Hindeloopen history and culture
Hindeloopen is one of the cities on the elfstedenroute or eleven cities itinerary in Friesland, and one of the most beautiful destinations in the Netherlands. It was established in the 13th century, yet prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries when it became a centre of international shipping trade. Though this Golden Age is long since passed, it left Hindeloopen a rich legacy that is still evident today in its colourful hand-painted artwork, distinctive traditional dress and even its language – a rare blend of West Frisian, English, Danish and Norwegian.
Today, Hindeloopen has a population of around 700 people and offers visitors a perfectly preserved snapshot of traditional Frisian life. With its well-ordered maze of old streets, canals and wooden bridges, the old centre of Hindeloopen is a joy to discover by foot or bike.
Things to do in Hindeloopen
Many Hindeloopen sights hark back to its maritime heyday, such as the historic captains’ residences, the wooden lock keeper’s house, and the ‘Liars bench’, where sailors would sit to exchange salty tales.
The Hindeloopen Museum tells the story of the town’s remarkable history, from its 13th-century roots to its Golden Age prosperity. Visitors to the museum can also learn about origins of the town’s distinctive costume, customs and traditional Hindeloopen hand-painted furniture.
In contrast to the peaceful pace of daily life, Hindeloopen is also a top destination for sports fans. Its pristine beach is a popular spot for surf and kite sports in the Netherlands. The village is famously one of the stops on the Eleven Cities ice-skating tour, and visitors can learn more about this and the Dutch history of ice-skating at Hindeloopens’ Eerste Friese Schaatsmuseum.
Delving into the Hindeloopen’s history, Chinese artist Shen Yuan was struck by the myths connected to its coat of arms: a crest featuring a tree, a stag and a doe. According to legend, the tree is a so-called ‘tree of life’, with its roots sunken into the underworld and its branches pointing up to heaven, symbolizing life force and wisdom. In Yuan’s design, the fountain, titled ‘Flora & Fauna’, becomes the tree of life, and two large set of antlers refer to the primordial power of the stag and the doe, as well as representing the tree’s roots and branches. Built by Frisian artisans, visitors can sit and relax on these wooden antlers in the beautiful surroundings of the fountain, and enjoy the Hindeloopen flower motifs which are planted under reinforced glass. The work was designed for the 11Fountains project, in which a fountain was created for each of Friesland’s 11 cities as part of Leeuwarden-Friesland’s European Capital of Culture 2018 celebrations.
Where to eat in Hindeloopen
Hindeloopen restaurants offer a good choice of cuisines and styles, and many enjoy enviable locations near the waterfront or harbour. From traditional Dutch restaurants like De Hinde and De Drie Harinkjes, with its idyllic rooftop terrace, to international cuisine and locally caught fish, all tastes are catered for. Head to popular seafood restaurant Sudersee to taste the catch of the day in historic surroundings.
Attractions near Hindeloopen
Hindeloopen is part of the Southwest Friesland National Park, with its varied landscape of forests, coast and Frisian lakes. Nearby attractions include the spectacular 32km Afsluitdijk causeway - the dike which dams off the IJsselmeer from the North Sea - and the historic Frisian capital of Leeuwarden.
Getting to Hindeloopen
Hindeloopen is located in East Friesland, a one and a half hour drive away from Amsterdam and Amsterdam Airport Schipho via the Afsluitdijk. It’s reachable by boat, car or train, with regular trains from Leeuwarden (45 minutes). The pretty village of Giethoorn is one hour away by car.