Culture in the region


How is the cultural offering distributed across the provinces? Where are the most stages, libraries, cinemas or museums? To what extent is culture visited? What is the distribution of cultural burdens per government and per province? This theme page shows provincial developments and is an invitation to explore regional culture figures the Dashboard.


Attention to local and regional cultural policy is growing. This is evident from, among other things, the attention paid to urban cultural regions, the care for basic cultural facilities in municipal policy and the increasing number of provinces with their own culture monitor. To make figures about the cultural field accessible at a regional level and to provide insight into regional differences, the Boekman Foundation and Atlas Research created the Regional Culture Monitor. This Culture in the Region theme page supplements the insights from the Regional Culture Monitor with additional data and data from provincial and local monitors. This page thus offers an insight into the uniqueness of provinces in terms of cultural offerings, audiences and financial flows.

Introduction and importance of the theme

Local authorities play an indispensable role in the implementation of Dutch cultural policy. In 2021, Dutch municipalities jointly bore 54 percent of the total cultural burden at government level, the provinces 8 percent and the national government 38 percent (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science 2022; CBS 2022). They are responsible for financing local and regional infrastructure, such as libraries, venues and arts centres. Because culture must be accessible to everyone, the Rutte III cabinet will stimulate regional distribution and invest extra in cultural participation (VVD et al. 2021). The accessibility and inclusivity of cultural activities are also on the agenda in many of the provincial coalition agreements and culture is linked to the image and identity of the region (Verberk 2019). The responsibilities in the field of culture are laid down in the General framework for inter-administrative relationships in culture. However, according to the Interprovincial Consultation (IPO), this is due for renewal in order to do better justice to the cultural policy in practice (IPO 2022).

Culture in the region could use more support from the national cultural policy, the Council for Culture concluded in 2017 (Council for Culture 2017). This was confirmed in the research report Towards repositioning van Berenschot in November 2022. Efforts are being made to strengthen cooperation between the national government and the region through fifteen urban cultural regions. However, a recently published evaluation report notes that the cultural regions have a large variation in composition and size, which makes a comparable approach or interpretation of cooperation difficult. In addition, the boundaries of the regions are not evenly distributed throughout the country, which has meant that a large number of municipalities in the provinces of Limburg, Gelderland, South Holland and North Holland are not represented in an urban region (Nijboer et al. 2022 ). Berenschot advocates strengthening the joint role of the provinces. The cultural system – with its many interdependencies – benefits from the government, provinces and municipalities working together to approach that system 'as one government' (Wijn et al. 2022, 4).

The relationship between national and regional, between national goals and local ambitions, offers room for improvement. The spread of culture across the country is an important spearhead, but there is also a need for one better coordination between supply and audience. The availability of regional culture data can help with this. Because how are the cultural institutions spread across the country? For example, what is known about cultural participation in the various provinces? And how are the subsidies distributed in the Netherlands: geographically and between different levels of government and domains?  

Together with Atlas Research, the Boekman Foundation created the Regional Culture Monitor: an overview of regional culture figures that allows a comparison between the twelve provinces. To ensure comparability, it was decided to: 2019 as reference year to take. On this page we supplement this with the most recent data possible. A large part of the collected figures have been integrated into the Culture Monitor dashboard. Both national and regional data can therefore be consulted via this Dashboard. In this way we provide insight into mutual relationships between regions and distribution patterns, but we also show where data is still missing.

The Culture in the region theme page is above all an invitation to explore the Dashboard and discovering striking patterns at the provincial level. We hope to contribute to the further coordination and comparability of regional cultural data.

The need for regional cultural data is evident from the growing number of monitoring initiatives at local level. Noord-Brabant, Zeeland, Gelderland, Drenthe en Flevoland already have a provincial culture monitor, while Zuid-Holland and Friesland are currently developing their own culture monitor. There are also similar initiatives for cities, for example the Basic monitor of the Municipality of Groningen and the Utrecht Monitor, or in metropolitan area the Cultural monitor for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA). Where relevant, we connect these monitoring initiatives with the highlighted culture data. At the bottom of the page is a (non-exhaustive) overview of what monitoring is available per province.

