several places in our country. The most famous 'bulb region' is located behind the North Sea dunes between the cities of Leiden and Den Helder.

Colorful flower fields bird view

Every spring, millions of these iconic flowers color our land and confirm our reputation as the flower shop of the world.
Read all about the bulb region

Focus on tulips at a market

The bulb region in pictures

Art for the eyes and ears

Rembrandt and Tiësto as trendsetters

Painting icons of the Netherlands

The Netherlands is well-known for its many talented artists – past and present. Artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer are considered all-time greats in the art of painting, and Gerrit Rietveld and Marcel Wanders enjoy global fame for their designs. Who hasn’t heard of the Rietveld Chair?

Visitor at Vincent Van Gogh Museum

The development of our painting culture came about during the Dutch Era when rich people began to appreciate paintings as a way to show off their wealth. This led to more than 1,500 works by world-famous painters in less than a century. Thanks to this explosion of talent and creativity, museums like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Utrecht Centraal Museum are now able to house extensive exhibitions on various themes.

Street art in Utrecht

New Masters of the Street

Contemporary art also flourishes in the Netherlands: our country is brimming with art galleries, often in striking locations. Examples include the experimental platform De Huidenclub, located in an old tannery in Rotterdam, and culture house Het HEM, which is housed in a former bullet factory in Zaandam. Visit the award-winning Street Museum in Amsterdam for the ultimate graffiti and street art.

Woman walks through the STRAAT Museum at the NDSM site in Amsterdam
Each mural has a link to its location, to the city, the present, the future or the past.
Egbert Scheffer at work with spray can in hand

Music has been one of the Netherlands' major cultural exports for years. The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) alone attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, and with major stars such as our very own Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren and Hardwell, there is no shortage of talented DJs.


Similarly, the Dutch hip-hop scene is growing rapidly and Dutch rappers like Kevin and Frenna are more popular than ever. Even famous popular (former) professional footballers (soccer players) like Memphis Depay and Royston Drenthe frequently release new English-language material.

Dutch artist Frenna