Once a Zuider Zee port of some renown, tiny Elburg, 17km southwest of Zwolle, abuts the Veluwemeer, the narrow waterway separating the mainland from the Oostelijk Flevoland polder. In recent years, the town has become a popular day-trip destination, awash with visitors who come here to wander the old streets, a handsome collection of brick cottages bleached ruddy-brown by the elements beneath dinky pantile roofs. Elburg is also full of cafés and restaurants, some of whom serve the local delicacy, smoked eel.
Elburg was a successful port with its own fishing fleet from as early as the thirteenth century, but the boom times really began in the 1390s when the governor, a certain Arent thoe Boecop, redesigned the whole place in line with the latest developments in town planning, imposing a central grid of streets encircled by a protective wall and moat. Not all of Elburg’s citizens were overly impressed – indeed the street by the museum is still called Ledige Stede, literally “Empty Way” – but the basic design, with the notable addition of sixteenth-century ramparts and gun emplacements, survived the decline that set in when the harbour silted up, and can still be observed today. Elburg’s two main streets are Beekstraat, which forms the northeast–southwest axis, and Jufferenstraat/Vischpoortstraat, which runs southeast–northwest; they intersect at right angles to form the main square, the Vischmarkt.