Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Middelburg, Netherlands
Middelburg, capital of the province of Zeeland, lies on the Veere-Vlissingen Canal on the former island of Walcheren, surrounded by a star-shaped ring of grachten and canals.
It is an important market and commercial center for an extensive agricultural area. Major contributions are also made to the town's economy by industry (electrical engineering, chemicals, metal-processing) and the tourist trade.Middelburg is one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands, with origins going back to Carolingian times, when it enjoyed a first period of prosperity. Walcheren was able to beat off raids by the Norsemen thanks to its three strongholds - in the dunes to the north the Domburg, to the south the Souburg and in the center of the island the Middleburg. Later, in 1121, Norbertine monks established themselves here and founded the abbey, around which a settlement of fishermen and merchants grew up. In 1217 Middelburg was granted a municipal charter, and thereafter it developed into an important trading town, famed for its cloth industry and as an entrepot for French wares. In 1561 it became the see of a bishop. At about the same time, however, its economic decline began, when the silting up of the Arne made it increasingly difficult to use the harbor. In 1574 Middelburg was captured by William the Silent's forces.During the 17th century many Antwerp merchants settled in Middelburg, and the town entered into competition with Amsterdam. This second period of prosperity was brought to an end by the French occupation, and even the construction of a new harbor in 1817 could not halt the town's decline. On May 17th, 1940 the town suffered heavy damage in a German air attack, but the major buildings and streets (Spanjaardstraat, Bellinkstraat, Herenstraat, etc.) which were destroyed were almost all restored in the original style after the war. In 1975 Middelburg's successful restoration policy earned it the designation of "European Heritage City".
In the center of Middelburg are two concentric rings of streets, on the line of the old grachten constructed to strengthen the town's defenses as it grew steadily larger over the centuries. From these inner rings a number of streets lead out to a U-shaped outer circuit of grachten with the open end to the north. Farther out again is the line of the old fortifications, bounded on the south side by the Walcheren Canal, which links the town with the open sea.
In the Markt stands the Town Hall (Stadhuis), one of the most beautiful Gothic secular buildings in the Netherlands, built between 1452 and 1458 by members of the Keldermans family. Between 1506 and 1520 a Meat Hall (meat market) and a tower were added, and in 1670 and 1780-84 there were further additions in neo-classical style. The Town Hall was almost completely destroyed in the 1940 bombing, but after the war was rebuilt in the original style. On the facade of 1512- 13, most of which survived the bombing, are figures of 25 Counts and Countesses of Zeeland and Holland, under canopies surmounted by fabulous animals. The windows and doors are closed by red and white shutters - a common practice in the Middle Ages, when windows were not glazed.
Address: Markt, Netherlands
Town Hall Interior
The interior of the Town Hall is open to the public. Above the old Meat Hall (now occupied by an exhibition of modern art) is the imposing Burgerzaal (Burghers' Hall), originally the town's first Cloth Hall, which is now used for civic receptions and other great occasions and as a concert hall. Items of particular interest include pictures, Bruges tapestries on mythological themes and a bronze model of Admiral de Ruyter's flagship.
From the Markt in Middelburg the Langeviele runs southwest to the Achter de Houttuinen gracht, on which is the Kloveniersdoelen, built between 1607 and 1611 in Flemish Renaissance style as the headquarters of a marksmen's guild (a klovenier was a long musket). Until 1798 the building was occupied by the Van den Bus marksmen's guild, and thereafter it was for many years a military hospital. In 1735 the tower was destroyed when it was struck by lightning; it was rebuilt more than two centuries later, in 1969.
Abbey of Our Lady
The Abbey of Our Lady was originally built in the 16th C. It was later secularized and served as seat of the provincial administration. Many of the buildings were rebuilt following bombing in WWII.
Just north of the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Abdij stands St Jorisdoelen, the guild house of the marksmen's guild of St George. The facade (1582), bearing the arms of Middelburg, Zeeland and the marksmen's guild, was rebuilt in its original form in 1969-70. On the gable is a figure of St George. The building now houses the employment exchange. In front of St Jorisdoelen, in Balansplein, is a fountain which plays in summer and is illuminated after dark.
From St Jorisdoelen, St Pieterstraat and Wagenaarstraat lead into Hofplein, in which are the Law Courts of Middelburg, housed in a mansion of 1765 with wrought-iron window grilles which was once occupied by Van der Perre, governor of Zeeland.
On the north side of Middelburg, on Molenwater, is Miniatuur Walcheren, a large model of Walcheren (c. 7,000 sq.m/8,400 sq.yd; scale 1:20), showing the town's historic buildings and other features (200 buildings in all) in appropriate settings. Even the Veerse Meer is represented, with boats operated by remote control. The model was originally made in 1954 by hundreds of local people for an exhibition on the reconstruction of the island.
Address: Koepoortlaan 1, Middelburg, Zeeland 4331 RX, Netherlands
Near the Miniatuur Walcheren is the Koepoort (Cow Gate; 1735), the only one of the old town gates which still survives.
To the southeast of the Koepoort stands the Baroque Oostkerk (1647-67; Reformed), the town's first Baroque building, designed by Pieter Post and Arent van 's- Gravenzande.
Tilting at the Ring
Tilting at the Ring in traditional costume, on horseback and with decorated coaches.
Middelburg hosts the annual Middelburg Jazz Festival held each March which attracts visitors from all over the country.
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