Maritime city: Den Helder
Between the port and the city centre: Naval Museum
One of the most imposing structures in Den Helder is the Naval Museum. The three museum ships stand out a mile away; the monitor Schorpioen, the mine hunter Abraham Crijnssen and the submarine Tonijn, which are spread out around the museum premises in an impressive manner. The 78 m long U-boat, which weighs a million kilos, is accessible for museum visitors - a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of the command centre and galley of a submarine. But that's not all the Naval Museum in Den Helder has to offer. About 15% of the Naval Museum's collection, containing around 20,000 objects, is available for show, such as ship models, weapons, uniforms and works of art.
For a long time, Den Helder was limited to its maritime sightseeing opportunities, but over time, the historic port has transformed into a trendy party area. On warm summer evenings, the terraces of the pubs and restaurants in the port area invite you to come for a meal and a drink in the open air. If the weather is bad, you can always visit the cinemas, museums and casinos instead. The shops will also entice you to go on a shopping trip in the neighbouring inner city of Den Helder. If you're in Den Helder on a Saturday, don't miss out on the weekly market in Beaxtrixstraat, with around 30 stalls.
More sightseeing in and around Den Helder
Fort Kijkduin, situated in front of the gates of Den Helder, was built at the beginning of the 19th century on the orders of Napoleon, to defend the strategically important city. The fortification, surrounded by a high wall, houses eight arches. Today, these arches contain museum rooms dealing with the history of the fort, amongst other things. A North Sea aquarium has also been set up in Fort Kijkduin, where visitors can walk through a 12 m long tunnel under the fishes' world of the North Sea.
As well as North Sea fish, enthusiasts can also marvel at other animal species in the surroundings of Den Helder; On the Hoenderdaell estate, 17 km from Den Helder, located at Anna Paulowna (Van Ewijckskade 1), animals from all over the world frolic and play: alpacas, flamingos, wallabies, panthers, tigers, lions, monkeys and vultures.
Unique beach, diverse nature
Den Helder is surrounded by water on three sides; by the North Sea, the Wadden Sea and the Marsdiep, with the island of Texel on its opposite side, which can be reached in only 20 minutes with the regularly operating car ferries. A visit to Texel is always worth it, as visitors can expect about 30 km of beach there, as well as many nature reserves. You can also find a large variety of different landscapes around Den Helder - from the Wadden Sea to the beach to the dunes, from forests to polders to waterways. Today, many of these areas are protected, such as the dunes of Grafelijkheid, De Nollen and the polders of Balgzand.
As the Wadden Sea stretches between the Dutch North Sea Islands and the mainland near Den Helder, you can even experience this unique landscape during a mudflat hiking tour. Individual tours, or combinations with a boat tour, are available from De Groot Recreatie in Hippolytushoef, amongst other places.
Don't fancy sporting activities, but would rather spend a day at the beach? Den Helder is just the right place for this as well. The beach here is 7 km long, and three sections of the beach have been awarded with the 'blue flag' for cleanliness and safety. They're some of the ten cleanest beaches in all of the Netherlands!
The port and the Royal Navy
Centuries ago, trade ships and warships sought protection in the tideway between Texel and Den Helder, and Den Helder has had a significant port since 1792. After the Second World War, the port of Den Helder was rebuilt and has acted as a base for the Royal Navy ever since. Den Helder is also an essential hub for offshore activities in the North Sea. Around 145 platforms are supplied from Den Helder with crews and stock by helicopter and ship.
The Dorus Rijkers National Rescue Museum, located near the Naval Museum, also proves just how important Den Helder is as a base for lifeboats. Visiting the museum is a real experience for the young and the old, as raging storms, stranded boats and spectacular rescue actions will wow visitors. Tip: Take a round trip through the port of Den Helder on the Johan de Witt lifeboat, steeped in tradition. The boat can be found in the museum port of Willemsoord, together with the historic warships of the Naval Museum. Dive into the fascinating world of North Holland's maritime travel, steeped in history, here in Den Helder!
Other seaside towns near Den Helder
The lovely seaside resort of Julianadorp aan Zee lies south of Den Helder, known for its long sandy beach and surrounding tulip fields. A little further along the Dutch coast on the Dutch coast lies the peaceful town of Callantsoog, located in the shadow of the dunes and near a dreamlike nature reserve. You can enjoy moors, lakes and coastal forests here! Can't get enough of beaches and dunes? Then you just have to drop by Egmond aan Zee, where you'll encounter the monumental 'Van Speyk' lighthouse and historic fishermen's houses.
As well as the North Sea coastal towns, the small port town around Lake Ijssel is also an interesting destination. It only takes 40 minutes by car to get from Den Helder to the idyllic little town of Medemblik, and another 20 minutes to get to Enkhuizen. From there, you can board the historic steam tram, which takes you through blossoming tulip fields in spring, to the wonderful city of Hoorn on Lake Ijssel, where you'll stumble upon historic houses with stepped gables and a city tower from the 16th century.
A holiday in Den Helder
Good news for those who want to go on holiday in Den Helder: on average, the weather on the North Sea coast is better than the weather inland. 'Den Helder' has even been called the 'city of the Sun'. Around 1650 hours of sunlight per year invite visitors to the beach and the natural environment.