I've always enjoyed going to the Netherlands. It was less than a two-hour drive from where I used to live in Belgium to cross the border and get to a place that's so familiar, yet still so different than my home country. So when Visit Holland asked me if I wanted to come and spend three days exploring the Hanseatic cities of Deventer, Doesburg, and Zutphen, I didn't have to think twice.
- What are Hanseatic cities?
- Things to do in Deventer
- 1. Have breakfast at Eigenwijs
- 2. Try Deventer cake at Goesting Urban Bistro
- 3. Go on a guided tour to learn about the city
- 4. Climb the tower of the Lebuinus Church
- 5. Go for a basic Dutch lunch in 7th Heaven
- 6. Shop 'til you drop
- 7. Grab a coffee at Coffee Together
- 8. Roam around the “Bergkwartier”
- 9. Visit De Waag
- 10. Check out the fingerprints at city hall
- 11. Take the ferry across the water for a view of the city
- 12. Have dinner at Hollands Glorie
- Where to stay in Deventer
- Things to do in Zutphen
- 1. Visit the St. Walburgis Church
- 2. Have lunch at the oldest “People's House” in the Netherlands
- 3. Go for a stroll (and do some shopping)
- 4. Enjoy a boat ride
- 5. Visit the library-in-a-church
- 6. Have coffee and cake at Van Rossum's Koffie
- 7. Walk along the Martinetsingel for a view of the city
- 8. Grab a drink or bite at the terrace of the “Enjoyment Cafe Zutphen”
- 9. Have dinner at Chapoo!
- 10. See the Old IJssel Bridge in the dark
- Where to stay in Zutphen
- Things to do in Doesburg
What are Hanseatic cities?
Hanseatic cities or “Hanzesteden” in Dutch are cities where, in the Middle Ages, “Hanze” were active. A Hanze was a kind of organization of merchants and cities with the goal to protect and stimulate commerce. A lot of the Hanze were in what we would now call Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, but they were also present in Poland, Portugal, and Spain.
Hanseatic cities tended to be prosperous cities as the presence of commerce meant the presence of money, and so activities like the arts and book printing would often grow around in these places as well.
As time evolved, the Hanseatic way of doing business disappeared but the cities haven't lost their titles. In the Netherlands alone, there are over 20 Hanseatic cities of which 9 are being actively promoted as fun getaways by Visit Hanzesteden: Kampen, Elburg, Harderwijk, Zwolle, Hattem, Hasselt, Deventer, Doesburg, and Zutphen.
Things to do in Deventer
Deventer is an event city. When I arrived, the Deventer festival for outdoor theater “Deventer op Stelten” had just ended. It draws about 120,000 visitors every year. Deventer is also the place where you'll find the biggest yearly book market in Europe and then there's also the Deventer Dickens Festivals which takes you right back to Victorian Times.
But even when there's nothing special going on, there's no need to wonder what to do in Deventer. Have a look below!
1. Have breakfast at Eigenwijs
Eigenwijs is a bistro with an open kitchen and a seating area both on the ground floor and the first floor. They serve an all-day breakfast, all kinds of eggs, sandwiches, sweets, salads, soups, toasts, and snacks.
I went there for breakfast and enjoyed a large healthy poké bowl with yogurt, nuts, fruit, and oatmeal. It was definitely big enough to keep me full for the morning.
Eigenwijs also serves yummy coffee in its own branded cups. The staff is friendly and the bistro is located right on the Brink, the main square of Deventer, where it has a large terrace.
What else do you need?
2. Try Deventer cake at Goesting Urban Bistro
Goesting Urban Bistro is also located on Brink and also has a big terrace. I grabbed a seat there for a coffee and to try the tyical “Deventer Koek” or Deventer Cake. You can compare it a bit to gingerbread, especially in terms of texture.
Deventer Cake is a protected brand and is only made by the Bussink bakery, which is still located in Deventer but is now part of Continental Bakeries, a European bakery group.
Goesting Urban Bistro doesn't just serve coffee and cake, though. You can also get lunch, dinner or a snack there.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor.
