Road trip in The Netherlands: along 9 Hansa Towns

Hansa Towns, The Netherlands | Discover 9 Hansa Towns on a road trip in The Netherlands (photo: KampenPartners)

9x Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: plan your road trip

When Amsterdam was still a tiny settlement, nine cities in the east of The Netherlands were blooming trading ports of great importance. What did they have in common? Their location along the river IJssel. The cities of Deventer, Zwolle, Kampen, Doesburg, Harderwijk, Elburg, Zutphen, Hattem and Hasselt formed the Hansa Towns in The Netherlands. These nine gorgeous historical towns are the perfect destination for a road trip in The Netherlands.  

Plan your road trip The Netherlands

Road trip The Netherlands, along Hansa Towns in The Netherlands (photo: Judith Elders ©NBTC Merel Tuk)

Hansa Town, road trip in The Netherlands (photo: Gemeente Doesburg, Arjan Almekinders)

  • If you don’t have your own car with you, rent a car for your road trip in The Netherlands. 
  • If you’d rather travel by public transport, several Hansa Towns are easy to reach by train. You can travel to Zwolle, Kampen, Deventer, Zutphen and Harderwijk by train. A OV Chip Card is nice to have when you travel by public transport in The Netherlands. 
  • There are many lovely hotels in the Hansa Towns. Below I will tell you where to stay in each city. Do book ahead as the Hansa Towns are popular destinations for both Dutch as foreign visitors. 

Vakantiepark Landgoed ‘t Loo

Photo: Landal Landgoed 't Loo

Photo: Landal Landgoed 't Loo

During your road trip in The Netherlands you can drive from Hansa Town to Hansa Town and stay in several different cities, this is a fun experience. There are quite some pretty hotels along the route. But if you’d rather discover the Dutch Hansa Towns from a holiday park, Vakantiepark Landgoed ‘t Loo not only has the perfect location for your road trip, but has all the facilities for a lovely holiday in The Netherlands. This holiday park has beautifully, recently renovated holiday cottages. The location is perfect: close to all Hansa Towns, but also near Veluwe and famous ‘t Loo Castle. The park has a great swimming pool, water park and play facilities for kids of several ages, as well as 

About Hansa Towns in The Netherlands

Hansa Towns, The Netherlands (graphic by Visit Oost/ Hanzesteden)

The Hansa Towns (or Hanzesteden) in The Netherlands are true hidden gems. The Hansa Towns follow the IJssel river along the edge of the IJsselmeer. Deventer, Zwolle, Kampen, Doesburg, Harderwijk, Elburg, Zutphen, Hattem and Hasselt were all part of the Hanseatic League, which formed a powerful trade network from the 11th century on that crossed from Portugal to the Baltic states. Many of you will know Hansa cities like Bremen and Hamburg, but the Dutch Hansa Towns are each well-worth discovering. They are filled with historical monuments and have cosy city centres with lots to discover.

5x why you should visit Hansa Towns in The Netherlands

Street art Hansa Towns, The Netherlands. Photo by: De Strakke Hand - Robert Oosterbroek

  • The Hanseic cities are relatively small and have compact city centres. Everything is within walking distance.
  • The distance between the Dutch Hansa Towns is short: it’s possible to combine a visit to two towns in one day, especially the smaller ones like Elburg, Doesburg, Hattem and Hasselt.
  • The Dutch Hansa Towns are a chocolate box of culture with excellent museums, nice galeries and theaters.
  • Street art lovers will really enjoy the brand new murals in the Dutch hanseic cities which were made by well-known Dutch street artists and collectives and designed to unite past and present.
  • The Dutch Hansa Towns are a gastronomic paradise. Because of the proximity to both IJssel river and IJsselmeer seafood and fish is especially good in these parts, plus The Netherland’s renowned 3 star Michelin restaurant De Librije is located in Zwolle. 

9x Hansa Towns, The Netherlands


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Deventer | Your Dutch Guide

Start your road trip in The Netherlands in Deventer, one of the loveliest Hansa Towns and one of my favourite cities in The Netherlands. It’s a bustling city which hosts the famous book festival in summer and the Dickens Festival the second weekend of December. Wander the historical streets of the Berg Quarter, shop at the colourful indie shops, taste the wholesome Deventer koek and have a local beer at the DAVO brewpub.


Hattem, The Netherlands (photo: Marketing Oost, Gijs Versteeg)

Hattem may be small, but it’s close to the biggest national park in The Netherlands: Hoge Veluwe National Park, a hiker’s and cyclists’s paradise. Hattem is over 800 years old and has several historical monuments to admire, like the Romanesque with foundations that were laid in the 13th century. Furthermore, the small town has no less than 3 museums.


Elburg, The Netherlands. Photo: MarketingOost, Gijs Versteeg

Elburg is one of the smallest of the Dutch Hansa Towns, yet it’s such a jewel that it shouldn’t be missed during your road trip in The Netherlands. There are dozens of historical monuments and historical buildings to see, as well as the moats and old city walls.