Cultural offer

A diverse range of culture can be found spread across the Netherlands. From the Princessehof Ceramics Museum in Leeuwarden and the Nijmegen film theater LUX to landscape art by sculptor Antony Gormley on the Markermeer and the annual Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf. Through the Dashboard of the Culture Monitor it can be mapped out how much supply each province has and how this relates to the number of inhabitants.

Offer at provincial level

This visualization shows a selection of indicators in the field of cultural offering per province. You can switch between the three indicators via the tabs above the figure. See it Dashboard for the regional indicators of the other domains.

Source: CBS
Source: RCE

The maps in the Dashboard and on this page show some of the offerings at province level for the domains Visual arts, Audiovisual, Letters, Performing arts en Heritage . The concentration of cultural offerings over the years and in absolute terms is highest in North and South Holland. Most of them are located in South Holland bookstore locations en icons for modern architecture can be found, while most of them are in North Holland cinemas and movie theaters, museums, galleries en stages are established. Due to the high population and the presence of the three largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague), the high concentration of cultural offerings in these two provinces is not surprising (see the yellow box below for an explanation).

Yet the cultural offering differs per province and one province distinguishes itself from another in certain domains. In terms of heritage, there are almost as many in Friesland in 2021 protected city and village views as in South Holland (respectively 64 in 65 toy). There are also relatively many in the northeast of the Netherlands archaeological national monuments to be found: 197 in Friesland and 215 in Groningen. In fact, Gelderland is home to approximately half of the total number of archaeological national monuments in the Netherlands. The Archaeological Monuments Map from the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) shows that in Gelderland the high concentration of archaeological national monuments is mainly centered around the Veluwe. And at the end of 2021 it is still complete and relatively unscathed Roman sanctuary discovered in the province (RCE 2022).

Influence of Dutch cities
Due to the lack of structural and comparable data at the city level, it is not possible to zoom in further in the Culture Monitor. It is therefore important to note that the image of a province is strongly colored by cities with a large cultural infrastructure. Take Amsterdam for example: 88 percent of all galleries and 66 percent of the number of stages with a weekly offer in North Holland are located in the capital in 2019. And no less than two-thirds of the North Holland performances and concerts took place on Amsterdam stages. From the Culture monitor MRA it also appears that in 2019, the more than twelve thousand performances and concerts in Amsterdam attracted more than 5,5 million visits: this was more than four times as many as in the other sub-regions of the metropolitan region combined. We see a similar effect in South Holland (with The Hague and Rotterdam), North Brabant (with Eindhoven and Tilburg) and the other provinces. Also view the Creative Industry Monitor for the top 10 Dutch cities and developments in jobs and companies in the Dutch creative industry.

Of the 906 public libraries that the Netherlands had in 2021, many can be found in the provinces of South Holland (160), Gelderland (127) and North Brabant (120).

The Dashboard also makes it possible to convert absolute numbers at provincial level into the number of inhabitants. This way we can see that in 2021 there will be approximately eight in Zeeland, Groningen and Drenthe libraries per 100.000 inhabitants, while in North Holland and Flevoland this is four or less. The number of cinemas and movie theaters per inhabitant is also greatest in Zeeland, North Holland and Groningen, while South Holland and Flevoland have relatively the fewest number of screening locations.

Cultural offering per inhabitant

This visualization shows a selection of indicators in the field of cultural offering per province. Switch the button Per 100.000 inhabitants at the bottom of the map to see the relative numbers. You can switch between the three indicators via the tabs above the figure. See it Dashboard for the regional indicators of the other domains.

Source: NVBF
Source: KB

The Dashboard also contains more detailed figures about the cultural offering in the provinces, for example the number performing arts performances, activities in public libraries or the number film cloths en –chairs. Its development over the years can be followed via bar charts and line graphs. For example, in 2020 we saw a drastic decline in the number of performing arts performances in all provinces, with the obvious explanation being the corona restrictive measures. In addition, the number of theater visitors in 2021 has fallen by 78 percent compared to 2019 and statements from the trade associations also show that pre-sales for the '22/'23 season are slow to get going (Visser et al. 2022, Wensink 2022).

Development of performing arts performances

This visualization shows the development of the number of performing arts performances per province in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Click on a year at the bottom of the diagrams to exclude a year from display. look at it Dashboard for development from 2005 onwards.

