Monday, 13 September 2010

Visiting Zeeland:Middelburg

City Hall or Stadhuis of Middelburg, built 1452-1520.

In our tour of the southern province of Zeeland, we used the capital, Middelburg, as our base to explore the region. This relatively small city (approximately 48.000 in.) was for us a pleasant surprise and we dedicated our first day in Zeeland to explore its historic city centre.

The Water Management building in Middelburg.

While walking along the the back streets and along the still existing medieval moats, the visitor can certainly breathe in the history of this city. Middelburg probably originated in the 9th century, when a number of fortified towns were built along the coast of the (then) island of Walcheren to defend Zeeland from Viking attacks. Later in the Middle Ages, it became an important trading post thanks to its strategic location between England and the cities of Flanders.Then during the era of the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) it became an important centre for the Dutch East India Company and Middelburg flourished like never before.

Thanks to this rich past, the visitor can now admire the wonderful architecture of the stately merchant houses and storehouses built along the canal. Despite the destruction and devastation that the Second World War caused in the 1940s, a thourough restoration process was carried out, which gave the city much of its old glory back.

A good way to get a impression of the city is to take one of the boat tours, or rondvaart in Dutch. The company Rondvaart Middelburg offers trips in an open boat with a guide, every day between April and October. Check their website (click on the link above) for details and prices.

One of the most lively parts of the historic centre is undoubtedly the square around the City Hall or Stadhuis. The imposing building stands out with its beautiful late-gothic façade with little turrets, red and white shutters, and none less that twenty-five statues of nobles of Zeeland. During the summer it is possible to visit the gothic part of the building, which is totally worth doing. The Toursit Shop (the tourist information office of Middelburg) organises the visits to this monumental building. Visit their site if you want to know more about their products, such as city tours, visits to museums, etc.

Detail of the façade of the Town Hall in Middelburg.
But probably the symbol of the city is another historic monument: the Lange Jan or Long Jan, the tower of the abbey complex of Middelburg, which with its 92 meters, it is impossible to miss. The tower suffered destruction by fire during the bombardment of Zeeland in 1940 but it was almost immediately restored. The tower is open daily for a visit and if you are feeling able and willing, after a climb of 201 steps, you will surely be rewarded with a breath-taking view of the city and beyond. Here you can find information about Lange Jan, including practical information to plan your visit. (Dutch and German).

A view of the Lange Jan tower from a side street in Middelburg.
The Abbey complex to which the tower of the Lange Jan belongs, houses now government offices and the Zeeuwsmuseum, the largest museum in the province with, among other works, the impressive Zeeland tapestries and the historical collection of the Royal Zeeland Scientific Society. On the website of the Zeeuwsmuseum you will find practical and background information about the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions at the museum.

The Abbey complex in Middelburg where the Zeeuwsmuseum is located.

Zeeland claims to have the most hours of sun per year in the Netherlands, and during the spring and summer, when the sun shines through the clouds, the city bustles with activity. Restaurants and cafés put out their tables and locals as well as tourists fill their terraces. Most of the catering establishments can be found in the area around the market square or Markt, the Vlasmarkt, the Dam and Plein 1940.

Market Square near the Town Hall, in Middelburg.
Middelburg also offers a variety of events all throughout the year, especially during the summer season. Some of these include the International Jazz Festival held during Whitsun weekend (website in Dutch), the Taste of Zeeland in June, the Mussels and Seafood Fair in July, and the Kermesse in August. A number of markets and fleemarkets are held across the city all the year round.

The Kloveniersdoelen built in Flemish Renaissance style in 1607, now housing a music centre.
Whether you enjoy exploring the cultural heritage or you want to  indulge yourself with a bit of shopping or entertainment, Middelburg will certainly not disappoint you. It is the ideal place to begin your exploration of this beautiful province by the Northern Sea.


A Touch of Dutch said...

You always illustrate what you share so well with your photos! This is another part of the Netherlands which I have yet to visit. It looks beautiful & full of history, and I know I'll love a visit. Thanks for sharing about your travels around this country :-) Have a nice weekend!

buday said...

I love cities that have so much history that remains evident even now. We have lovely historical buildings in my city too. They date back from "only" around two centuries ago, though. Nothing from the Middle Ages definitely and none from the time of the Vikings, haha. Middelburg sounds like a fascinating place to walk around in.

Estebanmarcequi said...

Fantástica entrada!!! Siempre nos das la oportunidad de conocer nuevos lugares, Gracias.

Tus relatos son excelentes y las fotos verdaderas postales.


Invader_Stu said...

You do a great job of describing the city. I've only been to Zeeland once. I think I'll have to go back to visit Middelburg

Liefhebber van Middelburg said...

Only a few buildings which were destroyed during the bombardment in 1940 were rebuild. The rest was replaced by new buildings. On the first picture the houses to the left of the townhall are survivors of the bombardment, those to the right are new.

Middelburg is still a beautiful town but it is a pity that so few buildings were rebuild. Forever gone are the “provinciale bibliotheek” ), the “Oost-Indisch Huis” ( ) and so many more. See also:

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks a lot for all this information! When I was visiting there, one of the things that really got my attention is how much was destroyed during the WWII and that there are reminders (like pieces of debri with a plaque, and things like that) of the war. A great pity that so much was lost forever.
Thanks for your comment!

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks, Stu!!

Aledys Ver said...

Muchas gracias Esteban!!! Me alegro que te gusten la entrada y las fotos!

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks, Isabella!! There's a lot to see in Zeeland. You could go there next summer, I'm sure you'll like it!

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, in both our countries "old" means sth that is 300 years old at the most! :D
THanks for stopping by!