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While people use the Netherlands and Holland interchangeably to refer to the same country, they are not exactly the same. Add in Denmark or even the “low countries”, and you’ve got a perplexing, frustrating problem in your hands. As a seasoned traveler, you'll want to ensure that you don’t piss off a local. An innocent gaffe may earn you a flushed cheek, a snob, or, let’s admit it, cold rejection.

In case you’re like many who find these distinctions confusing, this guide may just be what you need. In the end, you’ll be able to pick out the fine strands that separate Holland, the Netherlands—and Denmark along the way. Here’s the truth: this is not just about calling a rose by any other name. There’s some nuance. So before you find a reason to visit Amsterdam, you should know whether Amsterdam is in Holland, the Netherlands, or Denmark. Here we go.


Is It Holland Or The Netherlands, And Does It Matter?

Make no mistake. While in some places calling the Netherlands— Holland— will not induce lowered brows, in others, people can be seriously offended. This can send you into some geographic tailspin. Let’s break this down for you. But first, some history. To understand it well, let’s take you way, way back to the Eighty Years' War that began in the 16th century. This was one war that was fought for two generations if you take in the life expectancy during those days. Before this time, the country we now call the Netherlands was composed of independent provinces, each exercising considerable levels of autonomy. Spain, then a leading world power, would dramatically enter the scene when, through treaties, it brought these regions under its thumb. At first, everything went well. But soon, fissures arose. Protestants against Catholics and gripes about taxation. Soon after, a full, blown-out war of independence would ensue to shake off the Spanish yoke: the Eighty Years’ War.

To secure victory, these hitherto independent provinces entered into some alliance. A house divided, Abraham Lincoln would say, cannot stand. This union would be called The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The County of Holland was just one among the seven. However, it would go on to be the most dominant of the seven and emerge as something of an economic, cultural, and industrial powerhouse on the planet, especially during the Dutch Golden Age. But there was another factor. Sailers or wealthy Dutch merchants who plied their trade across the open seas were mainly from Holland. In their foreign travels, they would therefore refer to Holland—and not to the whole confederate union. People from other countries got to believe that the whole region was known as Holland. Later there would be a few more changes after a few more wars. But the general outline remained intact. Today, The Netherlands is largely composed of the original seven counties, with few exceptions like Belgium— which seceded in 1830.

Related: 10 Things To Do In Amsterdam That Only Locals Know

Holland And The Netherlands Today

Of course, there was no time that officially speaking, Holland has referred to the Netherlands. Except when Napoleon briefly held sway over much of Europe and named the country Holland. Today, twelve provinces make up the country of the Netherlands. Of these twelve, Noord (North) Holland and Zuid (South) Holland sum up the region of Holland—a paltry two of the twelve. Since 2019, Dutch authorities have been rebranding decidedly from the Holland confusion—to the clarity of the Netherlands. The Holland region, however, takes a slice of many industrial towns and stunning tourist destinations. These include Rotterdam, a modern architectural kaleidoscope; Utrecht, the fascinating, beating heart of Holland; The Hague, the imposing seat of civil power, and of course Amsterdam; a spellbinding display of man’s architectural genius. But there’s something more to this beautiful land of tulips, Gouda cheese, and polder landscape.

The Difference Between The Kingdom Of The Netherlands And The Netherlands.

To add to the mystery, the Netherlands— and the Kingdom of the Netherlands—mean two different things. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a sovereign state with four constituent countries including Aruba, Curaçao, St Maarten and the Netherlands. The King is the head of state in the whole 4-country realm. However, each country, including the Netherlands has its own parliamentary government. Some “Kingdom Affairs” are shared collegiately among the four, according to a charter, while in others, each country has a free hand.

Related: The Netherlands Is Home To Some Of The Best Cities In The World.

Is Denmark Part of Holland-Netherlands?

The simple, straightforward answer is no. Denmark is a totally different country from the Netherlands though they share a weird love for bicycles and a border with Germany. And while they share the same Germanic roots and a dash of cultural similarities, Denmark is a Scandinavian country while the Netherlands is part of the historical “low countries” together with Belgium and Luxembourg. As to people, those native to the Netherlands are Dutch while those native to Denmark are Danes.

You can now safely plan your travel to the Netherlands and enjoy its many jaw-dropping sights and attractions. The Netherlands is perhaps Europe's most underrated country.