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Province of South Holland


The province of South Holland is adjacent to the provinces of Zeeland, North Brabant, Gelderland, Utrecht and North Holland. It is bordered by the Meuse River (Maas) in the South, and the Old Rhine River (Oude Rijn) in the North. The Rhine Delta encompasses most of the province.

It has a surface area of 2,818 km², a population of 3,458,000 inhabitants, making it the most populous province in the Netherlands.


In ancient times, what is now the province of South Holland was settled by Germanic tribes, most notably the Batavians, who gave their name to the Roman province of Batavia, then, much later, to the Batavian Republic (1795-1806) under the French occupation.

The Romans conquered modern South Holland under Emperor Claudius (41-54 CE), with the Old Rhine defining the northern boundary of the empire. The Romans built the first fortified towns in the region to protect their borders, notably Lugdunum Batavorum (Katwijk) and Albaniana (Alphen aan den Rijn).

The Great Migrations at the 4th and 5th centuries witnessed the arrival of the Frisians. Pepin the Short, King of the Franks, annexed Frisia to the Frankish domain in 734. After the division of the Frankish Empire between France and Germany, the County of Frisia became the County of Holland (from 880), within the Holy Roman Empire.

The Counts of Holland became very influential, and William II (1228-1256) even became King of Germany. John I died childless in 1299, and the title was taken over by the Counts of Hainaut, then by the powerful House of Wittelsbach (from 1345). The Dukes of Burgundy inherited the fiefdom by marriage in 1432, along with most of the Low Countries.

The Burgundian Netherlands were then absorbed by the Habsburgs in 1482. The rule of the very Catholic Philip II (r. 1555-1598), King of Spain and the Netherlands, caused major upheavals, and led to the Dutch Revolt, culminating with the independence of the United Provinces (declared in 1568), with The Hague as their capital. South Holland experienced the war with Spain in full blow. Many cities were besieged, most famously Leiden in 1572.

The independence of the Netherlands was internationally recognised in 1648. South Holland always remained the political and economic centre of the country. In 1795, the Netherlands were annexed to France. In 1806, Louis Bonaparte, made King of Holland by his brother Napoleon I, decided to move the capital from The Hague to Amsterdam, in North Holland. Nevertheless, the court and all the political and judicial institutions remained in the Hague to this day.

Rotterdam became the world's busiest port from 1962 to 2004, and is still Europe's largest port.



Keukenhof Gardens
Keukenhof Gardens (© Nicole Aletta Planken-Kooij |
must-see One of Holland's star attractions, Keukenhof Gardens attract millions of visitors each spring to gaze at the multi-coloured carpets of tulips in what must be one of the world's most beautiful garden.
Marina, Leiden (©
outstanding Hometown of Rembrandt, Leiden is also the city of the Pilgrim Fathers and seat of the country's oldest university.
The Hague
Dutch Parliament, The Hague (© jan kranendonk |
outstanding The Hague is the seat of the Dutch monarchy and government and is home to over 150 international organisations, including the International Court of Justice.
Canal and houses, Delft (© jan kranendonk |
outstanding A delightful town of crow-stepped gables and peaceful canals, Delft has become a household name thanks to its fine Chinese-style porcelain, the first of its kind manufactured in the Western world. Delft was the home of the great baroque painter Jan Vermeer.
Town hall, Gouda (© Zbynek Burival |
very good Internationally renowned for its chesse, Gouda is a pretty historic town with a stunning townhall and crisscrossed by canals.
Townhall of Rotterdam (© Peter van Vuuren |
very good Europe's largest and busiest port, Rotterdam is mostly an industrial city, but boasts some excellent museums and a bustling nightlife.
Marina in Dordrecht (© Jan Kranendonk |
very good Built on the unsteady grounds of an island on the Maas River, Dordrecht's old town is characterised by surprisingly tilting façades.

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