This article is about the Dutch province. For other uses, see Friesland (disambiguation) and Frisia (disambiguation).
Province of the Netherlands


Coat of arms
Anthem: "De âlde Friezen"
"The Old Frisians"

Location of Friesland in the Netherlands
Coordinates: 53°8′N 5°49′E / 53.133°N 5.817°E / 53.133; 5.817Coordinates: 53°8′N 5°49′E / 53.133°N 5.817°E / 53.133; 5.817
Country Netherlands
Capital Leeuwarden (Ljouwert)
Largest city Leeuwarden (Ljouwert)
  King's Commissioner Joan Leemhuis-Stout (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: [ˈfrislɑnt]; official, West Frisian: Fryslân [ˈfrislɔ̃ːn]) 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 (West Frisian: Ljouwert), a city with 91,817 inhabitants. Since 2016, Joan Leemhuis-Stout 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 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.


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.[1] 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, within 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 53°8′N 5°49′E / 53.133°N 5.817°E / 53.133; 5.817 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:[2]

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[3] Total Area[4] Population density[3][4] COROP group
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Achtkarspelen 27,938 103.98 40.15 273 710 North Friesland
Ameland 3,591 268.50 103.67 61 160 North Friesland
Dantumadiel 19,017 87.53 33.80 223 580 North Friesland
De Fryske Marren 51,229 559.93 216.19 142 370 South West Friesland
Dongeradeel 24,097 266.92 103.06 144 370 North Friesland
Ferwerderadiel 8,755 133.18 51.42 90 230 North Friesland
Franekeradeel 20,445 109.17 42.15 199 520 North Friesland
Harlingen 15,769 387.67 149.68 630 1,600 North Friesland
Heerenveen 49,528 187.76 72.49 274 710 South East Friesland
Het Bildt 10,657 116.48 44.97 115 300 North Friesland
Kollumerland c.a. 12,905 116.35 44.92 118 310 North Friesland
Leeuwarden 108,249 166.99 64.48 714 1,850 North Friesland
Leeuwarderadeel 10,264 41.46 16.01 251 650 North Friesland
Littenseradiel 10,900 132.64 51.21 83 210 North Friesland
Menaldumadeel 13,614 70.03 27.04 198 510 North Friesland
Ooststellingwerf 25,696 226.11 87.30 115 300 South East Friesland
Opsterland 29,883 227.64 87.89 133 340 South East Friesland
Schiermonnikoog 942 199.07 76.86 21 54 North Friesland
Smallingerland 55,505 126.17 48.71 469 1,210 South East Friesland
Súdwest-Fryslân 84,356 841.56 324.93 184 480 South West Friesland
Terschelling 4,721 673.99 260.23 55 140 North Friesland
Tytsjerksteradiel 31,940 161.41 62.32 214 550 North Friesland
Vlieland 1,113 315.80 121.93 31 80 North Friesland
Weststellingwerf 25,486 228.45 88.21 115 300 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[5][6]


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.[7]

Historical population of Friesland[8][9]
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".[10]


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 that is recognized as such, West Frisian. For over half of the inhabitants of the province of Friesland, 55% (ca. 354,000 people), Frisian is the native language. Most of the other inhabitants are native speakers of Dutch.

West Frisian 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.

In Stellingwerf, in south-east Friesland, a dialect of Low Saxon is spoken.[11]


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).


Seat of the provincial government in Leeuwarden

The acting King's Commissioner of Friesland is Joan Leemhuis-Stout.[12] The States of Friesland have 43 seats. The Provincial Executive is a coalition of the Christian Democratic Appeal, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, the Socialist Party and the Frisian National Party (FNP).

2015 provincial elections[13]

Party Votes Seats
Labour Party 40.984 7
Christian Democratic Appeal 55.017 9
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy 29.085 5
Frisian National Party 25.027 4
Party for Freedom 23.112 4
Socialist Party 28.930 5
ChristianUnion 19.669 3
GreenLeft 9.393 1
Democrats 66 18.454 3
50PLUS 6.372 1
Party for the Animals 6.806 1
Total 297,307 43


The four motorways in the province are A6, A7 (E22), A31, and A32.[15]

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[16] and Drachten Airfield near Drachten[17] are the two general aviation airports in the province. The Royal Netherlands Air Force uses Vlieland Heliport and the Leeuwarden Air Base.

Change of name

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".[18] In 2004 the Dutch government confirmed this resolution, putting in place a three-year scheme to oversee the name change and associated cultural programme.[19]

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,[20] however the English-language webpage of the Friesland Provincial Council refers to the province as "Fryslân".[21]


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. Harmer, F. E. (1955). "The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany: being the Lives of S.S. Willibrord, Boniface, Strum, Leoba and Lebuin, together with the Hodoeporicon of St. Willibald and a selection from the Correspondence of St. Boniface. Translated and edited by C. H. Talbot". The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 6 (2): 230–231.
  2. (1 December 2009), mun. and CBS
  3. 1 2 "Bevolkingsontwikkeling; regio per maand" [Population growth; regions per month]. CBS Statline (in Dutch). CBS. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  4. 1 2 "Kerncijfers wijken en buurten" [Key figures for neighbourhoods]. CBS Statline (in Dutch). CBS. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  5. (Dutch) Leeuwarden extremen tijdvak 1971 t/m 2000, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  6. (Dutch) Leeuwarden, langjarige gemiddelden, tijdvak 1981–2010, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  7. (Dutch) Emigration to the United States.
  8. (Dutch) Overzicht aantal inwoners Provincie Friesland 1714–2000, Tresoar.
  9. (Dutch) Bevolking; geslacht, leeftijd, burgerlijke staat en regio, 1 januari, Statistics Netherlands, 2014.
  10. 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
  11. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Stellingwerfs". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  12. "Mevrouw Joan Leemhuis-Stout waarnemend commissaris in Fryslân - Provincie Fryslân". (in Dutch). Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  13. (Dutch) Verkiezingsuitslagen Provinciale Staten 1918 – heden, Electoral Council. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  14. (Dutch) Station Leeuwarden in Leeuwarden, Retrieved on 26 April 2014.
  15. (Dutch) Wegenoverzicht, Rijkswaterstaat. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  16. (Dutch) Algemene informatie, Ameland Airport. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  17. (Dutch) Aanwijzingsbesluit Luchthaven Drachten, 2007. Retrieved on 27 April 2014.
  18. "Beslut fan Provinsjale Staeten van Friesland" [Resolution of the Provincial Council of Friesland]. Provinciaal Blad van Friesland (in Western Frisian) (7). 28 March 1996.
  19. "Ook voor rijk heet Friesland Fryslân" [Friesland to be called Fryslân across the realm]. Leeuwarder Courant (in Dutch). 10 November 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  20. Brand, Hanno (2011). Cole, Jeffrey E., ed. Frisians. Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-59884-302-6.
  21. "provinsje Fryslan, provincie fryslan English". provinsje Fryslan/provincie fryslan. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  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

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Friesland.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Friesland.
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