Three different land surface schemes that are designed for use in atmospheric general circulation models are compared. They were run in offline mode with identical atmospheric forcing values that were observed at Cabauw. This procedure allows one to analyze differences in the simulations that are not caused by different atmospheric conditions and to relate them to certain model characteristics. The intercomparison shows that the models produced similar results for surface temperature and total net radiation, which are also in good agreement with the observations. But they underestimate latent heat flux and overestimate sensible heat flux in summer. Differences in the components of energy and hydrological cycle as simulated by the schemes can be related to differences in model structures. The calculation of the surface temperature is of major importance, particularly on a diurnal timescale. Depending on the scheme chosen, the simulated surface temperature is closer to the observed radiative surface temperature or the observed soil temperature at a depth of a few centimeters. If a land surface scheme is going to be coupled to an atmospheric model, this needs to be considered. The simulation of the surface energy fluxes can be improved by careful calibration of the relevant parameters according to the conditions at the observational site. The stomatal resistance was found to be an essential parameter in determining the evolution of evapotranspiration for the Cabauw simulations.