Sea heroes and sea trade
The fountain of the coastal town of Harlingen sits, very appropriately, in the seaport. An impressive life-size sperm whale lies here in the water as if lost, now and then spouting a metre-high jet of seawater into the air. The whale refers to the time when Harlingen gained its wealth from whaling. This source of income, now unthinkable, represented a golden era for Harlingen.
Continue your way along the quay. On your left you will see a replica of Expedition Ship Willem Barentsz, built by volunteers using traditional techniques. Willem Barentsz was the first captain ever to sail to Nova Zembla, where he and his crew stranded and spent the winter. They can rightly be called naval heroes. To have a look on board, you need to make an appointment, but also when watching it from the quay it is an impressive ship.
Continue the route northwards until you reach the Waddenpromenade. After you have crossed the pedestrian bridge, turn right to walk along part of the inner harbour. Further on, you will find Grand Café De Waddenpromenade on your left. Here you can wave at the boats that are on their way to, or are returning from, the island of Terschelling. Now turn right and follow the street Prinsenstraat into the city. The Prins Hendrik bridge offers beautiful views of the harbours on your left and right. Harlingen is home to the largest Brown Fleet (traditional charter ships) in the Netherlands. The historic ships here (and in other inner harbours) add charm and still sail to the sea weekly.
Turn left on Havenplein, which will take you into the main street of Harlingen. This is a charming cobbled street with beautiful façades, boutiques, quaint little cafés and a lot of activity. At the end of this long street, you will find Museum Hannemahuis, which focuses on the history of Harlingen, but also features temporary art exhibitions.
Follow the street that is now split in two by a canal and walk past the old Pottery and Tile Factory, which nowadays can only be visited by appointment. Tiles that were made here adorn the building’s façade. At the end of this street, turn into Heiligeweg. Follow this street until the intersection with Grote Kerkstraat, where you turn left. At the church Grote Kerk, turn left into Kerkpad and follow this street all the way to Rozengracht, which you follow to the right until you reach the street Zuiderplein.
Cross over to the other side of the water, and walk along the marina for a bit before turning left into the Schoolstraat. Go straight, via the streets Werfpad and Westerzeedijk, to the Harlingen beach. You will recognize the beach by the Stone Man on the dyke, that used to serve as a border post. If you lived on the other side of it, you were considered an ‘outer dyker’ and paid more tax.
From this dyke and on the Harlingen beach you are treated to a lovely view of the Wadden Sea and the island of Terschelling on the other side. An ideal place to catch a breath of fresh air and children can imagine themselves to be sea heroes. End the day at the Brouwdok brewery or fish restaurant Vitamine Zee and wave to the Whale one more time before you go home. All restaurants and cafes in Harlingen can be found here.