Dordrecht is located in the south west of the Netherlands in the South Holland province and has a population of approximately 118,000. The main centre of the city is actually on an island, but the greater municipal area covers towns on the Oude Maas river and other waterways. Granted city right in the 1200’s by William I, Dordrecht is actually the oldest city in the South Holland Province.
Owing to its important strategic location, and its accessibility on the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta complex, the city saw great trade profit particularly in Wine, cereals and timber. In subsequent centuries, Dordrecht continued to develop, but the rise of Rotterdam saw a tapering to its growth in the 18th century. Today the city has a host of fantastic historical buildings such as the Grote Kerk and Munt van Holland, and some magnificent natural landscapes such as the De Beisbosch National park and the Wantijpark.
Lets explore the best things to do in Dordrecht:
1. Dordrecht Grote Kerk
Standing as the tallest church in Dordrecht, this minster is one of the many churches in the Netherlands to bare the name of Grote Kerk.
With a large bell and clock tower, the church towers over the surrounding buildings in the old town and can be seen far down the Oude Maas.
Dating back to the 11th Century, the Grote Kerk has stood for hundreds of years as an important religious building.
The interior is full of fascinating artefacts, a set of ornate wooden choice stalls and beautiful stone ceiling archways and canopies.
Also featured are a plethora of stunning stained glass windows and religious artwork.
2. Huis Van Gijn
This unique museum was once the home of Simon van Gijn and has been faithfully restored to its original condition and includes furniture, fixings and decorations from the period.
Simon van Gijn was a collector during his time and amassed a large collection of different objects – Many of which can be seen inside his house today.
The museum is split into many different rooms including the dining room, garden room and the kitchen.
All are decorated in the Dutch renaissance style and take you back to a different age.
You can also find an immense old toy collection in the attic which is one of the largest toy collections in the Netherlands.
3. Nationaal Park De Biesbosch
As one of the largest national parks in the Netherlands, the Biesbosch covers 90 square kilometres and is predominantly tidal wetland and freshwater landscape.
Consisting of many intertwining waterways, islands, lakes and marshes, the Biesbosch is hugely interesting and varied.
With a host of willow forests and grassland, the park is bursting with colour, life and is an important reserve for migrating species of geese.
You can enjoy a myriad of activities here, from cycling and hiking, to kayaking and bird watching – There is something for everyone.
Take a guided boat tour, stay in one of the camping huts, try your hand at horse riding or simply hire your own boat and explore – The possibilities are many.
4. The Dordtevaar boat tour
To truly get a feel for Dordrecht and what makes this place so inspiring, there is nothing better than taking a guided boat tour of the many waterways the snake through the confines of the city.
Dordtevaar offer a reasonably priced and informative boat trip that takes you through the inner and outer canals of Dordrecht.
You will not be disappointed during this hour long tour – The boat is silent, the guide provides a wealth of information about the city, and the sights and scenery you pass are simply wonderful and intriguing.
For a relaxing way to see the city from a different perspective, this boat tour is undoubtedly the best option.
5. Museum 1940-1945
Another of Dordrecht’s fine museums, this particular establishment is dedicated to World War II and in particular how it affected the Dordrecht region.
For any history buff this is a fascinating place and houses a large collection of weapons, uniforms and other artefacts from this time period.
Although only a small building, the museum offers endless amounts of educational opportunity and provides a fantastic review of the war, how it started, and how it affect the Netherlands as a nation.
6. Kayaking at Biesbosch
For those who love physical activity and being in the splendour of the outdoors, kayaking in the Biesbosch national park is quite extraordinary.
With three marked routes there is plenty of water to explore and the swamplands, river beds and reeds of this beautiful parkland will mesmerise you as you paddle at a leisurely pace.
Starting in Dordrecht, the beginners route will last approximately two hours and will take you through a series of small winding creeks where you might catch a glimpse of a beaver.
A longer unmarked route also exists that will take you through wider waterways and will offer sweeping views of the Biesbosch landscape.
7. Molen Kyck Over Den Dyck
Standing as the only remaining windmill in the city, the Molen Kyck has stood since the 1600’s and was a wooden mill that saw the production of ground malt.
