Traditionally a place of pilgrimage, visitors to Bolsward will discover a city bursting with life, character and a raft of historic, charming buildings and monuments.
- Stroll around Bolsward’s beguiling streets and narrow alleys to discover its rich, historic legacy.
- Sample some Dutch history at the Sonnema Berenburg jenever distillery.
- Tour ancient religious monuments and magnificent buildings in Bolsward’s charming city center.
Explore Bolsward in Friesland
Granted city rights in 1455, Bolsward became an important trade center in the Middle Ages. Though it’s importance as a center of commerce has since passed, visitors strolling around Bolsward’s beguiling streets and narrow alleys can still see evidence of its rich legacy, especially along its charming central street, Marktstraat. With more than 10,000 residents, it’s one of the larger Frisian cities and offers plenty to see and do. It also features on the route of the grueling ‘Elfstedentocht’ ice-skating competition, known in English as the Eleven Cities Tour.
The southwest Friesland city of Bolsward is located on three terps – artificial mounds created to provide safe ground during storm surges, high tides and flooding – the oldest of which dates from ancient times. It became a place of pilgrimage for religious travelers due to a supposedly miraculous image of Mary that appeared in the city’s Saint Francis Church. Another of Bolsward’s star attractions is the Broere Church, the city’s oldest building, which was built in the 13th century as the monastery church of the Franciscan monks the Minderbroeders. This national monument was abandoned and abolished in 1580, and then ruined in a fire in 1980, but has now reopened to visitors. Alternatively, follow the sound of bells ringing out through the city and you’ll encounter the magnificent town hall, which visitors can explore for free before stopping for a refreshing glass of traditional jenever at one of Marktstraat’s lively brown cafés.
While in Bolsward, take the time to delve into the history of one of Holland’s most famous alcoholic drinks at the Sonnema Berenburg, a distillery that still produces its unique brand of traditional Dutch jenever today. The original Berenburg was made in the mid-19th century with a secret mixture of spices by innkeeper Fedde Sonnema, to whom it owes its name. Fedde took the original ‘beerenburg’ recipe developed by Amsterdam herb trader Hendrik Beerenburg and added his own twist – different herbs he procured from around Friesland. It’s a special drink with a hearty bite derived from its distinct mix of herbs. Experience and discover its secrets and dive back in time at its visitor center. Then, after the tour, you can certainly sample a glass or two yourself.
Struck by a mysterious image of a bat as he admired the ruins of the Broere Church in Bolsward, Belgian artist Johan Creten took that vision and used it to inspire his work for the 11Fountains project. That fascinating and intriguing vision manifests itself in a work rich in symbolism, with the bat representing wealth, community, rebirth, the role of the individual in community, and the ecological environment. Stairs at the back of the sculpture invite the visitor to climb and conquer the fountain, which sitting in Broereplein, in front of the ruins of the Broere Church, takes on a healing role. The fountain is part of the Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018 cultural program 11Fountains, in which a fountain was created for each of Friesland’s 11 cities.
Spending the night in Bolsward
Based in the heart of Bolsward, the charming Stadsherberg Heeremastate is the perfect place to stay when visiting the city. The historic building actually dates from around 1830, and was carefully restored by a number of local architects in the 1970s. The hotel is opposite the city’s town hall, and it’s only a short walk to Bolsward’s Marktstraat. And though you’re right in the heart of the city, there’s a calmness to the neighborhood which means you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep.