There are no formal rules in the Netherlands to distinguish cities from other settlements. Smaller settlements are usually called dorp, comparable with villages in English speaking countries. The Dutch word for city is stad (plural: steden). The intermediate category of town does not exist in the Netherlands.
Historically, there existed systems of city rights, granted by the territorial lords, which defined the status of a place: a stad or dorp. Cities were self-governing and had several privileges. In 1851 the granting of city rights and all privileges and special status of cities were abolished. Since then, the only local administrative unit is the municipality. Regardless of this legal change, many people still use the old city rights as a criterium: certain small settlements proudly call themselves a stad because they historically had city rights, while other, newer towns may not get this recognition.
Geographers and policy makers can distinguish between places with respect to the number of inhabitants or the economic and planological functions within a larger area. Hence, settlements can be considered a city if they function as an urban center in a rural area; while larger population centres in densely populated areas are often neither considered a village nor a city and are usually referred to with the generic word plaats (place). Inhabitants may also base their choice of words just on the subjective way they experience life at a certain place.
- Schin op Geul
- 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch)
- Bergen op Zoom
- Den Helder
- Alphen aan den Rijn
- Capelle aan den IJssel
- The Hague
- Wijk bij Duurstede
- City rights in the Low Countries
- List of cities, towns and villages in the Netherlands by province
- List of municipalities of the Netherlands
- List of populated places in the Netherlands
- List of provinces of the Netherlands