Brink 15, Deventer
3. Go on a guided tour to learn about the city
If you want to know what you're looking at when wandering around the city, I recommend going on a guided city tour first. The city guide will tell you all about the history of Deventer, how it grew to become a Hanseatic city, why the houses look the way they do, until where the city walls came and much more.
The city walks are organized by the local tourism board. More information here.
4. Climb the tower of the Lebuinus Church
I did this as part of my guided walk, but you can also climb the tower of the Big Church or Lebuinus Church independently during the church's opening hours. The climb up is 220 steps to a height of 46 meters above sea level.
You pay a few euros to climb the tower and there is a discount for kids. Access to the church itself is free unless there's a special event going on. The ticket office closes half an hour before the church does. Make sure to
At the time of writing, the opening hours of the church are from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and from 12 until 4 p.m. on Sundays.
There may be exceptions to this schedule on holidays, so best to check beforehand.
Grote Kerkhof 38
5. Go for a basic Dutch lunch in 7th Heaven
“De 7de Hemel” or “7th Heaven” is an old cafe located right across the Lebuinus Church. It serves the regular drinks as well as snacks and light lunches. Think toast, eggs and the typical Dutch croquettes.
The food menu is rather limited, but if you want to have a basic Dutch lunch, this is a good place to go.
Grote Kerkhof 28
6. Shop 'til you drop
Deventer is a great place to shop in little local boutiques. Fun streets to check out are the Walstraat, de Kleine Ovenstraat, the Grote Ovenstraat and the Engestraat. The Smedenstraat is where you'll find the regular retailers such as H&M, though I must say there are definitely more local stores than big chains in Deventer, which I think is cool.
Shops in Deventer are also allowed to open their doors on Sunday afternoons. Not all of them do, though, unless you go the first Sunday of the month when it's “Shop Sunday”.
Deventer is also a book city. The first Sunday of August, it organizes the biggest book market in all of Europe and you'll find plenty of antique and second-hand bookstores around the city. Its print history dates back to 1477 and there are still several publishing and printing houses.
7. Grab a coffee at Coffee Together
There are several coffee places in Deventer but since I only had 24 hours, I didn't have a chance to try them all. I did try Coffee Together, which is a centrally-located and rather big but cozy coffee house that also makes a mean smoothie. There's free WiFi and toys for kids to play with. I also saw several people who'd come there to get some work done.
Lange Bisschopstraat 40, Deventer
8. Roam around the “Bergkwartier”
The Bergkwartier or “Mountain Quarter” is named as such because it's a bit hilly. In Dutch terms, that just means the ground isn't entirely flat :D It's the area of the city where the merchants used to live and nowadays, most of the houses here are protected.
Walk through the Roggestraat, to the Bergkerk (“Mountain Church”), through the Bergstraat, the Maansteeg, the Kerksteeg, the Menstraat and the Rijkmanstraat and spot the signs on the facades of the houses telling you a bit more about their history.
9. Visit De Waag
It was closed when I was there (Monday is its closing day), but De Waag is one of Deventer's most important buildings. De Waag is where merchants would come together to do their business. It's where goods were weighted and money changed hands.
It dates back to the first half of the 16th century and now houses a historical museum.
10. Check out the fingerprints at city hall
Fingerprints? Yes! This is so cool: when a new building was added to Deventer's city hall, a random selection was made out of all people living in Deventer and they could have their fingerprint taken to become part of the building's exterior. There are about 98,500 people living in Deventer city.
You can also freely walk into the inner courtyard of the city hall, where you can still see some of the older buildings that you wouldn't even guess were there from looking at the place from the street.
Grote Kerkhof 1, Deventer
11. Take the ferry across the water for a view of the city
I didn't do this but saw the option when I climbed the church tower. You can take the ferry from Welle across the IJssel river to Worp, where you can also park for free, by the way. A single ticket costs €1.10, a return ticket is €1.7.
You can check the website for up-to-date operation times.
IJssel & Pontje, Bolwerksweg 1, Deventer
12. Have dinner at Hollands Glorie
Hollands Glorie or “Glory of Holland” was a revelation. I hadn't expected much when I read that they offer typical Dutch cuisine with a modern twist, but the dinner I had here was refined, tasty, beautifully presented and not expensive at all.
