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Province of the Netherlands
Flag of Friesland
Coat of arms of Friesland
Coat of arms
Anthem: "De âlde Friezen"
"The Old Frisians"
Location of Friesland in the Netherlands
Location of Friesland in the Netherlands
Country Netherlands
Capital Leeuwarden (Ljouwert)
 • King's Commissioner John Jorritsma (VVD)
 • Land 3,349 km2 (1,293 sq mi)
 • Water 2,392 km2 (924 sq mi)
Area rank 3rd nationally
Population (2010)
 • Land 646,305
 • Rank 8th nationally
 • Density 190/km2 (500/sq mi)
 • Density rank 11th nationally
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
ISO 3166 code NL-FY
Religion (2005) Protestant 30%
Roman Catholic 6%
Muslim 2%

Friesland (Dutch pronunciation: ; West Frisian: Fryslân ) or Frisia is a province in the northwest of the Netherlands. It is situated west of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of North Holland, and south of the North Sea. In 2010, the province had a population of 646,000 and a total area of 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi).

The capital and seat of the provincial government is the city of Leeuwarden (), a city with 91,817 inhabitants. Since 2009, John Jorritsma is the King's Commissioner in the province. A coalition of the Labour Party, the Christian Democratic Appeal, and the Frisian National Party forms the executive branch. The province is divided into 24 municipalities.

The north-western area of the province was once part of the ancient, larger region of Frisia. The official languages of Friesland are West Lauwers Frisian and Dutch.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
    • Cities 2.1
  • Geography 3
    • Urban areas 3.1
    • Municipalities 3.2
    • Climate 3.3
  • Demography 4
    • Anthropometry 4.1
  • Economy 5
  • Culture 6
    • Language 6.1
    • Sports 6.2
  • Government 7
  • Transport 8
  • Media 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


In 1996 the States of Friesland resolved that the official name of the province should follow the Frisian spelling rather than the Dutch spelling, resulting in "Friesland" being replaced by "Fryslân".[1] In 2004 the Dutch Government confirmed this resolution, putting in place a three-year scheme to oversee the name change and associated cultural programme.[2]

The province of Friesland is occasionally referred to as "Frisia" by, amongst others, Hanno Brand, head of the history and literature department at the Fryske Akademy since 2009,[3] however the English-language webpage of the Friesland Provincial Council refers to the province as "Fryslân".[4]


A proto-Frisian culture slowly began to emerge around 400–200 BC known for its artificial dwelling hills as a defence against the sea. The Roman claim on Frisia began in 12 BC with the campaign of Nero Claudius Drusus in Germania. After a series of costly battles against the Frisians, the Romans were suddenly sworn fealty. The de facto independence they later enjoyed as a Roman vassal shows that this might have been a mostly diplomatic decision based on the temporary favourable bargaining position. Together with other Germanic tribes such as the Salians (later Franks) and the Batavii they managed to keep the region north of the Lower Rhine mostly free from Roman influence.

The early eighth-century AD is known for the Frisian kingdom, king Redbad and the missionary Saint Boniface who was killed near Dokkum, Westlauwers Friesland.[5] At the start of the Middle Ages, the Frisian Kingdom reached its zenith, stretching from what is now the French/Belgian border to the River Weser in Germany, with in its center the flourishing trading post Dorestad. After incorporation into the Frankish empire, Friesland was divided into three parts. The westernmost part developed at the start of the second millennium into the County of Holland, while the remainder of Frisia had no feudal overlord, a situation known as the Frisian freedom.

That ended when Charles V added Frisia to the Habsburg Netherlands as Lordship of Frisia. Under Napoleon, the department was named Frise. After Napoleon was defeated in 1813, the department became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands as the province of Friesland.


The ancient cities of Friesland are shown below:
Dutch West Frisian Charter granted
Leeuwarden Ljouwert 1285
Sneek Snits 1456
IJlst Drylts 1268
Sloten Sleat 1426
Stavoren Starum 1118
Hindeloopen Hylpen 1285
Workum Warkum 1399
Bolsward Boalsert 1455
Harlingen Harns 1234
Franeker Frjentsjer 1374
Dokkum Dokkum 1298


Satellite image of Friesland
Map of Friesland (2012)
View of the Wadden Sea to the north of Friesland

Friesland is situated at in the northwest of the Netherlands, west of the province of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of the IJsselmeer and North Holland, and south of the North Sea.

Friesland is the largest province of the Netherlands if one includes areas of water; in terms of land area only, it is the third largest province.

Most of Friesland is on the mainland, but it also includes a number of West Frisian Islands, including Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, which are connected to the mainland by ferry. The province's highest point is at 45 metres (148 ft) above sea level, on the island of Vlieland.

There are four national parks: Schiermonnikoog, De Alde Feanen, Lauwersmeer (in Groningen and Friesland), and Drents-Friese Wold (in Drenthe and Friesland).

