Middelburg – A Charming City Rich in Heritage
Made of winding alleys, canals, and small houses, Middelburg is the epitome of a Dutch city. Unsurprisingly, the city’s variety of sights and dreamy location on the Walcheren Peninsula attracts thousands of visitors all year round.
In fact, much of the tourism is owed to the city’s fascinating trading history. After all, the city became the most important trading town in the Netherlands during the 17th and 18th centuries, thanks to its harbor. The ships that docked here would bring back spices and textiles from as far as Asia.
Established in the 9th century, Middelburg got its name from being the middle of three fortified towns built by Vikings after they invaded the Peninsula. Only one of the eight former city gates (Koepoort) remains and it’s a must-see on your trip here.
Today, Middelburg is as lively as ever! Its variety of events, restaurants and shops make it one of the most popular destinations in the Netherlands. Keep reading to learn more about the city’s best sights and hidden gems.
Middelburg lies in the Dutch province of Zeeland, just north of Vlissingen. The city also has a well-connected train station. From there, you can reach several other towns and cities with international airports, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Additionally, the regional buses from the company Connexxion provide easy access to Middelburg and its surroundings. You can even travel to this beautiful city by water! The city’s trading legacy and proximity to Walcheren’s canal make it perfect for boat trips.
Since the Netherlands has an excellent public transport system, you won’t need a car. However, if you do decide to drive, the easiest way to Middelburg is via the A58 motorway. Also, despite the city center being a car-free zone, there’s no need to worry. Middelburg has plenty of parking spots.
If you’re looking for adventure, why not try your hand at water sports in the popular coastal town of Domburg? It’s only half an hour away from Middelburg and is easily accessible by bus, bike, and car. You can also travel to Amsterdam from Middelburg. The Netherlands’ capital is about 131 kilometers away as the crow flies, so it only takes two and a half hours by train.
Must-Sees in Middelburg
Situated right in the heart of the city, the former abbey of Middelburg wows all who visit with its magnificent façade. From its construction in the 12th century until 1574, this beautiful building served as a monastery. After that, it was home to the provincial government for some time.
Nowadays, you’ll find the Zeeuws Museum inside the abbey, with a permanent exhibition telling the story of Zeeland’s past. Head inside to learn more about the history of Middelburg, from the city’s origins to the present day. With up to 30,000 exhibits by various artists and creators, visiting Zeeuws Museum is an experience that should not be missed! The cafés and restaurants surrounding the abbey also invite you to relax and watch the world go by for a while.
Climbing the 90-meter-high church tower, Lange Jan, is definitely worth your while. Your reward for braving its 207 steps, will be a breathtaking view over Middelburg’s old town and the Walcheren Peninsula. On a clear day, you can even see the sea. Be careful, though, as this might not be the best activity for people who are afraid of heights.
The Old Town
Next up is the main square just in front of the abbey, always buzzing with life. Not only can you stroll around its weekly market every Thursday, but you’ll also get to explore art and antiques at the square’s pop-up markets. It even hosts a festive night market from time to time. Check out the events calendar before planning your trip, for more information on the different markets.
Want to know another highlight of the main square? Middelburg’s town hall has an ornate façade and is considered one of the country’s finest examples of the late-Gothic architectural style. Surrounded by several cafés and restaurants, it’s the perfect place for a lunch break on your busy day of exploring. Definitely stop by one of the bakeries to try a Zeeuwse bolus – a local delicacy similar to a cinnamon roll.
Perhaps one of the best ways to explore the city is by simply wandering along the winding streets and marveling at the abundance of historic canal houses. After all, there are more than 1,100 listed buildings in Middelburg. It’s also worth visiting the city’s shopping street as it has both local business and international chains.
Canal cruises in Middelburg
If walking isn’t for you, why not take a canal cruise to explore Middelburg’s treasures? This allows you to observe the city from a unique perspective and bring you closer to the city’s history as a thriving hub of international trade.
Things to Do in the Surrounding Area
As previously mentioned, Middelburg is a great place to discover on foot, thanks to its car-free city center. Whilst walking along the city’s old moat, you’ll come across an area where many people bring their dogs to play. If you’re thinking of taking your own four-legged friend with you on holiday, check out our guide on traveling with dogs.
Also, if you plan on bringing children, don’t worry. Middelburg has plenty of amazing playgrounds that’ll keep your kids entertained. With a cable car, go-karts, and a bouncy castle, ‘Spelerij Molen de Jonge Johannes’ is perhaps the greatest playground of them all. While the kids are playing, adults can make themselves comfortable in the café and keep an eye on the children from the terrace. However, the city also offers lots of other fun attractions, including Mini Mundi Theme Park and GlowGolf – an indoor mini golf course.
Looking for a delicious coffee or yummy breakfast? Then RØST might be the place for you. All their ingredients are sourced locally and seasonally, making the café truly special.
Additionally, we recommend spending one of your evenings at Vliegendt Hert – a stylish bar and restaurant with an extensive selection of fine wines. However, De Herberg might be a better option if you’re more into low-key dinners. This restaurant serves a range of light snacks and refreshing drinks, attracting a slightly younger crowd with its cozy atmosphere.
If you’re on the hunt for something more adventurous, you can’t go wrong with a game at HyperBowling or Burggolf to end your night.
Finding the Right Place to Stay in Middelburg
Luckily, Middelburg has plenty of accommodations to choose from. You’re guaranteed to find something to your liking here. The city offers everything from hotels and B&Bs to rental apartments, cottages, and even campsites.
You enjoy camping but don’t want to be too far away from city life? Stadscamping Zeeland offers exactly that! Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep at this quiet campsite and walk only 15 minutes to the bustling city center the next morning. Since the campsite is also quite close to the beach, it’s great for renting a bike and taking a trip to the ocean.
Similarly, De Vlaschaard is a mere 1.5 kilometers away from the city. It takes 10 minutes to cycle to central Middelburg from this mini campsite and 20 minutes to cycle to the beach. De Vlaschaard even offers their guests free activities. Both young and old can enjoy go-karts, table tennis, table football, a trampoline, and both indoor and outdoor play areas here.
If you’re looking for something more exclusive, you might want to consider staying at the centrally located Boutique Hotel. You’ll find this gorgeous hotel right next to the abbey, in a building that used to be Middelburg’s former water department. Another more luxurious option is the Hotel aan de Dam, which welcomes you into a 16th-century manor house.
You’ll never get bored in Middelburg! This enchanting city truly has something for every backpacker– from stunning architecture and intriguing history to delicious food and drinks. If you’ve got the travel bug and want to explore more of the Netherlands, be sure to also read our article on the country’s most beautiful beaches.