Tuesday 15 January 2019


Top tips for a day exploring 'Hanzestad' Zutphen in the Netherlands

As a Dutch person living overseas I've gained a renewed appreciation for my home country. And I love promoting the Netherlands, especially lesser know places that are a delight to visit and explore. There is so much to discover beyond tourist magnet Amsterdam with its canals, cannabis and cyclists... In my I Love Holland series I've already covered the meaning of 'gezelligheid', what to see and do on a day trip in Haarlem, I've shared a recipe to bake real Dutch pancakes, and I've spoken about one of my absolute favourite and unique Dutch outings: fairy tale theme park Efteling. Today I shine the spotlight on beautiful historic Hansa Town Zutphen, also known as the city of towers.

Zutphen – the third oldest city in the Netherlands after Utrecht and Deventer, receiving town rights as far back as the 12th Century – is situated in the middle of the country near the forest-rich Veluwe in the province Gelderland, and alongside river IJssel. Its waterside location made it a perfect trading destination in medieval times and so it soon became a Hanzestad (aka Hansa Town in English, though that term is less commonly used than its Dutch equivalent). This means it was a part of the Hanseatic League trade group of merchant guilds and market towns in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the Nordics. An agreement that made the city wealthy and has led to the building of some magnificent architecture still visible in Zutphen today.

Hanzesteden (the ones in Holland at least) are still known for their rich history and iconic architecture. Whether you're walking the cobble-stoned streets in Zutphen, Deventer or Zwolle, each of the cities while having their own distinct characteristics have a lot in common at first sight. The successes of the trade in the 14th to 16th century meant that these towns blossomed all around the same time, and many of the buildings and other structures with medieval design features and made from materials popular at the time remain visible to admiring eyes. 

The best thing to do in such a historic place is to wander around without a plan and let yourself be taken on a spontaneous and unexpected tour of the picturesque city, time-turning alleyways, and the plenitude of 'hofjes' (old courtyards with almshouses around it). You'll marvel at the beautiful winding streets and the incredibly old buildings (over 450 of which are registered monuments) boasting the name or original purpose in old-fashioned lettering forever marked on the facade alongside the completion date, which often is unimaginable long ago.

Zutphen is a relatively small city and so when wandering around it's unlikely you'll miss the biggest highlights, but if you want to note them down in your itinerary anyway, here are some of my top tips for a day exploring this Hansa Town. When you arrive, take a stroll along the remains of the old city wall until you hit the towering gate into the city centre. Right behind it you'll find the Gothic Walburgiskerk (address: Kerkhof 3), a church dating back to the 13th century and home to De Librije, the oldest public library in the Netherlands. And Speaking of libraries in churches, the Broederenkerk (address: Broederenkerkplein 2) has been turned into a modern library and is freely accessible to the public. The impressive original interior design remains and it's a great place for a hot chocolate and a break if you've been walking around for a long time.

Next to the Walburgiskerk you'll find the old Town Hall (address: 's Gravenhof 2), a building with a stunning facade situated on the oldest quarter in the city. And right around the corner is the impressive Poort Bornhof (address: Oude Bornhof), the entrance gate to the former elderly men and women's homes built in 1723 from Bentheimer stone, and the old courtyard the former homes surrounded. The two statues on top of the gates are replicas from those that were put there in the 19th Century. If the weather isn't co-operative and you'd rather spend some time exploring indoors, there's also a wealth of museum to visit within Zutphen and the surrounding area ranging from the quirky, to the fascinating to the delicious (there is a bakery museum and even a candy museum!).

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For more information on Zutphen, check out VVV Zutphen (the local tourist office) who also have an events calendar featured on their website, and the Zutphen page on the Visit Holland website.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an interesting city to walk through!


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