Source: CBS

Cultural visit

The corona crisis has had a major impact on cultural visits. While in 2019 the Dutch total visits to cinemas and movie theaters still with almost 65 percent increased, film attendance fell sharply in subsequent years due to the corona crisis. From 2019 to 2020, this decline was largest in Flevoland (-60,6 percent) and smallest in Overijssel (-50,0 percent). This was reversed from 2020 to 2021: Flevoland was the only province where cinema attendance increased slightly again (+1,3 percent), while it fell the most in Overijssel that year (-21,0 percent). Viewed over the entire 2019-2021 period, the decline was around 60 to 61 percent in almost every province, with a peak of 67 percent in South Holland.

Visit at provincial level

This visualization shows a selection of indicators in the field of cultural visits per province. You can switch between cinema and museum visits via the tabs above the figure. See it Dashboard for the regional visit figures of the other domains.

Source: NVBF
Source: CBS

Although there is hardly any difference between provinces in film attendance (over two years), we see this more clearly in other domains. In 2020, Dutch museums were visited approximately 14,4 million times, of which more than 8 million visits can be attributed to the 228 museums in North and South Holland. This means that 36 percent of the total number of museums were responsible for more than half of the total number to visit a museum. We saw the same distribution in 2019. It is important to take into account that a large part concerns visits from foreign tourists, especially in 2019 (Berg et al. 2022). As a result, we also see, for example, that the number of visits in North Holland decreased more than in Drenthe or Zeeland, for example. The decline therefore says less about the cultural visits of the residents of North and South Holland.

Based on figures from the Dashboard, more can be said about the visits of a domain such as literature inhabitants of a province. It share of library members among the population in 2021, for example, varied from 15 percent in Limburg to 27 percent in Flevoland. In Groningen, on the other hand, the library is by far the most frequently visited by residents on average. The average library visit is the lowest in Zeeland, Limburg and Friesland, while the share of library members in Zeeland is relatively high (24 percent).

Performing arts visits per inhabitant were highest in North Holland and the province of Groningen in 2020. In the municipality In Groningen - despite the corona restrictions - 85 percent of residents indicate that they have visited a film, theater or museum at least once a month in 2020 (in 2018 this was 91 percent).

Cultural visits per inhabitant

This visualization shows a selection of indicators in the field of cultural visits and consumption per province. Switch the button Per 100.000 inhabitants at the bottom of the map to see the relative numbers. You can switch between the three indicators via the tabs above the figure. See it Dashboard for the regional visit figures of the other domains.

Source: KB and CBS
Source: KB
Source: CBS

To understand who uses the cultural offering and why this differs per province, it is worthwhile to look at population composition in addition to population size. For example, Zeeland, Drenthe and Limburg have relatively many residents over 50 years old, while the provinces of Flevoland, Utrecht and Overijssel have many young people up to 19 years old (see the monitor). Where is your province? or for Regional Key Figures from CBS). The group of 20 to 25 year olds is largest in Groningen (1), South Holland (2) and Utrecht (3). National figures on leisure activities show that young people visit the cinema or art cinema more than average (especially in the group of 12 to 19 year olds, followed by 20 to 34 year olds). The 65+ group visits relatively many canonized performing arts and museums, and library visits are greatest among 12 to 19 year olds and 35 to 49 year olds.

If we compare the visitor figures with these demographic data, it is striking that the three provinces where cinema attendance was the lowest in 2021 (Fryslân, Zeeland and Drenthe with an average of 0,5 visits per inhabitant) also have a relatively large number of elderly people. In the provinces with relatively many young inhabitants, cinema attendance is lowerfar in general also higher, especially in Utrecht (0,9 visits), South Holland (0,8 visits) and Groningen (0,8 visits). Library visits are also the highest in relative terms in the latter province. And the library is also well visited in Flevoland and Overijssel, where most young people between the ages of 10 and 19 live. From the Culture Monitor Flevoland it appears that local libraries are making extra efforts involving young people. The new library launched the website on behalf of the municipality of Almere a website of, for and by young people (Vinkenburg et al. 2019).

Another factor that can play a role in the level of (cultural) visits is the distance to cultural facilities. In the baseline measurement of the Culture monitor Zeeland For example, the relatively large distance between residents and cultural facilities is pointed out as a possible explanation for the contrast between the rich cultural offering and its relatively low use. For example, while the proximity of a cinema in the Netherlands is on average just over 6 kilometers, that distance is average in Zeeland more than 12 kilometers (Broers et al. 2022). Also the Brief benchmark of Gelderland shows that a large number of cinemas does not directly lead to greater proximity to cinemas or their attendance (Brom et al. 2020).

