Whenever I think of Friesland, I think of water. This region is home to hundreds of kilometres of waterways and the astonishing Wadden Sea shore. We will guide you through highlights of our history and our present, ranging from charming IJsselmeer towns to magnificent structures that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage. Open your heart to the diversity of water in what we believe is the most beautiful region of The Netherlands!
Day 1: Arriving in Friesland
Arrival to the accommodation in the late afternoon. Take a stroll around town and enjoy a drink by the waterside.
Day 2: The IJsselmeer
Today we explore the Ijsselmeer area. First up is the Ir. D. F. Woudagemaal, the oldest and still functioning steam pumping station in the world. This majestic machine is nearly a hundred years old, and it's still used to lower the water level in Friesland’s waterways. In the visitor centre and during the guided tour, you will learn all about Friesland’s battle against wind and water, and why this steam pumping station is still very important, both regionally and nationally. In the afternoon, we’ll pay a visit to the picturesque towns of Stavoren and Hindeloopen. Stavoren is completely surrounded by water, and is one of the 11 cities of the legendary Frisian Elfstedentocht ice-skating tour. In Stavoren, we will visit the extensive Hooglandgemaal, also a pumping station. Unlike the Woudagemaal, the Hooglandgemaal is electronic. This town also harbours a beautiful former town hall, and by the Lady of Stavoren, our guide will tell us the tragic tale of a rich widow that grew very poor. Next up is Hindeloopen, also one of the 11 cities of the Elfstedentocht. We’ll take a tour by foot through the historical town centre, which is rich in authentic residences. Our final destination of the day is the Eerste Friese Schaatsmuseum, an ice-skating museum. This museum has the biggest collection of ice skates and sleds in the world. There is also an Elfsteden Hall that contains a lot of information about the famous Frisian ice-skating tour. After our visit to the museum, there are several options for supper.
Day 3: The Afsluitdijk, Makkum and Harlingen
The IJsselmeer has more highlights to offer. We’ll start our day with the Afsluitdijk and the Wadden Sea, an UNESCO World Heritage site. The Afsluitdijk is a major causeway that separates the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. It is situated between Noord-Holland and Friesland and connects the two provinces. This causeway, which is 32 kilometres in length, is an important part of the Netherlands’ battle against floods. In March of 2018, the experience centre on the Afsluitdijk opens, that will treat us to an exhibition and a 4Dexperience. Not far from the Afsluitdijk, we find Makkum. Up until the Afsluitdijk was completed, this fisherman’s town was by the Zuiderzee. Makkum’s location allowed the town to grow into a substantial trade centre. However, as the Zuiderzee silted, the harbour became more and more difficult to reach, and eventually became unattainable. The town’s income plummeted. Today, Makkum is by the IJsselmeer and its inhabitants have switched to tourism. Makkum is also known for it exquisite ceramics and its splendid monumental merchant houses. Only a twenty-minute drive away, by the Wadden Sea, we find Harlingen, the only Frisian seaport. Harlingen was founded in the Viking ages, and is one of the oldest Frisian 11 cities. Its location by the sea is strategic, which has continually ensured the town of extensive trade. We will take a walk through the city centre, where we will encounter many a monumental building. It is almost as though we leaped back in time. In Harlingen, the historical ship Willem Barendsz is being reconstructed. The aim is to use historical construction techniques as much as possible. Next to the ship, we find the visitor centre. During the evening, there are several options for supper.
Day 4: Sneek and Alde Feanen
After spending 2 days in the area surrounding the Ijsselmeer, we leave the seaside to explore another part of Friesland, that is also closely connected to water. Sneek and
water are two peas in a pot. But this vibrant town by the Sneekermeer has a lot more to offer than just aquatics. The wonderful monumental buildings and the picturesque scenery will wow us during a guided tour that takes us to the Waterpoort, the town hall and the Martini church. In the Scheepvaartmuseum, the museum of historical shipping, we will learn about the history of Frisian shipping in the 17th through the 21st century. In the afternoon, we’ll continue our day in Eernewoude (Earnewâld). This town is situated right by the National Park the Alde Feanen, a bog area with lakes, reed and swamps. We’ll have a look in the visitor centre and take a boat trip in this breath taking National Park. During the evening, there are several options for supper.
Day 5: Leeuwarden European Capital of Culture 2018
When visiting Friesland, one can simply not skip Leeuwarden. Leeuwarden has been elected to be European Capital of Cultural in 2018. It will be an exhilarating year in which many activities and exciting projects take place. A local guide will introduce us to monumental buildings, historical streets and authentic alleys. And of course we will encounter the Oldehove tower, the National Museum of Ceramics Princessehof, the Prinsentuin, the Grote Kerk, the town hall and the Stadhouderlijk Hof. In the afternoon, we will visit the Fries Museum, that does not only host its regular collection, but also leading exhibitions that are linked to European Capital of Culture. You can visit an exhibition about Mata Hari, the Leeuwarden double agent, or M.C. Escher, the master of graphic art and illusions, who was also born in Leeuwarden.
Day 6: going home
Today we say goodbye to Friesland and head home.
Why not take a day trip to the Wadden Islands Terschelling and Vlieland while in Harlingen? You can easily take the ferry from there to one of the islands. All towns by the Ijsselmeer offer boat trips. You can even have lunch or supper on board! The same goes for Leeuwarden. During this trip, you can also sail from town to town, rather than traveling by bus. You can adjust the programme depending on the town you stay in.
Connecting Water Tour Highlights
Friesland on a round trip boat
From the water all elements of Friesland can be viewed as the boat passes all the important sights.
Unesco World Heritage Woudagemaal
The Woudagemaal in Lemmer the biggest, still working steam-driven pumping station in the world.
Contact: Maaike Talsma
11 Must Sees
Get inspired when putting together your itinarary by this list of Must Sees.