The former Hanseatic trading town of Hattem is on the IJssel river and was granted city rights as long ago as 1299. The Grote of Andreaskerk here has elements that are even older, like a 13th-century Romanesque tower and a baptismal font.
It won’t take long to investigate Hattem’s protected cityscape, a dinky warren of historic little pedestrian streets that converges on the Markt square.
This pocket-sized plaza has a clutch of restaurants, houses from the 17th century and a Renaissance town hall.
Some of Hattem’s charm comes from its local museums, full of personality and covering topics like the town’s history, the treasured illustrator Anton Pieck and the art of baking.
In Hattem you’re on the northeastern tip of the scenic Veluwe region for outdoor recreation, while you can use the banks of the IJssel to cycle to other Hanseatic towns.
1. Voerman Museum
Located in two historic houses, the Voerman Museum documents different aspects of Hattem’s past, from art to archaeology.
Central here are landscape painter Jan Voerman (1857-1941) and his son Jan Voerman jr. (1890-1976), loved for his illustrations and lithographs.
Both are represented at the museum by a host of works and joined in the exhibition by other local artists like the Neo-Impressionist Jo Koster (1868-1944), and the sculptor Bé Thoden van Velzen (1903-1984). There are also interesting artefacts, from the city’s Hanseatic days to the time of military figure Herman Willem Daendels (1762-1818). The archaeology section has a near-perfect beaker and bowl from the Neolithic Beaker Culture, discovered in a grave in 2012.
2. Anton Pieck Museum
Next door there’s a museum for the much-loved painter and graphic artist Anton Pieck (1895-1987). Pieck’s work had a very approachable cartoonish style, depicting fairytales and 19th-century domestic and street scenes.
In 1952 he designed the Fairy Tale Forest, which was the first attraction to open at the hugely popular Efteling theme park in Kaatsheuvel.
His association with the park would continue until the 1970s.
The museum at Achterstraat was opened by Princess Margriet in 1984, and in one corner of the hall you can see the desk and drawing board that Pieck used for years, while there’s a large vintage etching press.
These are accompanied by scores of Pieck’s original works, rotated and exchanged regularly to keep the exhibition fresh.
3. Bakkerij Museum
The largest bakery museum in the Netherlands can be found in three national monuments on Kerkhofstraat.
These buildings are connected by a tunnel under the street and include a genuine historic bakery dating back 150 years.
Here you can dig into the enthralling history of baking and pastry making.
There’s a collection of baking utensils, from scales to jars, moulds and peels spanning centuries.
By appointment you can also roll up your sleeves and discover firsthand the work of a master baker, or watch special demonstrations in the museum theatre, a schedule for which is posted on the website.
You can’t resist popping into the nostalgic museum store, decorated like a baker’s shop from the 19th century.
4. Grote of Andreaskerk
The church on Markt, the main square in Hattem, has its roots in the 13th century as a Romanesque building.
The only structure from that time is the square tower, which has pairs of circular-arched window openings, as opposed to the later pointed lancet windows on the aisles and choir, built in the 14th and 15th century.
Unlike the hall churches in Deventer and Zwolle, the Andreaskerk is made up of a central nave with lower north and south aisles.
Be sure to see the stalls carved in the mid-17th century for Hattem’s city officials like magistrates, the mayor and aldermen.
There’s also a 13th-century baptismal font for the original church fashioned from a single piece of Bentheimer sandstone, and still in use today.
The older of the two organs, the Slegelorgel dates back to 1677, but with 16th-century casing and exquisite shutter paintings from 1662 and 1667.
On the northern border of Hattem’s central square the town hall originated as a hospice to the Holy Spirit in the 14th century.
It was then reworked in the 1620s when it was integrated with the former Waag (market weigh house) and given a Renaissance facade.
There’s a lovely little detail on the corner, in the form of a white painted lantern, while Hattem’s coat of arms are on a panel over the cornice.
Just in front of the town hall there’s a working water pump dating to 1776, and this sits right beside Hattem’s tourist information centre in another 17th-century monument.
6. De Dijkpoort van Hattem
Hattem’s last surviving Medieval gate protects the north entrance to the old centre.