Hollands Glorie works with a unique concept where you get a menu that has over 50 dishes, including starters, soups, side dishes, main courses, and desserts. You also get a little card with different lines on it per round. Each round, you get to order two dishes from the entire list (just write down their numbers on your card) and you can do so unlimited for €26.5/person during the week and €28.5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Only drinks are excluded.
I ordered 4 x 2 dishes and when I'm honest, I have to say that 3 x 2 would probably have been enough as well. As you can try so many things, the portions are small, like tapas.
What's also cool is that there's no pressure at all to order the next round. When you want to place an order, you simply put your card with your new order upright and the waiter will come and take it. When the order is placed, you get your card back in case you want to place another order afterward.
I highly recommend getting lunch or dinner at Hollands Glorie.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor.
Where to stay in Deventer
I spent the night at B&B In het Bergkwartier. It's run by the lovely Sjoukje and is actually an entire apartment instead of just a room, including a large living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a separate toilet and a fully-equipped kitchen.
The WiFi is free and it's also free to leave your car safely in the garage between the B&B and Sjoukje's own home next door.
For the morning, you can ask Sjoukje to prepare you a fresh breakfast or opt to have breakfast in town. As I had breakfast plans, I didn't order the breakfast but still, Sjoukje had something prepared for me. She knew my breakfast appointment wasn't until 9 and figured I might be hungry before that (I was) and so she'd prepared a platter for me with different kinds of crackers, jam, peanut butter, and chocolate paste.
There were also all kinds of tea to choose from, as well as a Senseo coffee machine with pads provided.
On top of that, the kitchen had a magic drawer (I named it that way) with all kinds of things you might need but didn't have with you, like Ziploc bags and elastics. So practical!
The B&B is located in the historical Bergkwartier (“Mountain Quarter”) and is a registered monument. Sjoukje even has a book for you to look at with information about the street the B&B is in as well as it's previous owners and what it looked like in the past.
There's also a rack full of brochures, a big television, a radio, plenty of books…
In brief: I could have spent a week there and easily keep myself entertained. If you're planning a getaway to Deventer or want to use it as a base to explore the rest of the region, I can highly recommend staying at B&B In het Bergkwartier.
Things to do in Zutphen
Zutphen is a great place to just wander around and let yourself be surprised by the many beautiful houses and fun little boutiques.
1. Visit the St. Walburgis Church
I'd planned to only take a peek inside the St Walburgis Church when I visited Zutphen, but discovered that while I was there, the World Press Photo exhibition was on display at the church and as it was raining when I arrived, I bought a ticket (€5). I ended up spending more than an hour inside!
Events regularly take place at this church. The World Press Photo exhibition still runs until July 29 and from August 7 until October 28, there's an exhibition on Copernicus and the book in which he unveils his theory that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around.
Even when there's nothing on, it's worth having a look inside this church. It's bright and rather simply decorated, but with a gorgeous ceiling. A place to stop, sit and think for a while.
Kerkhof 3, Zutphen
2. Have lunch at the oldest “People's House” in the Netherlands
Het Volkshuis or “The People's Home” of Zutphen was founded in 1898 by the People's Organization Against the Abuse of Alcohol. That's also why, until this day, you cannot order any alcoholic drinks at the Volkshuis.
What you can get, are all kinds of teas, coffees, cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches and eggs – and all at very reasonable prices.
Everyone is welcome here, both as a guest and to work. Since 1998, the Volkshuis trains and offers a work to people who wouldn't easily find a job otherwise. As far as visitors are concerned, you can pop in to read one of the newspapers or to warm up by the stove without even ordering anything.
It's a place to come together and have a chat regardless of background or budget.
Het Volkshuis, Houtmark 62, Zutphen
3. Go for a stroll (and do some shopping)
Zutphen is small but don't underestimate it: I easily spent a day wandering its streets and still hadn't done all I wanted to do! Some places to check out:
- Groenmarkt and Houtmarkt: for restaurants and cafes with big terraces and a few shops
- Lange Hofstraat: for local stores. It also has some cute sidestreets
- Barlheze: a cute street with pretty houses
- Laarstraat, Beukerstraat, Turfstraat and Korte Hofstraat: for shopping – lots of local stores here too
Just like Deventer, Zutphen has a “Shop Sunday”. Every last Sunday of the month, the shops are open from 12 until 5 p.m. and on this day, they often make it extra cozy.
