Unique villages that are worth the detour in Holland

1) Book City of Bredevoort

In the early nineties, this quaint village with its narrow streets was still very quiet. Too quiet even: many of the shops remained vacant. When a series of book merchants moved into the vacant buildings in 1993, this gave rise to a real ‘national book city’. Bredevoort is now a bustling town once again, and has 20 unique (antiquarian) bookshops, including a German and an English bookshop, and a lively central square with a city brewery. An international book fair is held five times a year.

book market at Bredevoort

2) Koloniedorp Frederiksoord

In the early 19th century, the ‘Maatschappij van Weldadigheid’ founded several so-called colonies for paupers. The poor who were unable to provide for themselves were sent to the east of the country, from the large cities in the west, by barge. There they were given housing, education, care and a job. Frederiksoord was the first colony and has remained pretty much the same after 200 years. You can see and read how the paupers lived in the Koloniehof Museum, download the ‘Pauperpad’ app or collect a map from the museum and hike through the lovely, forested surroundings. You can even spend the night in one of the colony’s houses.

entrance of Koloniedorp Frederiksoord



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3) Steyl Monastic Village

From the end of the 19th century, missionaries were trained in the monastic village of Steyl, from where they were sent out to convert the world. When they returned, they often brought amazing collections with them, including clothing, jewellery, utensils, drawings, sculptures and plenty of stuffed animals. You can find all these objects from China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Togo, Congo and Paraguay in their original displays in the Mission Museum. The convents, which were founded in 1875, are still occupied. There is also a beautiful Lourdes cave in the garden of the Mission House. Do visit the De Jochumhof botanic garden, or take a walk or a bike trip along the Maas.

stuffed animals at Steyl Monastic Village

4) Modernist Nagele

Nagele was the platform for experimentation for the architects of the Nieuwe Bouwen style, an icon of modernist architecture. This ‘new town on new land’ in Noordoostpolder served as a laboratory for the reconstruction. Famous architects such as Gerrit Rietveld and Mien Ruys designed various parts of this village, which explains why so many students and architects visit Nagele every year. Start your visit in the museum in the former church (Ring 23) or in the museum residence (Karwijhof 20). You can spend the night in a genuine 70s interior in the house next door. Check monumentenbed.nl.

architecture of Nagele

5) Veenhuizen Prison Village

Like Frederiksoord, Veenhuizen was managed by the ‘Maatschappij van Weldadigheid’. Not everyone accepted to be re-educated and assisted however, which is why three institutions were built here, which were later called prisons. Veenhuizen only opened to the public in 1981. Before this, only prisoners, prison officers and their families lived here. Visit the interesting Prison Museum!

Prison Village Veenhuizen

6) Vijlen Mountain Village

The 1000-year old village of Vijlen is situated 200 metres above the Normal Amsterdam Level, the reference height. It calls itself the only mountain village of the Netherlands and it’s a great place to start your exploration of the lovely, hilly landscape of South Limburg. Several (signposted) hiking and cycling trails start from Vijlen or run through it and wind their way through forests and fields to the adjoining villages. Stop at one of the many restaurants and cafes afterwards.

Mountain Village Vijlen

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