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The 10 nicest harbour towns around the IJsselmeer

The traditional harbour towns and villages around the IJsselmeer have a rich history. They also have a completely different character than, for example, the cities in the south of the Netherlands or the Wadden islands.

They all have their own highlights and therefore they are definitely worth a visit. You can do that by car and public transport, but it is even more fun to moor a traditional Dutch Sailing Ship. Below are the 10 nicest harbour cities around the IJsselmeer.

1. Lemmer

Lemmer was once one of the most important fishing villages on the IJsselmeer. Meanwhile, the many fishermen have made way for water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. It is easy to reach from the IJsselmeer, but you can also drive there over land from the Randstad without any problems.

You can already feel the atmosphere when you see the harbor and the city center, full of beautifully restored houses. Many of these date back to the 14th century.

Not only is the cosy town centre full of shops and terraces worth a visit, they have also created a beach here, just like in Enkhuizen, where you can relax on a hot summer day.

In Lemmer you will also find the oldest working steam pumping station in the world, which is on the Unesco World Heritage list for good reason.

A visit to Lemmer would not be complete without a visit to the inn “De Wildeman”, which is truly a national monument. If you are tired of all that historical beauty you rent a bicycle and you are in the woods around Lemmer. A green oasis just a few steps from the town itself.

2. Medemblik

The oldest city in West Friesland is Medemblik and you can already see that when you come sailing. Radboud Castle immediately catches the eye. You don’t even have to disembark to make a selfie with this structure in the background, but visiting the castle is even better!

The oldest city in West Friesland is Medemblik and you can already see that when you arrive. Radboud Castle immediately catches the eye. You don’t even have to disembark to take a selfie with this building in the background, but visiting the castle is even better!

You can also go back in time with a ride on the Steam Train. You can go all the way to Hoorn and end your day with a simple, delicious meal at Muziekcafe Brakeboer. In this famous former hotel you can enjoy the view of authentic sailing ships that are literally on your doorstep.

3. Urk

When the Zuiderzee was formed, Urk became just like that: Schokland, Marken and Wieringen, an island. It was given a dike in the last century and has been located in the drained Noordoostpolder ever since.

The tight-knit community is one that is still very religious today and lives largely from fishing. A look at “the church by the sea” is really a must. This picturesque building dates back to 1600.

When walking through the old harbor, you can’t miss the stunning lighthouse

Climb or view the prominent lighthouse in Urk
This beautiful picture is made by Dineke Visser. View more photos at

If you have the energy you can climb it and for those who stay behind you can still see the anchor of the fleet of Michiel de Ruyter next to the lighthouse.

Are you there on Saturday? Do not miss the Warenmarkt, which is open from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm. There is really everything for sale and it is also frequented by local residents.

Lunch is served at restaurant ‘De Kaap’, where they serve the best fresh dishes with fish from the local fish market. But you can also come here for delicious meat and vegetarian dishes.

Urk has a turbulent history. You will learn all about this in the museum “The old town hall”.

4. Enkhuizen

Enkhuizen harbour is rightfully home to clipper Waterwolf and many other authentic sailing ships. This city is easy to reach by public transport, by car and of course by sailing boat on the water. As soon as you get out of the station, drive up or sail, you immediately see the old city harbour in all its glory.

Enkhuizen was for a long time the third largest town in North Holland and famous for its herring fishing. You can see this in the Zuiderzee Museum. Part of this museum is the Pepper House, in which the VOC was based.

In the Zuiderzeemuseum you will be fascinated in the exciting trade missions of centuries ago. The historic center is also dotted with boutiques and terraces. A lovely place to stroll around

Have you become curious about other towns around the IJsselmeer during your visit to Enkhuizen? Then there is always the possibility to cross with the antique ferry Bep Glasius to Stavoren.

If you come with children, there is Fairytale Wonderland. A beautiful and well-organized amusement park, near the IJsselmeer beach, where you can take a refreshing dip on a hot day.

In October the traditional clipper race takes place here.

5. Makkum

Basket of Makkum, is a famous and notorious interview that toured the world. Also famous is the Makkumer pottery and the historical centre. A walhalla for sailors and other water sports enthusiasts.

With more than 50 national monuments you can enjoy a day or more here. For example, walk to the Museum Farm and experience how Frisian farmers families have lived in the past centuries.

If you get hungry, go to the authentic countryside barn: “It Ferhaal”. Here you can enjoy the panoramic view behind their immense glass windowss and have lunch there or outside on the terrace. Children with you? They can enjoy playing outside in the playground at It Ferhaal.

6. Stavoren

Stavoren originated on the water 300 years before Christ and today with a population of less than a thousand inhabitants, it is truly a place to take a closer look at.

Stavoren is also a former Hanseatic city and one of the eleven cities! The most famous skating competition in the Netherlands.