4. Enjoy a boat ride
The Fluisterboten or “whisper boats” offer one of the most popular activities in Zutphen. For a little more than an hour, a guide takes you along the canals of the city, sharing its history and secrets.
The guided boat rides take place from April 1 until October 31 at different times throughout the day. You can buy your ticket at the little house 50 meters from where the boats depart, or reserve your seat online.
Rijkenhage 1, Zutphen
5. Visit the library-in-a-church
If it hadn't been for a tip from my Facebook follower Nancy, I probably wouldn't have gone into the Broederenkerk. From the outside, this church isn't anything special but on the inside, it's a library!
And not just any library. While it's rather small, it's super modern. There's WiFi and plenty of desk space where you can plug in your laptop. Every seating area is also a bit tucked away, behind a book stand or inside a niche, so that you can read and work without being disturbed.
You don't need to be a member of the library to walk in. You can just visit during its opening hours and even have a drink at the coffee and reading corner.
Broederenkerkplein 2, Zutphen
6. Have coffee and cake at Van Rossum's Koffie
When I asked for tips for my visit to Zutphen, two coffee and tea places were recommended to me. I didn't make it to De Pelikaan (Pelikaanstraat 9) but I did have a lovely Earl Grey with cake at Van Rossum's Koffie.
It's a cozy coffee bar right in the shopping heart of the city with a few small tables outside as well. They import their beans directly from the farmers and burns them themselves. And if you fall in love with their coffees and teas – they have a webshop too.
A wide range of cakes is on display on the counter. Some are homemade, others come from bakeries in the region. I tried the arretjescake or “hedgehog slice” made from dry biscuit pieces surrounded by dark chocolate.
It wasn't bad, I'll tell you that!
Turfstraat 10, Zutphen
7. Walk along the Martinetsingel for a view of the city
For a close-up skyline including the St Walburgis Church, go for a short walk along the Martinetsingel. It's just a minute away from the church and when turning left you can walk on to the Drogenaptoren, an old tower, and the Drogenapsteeg, a cute little alley.
On the other side of the Martinetsingel, you can find the Vispoorthaven. A tiny harbor with some pleasure boats.
Martinetsingel, Drogenapsteeg, Vispoorthaven
8. Grab a drink or bite at the terrace of the “Enjoyment Cafe Zutphen”
I'd just had coffee at Van Rossums's when I passed by here, but even if you don't have a drink at the lovely terrace of Genietcafé Zutphen (“Enjoyment Cafe Zutphen”), it's worth to go and have a look at the Oude Bornhof, the little courtyard where it's located.
In other cases, this would be a place of which I'd say that it's that little piece of quiet in the busy city, but honestly, the whole center of Zutphen oozes a relaxed vibe. No rushing or crazy traffic here.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor.
Oude Bornhof 57
9. Have dinner at Chapoo!
Chapoo! is a spacious restaurant with an outdoor terrace at the crossing of two shopping streets. I ordered the bowl with cold sushi rice, scampi in teriyaki sauce, avocado and salad and was happily surprised when I also got some extra salad on the side.
It was a tasty and nutritious meal. Exactly what I needed after a day of walking around.
10. See the Old IJssel Bridge in the dark
The Oude IJsselburg or “Old IJssel Bridge” is lit up at night. It's also supposed to give you a great view of the city, but I'm afraid I didn't make it there. I'd wanted to keep it for nightfall to be able to see the lights but was completely knackered even before the sun went down.
Guess I'll just have to come back :-)
Where to stay in Zutphen
I spent a night at the Hampshire Hotel ‘s Gravenhof Zutphen in a room with a little seating area, a flatscreen tv, a comfortable bed and a modern bathroom. The Hampshire hotel in Zutphen has its own bistro as well as a tapas restaurant, but I only tried the breakfast buffet in the morning. It had proper coffee machines, nice tea, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and eggs – all I need.
