As fate would have it, two friends and I ended up in Zwolle, a small city in the north of The Netherlands. We didn’t expect anything about the city because we had never heard about it, so we had a pleasant surprise.
Zwolle is about 120km north-east from Amsterdam and it’s a “star city” because of its shape. As 100% of the cities and towns in The Netherlands, there are lots of canals, but those ones make a star shape. The bad news is that you can only see this shape from the air, and this is only possible if you have a helicopter.
FACT: The word Zwolle comes from Suolle that means “hill”. It has this name because the city was built on a small hill surrounded by three different rivers: Jssel, Vecht and Zwarte Water.
How to get there?
The fastest way is from Amsterdam. It will take around one hour taking the roads A1 and A28.
From Rotterdam it will be around 1 hour and a half, taking the road A28.
If you want to go by train it’s a bit slower and more expensive, but if you don’t have a car it’s also a good option.
There are trains from Amsterdam Central Station that go to Zwolle in 1 hour and 25 minutes. The ticket price is 19€ and you can check the timetable in this website. I also recommend you to download the app 9292, and there you can check everything about the transport in The Netherlands from your phone.
If you’re in Rotterdam you can take a train that goes to Zwolle in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The ticket price is 21.20€.
ADVISE: If you’re living here or you have enough time and you want to use the train service, I recommend you to wait for a train discount. From time to time you can buy train tickets for less price that the real one in some different shops like Etos, Hema, Kruvait, etc. For example, once I bought a double ticket for 20€ to take all the trains I wanted for one day (it was 10€ each ticket). If you wait for these discounts you can save lot of money.
What to see?
Because Zwolle is not a big city, you can visit the entire the city centre on foot.
We arrived to the central station and we walked through Stationsweg Street until we reached the first canal that makes the star shape. Once there, if you look to the right there’s the Sassenpoort, one of the old city gates. This gate was built in 1406 and it’s one of the hundred best monuments from the Dutch UNESCO. You can visit the building from the inside and it’s also possible to celebrate weddings there.
It’s open every Saturday from 13:00 to 16:00 from the 1st of November to the 1st of April and from 13:00 to 17:00 from the 1st of April to the 1rst of November. It’s also open on Wednesday from 13:00 to 16:00 from the 1st of April to the 1st of November.
The price is 2.5€ for adults and 1€ for children under 12 years old.
Church Square (Grote Kerkplein)
Instead of going to the right (where Sassenport is), we went to the left and we crossed the Nieuwe Havenbrug. Straight from that bridge there is the Church Square. Nowadays, this square is used for different kinds of events but in the old days it used to be a cemetery. In this square there are also the City Hall (Stadhuis) and one of the Tourism Offices.
All the streets around this square are pedestrian and they are full of bars, restaurants and shops.
Saint Michael’s Church (Grote of Sint Michaëlskerk or Grote Kerk)
In the middle of the Church Square you can see a big building. This is the main church: Saint Michael’s Church that was built between 1370 and 1452. We didn’t go inside but the entrance is free and during the year you can enjoy some organ concerts. All the events are in this website.
The Grote Markt is a small square on the opposite side of the Church Square. There is a market every Saturday, and you can enjoy walking around or buying typical food, flowers, books, clothes or everything you can imagine. In the middle of this square there is a green statue of St. Michael the Archangel, made of glass.
The Peperbus City Tower
Not so far from the Grote Markt there is the Peperbus Church, where you can find the Peperbus City Tower. The word “peperbus” means pepperset and it has this name because of the tower’s shape. The Peperbus is 75 meters high and it has 236 steps. It’s one of the highest towers in The Netherlands that it’s why it’s one of the city’s symbols. The clock has 51 bells that ring on Friday from 11:00 to 12:00 and on Saturday from 13:30 to 14:30. I recommend you to climb the tower just when the bells are ringing, then you can go inside the place where the man who’s ringing the bells is. It’s amazing to see him playing the instrument.
Schedule: The tower is open on Monday from 13:00 to 16:00 and from Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 to 16:30. The ticket price is 2€.
For those who love museum:
Museum de Fundatie
In this museum you can find art treasures from the Middle Ages till now. Apart from the permanent exhibition, there are other temporal exhibitions during the year.
Schedule: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 17:00. The ticket price for adults is 9€. You can also check other prices here.
The woman’s house (Vrouwenhuis Museum)
Aleida Greve was the woman who lived in this building until she died. In her testament she said that she wanted her house became a residence for old women. Nowadays the first floor is a museum and you can visit it just booking in advance. You can do it in this website.
Here you can see different historical and cultural objects and you can learn about the history of Zwolle.
Schedule: From Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 17:00. It’s even open on holiday, except the 25th of December and the 1st of January. The ticket price for adults is 7.5€ and you can check other prices here.
Other interesting places:
- Sassenpoort en Kanon. This is a gun from the 1584 that was dropped after a war near Zwolle.
- Huis met de hoofden. It’s a gothic house.
- Zwolse balletjeshuis. This is a small candy shop where one of the tourism offices is.
- City walls. You can see a small part of the old city walls.
- Charles V house (Karel V Huis). It’s a house with one of the best well-preserved Renaissance facade. At the top of the façade there’s a sculpture of Charles V.
- Bethlehemskerk en Rafter. This church is one of the oldest buildings in the city (1309).
If you’re visiting Zwolle in winter you’ll find an ice sculpture exhibition. Important sculptors go to Zwolle to build ice sculptures, using around 250.000 kg of ice and 250.000 kg of snow. You’ll find them in Rodetorenplein.
If you know other interesting places in Zwolle just let us know in the comments.
You can find all this places in the map below.
Check how to save the map.