On my quest to visit every province in the Netherlands, I ended up visiting Middelburg, the Netherlands. This picturesque capital of Zeeland is perfect for anyone who is a history geek and is looking for a side of culture.
In general, I would not recommend a day trip to Middelburg from Holland, but rather at minimum, an overnight stay in Middelburg or a weekend in Middelburg as the train journey can be fairly long (as we learned the hard way). It is definitely worth a visit though…
As mentioned earlier, it takes about 2.5 hours from Amsterdam to reach Middelburg. That’s pretty far by Dutch standards and on my recent trip, construction as well as delays resulted in our trip taking about 3.5 hours from the Hague. As a result, I’d recommend staying overnight in Middelburg. There’s a lot to do in this city and one day felt too short. Zeeland has a lot to offer for food and culture lovers, so don’t miss out on this chance to use Middelburg as a base for a lovely weekend in Middelburg.
This blog post covering some things to do in Middelburg is set up more like a walking tour, so you can opt to pay for admission at the attractions/museums or enjoy walking around. We mostly walked around besides stepping into a few shops.
Where to stay in Middelburg
One of the most unique places to stay in terms of history and location is the boutique hotel, the Roosevelt. Many people don’t know that the Roosevelts (as in the American presidents) originally came from Zeeland. This hotel was set up by his great-grandchildren and it’s right in the heart of the city center.
Things to do in Middelburg
Eat a delicious breakfast
HoneyPie is one of Middelburg’s best places to get lunch. This cozy tea house even has a boat that you can enjoy eating at in summer. I loved the creative sandwich that I had as well as the delicious cake. Choosing a cake might be a bit difficult. The interior is really darling and I ended up picking up some cute fabric to give as a gift.
Go antique shopping
Middelburg is one of the best Dutch cities to shop for antiques. Along Langeviele, you’ll find numerous antique shops to step into. (I recommend carrying extra cash if you intend to buy something.) I especially loved the eccentric collection at Lieve Hemel, which included religious statues, dresses, as well as puppets…
Stroll around the historic city center of Middelburg
The historic center of Middelburg is absolutely stunning. One of my favorite parts of Middelburg was walking around the historic city. This town was originally fortified to protect against the Vikings, however it received city rights in 1217. It has served as a major hub for trade in the Netherlands due to its proximity to Belgium and the short journey to the United Kingdom. Part of the city was destroyed during World War II, but it’s been beautifully rebuilt.
My favorite streets to enjoy in Middelburg were Vlasmarkt, Molenberg, Onder de toren 1, Reigerstraat, and Markt (of course). You’ll find many beautiful streets as you wander the historic city, which is a very romantic thing to do in Middelburg.
Stop for some traditional beverages/souvenirs
You’ll pass a small number of souvenir shops as you’re walking in the historic center. Step into any one of these or a liquor store to pick up some of the unique liquors produced in Zeeland. We especially loved the Zeeuwse babbelaar, which is perfect for putting in your coffee! (The Boluslikeur was nice too.) I was able to pick up two small bottles at Burger Chocolaterie.
De Drvkkery is a really nice independent bookstore in heart of Markt. This bookstore also has a lovely cafe where you can have a fantastic dinner (reserve ahead) as well as cultural events. I was impressed by its thoughtful selection in English and lovely collection of gifts/home goods.
Take in the Stadshal
It’s very hard to miss the iconic former city hall of Middelburg, one of the main attractions of the city. This stunning gothic halls is easily one of the most beautiful halls of the Netherlands. It was completed in 1520 when it was given its many turrets and red/white shutters. It’s now used only for weddings and by the local university, however it’s worth admiring it.
On certain days, including Saturdays, there is a market in the center of Markt where you can purchase fresh herring as well as cheeses with a view of the stunning Gothic building. It’s pretty hard to miss to be fair.
Explore the abbey
The monastery was first created in Middelburg in 1127 when monks from Antwerp moved to Zeeland. It became an abbey in the medieval era although much of the original building has been rebuilt due to fires. The surviving buildings are in the Medieval Gothic style. Many people refer the tower as Lange Jan. It’s possible to climb the tower for views over Middelburg.
The Middelburg Abbey stopped being used as an abbey in 1574 during the Siege of Middelburg. Part of the Spanish surrender included a provision that the clery remained despite the abbey being closed. It was taken over by the local government and remained the “Hof van Zeeland.” It was used as the regional assembly for a period although today, it is part of the Zeeland museum while other parts are still used officially.
I recommend entering the main courtyard in the center, which can be accessed by multiple doors and to find the small herb garden in the center, which is free. It’s a peaceful place to sit admiring the abbey. (You’ll get to view the stunning interior of the abbey as you enter the courtyard.)
Taste some of the best frites in Zeeland
Frietboetiek BT’je Anders has been ranked as one of the best place to eat frites in Zeeland by AD. Even my husband, not the biggest fan of frites, was really impressed by their well salted fries and homemade sauces. (The spicy one was actually spicy!) You can take the fries to go, however the interior is really cozy and worth enjoying.
Stop for a snack and drink with a view
Right underneath Lange Jan, you can enjoy some of Middelburg’s delicious local beer (or a coffee) with a snack at Eetkamer Likkepot. This cozy former hofje is now a lovely cafe with a picturesque courtyard and a homegoods store. It’s the perfect place to relax, get a late lunch (or a snack), and enjoy the moment. I recommend trying the Middelburgs 800 beer.
Browse and learn about history at Middelburg’s most unique jewelry shop
You must step into the shop of Goudsmid Bert van Wijk. This goldsmith is a collector of rare Zeeuwse klederdracht although he has his own unique take on them. His own designs for jewellery are absolutely stunning, so if you’re looking for a unique souvenir from Middelburg, step in here for a ring or earrings. I especially love his creative takes on Zeeuwse klederdracht..
End the day with a local beer (or two)
Middelburg has some fantastic beer. My favorite brown bars that we visited in Middelburg were De Mug, which has a wide selection of Dutch beers, and Stadsbrouwerij Middelburg for a great craft beer selection in a cozy cafe. I especially loved their Forbidden Fruit homemade beer, which is a surprise worth experiencing.
Getting to Middelburg
Visiting Middelburg from Belgium
Middelburg (or Zeeland) is closer to Belgium (especially Ghent) than it is to many major Dutch cities. However, the train connection between Ghent or Bruges isn’t great, which is a bit strange considering how close they are.
I’d recommend renting a car although be advised that the bridges in Zeeland have tolls. Come prepared with some change. (It’s an hour drive from Ghent to Middelburg.)
Visiting Middelburg from Holland
Middelburg is really not so convenient. While taking a road trip across the Netherlands to Flanders in Belgium, we drove past Middelburg as we took a detour in Zeeland to eat seafood in Yerseke. However, if you intend to visit, carve out enough time to park and enjoy this city at its own pace. There’s paid parking close to the train station.
It is very possible to visit Middelburg by train although it takes 2.5 hours hours on a good day. Imagine what it is on a bad day. I was able to get a discounted train ticket to Middelburg from the Hague by looking through the NS latest offerings.
Rather than paying the hefty 25 euros each way, I ended up paying around 9 euros round-trip for our trip to Middelburg. If you take advantage of the NS train ticket specials, you’re likely to find a discounted round trip ticket to Middelburg from Holland for less than 20 euros.