Zwolle, the compact capital of Overijssel about 85km from Amsterdam, is on the up. Not so long ago, it was a dowdy sort of place, but it has recently attracted substantial investment and the results are plain to see in a flush of modern buildings and the revival of its old harbour, which is now jammed with sailing boats and vintage canal barges.

An ancient town, Zwolle achieved passing international fame when Thomas à Kempis settled here in 1399. Thereafter, it went on to prosper as one of the principal towns of the Hanseatic League, its burghers commissioning an extensive programme of public works designed to protect its citizens and impress their rivals. Within the city walls, German textiles were traded for Baltic fish and grain, or more exotic products from Amsterdam like coffee, tea and tobacco. The boom lasted some two hundred years, but by the middle of the seventeenth century the success of Amsterdam and the general movement of trade to the west had undermined its economy – and Zwolle slipped into a sort of provincial reverie from which it is now emerging with much of its old centre intact and well preserved. Unusually, Zwolle’s moat has survived in fine fettle, encircling the centre and overlooked by nine, seventeenth-century earthen bastions that once protected the city. These bastions are seen to fine advantage on the walk in from the train station with fountains playing in the moat and the fortifications clearly visible among the trees.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Netherlands features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Amsterdam

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Amsterdam

Almost 50 years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono promoted world peace from room 702 of the Hilton, Amsterdam’s hotels are more worthy of the spotlight than ev…

26 Apr 2018 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Leeuwarden: the coolest Dutch city you’ve never heard of

Leeuwarden: the coolest Dutch city you’ve never heard of

By nature of its design, there is something immutable about Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland in the Netherlands’ northwesternmost province. Hemmed in by h…

20 Feb 2018 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
7 Dutch cities to explore beyond Amsterdam

7 Dutch cities to explore beyond Amsterdam

Amsterdam — with its museums, gabled Golden Age houses and network of historic canals — is a sure bet for a weekend break. But it's not all the Netherlands…

20 Feb 2018 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs