Historic Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, Netherlands, is full of unique attractions, events, exhibitions, shopping, and dining opportunities that are mostly located within walking distance. Guests should plan on enjoying an entire day walking around the city and taking in the sights.
Middelburg is located in the southwestern portion of the Netherlands. The city has a population of just under 50,000 full time residents. It is renowned for its scientific innovation, as it was incredibly important in the Scientific Revolution due to leading the field in lens crafting during the Golden Age. From that scientific development also came the inventions of both the telescope and microscope. Famed painter Pieter Gaal was born in Middelburg. The town can trace its roots back to the 8th Century, when it was created as one of three different fortified towns designed to fight off Viking raiders. It continues to be a major tourist destination for guests both in the Netherlands and across the world.
Middelburg is well known for its various historic attractions, museums, and experiences. Below are some of the highlights.
- City Hall - Not only the seat of government in Middelburg, City Hall is also a beautiful example of Flemish late Gothic architecture. Guests are welcome to tour the building, which is a great resource for tourists visiting the area as well as they provide a variety of services devoted to tourism in Middelburg.
- Van de Perrehuis/Zeeland Archives - Originally built by JP van Baurscheit (the young) as a residence, the Van de Perrehuis is tour able for groups only. Interested visitors should contact Group Arrangements Zeeland by phone or email to schedule a guided tour. The archives have a reading room that is also available to visitors (allowing them to access genealogy and ancestry archives - appointments are strongly recommended). There is a museum located here, which features a rotating collection of temporary exhibitions focusing on local history.
- Abdij Toren Lange Jan - Also known as simply “The Abbey,” this building is recognizable for its 89-meter-tall abbey tower that looks over the city, known as the Lange Jan. Guests can climb to the top of the Lange Jan but it should be noted that that will include 207 steps. There is a cost required for a tour and to climb to the top, but the view is worth it (especially on clear days). Guided tours can be scheduled by contacting Group Arrangements Zeeland by phone or email.
- Abbey Zeeuws Museum - The museum focuses on cultural elements of both Middelburg and the Netherlands and offers exhibitions on both a permanent and rotating, temporary basis on subjects like fashion/regional dress, tapestry, and arts and crafts. They also offer guided tours of the museum, or guests are free to see it on their own.
- Miniature Walcheren - One of the more unique attractions in Middelburg, Miniature Walcheren is a to scale (but 20 times smaller) recreation of the island of Walcheren made out of flowers.
- Stalhouderij Labrujere-Boone - A working horse farm and stable in Middelburg, the Stalhouderij Labrujere-Boone allows guests to take a tour by horse tram from the farm into the heart of the city. Tours will last around 20 minutes and this attraction is only open seasonally. Guests can inquire about specific dates and times by contacting them directly. There is a cost associated with the horse tram tour.
- Cruise Middelburg - Guests will sail through the old canals in an open boat, which will allow them to best view the stunning architecture (both warehouses and buildings) dating back centuries. Each boat trip is made with a knowledgeable tour guide who will explain the history and culture of Middelburg. There is a cost associated with Cruise Middelburg.
- Canal Cruise - Guests will depart from the Loskade for a three-hour cruise ending at the Veerse Meer. With views of Walcheren and travel through the unique Veere lock, this canal cruise is a fun and educational experience the whole family will enjoy. The cruise is offered seasonally, and guests should confirm dates as well as availability by contacting the company directly.
- Swimming Pool - With a recreational pool open to the public, as well as a club bath, indoor competition pool, and instruction pool, the new sports club pool is great for both indoor and outdoor swimming all year round.
- Museum Arnemuiden - Located in Arnemuiden’s former town hall, the museum focuses on the history of fishing and trade in the former harbor town. Also, on the premises is a 19th Century fisherman’s house (t Uusje van Eine), which is tour able as well. The attraction is only open seasonally, so guests should confirm availability before a visit.
- Marie Tak van Poortvliet Museum - This unique museum was actually designed to be an exact copy of the original exhibition building, which was destroyed by storms and wind in 1921. The museum is dedicated to the visual arts and offers rotating exhibitions two to three times annually as well as a sculpture garden.
- Maritime Museum - Also known as the MueZEEum, this attraction is dedicated to the history of maritime by showcasing historical artifacts from Middelburg.
- Museum De Glazenkast - Opened in 2009, this museum is three stories and features work exclusively created by local, Middelburg artists. It is also known as The Glass Cabinet.
- Vleeshal - Considered the center for the international contemporary arts exhibitions in town, Vleeshal is located in the former town hall and was designed using classic Gothic architecture.
- Stichting Kunstweek - A Dutch foundation created to promote the visual arts, this museum is also the organizer of the Artist of the Year award. The museum also focuses mostly on local artists who are at the forefront of the visual arts movement in Middelburg.
Middelburg, due to its cultural significance, also a wide variety of special events held all throughout the year.
Held seasonally, guests will enjoy perusing the Snuffelmarkt, which offers a change to shop a wide variety of curios, antiques, and second-hand books, clothes, and more. This event is held during the days, mostly on weekends, from April to October.
A family friendly event, visitors in August should check out the Funfair. Complete with carnival rides, games, and food vendors selling fair favorites like cotton candy and popcorn, Funfair brings Middelburg alive with lights and fun for the whole family.
One of the more fun events in Middelburg is the City of Dance festival. Considered one of the longest running and largest electronic music fests in the world, the City of Dance festival was also voted the second best Dutch Dance fest in 2015. Focusing not only on electronic music, but also art, talent, culture, and creativity, this weekend festival is one of a kind and happens annually in July.
Another music festival held in Middelburg is the Jazz Festival, which is held during a weekend in June. Bringing in a mixture of both amateur and professional jazz musicians from the local area as well as international, the jazz fest hosts its main stage in Abbey Square and other smaller, satellite stages throughout cafes and side streets in the city.
One of the most colorful festivals held in town is Ringrijderil, which is held in August. In this unique competition, riders on horseback compete to pick rings off of large poles using only lances. Also known as Folkloric day, competitors come from all across the Netherlands to try to win the top prize and visitors can watch from the side streets.
For culinary minded tourists, Middelburg hosts Mosselfeesten in the end of July. The festival focuses around food and the arrival of the local favorite, black mussels. It takes place in the area of Vlasmarkt and features live music as well as local dishes made with the mussels. The event often attracts over 50,000 visitors from all over the region.
Dining and Shopping
Middelburg is well known for its many dining related options which include small cafes as well as fine dining. Guests are encouraged to try the local specialties, and the town is well known for its pancakes. A favorite activity of many of the locals is just dining outside or simply sitting on a terrace, enjoying a beer. This can be done at the majority of the cafes in Middelburg, like Cafe Bommel and The Mosquito (boasting over 100 beers on tap). For shopping options, the town is full of both small, locally owned shops as well as larger mall areas. Many guests enjoy checking out the local markets, which are hosted almost daily (although Thursday is considered “Market Day”), and allow guests to take home apparel, jewelry, and artwork from local vendors.