The route through IJlst starts at the colourful fountain that (in summer) sits in the middle of a flower field. A lovely touch, as the fountain itself is a black pot adorned with wild ‘stinzen’ flowers in beautiful colours, which partly literally reflect the city. Behind the fountain, you can see the sails of the three-hundred-year-old wind-powered sawmill De Rat, which is still in full operation. Visit the mill and see for yourself how the centuries-old sawmill craft is kept alive here. This sets the tone for the rest of the route, during which you will see the dream of craftsmen again and again.
Further along the water, you will find the modern Museum en Houtwerkplaats Houtstad IJlst, where you can learn about the wood industry and shipbuilding, which were important economic activities here. Continue the route, across the car park towards the Westergoaleane, where after a hundred meters you can follow a footpath along the water. At the end of the footpath, in the corner of the field, there is a small playground with an outdoor exhibition that tells about the history of IJlst. If you stay on the path, you will see the Fierljep club in front of you. Fierljeppen is a sport for real daredevils. Using a long pole, you ‘ljep’ (jump) over the water as far as possible. Luckily, there is also a small bridge, so that you can get easily to the other side to continue the route.
You are now on your way to the waterside gardens. Left and right from you, beautiful green gardens stretch out to the water, impressive old houses behind them. In the summer, the white rails of the canal bridges are adorned with flowers, which makes the view even more dreamy and picturesque. During the season, the gardens are used for events and markets. Now, cross over to the Mauritius church. Inside, this church is remarkably light and it has a beautiful organ from the 17th century.
Turn left before the church, to walk past the beautiful gardens and houses. Because the street is very narrow, traffic is one-way only and the end of the street is even completely car-free. Nice and quiet. At the last bridge, cross to the other side, and walk back via Galamagracht. At the intersection, you will find the old town hall of IJlst. A beautiful stately building, now a private residence.
At the end of Galamagracht, you will pass a few lovely 17th-century cottages. Further on, there is the Geeuwbrug bridge. In summer it’s always crowded here, because only twenty boats can pass through at a time.
Now walk back again. On your right, you will see the remains of the tower of wood factory Nooitgedagt. For decades, the factory was market leader in designing and making skates, children’s toys and especially tools. The factory was widely known for its wooden skates. Funny, because skates and wooden toys were actually only minor products of IJlst’s largest employer.
Follow the road again along the waterside gardens, the canal on your left this time. Cross the first bridge you come across, turn left, and turn right at the intersection. Cross the tall bridge past the car park, to return to the street where you started this route. Near the fountain, an inviting spot to relax is the terrace of café De Útherne. Here, you can also listen to the murmuring water of the fountain. All restaurants and cafés in IJlst can be found here.