In total, the Netherlands had 17,609,246 inhabitants in 2022. It is estimated that this number will grow to 20.6 million over the next fifty years. According to calculations by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Statistics Netherlands , the four major cities together account for a third of the intended population growth. In the list below you can read about the 10 largest cities in the Netherlands.
10. Nijmegen – 179,073 inhabitants
In 2005 Nijmegen celebrated its 2,000th anniversary. In all probability, Nijmegen is therefore the oldest city in the Netherlands. This city was part of the Limes during the Roman Empire; the border between the Roman Empire and other areas. The illustrious 10th legion of the Romans was stationed in Nijmegen. They built a ‘castrum’, or a large fortress, on a hill on the Waal. Excavations are regularly carried out and items that remind of the Romans are found here. Incidentally, people then spoke of ‘Noviomagus’. A portmanteau of the words ‘magos’ – meaning plain or market – and ‘novio’. In the time of Charlemagne, the city was called ‘Numaga’. Then it changed via ‘Nieumeghen’ to ‘Nymegen’.
Characteristic sights of the city are the Waal bridge and the Sint Stevenskerk .
With 179,073 inhabitants, Nijmegen just makes it to the list of the 10 largest cities in the Netherlands. A short distance away are the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th largest cities in the Netherlands: Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Haarlem and Enschede.
9. Breda – 184,716 inhabitants
Breda is also known as the main city of West Brabant. With a little imagination you can see that reflected in the coat of arms of this city . This consists of three white Andrew’s crosses; two above and one in the center below in a red shield. The shield is held by an angel and two lions. This coat of arms dates from around 1200 and was commissioned by the Lord of Breda, a distinguished duke.
Speaking of well-known Breda residents… Did you know that the roots of Tijs Verwest ( Tiësto ), Pierre Kartner and Corry Konings lie in Breda? Well-known athletes such as Ton Lokhoff, Kees Rijvers and cyclist Frits Pirard were also born and raised in Breda.
8. Almere – 218,096 inhabitants
Construction of Almere started in 1975. The intention was that Lelystad would become the largest city in the province of Flevoland, but Almere now has many more inhabitants. The city has a relatively young population; no less than 30% of the inhabitants are younger than 20 years old and 7% are considered to belong to the category of over-65s. Of the Almeerders, 18% were born in Almere, 30% in the Amsterdam region and 20% were born abroad.
Almere is known as a multicultural society. Almere is home to a total of 134 nationalities and 164 ethnic groups. It is also worth mentioning that Almere was referred to as ‘Southwest City’ on the first drawings. This changed to Almere, after the early medieval name of the Zuiderzee. The city of Almere is completely below sea level.
7. Tilburg – 224,702 inhabitants
The people of Brabant also pronounce the name of this city as ‘Tilbörg’. The villages of Berkel-Enschot and Udenhout also belong to this municipality. This brings the total number of residents of the municipality of Tilburg to more than 210,000 people. You can rightly say big with a big ‘G’! The people of Tilburg never get enough of beer and liqueur. Then you should think of local toppers such as ‘Schrobbelèr’, ‘Peerke’s Nat’, ‘Piuswater’, ‘La Trappe’ and ‘Reeshofnat’. But ‘fairground cake’ is also part of the typical Tilburg cosiness.
Tilburg is also known as a textile city; in fact, the textile industry has turned Tilburg into a city. As early as 1780, a draper settled here , which laid the foundations for the expansion of the wool fabric manufacturers. Although this industry ran into great difficulties in 1960, as a result of which many factories had to close their doors, Tilburg is still regarded as one of the most important industrial centers in the Netherlands.
6. Groningen – 234,649 inhabitants
It is a short drive for the average Dutch person, but then you are in the city that was crowned the best city center in our country in 2005: Groningen . After Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen, the province of the same name is known as the least populated province in the Netherlands. The so-called ‘Groningen feeling’ can best be described as hospitable, livable and open.
