The Dutch Hanseatic Towns, which evolved back when Amsterdam was still little more than a small town, were aimed at expanding trade and sharing knowledge. Most of them are situated on the water, because that was key from a transport perspective. They have a rich heritage, and many splendid merchant houses and unique facades can still be seen to this day.
History is all around you in the Hanseatic Towns, and the Hanseatic mentality is still there too. The Hanseatic League was an alliance between towns that sought assistance from each other at a time when there were few laws and when piracy, robbery and murder turned trade expeditions into dangerous ventures. The Hanseatic League became a powerful confederation in the Middle Ages. Some 200 towns, from Russia to France, were affiliated. There are a total of nine Hanseatic Towns in the Netherlands, and the four in the Other Holland are covered in more detail here.
Walking round the fortified town of Elburg, you feel you could be back in the Middle Ages. The old ramparts with their wonderful trees, the narrow alleyways, the cobbled pavements and delightful views make this town a place full of character where it’s a pleasure to stroll around. The ancient Hanseatic Town has more than 250 listed buildings within its walls alone.
The layout of the fishing town is based on the principle of the ‘golden section’, a rarity in urban development, which gives the town its characteristic grid street plan. Elburg’s location was therefore also the consequence of a strategic decision in the extreme north of the Duchy of Gelre. The old wooden boats, called botters, that can still be seen in the harbour area keep the memory of Elburg’s fishing past alive.
This marvellous old town has over 100 historic monuments, picturesque alleyways and charming squares. Harderwijk – which used to be situated on the coast of the Zuiderzee – has been a Hanseatic Town since as long ago as 1252. There are even some parts of the old town wall still visible, complete with imposing towers. The culinary town offers a wide range of good restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.
The Veluwerandmeer lake is only 2 minutes from the historic town centre. You can of course go to the lively urban beach, but you can also take a trip on the lake on a launch, a sloop, a yacht or even a botter. Watch the sun set slowly over the water and savour the splendid views of the surrounding area as you enjoy a soothing glass of wine.
Tip: Hanseatic Town Walk in Harderwijk (4 km)
This guided tour is also available accompanied by an English-speaking guide. By prior reservation only via Stadsmuseum Harderwijk (Donkerstraat 4, tel: +31 341 414 468).
Hattem is one of the Hanseatic Towns in the Veluwe region with its own distinctive charm and identity. Just as in the other Hanseatic Towns, the glorious history of the mediaeval Hanseatic League has left traces and transformed the town into a delightful tourist attraction.
Small and compact Hattem is surrounded by magnificent areas of natural beauty, vast water meadows along the River IJssel, the richly forested North Veluwe and the polder landscape to the north. You’ll find many authentic delicatessens and welcoming pavement cafés in the centre of town. And despite its size, Hattem has not one museum, but three!
Bottermuseumwerf ‘De Hellege’ Shipping and Ship-building Museum, Havenkade 39 Elburg
Museum Elburg, Jufferenstraat 6-8 Elburg
Anton Pieck Museum & Voerman Museum, Achterstraat 46-48 Hattem
Dutch Bakery Museum, Kerkhofstraat 13 Hattem
Stadsmuseum Harderwijk (local museum), Donkerstraat 4 Harderwijk
For more information, see: hanzesteden.info