Road trip The Netherlands, along Hans Towns in The Netherlands (photo: KampenPartners)

Kampen is probably the most beautifully located of the Hansa Towns, along the IJssel river. The views when you enter the city, both by train or car, will simply take your breath away. Almost 500 monuments remind us today of a rich a glorious past. A stroll along the historic city gates, discovering the hidden courtyards and stumbling onto some coloutful Art Nouveau is definitely a treat. Whe the reconstructed Kogge ships set sail, better hurry to the waterfront for a good view of this spectactle.

  • Boetiekhotel Kampen is set in a pretty Art Nouveau building.
  • Stedelijk Museum Kampen gives a good explenation on how the Hansa Towns flourished and what they are about today. 
  • Ikonenmuseum Kampen hosts a fine collection of Russian Orthodox icons, though I preferd the more contemporary exhibit of Henk Helmantel.
  • Historical cigar factory De Olifant is unique in The Netherlands.


Road trip The Netherlands: Zwolle (photo by: MarketingOost)

Zwolle is the largest of the Hansa Towns in The Netherlands. The star-shaped canal and fortification around the old city are stunning and you should absolutely check out the historical Sassenpoort, the only historical city gate remaining. Inside the walls, Zwolle holds great museums, colourful boutiques and amazing restaurants (one of them being Michelin star restaurant De Librije).


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Harderwijk | Your Dutch Guide

Harderwijk is located on the edge of Hoge Veluwe National Park and Veluwemeer. There is plenty to see and do as the historical town has 100 national monuments and the entire old town has been declared a protected monument. Take a seat and have something to drink at the cosy market square or at the city beach to take in the unique atmosphere of Harderwijk.

    • Hotel Monopole is a newly renovated hotel with promenade views and an excellent restaurant.
    • Visit Marius van Dokkum Museum, located in a stunning old building, to admire the colourful and fun expressionist art.
    • Shop vintage household supplies and textiles at  Eef & Co.
    • Taste the finest patisserie at Patrijs.


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Hasselt (photo: MarketingOost - Gijs Versteeg)

Don’t confuse Hansa Town Hasselt with the Belgium city of Hasselt. Though they’re both pretty historical towns, they do have totally different characters. Hasselt in The Netherlands is also known as ‘Little Amsterdam’ and when you take in the canals, bridges, quays and locks in the small city centre, there is no question why. Even the canals are named the same as their Amsterdam big brothers, so do take a walk along Heerengracht and Prinsengracht in Hasselt or take a boat trip to take it all in.

  • Hasselt is a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.
  • Order lunch, overlooking the water, at De Linde.


Road trip, The Netherlands: Zutphen | Your Dutch Guide

Even though Zutphen is one of the grandest of all Hanse Towns in The Netherlands, its origins date back to roman time. The city has a spectacular skyline, best to be seen from the water. The museums, indie shops, cosy market square and excellent restaurants are a visitor-magnet. Zutphen should not be missed during a road trip in The Netherlands. 

  • Hotel Broederenklooster is a stunning boutique hotel in Zutphen, set in an old cloyster.
  • The best way to discover Zurphen is by boat.
  • Step inside the Zutphen library as it is set in a stunning old church building.


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Doesburg (photo: MarketingOost)

Doesburg is one of the most magnificent fortified, historical and an absolute must-visit during a road trip in The Netherlands. Even nowadays the wealth and importance of days gone by is still very visible. Simply wandering the cobbled streets and taking in the stunning historical buildings is a treat.

Hansa Towns
Road trip in The Netherlands
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Hansa Towns: road trip in The Netherlands (photo: KampenPartners & De Strakke Hand -Robert Oosterbroek)
Hansa Towns, road trip in The Netherlands (photo by: Roy Kappert)

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  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 4:03 am

    All such wonderful unique towns. Have pinned this for later in hopes that one day I will get to the Netherlands. Thanks Esther 😉

  • Reply
    California Globetrotter
    November 15, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Loving these Hansa towns! Was recently in Gdansk (coming on Monday!) and it really had a similar feeling to Amsterdam and that’s also because they were part of the Hanseatic League! Pinning these for later!!

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Funnily enough, Gdanks has been on my wishlist for quite some time!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

    That sounds like such a great road trip route! Love the pictures and I also think it’s great that you don’t need a car but can take the train too!

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Yes Lisa, this goes for a lot of places in The Netherlands. You can discover loads of places, as everything is pretty close together. No excuses not to go exploring 😉

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Ahhh I am in Amsterdam right now and already hoping I can return someday (not too far) in the future and explore more of the Netherlands. This would be a great start!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Never visited that part of the country, it looks pretty. Bookmarking!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    We didn’t get to any of them but I wish we did. Your pics are very appealing!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2017 at 3:57 am

    I have heard about the Hanseatic League but didn’t know the term Hansa was used to describe towns that were part of it. It is difficult to choose favorites but i liked Zutphen a lot. I can see how this is a popular road trip route.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Ah yes, Zutphen is very cute!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    It is a nice roadtrip to take. We enjoy visiting the cities and seeing how much the Dutch love the water. It is really part of their daily live

  • Reply
    November 17, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Wow – the legacy of the Hanseatic League was very much in evidence when I visited Bergen recenly, but I have to confess, I didn’t know much about its origins. And now I have another top destination in mind, for when we next travel to the Netherlands. Thanks for the introduction!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    What a wonderful collection of towns! I loved our visit to The Netherlands last year, and sincerely hope I get back there soon! When that happens I’ll definitely be visiting some of these gems! Hasselt sounds wonderful, I’m choosing that one as my favorite.