Money flows

Also important are government investments in art and culture: how do they relate to the cultural offering and visits in the province? For this you can look at both the absolute expenditure and the relative expenditure per inhabitant of a province. In absolute terms, Dutch municipalities jointly spent more than 2021 billion euros on culture in 2,1, and the provincial cultural costs totaled 325 million euros (CBS 2022). That year, the government allocated 1,5 billion to culture (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science 2022). The municipalities in South Holland, North Holland and North Brabant spent the most in 2021 (520 million euros, 419 million euros and 270 million euros respectively), which is no surprise given the highest population numbers in these provinces. The three provinces where the municipalities jointly spent the least on culture (between 36 and 43 million euros) are also the provinces with the smallest number of inhabitants, namely Zeeland, Flevoland and Drenthe.

In absolute terms, the most of the provincial cultural costs are spent by North Brabant, Gelderland and Limburg (Table 1). The provincial cultural taxes are lowest in Flevoland, North Holland and Overijssel. The provincial and municipal cultural taxes taken together create a ranking that is again quite equal to the population. It is more telling to look again at how many euros local governments together spend on culture per inhabitant, because that varies widely: from 110 euros in Gelderland to 173 euros in Groningen.

Using figures from the Dashboard, we can zoom in on the municipal and provincial cultural burdens per domain and see how this compares to other subsectors and other provinces. For example, in 2021 - as in previous years - the majority of municipal subsidies in the provinces will go to the performing arts (around 30 percent), with North Holland, Limburg and Utrecht at the top. Except in Zeeland and Flevoland. At 18 euros per inhabitant (which amounts to about 19 percent of the total municipal contribution to culture), Zeeland has the lowest cultural costs for the performing arts. In Flevoland, more money is also spent on literature than on performing arts, but unlike Zeeland, this is more likely to be due to the high contribution of the municipality to literature: 39 percent of the total budget.

In addition to government funds from the municipalities and provinces, culture is also subsidized through the six national culture funds. In this way, almost 2020 million euros reached cultural institutions in North Holland through multi-year subsidies in 31, by far the highest amount of all provinces. Converted to the number of inhabitants, the government also invests by far the most in North Holland, namely 10,87 euros per inhabitant compared to an average investment of 3,33 euros per inhabitant.

National Cultural Funds and BIS

This visualization shows the subsidies via the national cultural funds and the basic cultural infrastructure per province. Enable the Per Capita button at the bottom of the map to see the relative numbers.

Source: OCW
Source: OCW
Source: OCW

A number of cultural institutions are also directly subsidized by the government through the basic cultural infrastructure (BIS), established for a period of four years. In the subsidy period of 2017-2020, a total of 88 settings was awarded a subsidy (Bussemaker 2016). What is striking is that the three smallest provinces (Zeeland, Flevoland and Drenthe) were not part of this basic infrastructure, while North and South Holland received 2020 and 159 million euros respectively in 114. received. Because 2019 is part of the same BIS period, we logically see the same distribution. At that time, there were 26 BIS institutions in North Holland in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area alone, 23 of which were in Amsterdam itself, which together received a subsidy of 137,7 million euros. received (see Culture Monitor Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) For more information). Although many institutions located here reach a national and international audience, the distribution of national subsidy flows remains an important point of attention. In the current basic infrastructure 2021-2024 a museum from each province is included, such as Drents Museum, Kunstmuseum Flevoland and the Zeeland Museum Foundation.

For a more complete picture of the financing mix of culture, we can look at the own income of cultural institutions. The Dashboard contains provincial figures about the country's own income public libraries, cinemas and movie theaters, museums en performing arts venues. These figures are also available for 2020, and in some cases 2021.

How further?

The data collected for the Regional Culture Monitor clearly show provincial differences and profiles. However, the unsubsidized cultural infrastructures in the region are only mapped to a limited extent. It is desirable to investigate in a follow-up how this insight can be increased. Because the fact that some institutions, makers and cultural activities are not measured (in a comparable way) does not detract from their importance for cultural life in the province.

