A visit to Hoorn is a piece of Dutch history. Just by walking around you can imagine yourself back in the time of the VOC and the boys of Bontekoe. The latter were adolescents around 1600 who had the wildest adventures as stowaways during their journey to India.
Many famous Dutch explorers such as Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Willem Cornelisz Schouten were born in this picturesque village.
Hoorn actually tells it’s own history. Walking through the many picturesque streets and alleys, each facade tells a piece of the colourful history of this city. Did you know, for example, that the South American Cape Horn is named after this city?
What is there to do in Hoorn?
If you like architecture and history, Hoorn is a beautiful small harbour town. Of course there are plenty of restaurants and bars.
You’ll really get to know this particularly photogenic place during a city walk, which takes you past old defences and historical monuments.
What you really shouldn’t miss during a visit to this city is listed below.
The Port of Hoorn
Hoorn was around 1600 one of the most important port cities for the VOC. Ships were carrying goods such as spices that had been ‘taken away’ from the Indies and other conquered areas.
As a result, the port of Hoorn still appeals to the imagination to this day and is a piece of Dutch history that you must have experienced.
Many old buildings, which all had their role during the Golden Age, are still shining in all their splendour. Looking out overthe Markermeer you soon imagine yourself in a medieval spectacle with all the facilities our generation has to offer.
The harbour of Hoorn is a goldmine for photographers because of the many themes that can be devised there. It is also a place where you will find cosy restaurants and of course a location where you can sail on the Markermeer with a motorboat or sailing ship.
The Bontekoe Ship Boys
Hoorn is famous for the ship boys of Bontekoe. These were young adolescents who sailed around 1600 as stowaways on one of the ships that sailed east to India. On the way, one of the boys caused an explosion that sunk the ship.
She survived the shipwreck and their wild adventures later appeared in the exciting boy’s book of the same name. Their story still appeals to everyone’s imagination.
Hoorn has dedicated a statue to it. The three boys hang together over a harbour wall and this challenges many selfies.
3. The Main Tower
There was a time when the city of Hoorn had to do everything in its power to protect its port and its ships full of precious goods from outside enemies.
A rather impressive city wall was built, of which the Main Tower was the showpiece.
This striking building overlooks the harbour. And for a long time served as the headquarters of the North Company, which distributed their whaling all over Europe from this tower.
4. The Oosterpoort [east port] of Hoorn
Hoorn was so prosperous in the Golden Age that the city walls had to be extended further and further. From 1500 onwards, more and more gates were added, some more impressive than others.
Today you can still reach the centre of Hoorn by walking under the Oosterpoort. Many of the other city entrances have been lost over the centuries.
During a walk through the historic heart of this town you will still come across the remains of the Koepoort and the Westerpoort.
The Westfries museum opened its doors in 1800, right in the centre of Hoorn. It is a museum in itself!
What you haven’t seen during a visit to the harbour and other interesting places outside. You’ll find it within the walls of this special museum.
6. Hotel Mariakapel [HMK]
This chapel has a long history and during the 17th and 18th centuries was even a storage place for weapons to help defend the town.
If you love modern art, you can indulge yourself at Hotel Mariakapel. Here you will find an exhibition space and cinema for contemporary visual art. All this in the setting of a former chapel, with a beautiful garden, in the middle of the old centre of Hoorn.
Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not a hotel but a breeding ground for young artistic talent. A so-called artist-in-residence. Artists stay here temporarily in order to work on their visual art. The building can be recognised from afar by ‘the lying man’ on the ridge.
A number of works of art created here have found their way to several famous museums in Europe.
The Orphanage Garden
The Orphanage garden is an oasis of peace in the vibrant heart of the city. Once through the gateway, you find yourself in another world. This while the Orphanage itself has been the scene of a great deal of commotion.
For example, a Count Bossu, who commanded the Spanish fleet in the exciting battle of the Zuiderzee somewhere at the end of 1500, was imprisoned here. He and the Spanish lost the battle miserably to the local heroes. An impressive facade stone on the Orphanage itself is a reminder of this.
