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World heritage

Throughout the world there are historic sites that are not only important to the country in which they are located. Such sites are recognised internationally as unique and many are now on the World Heritage List.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee designates these sites of global importance. Every country that has an agreement with the organisation can nominate sites for the list. The Dutch World Heritage Platform represents the Netherlands’ world heritage. Individual countries remain responsible for the maintenance of their heritage.

World heritage sites in the Netherlands

There are currently ten world heritage sites in the Netherlands. These are irreplaceable and unique, not just to the Netherlands but also to the rest of the world. They are:

  • Van Nelle factory (2014)
  • The canal ring area of Amsterdam (2010)
  • The Wadden Sea (2009)
  • Rietveld-Schröder House, Utrecht (2000)
  • Droogmakerij De Beemster polder near Purmerend (1999)
  • D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station near Lemmer (1998)
  • Historic Centre of Willemstad, Curaçao (1997)
  • Windmill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout (1997)
  • Defence Line of Amsterdam (1996)
  • Schokland and Surroundings, Northeast Polder (1995)

Dutch World Heritage Sites

The Dutch World Heritage Sites have something to say about the Netherlands and its place in the world. The Netherlands is above all a country of water, which lives and continually battles against water. The country also has a very strong trading tradition and civil society. Finally, the Netherlands is a country that believes in its ability to shape society: everything has been designed, from the layout of the polders and urban expansion to the Modernist architecture of the Rietveld-Schröder House.

As such, three overlapping themes characterise the Netherlands:

  • The Netherlands as a country of water
  • The Netherlands as a civil society
  • The Netherlands as a designed country 

What is the Tentative List?

The Dutch Government decides which properties in the Netherlands should be submitted to UNESCO's World Heritage List. These sites appear on a Tentative List. A special committee advised on further Dutch additions to the World Heritage List, and the State Secretaries for Culture and Nature adopted its recommendations. The following sites are currently on the Netherlands’ Tentative List:

  • Bonaire Marine Park
  • Eise Eisinga Planetarium, Franeker
  • Koloniën van Weldadigheid in the Province of Drenthe (agricultural pauper colony)
  • Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, water-based defence system
  • Plantation System of West Curaçao
  • Zonnestraal Sanatorium, Hilversum
  • Teylers Museum,Haarlem
  • Island of Saba
  • Dutch part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire (extension of the existing World Heritage site)

Dutch World Heritage Sites: who does what?

The following are involved with the World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands:

  • The managers of the heritage sites
  • Stichting
  • Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation
  • Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • National UNESCO Committee.

Managers of heritage sites

The managers of heritage sites ensure they remain in good condition. Sites may be managed by a foundation or a public authority such as a water board, or a provincial or local authority. Every six years managers report to UNESCO on the condition of the property. With this in mind, they keep a full record of any changes and measures taken. They are obliged to keep the heritage site accessible to the general public, while also making sure it is kept preserved.


The organisation Stichting draws Dutch World Heritage Sites to the attention of the general public. It does so by:

  • assisting with maintenance and management
  • preparing documentaries and learning packs for schools
  • promoting Dutch World Heritage Sites on (Dutch only)
  • encouraging the managers of historic sites to share their knowledge

Central government

Responsibility for the cultural World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands lies with the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science. The natural World Heritage Sites are the responsibility of the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. Together the two State Secretaries determine Dutch world heritage policy.

The Cultural Heritage Agency implements the policy. It does so by:

  • drawing up preparatory dossiers and coordinating management plans
  • informing the public in collaboration with Stichting
  • liaising with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris

National UNESCO Committee

The National UNESCO Committee advises the Dutch government on world heritage policy. Its task is to link UNESCO, government bodies and agencies in the field and to promote familiarity with UNESCO in the Netherlands. The Committee is funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.