Urban areas

The ten urban areas in Friesland with the largest population are:[6]

Dutch name Frisian name Population
Leeuwarden Ljouwert 96,578
Drachten Drachten 44,598
Sneek Snits 33,401
Heerenveen Hearrenfean, ItIt Hearrenfean 28,497
Harlingen Harns 15,729
Dokkum Dokkum 13,145
Franeker Frjentsjer 12,995
Joure Jouwer, DeDe Jouwer 12,902
Wolvega Wolvegea 12,738
Lemmer Lemmer, DeDe Lemmer 10,220


The province is divided into 24 municipalities, each with local government.

Municipality Population[7] Total Area[8] Population density[7][8] COROP group
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Achtkarspelen 27,938 103.98 40.15 North Friesland
Ameland 3,591 268.50 103.67 North Friesland
Dantumadiel 19,017 87.53 33.80 North Friesland
De Fryske Marren 51,229 559.93 216.19 South West Friesland
Dongeradeel 24,097 266.92 103.06 North Friesland
Ferwerderadiel 8,755 133.18 51.42 North Friesland
Franekeradeel 20,445 109.17 42.15 North Friesland
Harlingen 15,769 387.67 149.68 North Friesland
Heerenveen 49,528 187.76 72.49 South East Friesland
Het Bildt 10,657 116.48 44.97 North Friesland
Kollumerland c.a. 12,905 116.35 44.92 North Friesland
Leeuwarden 108,249 166.99 64.48 North Friesland
Leeuwarderadeel 10,264 41.46 16.01 North Friesland
Littenseradiel 10,900 132.64 51.21 North Friesland
Menaldumadeel 13,614 70.03 27.04 North Friesland
Ooststellingwerf 25,696 226.11 87.30 South East Friesland
Opsterland 29,883 227.64 87.89 South East Friesland
Schiermonnikoog 942 199.07 76.86 North Friesland
Smallingerland 55,505 126.17 48.71 South East Friesland
Súdwest-Fryslân 84,356 841.56 324.93 South West Friesland
Terschelling 4,721 673.99 260.23 North Friesland
Tytsjerksteradiel 31,940 161.41 62.32 North Friesland
Vlieland 1,113 315.80 121.93 North Friesland
Weststellingwerf 25,486 228.45 88.21 South East Friesland


The province of Friesland has an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb).

Climate data for Leeuwarden
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.6
Average high °C (°F) 4.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.7
Average low °C (°F) 0.1
Record low °C (°F) −19.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 68.9
Source: Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute[9][10]


In 2010, Friesland had a population of 646,305 and a population density of 190/km2 (490/sq mi).

The years 1880–1900 show slower population growth due to a farm crisis in which 20,000 Frisians emigrated to the United States of America.[11]

Historical population of Friesland[12][13]
Year Population
1714 129,243
1748 135,195
1796 161,513
1811 175,366
1830 204,909
1840 227,859
1850 243,191
1860 269,701
1870 300,863
1880 329,877
1890 335,558
1900 340,263
Year Population
1910 363,625
1920 385,362
1930 402,051
1940 424,462
1950 465,267
1960 478,206
1970 521,820
1982 592,314
1990 599,151
1999 621,222
2010 646,305


Since the late Middle Ages, Friesland has been renowned for the exceptional height of its inhabitants, who were deemed among the tallest groups of Indo-Europeans. Even early Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri refers to the height of Frisians in his Divine Comedy when, in the canticle about Hell, he talks about the magnitude of an infernal demon by stating that "not even three tall Frieslanders, were they set one upon the other, would have matched his height".[14]


Friesland is mainly an agricultural province. The black and white Frisian cattle, black and white Stabyhoun and the black Frisian horse originated here. Tourism is another important source of income: the principal tourist destinations include the lakes in the southwest of the province and the islands in the Wadden Sea to the north. There are 195 windmills in the province of Friesland, out of a total of about 1200 in the entire country.



Friesland is the only one of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands to have its own language, West Frisian. This is also spoken in a small adjacent part of the province of Groningen, to the east. Closely related languages are spoken in nearby areas of Germany. They are East Frisian (Seeltersk, which is different from East Frisian (Ostfriesisch) and is spoken in the Saterland, and a collection of Low German dialects of East Frisia) and North Frisian, spoken in North Friesland. These languages are also closely related to English.


Finish of the Elfstedentocht in 1956

The province is famous for its speed skaters, with mass participation in cross-country ice skating when weather conditions permit. When winters are cold enough to allow the freshwater canals to freeze hard, the province holds its traditional Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour), a 200-kilometre (120 mi) ice skating tour. A traditional sport is Frisian handball. Another Frisian practice is fierljeppen, a sport with some similarities to pole vaulting. A jump consists of an intense sprint to the pole (polsstok), jumping and grabbing it, then climbing to the top while trying to control the pole's forward and lateral movements over a body of water and finishing with a graceful landing on a sand bed opposite to the starting point. Because of all the diverse skills required in fierljeppen, fierljeppers are considered to be very complete athletes with superbly developed strength and coordination. In the warmer months, many Frisians practice wadlopen, the traditional art of wading across designated sections of the Wadden Sea at low tide.