Things to do in Doesburg
Doesburg is the smallest of the three Hanseatic Cities I visited and it kind of feels like visiting a big family. People gladly start a conversation and thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens, plenty of projects seem to come to fruition.
1. Have coffee and cake at the oldest cafe in the Netherlands
Serving food and drinks continuously since 1478, Stadsbierhuys De Waag (“City Beer House De Waag”) is the oldest non-stop-working cafe of the Netherlands. Both the interior and exterior are beautifully maintained and the current owner is really making an effort to showcase the original elements of the building that sometimes have been hidden throughout the centuries.
Stepping inside is like stepping back in time and when you take a seat at one of the heavy wooden tables, you can almost feel the ambiance there must have been when merchants came here to sell their goods.
Unless a room is locked off for a private event, you're free to wander around so don't just stick to the main room. In the hallway, there's an old menu with prices still in Dutch Gulden. The basement has been excavated so people can sit under the beautiful original archways and from a small room on the first floor, you can see right into the cafe.
Plus, their pieces of apple cake are as tasty as they are massive :-)
Koepoortstraat 2-4, Doesburg
2. Go on a guided walk around the city
In Doesburg, I also went on a guided walk of about an hour to learn about the history of the city. My guide Francien has been living in Doesburg all her life and so aside from the factual history, she also had quite a few interesting tidbits to share.
3. Climb the church tower
I didn't do this, but it's possible to visit the Big Church or Martini Church in the center of Doesburg and climb its tower to get a view of the city. Just like in Deventer, it takes 220 steps to get up there but in this case, you can only climb the tower at set times.
When I visited, it was possible to go up at 2 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday during the school holidays in May, summer, and fall. You can get tickets for this at the VVV (the local tourist office) at Gasthuisstraat 13, which is also where the guided climb starts.
It's also possible to book a private climb when you have a group of at least six people.
4. Have lunch at Het Arsenaal 1309
From the 15th to the 18th century, Het Arsenaal 1308 (“The Arsenal”) used to be a convent. It then turned into an arsenal, which it stayed for 200 years, and went on to house pour families. For a while, it used to belong to an antique seller and when it threatened to fall into decay, someone with a bit of money bought it and gave it the opportunity to become a place for all of Doesburg.
Aside from a Grand Café, it now also houses a society, a whiskey store, a photo studio, a dance school, a toy store, exhibition spaces, a wine store, and a distillery.
There are a few tables of the Grand Café out front, but I recommend you walk through to the garden where it's more spacious and a bit more secluded. For lunch there, I ordered the salad with the fish of the day (smoked mackerel) which was lovely.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor.
Kloosterstraat 15, Doesburg
5. Visit the old Mustard Factory
There used to be quite a bit of mustard making in Doesburg and this old mustard factory, which is now a museum, is a testament to that time. I didn't visit, but it gets pretty good reviews so if you like mustard, why not give it a go :)
Boekholtstraat 2, Doesburg
6. Go for a stroll along the IJssel river
When I visited Doesburg, I parked my car in the free Koepoortwal 19 parking. From there I followed the small Burgemeester Flugi van Aspermontlaan along the Bleekersgracht (a little canal) to the Burg, a path that runs right alongside the IJssel river and offers some nice views of the river.
At one point during my walk, I passed an apartment building overlooking the water and thought that it would be nice to live there, with a view of the river. Well, it turned out later that my city guide actually did live there! Just a little fun fact :-)
7. Check out the communal herbal garden
In 1993, the city of Doesburg allowed a few of its citizen to turn a piece of grasland into a herbal garden for everyone to enjoy. You can't pluck anything there, but you can go in freely and take a seat on one of the benches.
Where to stay in Doesburg
I didn't spend the night in Doesburg but did some research for you and found that B&B Hartesteijn gets great reviews. It lies right in the center of Doesburg, offers free WiFi and free breakfast and has its own on-site restaurant if you don't feel like dining out.
All rooms have a seating area and free toiletries are provided. Bicycle hire is possible too.
PIN VOOR LATER
I was a guest of Visit Holland during my trip to Deventer, Doesburg, and Zutphen. As always when entering collaboration like this, I remain free to write what I want and always voice my own opinions.