Amsterdam vs. The Hague – What is the Capital of the Netherlands?

(Last Updated On: August 22, 2018)

What is the Capital of the Netherlands?

The Capital of the Netherlands

What is the capital of the Netherlands? Most people consider it to be Amsterdam, but the answer is a bit more complicated than that. Located in The Hague, you will find the Dutch parliament and government, as well as the Supreme Court and the Council of State.

Hmm…that sure sounds like a capital to us. So what gives? Is Amsterdam or The Hague capital of the Netherlands?

Historical Background

The origins of this capital confusion go back to the Middle Ages. Back then, The Hague was the seat of government for the County of Holland and the Counts of Holland. Amsterdam, on the other hand, was just your ordinary up-and-coming center of trade, commerce, finance and culture.

In the 16th century, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was formed. The Hague remained as the de facto capital of the Republic, and was the location of many governmental institutions. Amsterdam, which had began as a fishing settlement in the 13th century, continued its rise to prominence. By the 16th century, it was a hub of trade activities, helping the Netherlands become an economic power in Europe. As far as culture and the economy were concerned, Amsterdam was the most significant city in the Netherlands.

Competing Powers

However, with great power and growth came political tensions between Amsterdam and other political elements in the Dutch Republic. The Netherlands was not one big, united country, but rather, a confederation of politically autonomous provinces and cities. Leading the Netherlands was the Prince Stadtholder, a hereditary role passed on from the House of Orange-Nassau, that served as the head of state. During the 17th century, the Prince Stadtholder clashed several times with the city government of Amsterdam about policy.

Over time, two competing forces would arise in Dutch politics. There was the Orange faction, who supported the idea of hereditary political leadership vested in the princes of Orange as Stadtholders. They had their power base in The Hague and rural areas.

Against them was the republican faction. Located mostly in the cities of Holland, with Amsterdam being their most outspoken member, they supported civic independence. Strong animosity remained between these groups up until the 19th century.

In 1814, however, a new kingdom was formed, following the collapse of the Dutch Republic and the short-lived Batavian Republic and Kingdom of Holland. Amsterdam, still the most prominent city in the kingdom, was made the capital, in part to recognize the strong civic and republican basis of the new kingdom.

Amsterdam or The Hague?

In the end, Amsterdam gets the nod as capital of the Netherlands.

There is no denying that both Amsterdam and The Hague play important roles in the governing of the Netherlands today. The Hague remains the location of much of the Dutch government, while Amsterdam is the economic and cultural heart of the country. Together, they help make the Netherlands one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world.

Even though Amsterdam has been uniformly recognized as capital ever since 1814, its official claim as capital is much more recent than that. A 1983 revision to the Constitution of the Netherlands mentions that “the King shall be sworn in and inaugurated as soon as possible in the capital city, Amsterdam.” However, that is the ONLY reference in the Constitution stating that Amsterdam is the capital.

Ultimately though, while having two capitals (or even three) is not unheard of, pretty much everyone would agree that in this case, Amsterdam is the sole capital of the Netherlands, despite The Hague being home to some pretty important government institutions.

About the Author:

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.



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