  • Reply
    Wendy Maes
    November 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Ik leer op jouw blog zoveel over plaatsen die zo dicht bij huis zijn. Ik heb echt tijd te kort!

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Het leuke is dat je al een hoop op een weekend kunt zien 😉 (En hé, ik moet nog zo veel zien in Vlaanderen, hoewel ik er uit de buurt kom)

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Thanks for letting me know about Hansa Towns. I’ve heard of the Hanseatic League, but not about these towns.
    There seem to be so many interesting things to see in the Netherlands. I began making a list of places I’d love to visit there.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

      I totally see why the towns get overlooked, as they are not as grand as the larger Hansa cities, like Hamburg. But oh, these small places are worth a visit!

  • Reply
    Elaine J Masters
    November 19, 2017 at 5:30 am

    These villages are so full of history and beautiful architecture. I’ve never heard of the Hansa Towns. It’s time I get to the Netherlands.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2017 at 9:41 am

      Oh, I hope you make it here one day!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Esther, This is such a lovely guide! I loved reading it and will totally be referring back to it when I travel to the Netherlands.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Wow! Is there any town in the Netherlands that isn’t picturesque? I feel like I need to go there and spend a month just wandering and exploring all these wonderful towns.

    • Reply
      November 20, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      LOL! Don’t tempt me to make a list of soulless Dutch towns, I know loads. But then, I often just pretend they don’t exist and focus on the pretty ones 😉

  • Reply
    Vanessa Brune
    November 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve spent a week sailing on the JIjssel lake on a school trip and we visited lots of little villages along the way. I guess I need to come back one day to explore the area properly!

    • Reply
      November 20, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      That sounds like an awesome trip! Sounds like you know the area already!

  • Reply
    November 20, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I’d love to visit ALL of these, Esther! Doesburg and Hattem both look so pretty, I’ll pick those to visit first. Fabulous discoveries again for

  • Reply
    Jim Boate
    November 21, 2017 at 1:08 am

    We first discovered Deventer while on a cycling holiday many years ago. We have been back several times, it is a great central spot to visit several of the Hansa towns that are less than a days bike ride away.
    We love to go down to De Brink (city square) in the evening for a glass of wine. We are now fortunate to have friends living in this beautiful city.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 8:15 am

      That’s very cool Jim! The best way to discover The Netherlands is by bike (weather permitting!). And Brink is a great place for a drink!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Once again, I’m left feeling inspired by these picturesque Dutch towns that I’d never heard of before! Thanks so much for sharing. Loved seeing the old-school sailboats on the water! Do you think it’s worth staying overnight in any of these towns or would a day trip suffice?

    • Reply
      November 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      I think if you’d only want to visit one of these towns a day trip is enough, though it would be worth to see a couple more and stay one or two nights in one of the larger cities, like Deventer or Zwolle.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Going on a road trip in the Netherlands sounds like an awesome idea, Esther. I’ve lived in Amsterdam for two years and exploring these hidden gems was not something I did. So, I’ve got another reason to go there soon.

  • Reply
    Mini Travellers
    November 23, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve never visited this part of the Netherlands but I think it looks incredibly pretty. I love the fact that you can be car less too if you lilke.

  • Reply
    Travelling With Our Kids
    November 24, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    These towns look so pretty. We havent been to this part of the Netherlands but we plan to go back one day. We also love road trips so this is right up our street! Great article 🙂 #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Ok this is totally architecture heaven! The photos look absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to visit and do a road-trip out there! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week! xo

  • Reply
    November 29, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    We visited the Netherlands this summer and loved it, lots of reasons to return and now the Hanseatic towns too #FarawayFiles

  • Reply
    November 30, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    All these stops on your road trip truly demonstrate unique charm and beauty in their own right. I would definitely explore each of them and take a heap of photos!

  • Reply
    Erin Gustafson
    November 30, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Oh this looks like the perfect itinerary to explore little town Netherlands. They are all adorable and I can’t pick just one. Love the harbor with the historic boats – looks just amazing. Thanks for sharing this lesser known part of your beautiful country.

  • Reply
    Ray Anthony Pinoy
    March 6, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Hi Esther, I came across your blog while reading about places to visit in the Netherlands in June-July 2019. We will be driving. We are a family with 8 year old daughter. If we would like to visit all the towns/cities you mentioned in your blog, which single town would be a good place to make as a base?

    • Reply
      March 17, 2019 at 7:47 am

      Hi Ray, I’d say Deventer or Zwolle are your best options as these are both the largest towns along this route. Check out my city page to find city guides on both cities:

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