Frozen reed with a skater on the ice and mill Friesland.
© Marcel van Kammen via Merk Fryslân

The history of the Eleven Cities Tour

These days the Eleven Cities Tour is a huge national spectacle, with sponsors and broadcast teams. It was quite different in the early decades. In olden days skating was the only way for Friesians to cover longer distances in cold winters since not everyone could afford a horse.

  • Which eleven cities make up the Eleven Cities Tour?
  • The last tour was held in 1997.
  • Even King Willem-Alexander once made it to the finish.

Eleven Cities fever

Since that first tour in 1909, only 15 official Eleven Cities Tours have been organised. The last one was in 1997 and every year, as soon as the frost sets in, the Dutch suffer from the ‘Eleven Cities Fever’, hoping for one of these unique and spectacular events.

The Eleven Cities cross

History shows that people were already trying to skate the route past all Frisian cities in a day centuries ago. It was Pim Mulier who organised a skating tour that covered the eleven cities in 1909 and designed the ‘cross’ for contestants who reach the finish.

Which eleven cities make up the Eleven Cities Tour?

The Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour) starts in Leeuwarden early in the morning. The skaters travel to Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, and Dokkum, returning to Leeuwarden for the finish.

W.A. van Buren

In 1986, King Willem-Alexander began the 200 kilometer tour incognito. Midway through the tour, it was revealed that the 18 year old Prince Willem-Alexander had registered under the name W.A. van Buren. Van Buren is a pseudonym that the royal family uses frequently.

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