Groningen is bustling, but at the same time offers peace. Living, working, studying, shopping, eating and drinking merge very easily here. Groningen has a good reputation among students. Incidentally, the University of Groningen enjoys international fame. The people of Groningen affectionately refer to their city as the capital of the North.
5. Eindhoven – 238,478 inhabitants
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
At the time of Hendrik I, Eindhoven was founded as a settlement in a swamp delta of the rivers Dommel, Gender, Laak, Tongelreep and Rungraaf. Around 1900 more and more factories settled in Eindhoven. Then you should think of the textile industry, cigar industry, hat and match manufacturing. Philips emerged in 1891 and from 1930 DAF also made a major contribution to employment in and around Eindhoven. Why Eindhoven was so attractive to establish as a company? The presence of cottage industry, cheap labor and cheap land are cited as the main reasons. Although most of these factories no longer exist, or have developed in a different way, Eindhoven is still characterized as a technology city. The presence of a universityand, for example, the various knowledge centers of Philips underline this status.
4. Utrecht – 361,924 inhabitants
Utrecht is centrally located at a junction of roads, waterways and railways. This location makes it a leading trade fair and conference city. The service sector also likes to settle in Utrecht.
If we dive into the history books, it turns out that Utrecht was one of the first cities in the Netherlands with city rights . Although that has no meaning since the constitutional revision in 1848, it does indicate that Utrecht has been seen as a city for a long time. The name comes from the Latin ‘Traiectum’ and indicates a place where people could cross the river Rhine in Roman times.
The ‘U’ comes from ‘uut’, which means downstream. In other words, Utrecht comes from ‘uit-Trecht’. But even when one speaks of Domstad, everyone knows that it is about Utrecht.
3. The Hague – 552,995 inhabitants
The Hague occupies a special position. Although the city is not the capital of the Netherlands, it largely fulfills the role that is usually reserved for the capital. For example, the Dutch government and parliament are located here. This also applies to the residence of our Royal Family and many embassies and ministries.
If that is not enough, the city is home to many national and international courts. In that respect, The Hague is not inferior to cities such as New York, Vienna, Geneva, Tokyo and Nairobi. Since 1990, the municipality has consistently used the name The Hague instead of The Hague, in line with foreign names such as The Hague, La Haye and La Haya. However, passports and other official documents of the municipality still say The Hague.
2. Rotterdam – 656,050 inhabitants
Around 1260 a dam was placed in the Rotte at the spot where the Hoogstraat crosses the Rotte. People settled around this dam and made a living from fishing. Rotterdam was a fact! Soon the first ports were created and Rotterdam grew into a trading center. From 1850, Rotterdam experienced strong growth. This has everything to do with the Nieuwe Waterweg, which was dug in the period 1866-1872. Together with the Scheur and the Nieuwe Maas, this created a direct shipping connection between Rotterdam and the North Sea.
The port of Rotterdam is now one of the largest and most important ports in the world. From this period it was no longer possible to house the population within the existing municipal boundaries. Therefore, neighboring municipalities were annexed and forced to cede territory. In terms of area, the municipality of Rotterdam can call itself the second largest municipality in the Netherlands. With 656,050 inhabitants in 2023, Rotterdam will be the second largest city in the Netherlands.
1. Amsterdam – 882,600 inhabitants
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Just like Rotterdam, Amsterdam also has its origins around a dam. Only it was constructed in the Amstel in the twelfth century. Amsterdam is still known as being rich in water. For example, the many Amsterdam canals are seen as particularly characteristic. In the ‘Venice of the North’ you will even find many more canals and bridges than in Italy. Bicycles are also widely represented in Amsterdam. It is estimated that there are almost as many bicycles here as there are inhabitants.
The (inner) city of Amsterdam is also called ‘Mokum’. This nickname comes from the Hebrew word ‘Makom’ and means place or city. This marks the Jewish part of Amsterdam’s history. Nice to know is that the Israeli city of Tel Aviv is also called ‘Mokum’.
With 882,600 inhabitants, Amsterdam will be the largest city in the Netherlands in 2023.