Growing up I envisioned all of my ancestors’ homeland as tulips, windmills, canals and dykes everywhere. But Noord-Brabant does not fit this stereotypical mode. In fact, these Dutch icons are scarce throughout the province. The province is mostly flat, but most is above sea level. The geography is the most diverse of all the provinces in the Netherlands, ranging from the lowlands in the western regions that border the provinces of Zeeland and Zuid-Holland to above sea level in the far eastern and southeastern regions bordering Belgium and the province of Limburg.
The architecture is also quite different from the northern provinces, especially Zuid-Holland, that we are most familiar with. Here you will not find the gabled rowhouses of Amsterdam, but diverse styles influenced by past occupiers of the region, particularly the Romans, Spaniards and French.
These different influences also shaped the religious practices of Noord-Brabant which has remained primarily Roman Catholic, despite unsuccessful attempts to introduce Protestantism that swept the more northern regions of the Netherlands in the 1500s.
Noord-Brabant is dotted with medieval buildings, ornate Gothic and neo-Gothic churches, Roman and Spanish ruins, and even castles. The area is primarily agricultural and industrial, and once was renown for its textile industry. It also proudly claims ties to the Arts, as both the painters, Van Gogh and Bosch, were born and lived in the province.
The province also has a shorter history as part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands than its sister provinces. Prior to the 17th century it was part of the Duchy of Brabant, which consisted of land in what is now part of the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1815, Belgium and the Netherlands were united in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. At that time North and South Brabant were established. But in 1830, Belgium would secede from the Kingdom; today South Brabant is located in Belgium.
Today the major cities in the province are “S-Hertogenbosch (more popularly known as Den Bosch), Eindhoven, Breda and Tilburg.
Sources: Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness Travel