The tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands

The tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands

Last week, we discovered the ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Netherlands. Now, as promised we will look at the six sites that have been placed on the tentative list of heritage sites in the Netherlands.

The tentative list

Every member state that has ratified UNESCO’s “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” treaty is allowed to maintain a tentative list of sites and monuments that they consider worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status. Nominations for the coveted status are only accepted if the site was previously placed on the state’s tentative list.

The sites on the tentative list are by no means inferior to those that have already gained World Heritage status. In fact, visiting these places are more likely to impress your friends and colleagues, since they are less well known than the sites on the UNESCO list, yet equally as stunning and culturally or naturally important.

I mean everyone knows Amsterdam’s canals, the famous windmills and the Wadden Sea but did you know of the Roman Empire’s frontier, here in the Netherlands? Did you know that Holland could once be turned into an island as a defence mechanism? No? Well then, what are you waiting for? Read on to find out all about the six, lesser-known and not quite official, wonders of the Dutch world.

The six other wonders of the Dutch world

As already mentioned, in order for a site to make it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list they must be placed on the state’s tentative list first. Also, they must, like the UNESCO World Heritage sites, demonstrate outstanding universal value, as well as meet at least one of the criteria for World Heritage status. If you need to refresh your memory on the UNESCO criteria, you can find them listed in last week’s article.

Most of the sites on the tentative list were submitted in 2011, the only exceptions are the Koloniën van Weldadigheid (2015) and the Roman Empire Frontiers (2018).

Koloniën van Weldadigheid (Colonies of benevolence)

In 1818, following the Napoleonic French occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch general Johannes van den Bosch set up the Society of Humanitarianism. This society was founded to help poor families from big cities to improve their lifestyles and livelihoods by granting them land to farm. After petitioning King William I of the Netherlands for the society’s formation, Bosch bought uncultivated land in Drenthe for the poor to farm and grow.

Over time, several colonies developed, and the society funded schools to educate the poor families living within the system. The “Westerbeeksloot” estate was the society’s administrative centre and was combined with another colony to create the modern town of Frederiksoord.

  • Date constructed: 1818 – 1911
  • UNESCO criteria: (v) (vi)
  • Location: Drenthe

Eise Eisinga Planetarium

The Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker is a museum that houses an 18th-century orrery: a mechanical model of the solar system. The beautiful orrery was created by Eise Eisinga, a wool comber and astronomer, from 1774 to 1781. It is the oldest working planetarium in the world and was constructed on a scale of 1 millimetre: 1 million kilometres.

The orrery is painted royal blue and finished with shiny gold paint. The earth is represented by a golden orb hanging by a wire. The orrery also features the zodiac as well as the phase of the moon and other astronomical phenomena.


  • Date constructed: 1774 – 1781
  • UNESCO criteria: (i) (ii) (iv)
  • Location: Franeker, Friesland

Roman Empire Frontiers

The Frontiers of the Roman Empire, referred to as Limes, mark the borders of the Roman Empire. The term Limes is usually associated with the border forts that are dotted across the frontier lines but also apply to any area on the frontier that the Romans exercised control over.

The Lower Germanic Limes existed from the 1st century to the 5th century and ran through the province of Germania Inferior, which includes the Netherlands and Germany. The frontier stretches over 400 km along the Rhine river and was guarded by a chain of castra (fortified military camps). They start near the estuary of the Oude Rijn in South Holland and continue until the town of Bad Bresig in Germany. The limes also demonstrate the development and spread of urban and administrative infrastructure in the provinces of the Roman Empire.

  • Date constructed: 1st century AD
  • UNESCO criteria: (ii) (iii) (iv)
  • Location: Gelderland, Utrecht and South Holland

Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (Dutch Water Line)

The Dutch Waterline is a series of defences thought of by Maurice of Nassau in the 17th century. His half-brother, Prince Frederick, began to construct sluices and fortified towns in the low-lying areas of the country. Essentially, these were used to flood the low-lying areas which would turn Holland into an island, providing an excellent defence against attackers.


The flooding was carefully managed so that boats were unable to pass through due to it being too shallow, yet it was deep enough to make approaching on foot extremely difficult. Ditches and other traps, like mines and barbed wire were hidden under the water.

  • Date created: 1629
  • UNESCO criteria: (ii) (iv) (v)
  • Location: Gelderland, North Brabant, North Holland, South Holland, and Utrecht

Plantations in Curaçao

The plantations in west Curaçao represent the slave plantations that were in use from the 17th century. The plantations, which range from 500 to 700 hectares in size, consisting of a mansion, grounds, slave quarters, outbuildings and memorials.

Despite their dark past, the plantations exhibit beautiful architecture and reflect an important part of the history of the Netherlands. The plantations that are included in the list are the Ascension, San Juan, Savonet and Knip plantations.


  • Date created: 17th century
  • UNESCO criteria: (ii) (iv) (v)
  • Location: Curaçao

Bonaire Marine Park

The Bonaire Marine Park is a protected underwater site that falls within the waters of Bonaire, a Caribbean island municipality of the Netherlands. The park consists of 2.700 hectares of coral reef, seagrass beds, mangroves, stony coral, sea turtles and over 350 species of fish. The park’s ecosystem is one of the most vibrant and abundant in the whole of the Caribbean Sea, with the park’s coral showing fewer signs of degradation than anywhere else.

  • UNESCO criteria: (vii) (ix)
  • Location: Bonaire

The 16 wonders of the Dutch world

This concludes the list of the official and prospective UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Netherlands. Every single one of these sites represents a different, important aspect of Dutch culture and / or nature. If you live in the Netherlands, you should really take the time to visit these places and learn about Dutch history, their struggles against invaders, poverty and, their most significant enemy, the sea.

If you’re visiting the Netherlands, which sites will you be sure to pass by on your trip? When the world starts opening up again and it’s safe to travel (and when I have enough money) best believe that I’m getting to the airport and hopping on the first flight to the Caribbean. I can almost hear the turtles in Bonaire calling my name.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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