There are currently two top level football clubs playing in Friesland: SC Cambuur from Leeuwarden (home stadium Cambuur Stadion) and SC Heerenveen (home stadium Abe Lenstra Stadion).


John Jorritsma is the King's Commissioner of Friesland
Seat of the provincial government in Leeuwarden

The King's Commissioner of Friesland is John Jorritsma,[15] who is a member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).[16] The States of Friesland have 43 seats. The largest parties after the 2011 provincial elections are the Labour Party (PvdA) with 11 seats, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) with 8 seats, and People's Party for Freedom and Democracy with 6 seats.[17] The Provincial Executive is a coalition of the Labour Party, the Christian Democratic Appeal, and the Frisian National Party (FNP).

  2011 provincial elections[17]
Party Votes % Seats
Labour Party 70.337 23,66 11
Christian Democratic Appeal 52.530 17,67 8
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy 41.088 13,82 6
Frisian National Party 27.288 9,18 4
Party for Freedom 25.116 8,45 4
Socialist Party 24.872 8,37 3
ChristianUnion 18.901 6,36 3
GreenLeft 15.556 5,23 2
Democrats 66 12.659 4,26 2
50PLUS 4.053 1,36 0
Provinciaal Belang Fryslân 3.558 1,20 0
Party for the North 1.036 0,35 0
Verenigd Links-Feriene Lofts 313 0,11 0
Total 297,307 100% 43


The four motorways in the province are A6, A7 (E22), A31, and A32.[19]

The main railway station of Friesland is Leeuwarden, which connects the railways Arnhem–Leeuwarden, Harlingen–Nieuweschans, and Leeuwarden–Stavoren which are all (partially) located in the province.

Trajectory Railway stations in Friesland
Arnhem–Leeuwarden DrentheWolvegaHeerenveen IJsstadionHeerenveenAkkrumGrou-JirnsumLeeuwarden
Harlingen–Nieuweschans Harlingen HavenHarlingenFranekerDronrijpDeinumLeeuwardenLeeuwarden CamminghaburenHurdegarypVeenwoudenZwaagwesteindeBuitenpostGroningen
Leeuwarden–Stavoren LeeuwardenMantgumSneek NoordSneekIJlstWorkumHindeloopenKoudum-MolkwerumStavoren

Ameland Airport near Ballum[20] and Drachten Airfield near Drachten[21] are the two general aviation airports in the province. The Royal Netherlands Air Force uses Vlieland Heliport and the Leeuwarden Air Base.


Friesch Dagblad[22] and Leeuwarder Courant[23] are daily newspapers mainly written in Dutch. Omrop Fryslân is the public broadcaster with radio and TV programs mainly in Frisian.[24]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ (1 December 2009), mun. and CBS
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ (Dutch) Leeuwarden extremen tijdvak 1971 t/m 2000, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  10. ^ (Dutch) Leeuwarden, langjarige gemiddelden, tijdvak 1981–2010, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  11. ^ (Dutch) Emigration to the United States.
  12. ^ (Dutch) Overzicht aantal inwoners Provincie Friesland 1714–2000, Tresoar.
  13. ^ (Dutch) Bevolking; geslacht, leeftijd, burgerlijke staat en regio, 1 januari, Statistics Netherlands, 2014.
  14. ^ Alighieri, Dante. Divine Comedy, "Inferno", Canto 31, line 64, in The Portable Dante, ed. Paolo Milano, trans. Laurence Binyon, Penguin, 1975 ISBN 0-14-015032-3
  15. ^ (Dutch) Commissaris van de Koning, Province of Fryslân. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  16. ^ (Dutch) J.A. (John) Jorritsma, Parlement & Politiek. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  17. ^ a b (Dutch) Verkiezingsuitslagen Provinciale Staten 1918 – heden, Electoral Council. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  18. ^ (Dutch) Station Leeuwarden in Leeuwarden, Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  19. ^ (Dutch) Wegenoverzicht, Rijkswaterstaat. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  20. ^ (Dutch) Algemene informatie, Ameland Airport. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  21. ^ (Dutch) Aanwijzingsbesluit Luchthaven Drachten, 2007. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  22. ^ (Dutch) Missie Friesch Dagblad, Friesch Dagblad. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  23. ^ (Dutch) Over de LC, Leeuwarder Courant. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  24. ^ (West Frisian) Oer de Omrop, Omrop Fryslân. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.

External links

  • Province of Fryslân, official government website
  • Provincial Tourist Board
  • Frisian Film Archive
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