In 1713, the wooden structure was replaced by the stone version that stands today and was used to grind corn.
Group tours are available of the windmill and offer a fascinating insight into the history of the structure and the grinding process.
At certain times, you can also still see the mill in operation (if there is wind obviously!). Admire the structure, climb up to the circular platform for views of the city, and see how these fantastic establishments work.
8. Distilleerderij Rutte & Zn
Family run breweries often provide some of the most tasty and spectacular beers and ales available and the Rutte brewery is no different.
Located in the Centrum region of Dordrecht, this small business offers the chance to step back in time and see how a distillery was traditionally operated.
Little has changed here for many years and you can really gain a sense of the knowledge and skill that has been passed down through the generations.
Tours are available of the distillery and you can also book tasting sessions and workshops where you actually get to brew your own alcohol.
For beer lovers and historians, this is a truly magical place to visit and immerse yourself in.
9. Dordrechts Museum
A truly fine art museum, the Dordrecht museum can be found in the Centrum, to the east of the Grote Kerk and is housed in a wonderful old building.
Founded in 1842 and directed be Peter Schoon, the museum hosts a collection of fine art spanning over 400 years of history.
The museum has several permanent exhibitions with works from renowned Dutch artists such as Jan Toorop, Philip Kouwen and Adriaen Coorte, together with temporary exhibitions that change regularly.
One of the main public parks in Dordrecht, Wantijpark was created in 1937 and features a fantastic entrance gate.
Situated to the east of the Centrum region of the city, the park is easily accessible and is a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Here you can find several lakes, many wooded areas, some landscaped gardens and also a restaurant.
Furthermore there are plenty of footpaths, and of course gorgeous views of the Wantij waterway and the Vlij canal system.
For children there is also an outdoor paddling pool and a playground.
Originally serving as a city gate, the Groothoofdspoort building is located at the point where the rivers of the Merwede, Oude Maas and Noord meet.
With a history spanning back to the 14th century, this gate has stood as a prominent building in the city for hundreds of years.
Its Gothic design, large central tower and ornate facade speak of power and wealth and the relief above the doorway depicts a maiden holding a garland of Holland.
Admire the wonderful architecture of the gate, and look out to the water for fantastic views across to Noordpark and Slobbengors.
12. Skicentrum Drechtsteden
Located to the east of the city centre near the Biesbosch national park, this huge ski centre offers a different experience from the standard tourist attractions.
While not a conventional snow ski slope, you can still practice the sport on the specially created tubing lanes and travel at great speeds on both skis or a snowboard.
If you are an experienced skier you can take to the slope and enjoy a uninterrupted session.
Alternatively, if you are a beginner, you can take lessons from one of the expert guides.
13. Waterbus from Dordrecht to Rotterdam
For a scenic way to see the mighty Oude Maas and Nieuwe Maas rivers and also to see another famous Dutch city, why not take a waterbus from Dordrecht to Rotterdam? These fantastic boat journeys usually take approximately 1 hour travel time, during which you will sail past the fascinating network of rivers and canals lined with beautiful scenery and impressive industrial shipping harbours.
On arrival in Rotterdam you can see the huge port system that make this city such an important economic place in the Netherlands and then hop off to do some sight seeing.
14. Het Hof
This medieval courtyard and establishment has stood since the 13th century and was originally a monastery, hospital and bakery.
Throughout the years this series of buildings has served many different functions, notably as the residence of William of Orange and the Earl of Leicester.
In modern times the Hof is considered a cultural centre and is a place where classical concerts are held and the Dordrecht regional archives.
See the wonderful design of the structure and its renaissance architecture and the intricate brick work of the courtyard.
Listed as a national monument, the Damiatebrug is an iron drawbridge that was constructed in 1855. Although only a small bridge, its design and function are what make it such an interesting structure.
Built over the Wolwevershaven waterway, the bridge connects the inner and outer quays.
With two separate sections that meet in the middle, the bridge opens using a series of iron chains much like a drawbridge on a castle.
Once operated by steam, the bridge now has a small control room and is fully electric.
It is simply a joy to see the bridge in operation if you are lucky enough, but otherwise is it a fascinating relic of a bygone era.