Middelburg is a real gem and a perfect weekend break destination. The cities’ rich history, due to its harbour playing a vital role in the VOC (Dutch East India Company) trade, is still depicted in the exuberantly gabled houses, winding cobbled streets and excellent museums. What surprised me most though, was the outstanding gastronomy. Curious? Check out all the top things to do in Middelburg.
- First of all: come to The Netherlands! You can easily get to Middelburg by flying to either Amsterdam or Rotterdam/ The Hague. Compare flights to Amsterdam and flights to Rotterdam/The Hague to see what works best for you.
- From both Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam/ The Hague airport it’s easy enough to travel to Middelburg by train. To travel on Dutch public transport you’ll need an OV Chip Card which you can charge as you go.
- Travelling from the UK, Belgium, Germany or France it’s also worth checking if travelling by train to The Netherlands isn’t cheaper or easier for you.
- There are many beautiful hotels in Middelburg and you’ll find a lot of good options on Airbnb.
- If you’re interested in seeing more of Zeeland, I highly recommend visiting Zierikzee as well.
Ever thought that Roosevelt sounds a little Dutch? Well, that’s because the ancestors of President Roosevelt actually were Dutch, and they were originally from Middelburg. The ties between the family and Middelburg are still strong, as they visit almost every year. The cities Liberal Arts and Sciences College is even named after the family. So it’s no surprise that one of the newest boutique hotels in town was also baptised The Roosevelt. I stayed here during a weekend break in Middelburg and was pleasantly surprised about the warm décor and the cosy atmosphere. Every room has a different design, and they’re all spacious and comfortable. The hotel is situated at the back of the famous abbey.
Another stunning boutique hotel in Middelburg, located in a historical monument. De Sprenck has lovely cosy rooms, spacious and large bathrooms. The hotel has its own parking, which is perfect if you decide to drive to Middelburg. You’ll enjoy all the historical features of the old building as well as the cosy nooks and corners to have a drink after a day of sightseeing.
If you’re planning a holiday in Zeeland and you’d like to visit Middelburg on a day trip, you may prefer staying at a holiday park instead of a hotel. Especially when you’re travelling with your family. Strandpark Zeeland is one of loveliest holiday parks in Zeeland, located right on the Vlissingen beach and just a 20-minute drive from Middelburg. You’ll be able to rent beach houses, glamping lodge tents and chalets at the holiday park.
Middelburg is formed by trade. Even before the Reformation ships loaded with glasswork, art and wine from France, Spain and Italy would drop anchor in Middelburg turning the city into the central-western European marketplace for exotic goods. When Middelburg Commercial Commerce Company started sailing under VOC flag the city truly became a rich city and was, together with Amsterdam, the most important city of the lowlands.
When walking through the dreamy streets you really can’t believe that the entire city centre of Middelburg was pretty much bombed to bits during the Second World War. The city was rebuilt in the same style and you can still feel what life must’ve been like during the 16th century.
The gothic Townhall of Middelburg dominates the market square and a real beauty. The gothic side of the town hall was built in the 15th century, the classical portion dates back to the 17th century. Join one of the daily guided tours (you can buy your tickets at the tourist shop on the market square) to see the ceremonial rooms, the treasures and stunning Belgian tapestries. The Middelburg town hall was voted the most beautiful town hall in The Netherlands. Now, I don’t keep records on all town halls in The Netherlands, but yes: this one is particularly impressive.
The 14th-century tower of the abbey has been baptised as De Lange Jan (because of its hight) and it’s one of the prettiest sights in Middelburg. With its 90 meters, it’s one of the highest church towers in The Netherlands and climbing the 207 steps is well worth the effort as the top of the towers offers an amazing view over the city and its surroundings.
You can’t miss the enormous Abbey complex from the 12 centuries, which contains the regional government, three churches and a museum. The inner courtyard is probably one of the prettiest squares in The Netherlands. You can visit the three churches all at once, by going into the Wandelkerk.
