Before the year 1928 the official name of Den Helder was Helder. The origin of the name Helder isn't entirely clear. The name Helder may have come from Helle/Helde, which means "hill" or "hilly grounds", or from Helre, which means a sandy ridge. Another explanation is that the name derived from Helsdeur (Hell's Door), likely because in the water between Den Helder and Texel (called Marsdiep) the current was so strong that many ships were lost. Many families who lived in this area adopted 'Helder' as a surname.
Huisduinen was the original older part of the city, whereas Helder itself was a nearby smaller hamlet. Due to its strategic location at the tip of the North Holland peninsula, multiple fortifications were built in the area.
Den Helder has played an important part in Dutch shipping. During the Dutch Golden Age, ships would be assembled near Den Helder and sail from there the world's oceans.
On 23 January 1795, the French captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns in the town's deep-frozen harbour. In 1799 the city was the target of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland.
During the 1820s, the North Holland Canal was dug from Amsterdam to Den Helder. The lighthouse Lange Jaap was built in 1877 and is the tallest cast-iron lighthouse in Europe, at 63.45 meters (208.2 ft).
The municipality of Den Helder consists of the following cities, towns, villages and/or districts: Den Helder, Huisduinen, Julianadorp, and the hamlets Friese Buurt and De Kooy.
The major areas of Den Helder are Old Den Helder, Nieuw-Den Helder, and De Schooten. Nieuw-Den Helder was built in the 1950s, following World War II, when there was a great need for additional housing. De Schooten was constructed in the 1960s.
Dutch Topographic map of Den Helder (town), March 2014.
Den Helder was the site of a naval base as early as the 18th century. An Anglo-Russian invasion force landed at Den Helder in August 1799 and captured the Batavian navy there (see Battle of Castricum). French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, visiting Den Helder in 1811, was impressed with the town's strategic location and ordered the construction of a fort (Kijkduin) and naval dockyards (Willemsoord). The docks were built during the years 1813-1827. In 1947, it officially became the Royal Netherlands Navy's main centre of operations. Den Helder continues to be the navy's main base today. The Royal Netherlands Naval College is also located in the city, as is the Dutch Navy Museum.
The old naval dockyards of Willemsoord, located in the north of the city, now house restaurants, a cinema, and other recreational facilities. The naval docks and administration have been moved to a new location further east.
Den Helder is on the tip of a lowland peninsula jutting out into the North Sea Because of this, Den Helder's climate is heavily moderated by the maritime environment. Also, Den Helder is the sunniest city in the Netherlands.
The town is served by two railway stations:
Den Helder can be reached by these main roads:
These roads all have only two lanes. There is no highway leading to Den Helder.
The municipal council of Den Helder consists of 31 seats, which are divided as follows (as of 2014):
The Frank Boeijen Groep song Haast (rust roest) contains the line " 's avonds in Den Helder". (English- In the evening in Den Helder)
The Rob de Nijs song Jan Klaassen de Trompetter contains the line "hij marcheerde van Den Helder tot Den Briel". (English- He marched from Den Helder to Den Briel)