Is the Netherlands Really Below Sea-Level?

| © pixabay
Tom Coggins

According to official statistics, around one third of the Netherlands lies below sea level, while the rest of the country barely reaches past this geographical average. Over the centuries the Dutch have developed many ingenious ways to deal with their homeland’s unique topology and have even risen an entire province out of the sea.
Water management has always been crucial in the Netherlands, as without proper care floods could quickly overwhelm large parts of the country. Although the Dutch have always been particularly vigilant when it comes to building coastal defences, the Netherlands has experienced several catastrophic floods throughout its history. For example, in 1287 a gigantic storm completely devastated the country’s northern coastline and formed an inland sea called Zuiderzee.
After another storm ravaged the southern Dutch provinces in 1953, the country’s government began to carefully develop state-of-the-art flood barriers, leading to a series of delta works that are now listed among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. To fully protect the Dutch mainland, the government also drained the southern quarter of Zuiderzee, consequently creating Flevoland province.
Although this new, higher landmass was reclaimed in order to control water levels, it served other important purposes and provided the Netherlands with additional farmlands and living space. In fact, Noordoostpolder in Flevoland is now renowned for its tulip fields and regularly cited as one of the best places in the country to enjoy Dutch floriculture.

Kinderdijk Windmill network was originally constructed in order to drain waterlogged land

Despite their iconic status, for most of their existence Dutch windmills actually served a rather utilitarian function and were employed for over 600 years to drain swampy areas around the Netherlands. During this lengthy period, the Dutch successfully used windmills to pump water out of lakes, marshes and other bodies of water, in order to effectively reclaims tracts of land.
Although these systematic drainage works lifted terrain out of Dutch waters, they were unable to raise the country much higher than sea-level, or even above it all. As many areas throughout the Netherlands are built upon this artificial land, human intervention is partly responsible for the country’s low-lying stature.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article