489 municipalities in 2003

The number of municipalities has shrunk substantially in the last two centuries: there were two and a half times as many back in 1830 as there are today. This new year another seven municipalities were abolished, leaving a total of 489 on 1 January 2003.

Mergers and redivisions relatively recent

The trend of municipal mergers, redivisions and boundary changes started only a few decades ago.
The redivision of municipalities did not occur evenly across the Netherlands. The number of municipalities in the west and the south of the country, in particular, decreased substantially. Today the number of municipalities in the west of the Netherlands is only one third of the number in 1830.

Number of municipalities in regions of the Netherlands

Larger areas, more inhabitants

All these mergers and redivisions have resulted in municipalities covering much larger areas. In 1899 the average area of a municipality was 29 square kilometres, just over one hundred years later municipalities are nearly three times as large (82 square kilometres).

Average municipal area in regions of the Netherlands

The increase in scale varies between the four regions of the country. In the north the average area of municipalities has increased by just over one hundred square kilometres. In the south and the west the increase is only forty square kilometres. In spite of the fact that the number of municipalities in the west of the country fell the most strongly relatively speaking, the average municipal land area in the west is still significantly smaller than that elsewhere in the country.

Average population per municipality in regions of the country

The average population per municipality increased sevenfold between 1899 and 2002, from just over 4.5 thousand to 32.6 thousand, while the total population of the Netherlands increased just over threefold in the same period. The concentration was largest in the west of the country.

Duncan Beeckman