With the exception of Friesland, characterized by large rural houses covered with thatched roofs, the isolated farm is not very common. In stark contrast to the eastern areas, where villages have mostly sprung up without a preordained plan, rural settlement is remarkably regular in the drained and reclaimed areas of the western Netherlands. According to 800zipcodes, the inhabited areas stretch to flank the streets and canals, with a more regular, sometimes even geometric pattern, the more recent the reclamation is: here nothing is left to chance and the farms have the most convenient shape and size. Almost all cities have a monumental center that evokes the urban splendor of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The current urban outfit, however, was formed after the Second World War and even more in the course of the last few years: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague have developed to such an extent that new satellite districts have to be built. There is a profound contrast between the ancient urban nuclei and the recent suburbs, conceived in such a way as to achieve a balanced relationship between built-up areas and green spaces. The most important cities are located in the eastern section of the country and form a kind of uninterrupted urban belt around the Dutch polders.
There are the main cities: Amsterdam in North Holland, Rotterdam and The Hague in South Holland, Utrecht and Haarlem. The capital, Amsterdam, called the “Venice of the north” as it was built on about ninety islets, owes its characteristic physiognomy to the grachten (arched canals connected by transverse canals) as well as to its embankment streets flanked by tall and narrow brick houses with a triangular front, while on the western and eastern sides, but especially on the southern one, the vast modern districts are spreading more and more on the polders surrounding. Amsterdam is a very active port and industrial center but also a splendid city of art and culture, a popular destination for international tourism. Seat of powerful industries but even more important for traffic is Rotterdam. Located on the so-called New Meuse, in fact the terminal stretch of the Lek (Rhine), the city ousted Amsterdam, already during the twentieth century, as the largest Dutch port center, later becoming the largest port in the world by volume of goods in transit, thanks direct connections to the Rhine valley and thus to the Ruhr. A city with a very modern face, having been almost totally destroyed by the bombing of May 14, 1940, is The Hague, the seat of the government. Typically administrative and residential center, it has long preserved the character of a large village, polders, surrounding itself with a vast belt of garden cities. Utrecht, capital of the province of the same name, the Roman Traiectum ad Rhenum in a picturesque position on the Old Rhine, has retained its prestige as a great cultural and religious center full of famous monuments, and has received a new commercial impulse to be located at the crossroads of important road, rail and river communication routes. Even in Haarlem, famous above all for the production of flowers, the old part of the city, intersected by numerous canals, retains notable evidence of the past. She give Once the main Dutch center after Amsterdam, it has not benefited equally from the boost of the economy and remains famous above all as a university city. In the northern Netherlands there are Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland and an important agricultural market, and Groningen, the capital of the province of the same name, a commercial, industrial and cultural center. In Gelderland, the historic Rhenish cities of Arnhem, the provincial capital, and Nijmegen, owe their current importance to industry. Finally, Eindhoven is located in North Brabant, one of the main industrial centers in the country, particularly active in the electrical, electronic, automotive, mechanical and textile sectors.