However, knowledge of and about this infrastructure is mainly at local or regional level. The monitors that provinces set up themselves often make a good start in mapping the cultural landscape both more broadly and more specifically. So things were done Value of Culture Brabant to map 707 subsidized and non-subsidized cultural locations in the five large and seven medium-sized cities of North Brabant via online information sources. Via corresponding registrations on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), it was then examined how many and which cultural activities people attend that often remain out of view in monitors. Mapping these non-subsidized organizations was therefore the primary goal.

Municipal officials also often have more insight into the smaller and informal cultural institutions and activities in their area. To be able to zoom in geographically, collaboration with those who are closer to the practice is necessary. Through mutual coordination between the various provincial monitors, municipalities can be better connected to better guarantee the comparability of geographical data in the future. It is also desirable to be able to zoom in on the municipal level in the future.

Overview of regional culture monitors

Below is an overview of the partial analyzes per province of the Regional Culture Monitor and other available monitors. Is a monitor missing from this overview? Then we would like to hear from you!




Would you like to know more about the theme of Culture in the region?

Would you like to know more about the theme of Culture in the region? Click on the following link for a list of available literature in the Knowledge base of the Boekman Foundation.


Atlas Research and Boekman Foundation (2018) Regional Culture Index. Amsterdam: Atlas Research and Boekman Foundation.

Atlas Research and Boekman Foundation (2021) Culture Monitor Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA). Amsterdam: Atlas Research and Boekman Foundation.

Berg, N. van den et al. (2022) Regional Culture Monitor. Amsterdam: Atlas Research and Boekman Foundation.

Broers, B., B. van Dalen, H. Vinken, J. Harings, R. Brom and R. Smeets (2020) Value of culture: the state of the cultural sector in North Brabant 2020. Tilburg/Amsterdam: PON & Telos, Pyrrhula Research Consultants, Kunstloc Brabant and Boekmanstichting.

Broers, B., B. van Dalen, H. Vinken, R. Brom and M. Goedhart (2022) Zeeland Culture Monitor: baseline measurement. Tilburg/Amsterdam: PON & Telos, Pyrrhula Research Consultants and Boekmanstichting.

Brom, R. and H. Vinken (2020) Culture in Gelderland: a brief benchmark. Amsterdam/Tilburg: Boekmanstichting and Pyrrhula Research Consultants.

Bussemaker, M. (2016) New vision on cultural policy (letter to parliament). The Hague: House of Representatives of the States General.

CBS (2020) Detail of cultural burdens for municipalities and provinces. The Hague/Heerlen: Central Bureau of Statistics.

CBS (2022) Detail of cultural burdens for municipalities and provinces. The Hague/Heerlen: Central Bureau of Statistics.

Interprovincial Consultation (2022) 'Provinces face challenges together in the cultural sector'. On:, December 15.

Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2020) 2019 annual report. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2022) 2021 annual report. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Muller, H., L. Ravenhorst, B. Vinkenburg, I. Hegeman and I. Pielage (2019) Culture Monitor Flevoland 2017-2018: first half of the policy period 2017-2020. Lelystad: Province of Flevoland.

Nijboer, R. and A. van de Horst (2022) What are we doing it for? Reporting on the development of urban regions. Amsterdam: DSP group.

Verberk, B. (2019) 'Culture in the provincial coalition agreements 2019-2023'. On:, September 2nd.

Visser, J. and L. Kuiper (joint) (2022) Museum figures 2021. Amsterdam: Museum Foundation, Museum Association.

VVD et al. (2021) Looking after each other, looking ahead to the future: Coalition Agreement 2021-2025. The Hague: VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie.

Council for Culture (2017) Culture for city, country and region: the role of urban regions in the cultural system. The Hague: Council for Culture.

RCE (2022)'Complete and relatively intact Roman sanctuary discovered in Gelderland'. On:, 20th of June.

Swinkels, H. (2022) 'The significance of the coalition agreement for local cultural policy'. In Boekman, jrg. 34, no. 130

Wensink, H. (2022) 'Much fewer theater visits in 2021 compared to 2019, and recovery is not yet in sight.' On:, September 8nd.

Wijn, C., B. Vinkenburg, W. Wierenga, A. van Heerwaarden and M. Terwisscha (2022) Towards repositioning. Utrecht: Berenschot.

Accountability image

Martijn Baudoin via Unsplash.