Stroll along the antique drawbridges and of course a museum about this city’s illustrious past cannot be missed. In the Ponthus, the history of this place is brought back to life.

Many traditional sailing ships use Stavoren as a break spot during a sailing trip. With your feet in the fountain, eating a fish or licking on an ice cream a round through the harbour and then get back on board and continue sailing.

If you come over land, Stavoren is also easy to reach and you can explore the area by bike or on foot.

If you had enough after an afternoon and want to be transported in a fun way, you can also do this with a Bep Glasius in addition to a trip on a traditional sailing boat. This is the ferry that has been sailing back and forth between Stavoren and Enkhuizen since 1886.

7. Hindeloopen

The Hindeloopers! Hindeloopen never had a port, yet they were an important trading location. As early as the 13th century, they sailed their flute ships to the Baltic areas and sold Dutch products such as gin and woollen slippers.

On the way back they traded wood in Amsterdam and the Zaanstreek. Today, this smallest town in the Eleven Cities is a pearl on the IJsselmeer.

To start with the latter, visit the “First Frisian Ice Skating Museum” and find out all there is to know about this sport and its rich history is Friesland.

If you really don’t care, there is alwaysthe Hindeloopen museum where you can find out everything about their language, costumes and the special way in which they painted interiors. For the little ones there is also a fun treasure hunt in the museum.

If you have a little longer, take a look at the ‘de Wolvertine’ nature reserve created in 2013 to give the local flora and fauna a chance to develop further. Sit back and eat delicious food at “De drie harinkjes”. This place has been labeled the best restaurant in Hindeloopen by TripAdvisor.

8. Hoorn

Hoorn was one of the most important VOC cities and there is still much to be found. This old port city looks like an open air museum. You trip over the stepped gables and historical buildings and places.

That is how you quickly bump into Jan Pieterszoon Koen. This statue recalls this controversial figure and his role in the VOC. Behind the imposing Hoofdtoren van Hoorn, you look out on the harbor, which is usually full of traditional sailing ships.

Leaning against the statue of the Boys of Java Ho! adventures, you have an amazing view of the Markermeer and if you are lucky, the replica of the VOC ship Halve Maen is right in front of you.

You can take the steam tram to Medemblik from here if you want to take Slow travelvery literally.

If you prefer to spend a day, read the article about Hoorn in which a city walk is included. They can also inform you about the opening hours of the Westfries museum or the museum of the twentieth century.

You can have a nice drink or snack throughout the city. If you want to dream away at the harbor and watch the sun set behind the moored ships, book a table in the Hoofdtoren itself.

9. Volendam

Once in a lifetime you have to go to Volendam and if you have been there before mooring on a sailing ship is an experience you will never forget. In no time at all you get off the ship on the cosy dike and before you know it you are sitting on a terrace on a tasty herring.

Famous for its eel sound, Volendam produces one successful artist after another and that is noticeable. The tour boat has life-size Jan Smit on the bow and one music café is right next to the other.

The Palingsound museum is not to be missed. Here you will not only learn everything about the musical history of Volendam, but you can also see how eel is smoked here. You would almost forget it if you came there today, but this craft has once put Volendam on the map.

Of course there is also the Volendam Museum, where you can immerse yourself endlessly in the eventful history of this special village.

If you’re feeling hungry, visit the Cheese factory, a museum and cheese factory in one.

For many on the Bucket List: You can be immortalized in the traditional costumes not only for the end result, but also for the fun of dressing up. You will also learn a lot about the origin of the clothing and all attributes here.

10. Marken

The name says it all, the Markermeer is named after it. The Idyllic peninsula of Marken. Because of the many floods, people traditionally built their houses on mounds. These are small hills of land that protect you from the water. This is what makes this place so special, because you cannot see it anywhere else in the world.

In addition to the Marker museum, there is also the wooden shoe factory, here you can see how they make original Dutch wooden shoes from a block of wood.

From afar on the IJsselmeer you can ‘see the Horse of Marken’. This impressive lighthouse is a famous beacon in the Markermeer. It lends itself perfectly to taking beautiful photos as a souvenir for the home front.

Sailing on the IJsselmeer

If you are already a tourist and want to visit one or more port cities on the IJsselmeer, you can choose from various options. Rent a car and drive around the IJsselmeer or take public transport and sleep in a different harbour town every night. Book an organised sailing trip with family, friends or alone and ask the captain to moor per city.

If you want to know if this is something for you, book a last minute weekend in June on a sailing ship. And experience a mini sailing holiday on the IJsselmeer.

Of course we prefer the sailing trip for one or more days. Because the Dutch are known for sailing. If you can do that on an authentic and antique sailing ship, why choose the train or the car? Discover here also the advantages of a summer holiday in the Netherlands.

This post is also available in: Dutch German