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 a bustling town once again, and has 20 unique (antiquarian) bookshops, including a Dutch and an English bookshop, and a lively central square with a city brewery. A book market is organised near the church every third Sunday of the month.
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.
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 stued 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 in1875, 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.
4) Modernist Nagele
Uninformed visitors may think that they ended up in a bungalow park. Nagele however is the Dutch testing ground of the Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building), an icon of modernist architecture. This ‘new city on new land’ in the Noordoostpolder, was a real laboratory for the reconstruction. Several prominent architects, such as Mart Stam, Gerrit Rietveld, Frans van Gool and Mien Ruys, designed sections of the village, which is why so many students and architects visit Nagele every year. Start your visit in the museum in the former church at Ring 23.
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 at Veenhuizen, which were later called prisons. Veenhuizen only opened to the public in 1981. Before this, only prisoners, their visitors and the prison officers lived here. Now you can visit the interesting Prison Museum here.
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 as a result and is 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 in one of the many restaurants and cafes afterwards, including A Gen Kirk, where the walls are lined with statues of saints.
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