New Dutch Waterline: The Netherlands’ biggest national monument
The New Dutch Waterline (New Hollandic Water Defense Line) is unique. Nowhere else in the world will you find such an extensive and beautifully preserved system of defense works. It makes sense that the New Dutch Waterline has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2020, we will know whether this unique piece of the Netherlands will join the Stelling van Amsterdam on the list of World Heritage Sites. What makes the New Dutch Waterline so special? These are the three reasons why this defense line is well worth a visit.
- See how we used water to protect the Netherlands.
- Discover a unique piece of architectural history.
- Explore beautifully preserved fortresses, castles, and fortifications.
Water as our ally
The Netherlands and water are closely intertwined. For centuries now, we have been bending the landscape to our will and building dikes to keep out the water. Living in the Lowlands means you fight a continuous battle against the water, but it is also our ally, something that becomes abundantly clear when looking at the New Dutch Waterline. Go for a walk through the star-shaped fortified cities of Woudrichem and Naarden with their canal ring and you’ll immediately understand how water helped keep the city safe.
Not everything is so obvious, however. What makes the New Dutch Waterline unique in the world is that we flooded the land on purpose. By flooding pieces of land accurately – too deep to wade through but too shallow to cross by boat – the western part of the Netherlands transformed into an easily defensible kind of island in case of danger. If you are curious to discover how that worked, visit the Waterliniemuseum and see for yourself how the New Dutch Waterline is flooded.
A unique piece of history
The New Dutch Waterline is a unique piece of architectural history. Between 1815 and 1940, this defense line, in combination with the Stelling van Amsterdam, protected the western Netherlands against intruders. No defense line anywhere in the world uses water in the same smart way.
In the course of its history, the New Dutch Waterline was prepared for use three times: during the Franco-German War in 1870 and during WWI. The defense line was also mobilized on the eve of WWII, but the German war planes crossed it without trouble. The New Dutch Waterline was never used again after WWII, when new technologies took over, but despite the fact that it is no longer needed you can still see its traces in the landscape today.
Fortunately, the New Dutch Waterline has been very well preserved. Along the 85-kilometer defense line, as many as 45 fortresses, 6 fortified cities, and 2 castles helped defend the Netherlands. Many of the fortresses are now open to the public. Where soldiers once spent the night, you can now rest much more comfortably in trendy bed & breakfasts. Fort Everdingen once harbored munition warehouses but today accommodates a brewery, Fortbrouwerij Duits & Lauret that serves excellent specialty beers. There is no artillery at Fort bij Herwijnen anymore, but it teaches kids everything about the earth. Are you curious about things to do in the New Dutch Waterline region? Go and explore this unique piece of the Netherlands’ historic heritage!