The M in Middelburg definitely stands for ‘monumental’. The capital of Dutch coastal province Zeeland has a very rich history, which seeps from every museum, cobbled street and square. Whether you’re on a road trip through The Netherlands or visiting the Dutch coast for a few days, a day (or two) in Middelburg should be on your list.
Once upon a time, Middelburg was the second city of The Netherlands, like Amsterdam’s second. The city was founded in the 9th or 10th century but started to gain power some three to four centuries later when the city became an important trading hub. During the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) Middelburg played a momentous part in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). During the Second World War, most of the historical city centre was completely bombed to bits, but it was all restored in the same style, making a stroll through Middelburg feel like a walk through history.
My favourite 7 things to do in Middelburg
The Zeeuws Museum is probably one of the best regional museums in The Netherlands and is situated in the cities old abbey, dating back to the 12th century. The giant complex also contains three churches and the regional government. But if you can tear yourself away from the pretty gothic arches and shutters, the Zeeuws Museum will offer exceptional regional treasures, such as traditional dresses, tapestries and jewellery.
Middelburg town hall was voted the most beautiful town hall of The Netherlands. And while I don’t keep score cards on town halls, it must be said that the Middelburg town hall is a pretty impressive piece of historic architecture with a gothic front façade and classical sides from the 17th century. You can join a guided tour (tickets are €5 and sold in the tourist shop on the market) so you can see the splendid halls and tapestries inside.
Coffee and cake at Honeypie
HoneyPie is located along a canal and a local’s favourite for coffee and brunch. The interior is colourful and coffee and cakes are served in and on vintage gold rimmed crockery. Grab a seat by the window, a newspaper or a bit of knitting, while having a piece of famous carrot cake or red velvet cake and watch people go by.
Kuiperspoort is a lovely Middelburg hidden gem, near Rouaanse Kaap. The secluded courtyard looks like your typical Dutch postcard, with gabled houses, rose bushes and red and white wooden shutters. It was built in the 16th century by members of the coopers guild that had their home and warehouses there.
Lunch at Kloveniersdoelen
You really can’t miss Kloveniersdoelen when you visit Middelburg, as it’s one of the cities must-sees. It was built in the early 17th century as a place of exercise for the garrison and later it served as a military hospital. Nowadays Kloveniersdoelen has a cultural purpose. There’s a restaurant, cafés, secluded garden and a cinema.
Antiques, vintage and second-hand shopping
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.
Sleeping in The Roosevelt
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.