Obtaining data using QGIS

From TOI-Pedia


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to access a wide range of geo-spatial data. Examples relevant to the built environment include cadastral datasets, road networks and land use maps. Free GIS data is available from many different sources. The purpose of this tutorial is to outline the recommended workflows for obtaining data from: (1) public datasets in the Netherlands and (2) OpenStreetMap.

Data sources

Public datasets in NL

In order to obtain data from public datasets in the Netherlands, the following steps are recommended:

OpenLayers Plugin
OSM Place Search

Step 1: Navigate to the area of interest

It can be useful to install the following plugins to navigate to the area of interest:

  • OpenLayers plugin
  • OSM place search

Unsure of how to install a plugin? > check this tutorial.

Add OpenStreetMap to the project via Web > OpenLayers plugin > OpenStreetMap and use it as a base map to navigate to the area of interest manually. Alternatively, OSM place search can be used to search for a specific location (e.g. Rotterdam). If you cannot see the OSM place search panel after installing the plugin, go to: View > Panels > OSM place search...

After navigating to the area of interest, you may want to create a (spatial) bookmark so that you can easily navigate back to it if you accidentally zoom in or out. A new (spatial) bookmark can be created via: View > New (Spatial) Bookmark...

Note: remember to set the coordinate reference system (CRS) correctly. The same CRS should be used throughout the project. In the Netherlands use:

  • EPSG:28992 - Amersfoort / RD New (2D maps)
  • EPSG:7415 - Amersfoort / RD New (3D maps)

Step 2: Connect to base data sources

Add the appropriate WFS / ArcGIS feature server connections to your project. Some suggestions for useful datasets are outlined in the tables below. You can also search for other datasets that may be relevant to your project on the PDOK website. When adding the connections:

  • Check that the CRS is correct (EPSG:28992 in the Netherlands)
  • Make sure to select "Only request features overlapping the view extent"

Unsure of how to add WFS / ArcGIS Feature Server connections? > check this tutorial.

WFS connections:

FeatureData sourceLayer nameLink*
Building footprintsBAGpandhttps://www.pdok.nl/geo-services/-/article/basisregistratie-adressen-en-gebouwen-ba-1
Building footprints (+ height)3D BAG3D BAGhttp://3dbag.bk.tudelft.nl/downloads
Road networkNWBwegvakkenhttps://www.pdok.nl/geo-services/-/article/nationaal-wegen-bestand-nwb-

*Please note: the links provided in the table above are not the WFS URLs. Since these datasets are regularly updated, the WFS URL linked to a specific dataset can change over time depending on the latest version. The latest WFS URL for each dataset can be found by clicking on the link provided and selecting the URL of the WFS web-service.

ArcGIS Feature Server connections:

FeatureData sourceLayer nameURL
VegetationBGTbegroeidTerreindeel_vsame as above
TreesBGTvegetatieObject_psame as above

Step 3: Save online data for offline use


After adding data from an online server connection, the new layer will be actively connected to the internet. This means that it is not possible to perform further calculations/alterations on the data (will result in QGIS crashes!) and each time the map view changes, the data will be downloaded again. Therefore, the new layer needs to be saved directly to your computer so that the data can be accessed offline. This can be done as follows:

  • Right click on the online layer
  • Select Export > Save feature as...
  • Select the correct settings for your data (file format, file name, CRS)
  • Recommended file format for use in QGIS is "GeoPackage"
  • In the Netherlands the CRS is EPSG:28992 - Amersfoort / RD New (2D maps) or EPSG:7415 - Amersfoort / RD New (3D maps)
  • Make sure to set the extent to "Map Canvas Extent" so that only the required data is saved


In order to obtain data from OpenStreetMap, the following steps are recommended:

Step 1: Install and open the QuickOSM plugin

  • Unsure of how to install a plugin? > check this tutorial.
  • Open the QuickOSM plugin via Vector > Quick OSM > Quick OSM
QuickOSM window

Step 2: Enter the required values in the QuickOSM window

  • Key = the name of the type of features that should be added to the project (e.g. building, trees, highway, etc)
  • Value = [optional] the name of a more specific type of feature (e.g. hotel if the key is building)
  • Choose an option from the drop down menu which describes how the features should be located (e.g. in / around / canvas extent)
  • Enter the name of the geographic location you would like to obtain features for (e.g. a village, a town...)

Step 3: Run the query

Step 4: Remove unnecessary layers After closing the QuickOSM window, you will notice that the plugin adds a polygon, line and point layer to the project regardless of the type of feature added. Remove any unnecessary layers from the project.

Step 5: Export the layer(s) so that they are stored locally

  • Right click on the layer
  • Select Export > Save feature as...
  • Select the file format and file name
  • Recommended file format for use in QGIS is "GeoPackage"
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