This was raised in the 14th century and if you step out through the portal there’s a scrap of the old wall that’s connected with another, younger gate.
This still has openings for cannons and arquebuses.
Looking up at the gate you’ll see that the brickwork changes tone towards the top.
This is because the leading Dutch neo-Gothic architect Pierre Cuypers added the roof and corner turrets in 1908 when the gate was converted into Hattem’s city archive.
The building is now used for arts and craft exhibitions, and you can go in on Saturday from 11:00-15:00 to climb the tight spiral staircase up to the third floor, which has a super view of Hattem.
7. Molen de Fortuin
Hattem’s pretty smock mill dates to 1852 and was put up to replace another mill at this location that had blown down in 1808. In fact, the line of mills at this very spot can be traced back to the Middle Ages.
In Dutch it’s known as a stellingmolen (gallery mill), to describe the wooden ledge above the mill’s brick base.
After being restored in the early 1970s the mill is in full working order, and is open on Saturday afternoons from 13:30 to 16:30. You stop by to meet a member of a guild of volunteer millers and watch the two pairs of stones grinding once more.
On the ground floor there’s a shop selling home-milled flour and artisan cake mixes.
At Kerkhofstraat 11-13 you’ll come across the home of one of Hattem’s most famous sons.
Safe to say Herman Willem Daendels (1762-1818) had a busy career.
He defended Hattem for the rebelling Patriots against the stadtholder’s troops in 1786, then fled to France and took part in the Revolution, before returning to the Netherlands in 1794 as a General in the French revolutionary army.
He participated in Napoleon’s Russia campaign in 1812, but not before he had been stationed in Java as Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies.
The Daendelhuis is a gabled building with mullioned windows, constructed in 1619 and worth seeking out if you’re a student of European history.
In case you forget, the provincial capital is just five minutes across the IJssel from Hattem and is embedded at the heart of a ring of canals.
A merchant city, Zwolle grew up around the same time as Hattem, and like its neighbour was a member of the Hanseatic League in Medieval times.
The city’s shining feature is its well-preserved centre, exuding the historical wealth kindled by trade, and still marshalled by the powerful Sassenpoort (Saxon Gate) from the early 15th century.
Zwolle was later beefed up as a star fort, and it’s not hard to see the outlines of the bastions and moat on a map.
On a flying visit check out the 74-metre Peperbustoren (Pepper Mill Tower) from the Basilica of Our Lady, and the resplendent late-Gothic hall church, the Grote of Sint-Michaëlskerk
10. Dinoland Zwolle
On Zwolle’s southern reaches, this dinosaur-themed attraction, open in the spring and summer, is moments by car or bus from Hattem.
Lurking in a landscaped park with lots of foliage are over 100 full-scale models, re-creating dinosaurs from the Permian period to the Cretaceous.
Inside, the T. Rexpeditie is an interactive exhibition with lots of engaging activities, all revolving around the Tyrannosaurus.
Kids can feel like real palaeontologists at the Paleolab, while there are tons of other things for kids to get to, like mini-golf, laser tag and climbable playgrounds.
11. Outdoor Activities
Hattem is at the northeastern edge of the Veluwe, a ridge of sandy hills covered in forest and heather, extending down to Arnhem 60 kilometres to the south.
This countryside breaks with many people’s perceptions of the Dutch countryside and is a joy to visit on foot via a klompenpad (clog path) or by bike.
Cyclists could see the many sights on the IJssel river via the Hanseatic Route, which calls in at the preserved cities by the water, many still intact since their Medieval and Renaissance trading days.
For boat trips, canoeing, kayaking and pedal boating, as well as all manner of activities on dry land like mountain biking or archery, look up the adventure company Vadesto, based right in Hattem.
You can sample Hattem’s small-town atmosphere at the weekly market, which takes place on the Stadslaan every Wednesday between 13:00 and 17:00. This isn’t a massive commercial event, but there’s a healthy number of stalls, selling cheese, poultry, confectionery, flowers, fruit and vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, preserves and other items like clothing, fashion accessories and home wares.
These are sold from specialist vans and trailers that make a circuit around the central and eastern Netherlands, stopping at other medium-sized towns like Brummen, Wezep and Tiel.