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Zuid Holland

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Zuid Holland is an important part of the country, containing the city Den Haag (officially called 's Gravenhage) which is the seat of government for the Netherlands. The city also contains over 60 foreign embassies and the International Court of Justice. Despite being a busy cosmopolitan city, it contains a lot of history too. The Parliament buildings and Knight's Hall were built in the 13th century. Culture plays an important role, with the city containing the Panorama Mesdag (the largest panoramic circular painting in the world), the Royal Cabinet of Paintings (home to 17th century Dutch works including Rembrandt), and the Antique Walk (containing most of the Hague's 150 antique shops). To find the only pier in the Netherlands, that would be at the seaside resort town of Scheveningen, a suburb of Den Haag. However, Den Haag is not the only fabulous part of Zuid Holland. It is in this province you will also find Delft (world famous for its blue hand painted ceramics), Kinderdijk (full of windmills and a must see if you really want to see windmills), Leiden (birthplace of Rembrandt and important to the Pilgrim Fathers and the wars of independence), Oudewater (with 17th century gabled houses), and of course, Rotterdam. Rotterdam is the largest port in the world and contains the site that the Mayflower left from on its voyage to America. Rotterdam is also a very cultural city. It is a very modern city due to its being bombed heavily in the second world war. The town of Gouda is famous for its cheese market but it has other attractions as well. In Gouda you will find the oldest gothic town hall in the Netherlands, dating back to 1450. This building features the longest nave in Holland and some spectacular stained glass windows. A lot of the town centre is designated as a historic district.

Zeeland

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If you want medieval history or the best seafood Holland has to offer, then Zeeland is the place to go. There are several medieval harbour towns in Zeeland. Most of the area is below sea level and has been reclaimed with its engineering projects of flood barriers. There are also a number of beautiful islands and peninsulas. Middelburg is the capital of Zeeland which has been an important town since the medieval days. The Gothic Middelburg Town Hall is a must see. Another favourite town is Veere with many 16th century buildings and people who have maintained the history of the town. Veere was once a big fishing port but is now a highly sought after tourist destination. Another popular tourist destination with a lot of history is Zierikzee. The town of Vlissingen in Zeeland was the first town to fly the Dutch flag during the War of Independence in 1572.

Utrecht

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The capital of Utrecht is the city of Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. It is also one of the oldest cities, first being settled by the Romans. In later history, it was an imperial residence during the Middle Ages and the Utrecht bishops played important roles in Europe. The city contains churches that date back to the 11th century. The province has beautiful parks and woodlands along with country houses and castles. You will also find here, the Royal Palace of the Queen Mother.

Noord Holland

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Noord Holland contains just as many fabulous and exciting places as its southern counterpart. It is this province that contains the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.  But Amsterdam is not the only wonderful city of Noord Holland. Nearby is Haarlem, known for its very beautiful tulip bulb fields in such amazing colours from the end of March to the middle of May. The town centre dates back to the 16th century and the Teyler Museum contains Rembrandt drawings among other items. Just outside of Haarlem is Lisse where you will find the incredible and breathtaking  Keukenhof Gardens. Also just outside Haarlem is Zandvoort, known in motor racing circles. There are two very well known cheese towns in Noord Holland, Alkmaar and Edam. The cheese museum at Alkmaar includes a 14th century weighing hall which demonstrates how cheese was made in bygone centuries and in the warmer months, cheese porters show what they are made of. The town of Alkmaar also has a 17th century brewery, lift bridges, and some great museums. In Edam, there is a traditional cheese market in July and August but the city has more to offer than its famous cheese. It is also one of the best preserved towns and it was famous centuries ago as a shipbuilding town. Edam prospered in those times and there is evidence of this throughout the city. The towns of Hoorn and Enkhuizen are reminders of the Dutch East India Company. Hoorn contains many statues and monuments to the company which was established there, and there is also a museum housing the history of the company. In Enkhuizen, there are still warehouses of the company which have been rebuilt as homes. An enjoyable visit would be to the Museum of Ships in Bottles, and at the harbour, you can take a voyage across the former Zuiderzee in a traditional sailing vessel. For those who like a faster pace, Hoorn and Enkhuizen are also known for watersports. Naarden is a fortress town and its fortress is still largely intact, displaying in the Arsenal, cannons, culverins, and mortars. The town of Marken used to be an island for many, many centuries but it is now a peninsula since being linked to the mainland in 1957. The houses in Marken are on piles because of the former regular floods, and today, it is a fishing port that is known for its folk costumes. Other interesting spots are the 700 year old Muiderslot Castle in Muiden, the very picturesque fishing town of Volendam with its well known costumes, and Radboud Castle and the Steam Engine Museum of Medemblik.

Overijssel

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Overijssel contains variety to suit every taste and every tourist. The capital, Zwolle, and the city of Kampen are very old marine towns with many historic buildings. The town of Giethoorn has no streets and all transport around the town is by boat on small canals. Overijssel is also known for its bird sanctuaries along the river.

Gelderland

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This is a very large province, and as such, has some of the most beautiful areas. The capital of Gelderland is Arnhem which was severely damaged in the Second World War due to its important location on the Rhine River. This led to it being captured and occupied many times throughout history. The old part of the city has been rebuilt splendidly and the city contains a very good war museum in tribute. Nearby to Arnhem is an open air museum of which the above picture is of. This museum contains old farms, houses, workshops, and mills. Also nearby is the excellent Burgers Zoo and a safari park, as well as the Hoge Veluwe National Park. The National Park not only contains a game reserve, but the fabulous Kroller Muller Museum with its Van Gogh collection. I thoroughly recommend the free 18km round bicycle trip from the gates of the park to the museum. You will ride through some beautiful countryside and the air is so fresh.

Flevoland

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Much of Flevoland was under water until the 1950's and 1960's. That is when drainage of the land started and there is parts that are still not completely ready for cultivation. When visiting Flevoland, you can see the various stages of preparation for agriculture. The capital of Flevoland is Lelystad which was built in a rather different and modern style compared to the rest of Holland. It was built in the 1960's and is a very young city, along with the city of Almere.

Friesland

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Friesland is situated in the northwest of the Netherlands and is a unique province that contains its own culture and language. Images of Friesian cattle will seem familiar to the tourist in this part of the country. The capital city of Friesland is Leeuwarden. Ancient values are retained in this beautiful part of the country and the Friesian language is even older than the Dutch language itself. If it is history you are after, there is the 16th century manor house in Marssum or the Friesian Museum in Leeuwarden. For beautiful countryside, go no further than some of the islands off the coast that are connected by daily ferries. In the north of Friesland there are small man made hills that were built in ancient times as protection from the water. A sign of the accomplishments to come in modern times?

Groningen

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The province of Groningen is known for agriculture and also for the old country houses here that date back to the 14th century. It is also known for the borgs (and by the way, not the evil borgs from Star Trek either). The borgs I am talking of are a type of castle with a moat and the above picture is of one of these borgs. The city of Groningen is the capital city for the province. In the second world war, the city suffered a lot of damage but it has restored many of the 16th-18th century buildings.

Drenthe

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The main town of Drenthe is Assen. The province of Drenthe is almost all agricultural, but it also contains prehistoric monuments, megalithic tombs, and saxon villages.

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