Zeeuw Museum is one of the best regional museums in The Netherlands. It’s housed in the old Abbey. The museum pays exceptional tribute to the historical heritage of Zeeland, with wonderful pieces of art, tapestries and amazing traditional dresses. Please don’t skip the ‘wonderkamers’ (chamber of wonder) on the top floor, true treasure chests filled with the most amazing pieces that came to Middelburg in its Golden Age of trade.
The old harbour
You really can’t miss the old Middelburg harbour. Thanks to the numerous bridges you’ll be treated to some really lovely views over the city. And the harbour is surrounded by the most beautiful 16th-century buildings.
Kloveniersdoelen is one of the most striking monuments in Middelburg. It was built in 1609 and used as a place of exercise for the army. During the French revolution, when the south of The Netherlands was in French hands, it served as a military hospital. Nowadays you can have lunch or dinner in the excellent restaurant or have a drink in the lush gardens. The complex also houses a cinema.
The picturesque courtyard Kuiperspoort is a beautiful hidden gem in Middelburg. It’s situated between Dam and Rouaanse Kaai. The courtyard was built by the coopers guild between 1586 and 1642 when coopers built houses and warehouses. The historical gabled houses and stairwells are all beautifully restored.
Shopping in Middelburg
Middelburg has its fair share of big chain stores, but you can also shop at small boutiques and pretty concept stores. Sint Jansstraat, Herenstraat and Segeerstraat are the best streets to find some great antique, vintage and second-hand shops. Antique shop De Zwarte Leeuw is filled to the brim with fabulous crockery and glassware, while De Zeeuwse Jordaan is the place to buy design furniture and textiles.
What would we be without concept stores these days? I simply love InMiddels as it’s the perfect combination of fun must-haves, like posters, stationery, jewellery and a snug corner to have coffee and cake. Freelancers also love this place to work, making it even more appealing to me (as I often travel by myself for work, and these places are perfect havens). And if you have a bad hair year, get a haircut in the back while you’re at it.
Honeypie is the perfect place to kickstart your day with coffee and breakfast or go for a well-deserved coffee break with cake. Honeypie is situated just outside the old city walls and locals love to go there. I can see why, as it’s much more than just a café. You can grab some knitting and work on a communal scarf or just sit and read while you consume the best cakes, ever.
I have this thing for special bookshops, and especially bookshops that are also cafés (read my article on Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands for inspiration). And Drvkkery in Middelburg is right at the top of my list. Basically, this bookstore is set in a beautiful old building facing the pretty market square. The books are set up in half circles around a café area where they serve the best sandwiches, quiches and salads. A great place for lunch, while you bury yourself in your newly acquired novel.
A policeman turned barista. That’s pretty much the story behind Expresszo. Owner, and ex-policeman, decided to turn a gorgeous abandoned building on Pottenmarkt into his own coffee heaven. His mother makes all the cakes. Also, try the homemade juices and lemonades when you have the chance.
Vriendschap means friendship in Dutch and this warm and wonderful restaurant Vriendschap is near the market square of Middelburg. But it’s much more than just a place where family and friends can hang out and catch up over a meal. Most of the produce, used for all the dishes, is grown on the roof terrace of the restaurant. Vriendschap doesn’t want to spill any food and a lot of fruit and vegetables are pickled and kept, as you can see from all the preserves on the shelves in the back of the restaurant. It’s also the perfect place to sample some local craft beers.
I still feel like making an apology to the staff at Scherp for making ‘nom nom’ noises all through the three courses I had, as everything was simply so amazing. I tried a glass or two Schouwen-Druivenland Blanc+, a dry white wine that is made just around the corner at vineyard De Kleine Schorre. It has just a hint of salty sea air, making this a perfect wine to have with seafood. I am not the only one impressed by this wine, as Dutch airline KLM has chosen Schouwen-Druivenland Blanc+ to serve with their business class menu.
A restaurant, wine bar and wine shop all rolled into one. What’s not to love really. Vliegendt Hert opened its doors in 2017 and is already extremely popular, and I so get why. The setting is perfect in a house dating from 1575, a little majestically but modern. All dishes look clean and bright and taste just as intense. And don’t get me started on the wine!