8. Huis Bonck
This museum house built in 1624 is open to visitors and shows how people used to live here.
Situated next to the West India Company room, this property has had many different residents.
First of all, a wealthy trader Bonck Frederiksz had it built. Successively it has served as a shipping company, linen weaving mill, house and even city farm. In 1902, the cows walked through the cellar, were milked behind the front door and the other floors were hayloft.
Fortunately, in the middle of the last century, it fell back into the hands of people who knew the value of the house and restored it to its former glory. Since 2018 the fully restored house has been brought back to its original state, including Bedstead [die je mag uitproberen], and you can experience a piece of Hoorn history during a visit here.
Where can you eat good food in Hoorn?
In the city centre of Hoorn and on the many squares you stumble over the bistros and restaurants. Most of them are located in beautiful buildings with a menu full of fresh food and local specialities. But did you know, for example, that Hoorn has a unique delicacy made by only one baker in the whole of Hoorn? And only served in one place?
8. Hotel de Magneet
You get hungry from all those impressions, It’s time to visit Hotel de Magneet.
Here they serve as the only one, a real ‘Hoornsche Broeder’. The only truly local delicacy is a delicious sultana bread filled with cinnamon sugar.
Also nice to get this delicacy from the only baker who bakes it fresh according to a secret recipe, Bakkerij Otten at the Koepoortsweg.
9. d’Oude Waegh
A visit to d’Oude Waegh in the middle of the city square cannot be missed during a stay in Hoorn.
In the second half of the 17th century, things changed at sea and on land. Hoorn slowly lost its allure as a seaport. Inventive as the Horinese were back then, no one was going to sit down. Therefore, it did not take long for money to be made in all kinds of other ways.
Such as the weekly cheese market, for example, which soon became a success throughout the region.
At that time, fair trade did not exist without a weigh house. The building is still centrally located on the market square. Now there is a Grand café located in the Waag, although they still weigh cheese. You can also still see all kinds of old materials and tools inside, with which they fooled things more than once.
10. Bossu houses
The Bossu houses are three beautiful cottages on the Slapershaven, near the centre.
The facing bricks of these 17th-century houses are like a comic strip: they tell of the battle on the Zuiderzee that the West Frisians fought against Count Bossu’s Spanish fleet in 1573. Here the West Frisians defeated the Spanish fleet with their own armada of small manoeuvrable boats with local heroes and inhabitants and captured Bossu.
12. The steam tram to Medemblik
Near the Central Station of Hoorn is the Steam Tram Museum. Here, children can learn everything about how the steam train made its appearance in the Netherlands in 1879.
Even more fun, you can hop on the steam train on the original route to Medemblik. Hop on while the engine driver burns the coal and you take the historic route along typical Dutch villages towards Medemblik with hissing clouds of steam.
If you want to make your day trip complete, you can take the museum boat MS Friesland in Medemblik, which will take you across the IJsselmeer to the port of Enkhuizen.
12. De Bontekoe race
In Hoorn you can experience various events, but the most beautiful one is the Bontekoerace.
This sailing regatta is organised every year in the last weekend of October. The port of Hoorn looks like it did in the heyday of the VOC. Dozens of historic sailing ships prepare for a weekend full of sailing spectacle on Friday evening.
The Saturday starts with a palaver in harbour cafe ‘t Schippershuis, where the last important matters are discussed with the skippers.
On Saturdays and Sundays there is hard sailing and in between there are all kinds of fun events in the harbour and on the quay. From the local brass playing cheesy in the harbour, to old-fashioned children’s games, drinks competitions and the dazzling party in the harbour building. If you like, you will be picked up from your participating sailing ship with one of the whisper boats of the Watertaxi and brought to the party.
Don’t forget to buy a Bontekoe pants, jumper or hat. This not only recognizes you as a real Bontekoe racer but also supports the local entrepreneur and organization of this special event.
City walk Hoorn
- The Harbour [Hoofdtoren]
- Westfries museum
- D’oude Waegh
- Hotel Mariakapel
- Weeshuis tuin
- Hotel de Magneet
- Huis Bonck
- Bossu huizen