Zwolle is a municipality that is located in the Overijssel province of the Netherlands, a short distance from Apeldoorn and Enschede. Traces of settlement can be found in Zwolle as far back as the Bronze Age and the modern city was established as far back as 800 A.D. Zwolle is at the meeting point of several rivers including the IJssel, Zwarte and Vechte and the old city centre resembles a many sided star and is surrounded entirely by canals.
Throughout its history, the city has seen much involvement in the various wars that have shaped the Netherlands as we know it today, and has seen great trade through its rivers. In modern times, Zwolle features a myriad of historical buildings and attractions and offers something different to the likes of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Lets explore the best things to do in Zwolle:
1. Grote Kerk
A magnificent example of a Gothic church, the Grote Kerk stands proudly in the old town centre of Zwolle and is recognized throughout the region.
Sparse records exist of the church before its current form, and from what is gathered there was a Romanesque style building before the current Gothic design.
This version was built in the 1400’s and has stood ever since.
On the right hand side of the exterior you can find three outer buildings that are a later addition to the church, and give it an unusual appearance.
Inside, the high narrow windows provide plenty of light, and the large decorative pulpit an organ provide a degree of opulence.
As the main church in Zwolle, this is a great example of Netherlands religious architecture.
2. Peperbus tower
While this tower is actually part of the Basilica of our Lady, its has become lovingly known as the pepper pot owing to its shape and design.
De Peperbus was constructed in the 1400’s which was a time of great growth and prosperity for the city.
Until 2006, it held the title as the tallest building in Zwolle and towers over the surrounding buildings in the city centre.
A must do when in Zwolle, climbing the tower to the public viewing platform is a great way to see the city from a different angle and make out the outline of the star shaped canals.
3. Sassenpoort gatehouse
A remnant of the once domineering fortifications of Zwolle, the Sassenpoort is a gatehouse and one of the finest examples in the Netherlands that still stands.
Constructed in 1409 during the towns involvement in the Hanseatic League, the gates show Zwolle’s old power and wealth.
Listed as a national monument, the building has been restored lovingly and stands today in perfect condition.
Admire the two circular gate towers, the crenulations, the decorative windows and the city emblems.
You can also see inside this fantastic building and check out the wooden beams and beautiful interior.
4. Museum de Fundatie
The prime museum in Zwolle, this establishment attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and is a fantastic place to learn about visual art.
Included in the collection are over 7000 items such as paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints.
Famous artists you can find here include Mondrian, Van Gogh and Chagall.
The collection of art is stunning and the variety of works will provide endless amounts of discussion and engagement for art lovers.
5. Bonami Spelcomputer Museum
You can find this specialist museum on the outskirts of the city centre near the train station.
Spread over 3000 m2 in a large warehouse, this is a paradise for any gamer or lover of computers, consoles and video games.
Part of this museum contains a dazzling myriad of historical computers, consoles, pinball machines and video game memorabilia including Atari, Dreamcast, NES and the once popular Sinclair Spectrum.
In the second part of this museum, you can find a series of consoles and arcade machines that you can actually play on! You could literally spend hours here looking at the historical items, or playing your favourite games in the console area.
6. Basilica of our Lady
While the domineering pepper pot tower is undoubtedly the main attraction, the actual Basilica that it is attached too is equally as impressive and worth a visit.
Constructed slightly before the immense tower, this cruciform church also features a Gothic design.
Inside this fantastic building you will find a complementing style of pink stone pillars with white-washed walls and tall stained glass windows.
The high altar at the far end is full of decoration an has a great deal of religious iconography and colourful detail.
When visiting the Pepper-pot, you should ensure you also step inside this wonderful building.
7. Nationaal Park Weerribben Wieden
This vast parkland covers two areas totalling 100 square KM of bog and waterways.
Approximately 20 minutes drive to the north of Zwolle, this wonderful place features a great deal of stunning natural landscapes to explore and an abundance of wildlife.
Species found here include the water soldier, sundew, black tern and the northern pike.
Explore this beautiful park by bicycle on the many cycle trails that wind through the fields, or take to the waters and explore the canals and lakes on a canoe.
8. Boat tour on the Zwolle Canals
What better way to see the marvellous city centre than via an interesting canal boat tour? A particular company of repute who provide boat tours is Rondvaart and you can find their pier in the south western corner of the star canal on Harm Smeengekade street.
For a reasonable price you can tour the canals on a pleasant river boat, enjoy a glass or two of your favourite drink and take in the fantastic sights of Zwolle from the water.
Your guide will explain various sights that you pass and you will learn a great deal about the history of the city and its waterways.
9. Dominicanenklooster Monastery
An imposing and intriguing building that can be found to the south of the old city centre, the monastery features a traditional design with a central courtyard and was built as late as 1902. While the exterior is quite charming, the interior is truly spectacular and is full of stunning detail and opulent decorations.
With high vaulted ceilings, some colourful and detailed stained glass windows and a myriad of intricate brickwork, this building really is a joy to behold.
10. Het Engelse Werk Park
One of the premier public parks in Zwolle, the Engelse Werk is a pleasure to behold and is a fine place to walk and enjoy some fresh air.
Constructed in 1828, this park has the style of an English Landscape park and was designed by Hendrik van Lunteren.
Much of this park is covered with beautiful woodland, but there is also several small lakes and waterways to explore.
Walk through the main trails, enjoy the scenery and wildlife and check out the old fortification remnants that can still be seen.
11. Enjoy a fine coffee in the Konkeltje cafe
Zwolle has a plethora of coffee shops, however the Konkeltje Cafe is one of the finest.
You can find this cafe on Dijkstraat on the smaller of the two islands that form the old town centre.
This is one of the locals favourite but the owner speaks fantastic English and will make you feel welcomed.
Enjoy their variety of delicious coffee’s or try a warming hot chocolate.
You can also enjoy a selection of fine homemade cakes, or buy some local coffee and tea to take with your as a souvenir.
This long stretch of public walkway and open square is a pleasant place to enjoy a drink or a meal and watch the locals of Zwolle.
Located a short walk from the equally interesting Grote Markt, the Gasthuisplein features a myriad of cafes and restaurants all with outside seating.
Trees provide ample amounts of shade so why not sit outside one of the eateries, enjoy a hearty meal and relax in the city centre.
13. Walk around the old city centre
The small city centre of Zwolle lends itself to those who love to walk and explore in their own free time.
If you really want to immerse yourself in this fantastic place, take a self-guided walking tour starting at the Grote Markt.
From here make your way to the south and to Potgietersingel street and proceed through the wooded areas on the edge of the canal.
Afterwards make your way around the edge of the city centre and take in the gorgeous sights of the waterways, parks and architecture.
Don’t forget to cross some of the bridges and lochs and maybe stop for a coffee at one of the local cafes.
14. Stedelijk Museum
One of the finest museums in Zwolle, this establishment can be found on the Melkmarkt street and has a fantastic exterior and front facade.
Inside you can find a great display of artwork based mainly on contemporary works.
Works include an archaeology basement, a small display on the history of Zwolle, and an interesting display of micro miniatures that you can only see via a microscope.
15. Zwolle Golf Club
For golf fanatics, the Zwolle golf course is a pleasure to play on and offers breath taking scenery and a challenging course.
Located on the eastern outskirts of the town and surrounded by nature, this really is a beautifully presented and maintained course to play on.
Practice your swing on the driving range, perfect your short game and putting on the smaller 4 hole par 3 course, or challenge yourself on the intriguing 18 hole main course.
Don’t forget to relax in the club house after for a drink or a meal, and enjoy the views across to the range.