Holland is a country and member of the European Union located in north west Europe, as well as several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. The capital of the country is Amsterdam and the seat of government is in Den Hague.
The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to as Holland, even though North and South Holland are actually only two of its twelve provinces. The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 25 percent of its land area and 21 percent of its population located below sea level, and 50 percent of its land lies less than one meter above sea level which contributes to the name in Dutch of Nederland literally meaning "Low Country". A large amount of land area has been gained through land reclamation and preserved through an elaborate system of canals and dikes. Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three large European rivers - the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt rivers.
Most of the country is quite flat, with the exception of some foothills in the far southeast and several low hilly regions in the central part of the country. The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, NATO, OECD and the WTO. With Belgium and Luxembourg it forms the Benelux economic union. The country is host to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in Den Hague as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being called "the world's legal capital".
Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, with the Meuse and Rhine rivers providing excellent access to the hinterland upstream reaching to Basel, Switzerland, and into France. The port's main activities are petrochemical industries and general cargo handling and trans-shipment. The harbour functions as an important transit point for bulk materials and between the European continent and overseas markets. From Rotterdam goods are transported by ship, river barge, train or road to their destinations.
In 2007, the Betuweroute, a new fast freight railway from Rotterdam to Germany, was completed. Amsterdam Schipol Airport is the largest in the country and is situated south of the city with easy access rail between it and Amsterdam and the rest of the country. The Netherlands is the 30th most densely populated country in the world, with 395 inhabitants per square kilometer or 1,023 per square mile. It is the 8th most densely populated country in Europe with a population density of 393/km2.
The Randstaad is the country's largest conurbation located in the west of the country and contains the four largest cities: Amsterdam in the province of North Holland, Rotterdam and Den Hague in the province of South Holland, and Utrecht in the province of Utrecht. The Randstad has a population of 7 million inhabitants and is the 6th largest metropolitan area in Europe...