On the big market in BoZ ( Bergen op Zoom) and threwout the whole old citie, they are helding the Vestingdagen in the summertime. Its sort of a play with old costumes and scenes out of the History of Bergen op Zoom. And lots and lots of canons being fired!! Its a spectacle have to see with your own eyes AND hear with your own ears!!
The ‘Grote Markt’ is the oldest part of Bergen op Zoom. Nowadays it still is the heart of the city and the centre of this medieval town. As a visitor we couldn’t miss this main square, especially because it was totally orange colored after the first victory of the Dutch soccer team during the world championships of 2010.
People were gathering together on one of the many terraces celebrating this win against Denmark.
But without such a party the ‘Grote Markt’ has a lot to offer. It is surrounded by splendid buildings - some of them dating back to the Middle Ages - and a lot of restaurants and cafes.
The most striking of these buildings is the city hall of Bergen op Zoom with a late-Gothic façade, dating back to the year of 1611. Behind this façade were originally three separate buildings – ‘Schepenhuis’, ‘Leeuwenborch’ and ‘de Olifant’ - situated. The lobby is decorated with coats of arms of citizens of Bergen op Zoom. The steps are decorated with the coat of arms of the city. In front of the town hall stands a statue of ‘Anton van Duinkerken’, a local writer, poet and professor.
The town hall has very limited opening hours for visitors, but you always can try to get a glimpse of the entrance lobby.
On the left hand side - separated by a gate to the ‘Sint-Annastraat’ - is located ‘Hotel De Draak’; well known as the oldest hotel of the Netherlands as it dates back to before 1397. We had a coffee inside the hotel and got a good impression of its interior with paintings, tapestries and other antique items.
The south side of the ‘Grote Markt’ is dominated by café/restaurant ‘De Teerkamer’. On this spot once stood the first city tavern (1500) of Bergen op Zoom.
There are two other important buildings at the square: ‘De Maagd’ the city theater which is housed in a renovated catholic church. The other one is de ‘Sint-Gertrudiskerk’ with its gothic tower from the 14th century. The tower was extended in 1750 and got its nickname ‘Peperbus’ (Pepperbox). It is the landmark of the square and the city. During summer season it is possible to climb the 183 steps to enjoy a wonderful view.
For opening hours (city hall, Gertrudiskerk) take a look at the website of the Tourist Information (see below).
The Gevangenpoort or Lievevrouwepoort is the oldest monument of Bergen op Zoom. This is one of the last remaining original medieval city gates in Holland. It was built in the 14th century. In the middle ages there were a lot of these gates all over the Netherlands, as a piece of the city walls. Today this is one of the only parts remaining of the ancient city wall of Bergen op Zoom.
The gate nowadays it the workingplace of the corporation `In den Scherminkel` who organize excavations in the city. They already have made a lot of important excavation through the years.
The best way to see the Gevangenpoort is by walking towards it from the Grote Markt, through the Lievevrouwestraat. Here you have a good image of medieval Bergen op Zoom.
In 1698 the Dutch architect of citadels, Menno Coehoorn, thought out a plan to protect Southern Holland. There had to be built a waterline between Bergen op Zoom and the place called Grave. The first years single buildings are built in Bergen op Zoom, and later a wall was built between these buildings.
In 1747 Bergen op Zoom was attacked by the French and was captured for a couple of years. After this period the importance of the citadel decreased and in 1867 there was desided to close the citadel of Bergen op Zoom. Everything besides the Gevangenpoort, the Waterschans and the Ravelijn was broken down.
The Ravelijn is now a city park situated in the water. It is free to visit. Often there are activities at the island of the Ravelijn.
Bergen op Zoom is quite an old city – it already became city rights in the beginning of the 13th century – and offers a lot of historical monuments. It had ‘of course’ city walls, a moat and other fortifications, but nowadays there are just a couple of remnants of these medieval fortifications.
Lievevrouwepoort or Gevangenpoort
First of all there is the Lievevrouwepoort (Our Lady’s Gate) - also called Gevangenpoort (Prisoner’s Gate). This city gate was built in the year of 1335 as a part of the city walls and has two round towers. Later on the building was used as a prison; nowadays it houses a museum (open from end April to end October; see for more info: www.vvvbrabantsewal.nl).
Early 18th century the fortifications were completely renowned by the famous Dutch military engineer Menno van Coehoorn. The Ravelin is the only remaining part of the fortifications and moats, which were surrounding the city of Bergen op Zoom. It has still some underground passages or casemates. The Ravelin is nowadays a park surrounded by water, which can be visited for free.
We passed both sites during our city walk. For us the Lievevrouwepoort was one of the most impressive city gates of the Netherlands. The gate is the oldest heritage monument of Bergen op Zoom.
The Gertrudiskerk is quite an old church. An old legend even says St. Gertrude, abbess of the abbey in Najvel, founded the church in 654. The church has an eventful history. The building , which was allegedly rather simple at the start, was enlarged and embellished several times up to the end of the 15th century. In 1747 the church was largely destroyed as a result of heavy bombarding by French besiegers. The 14th century tower, which had survived the devastation, received its typical nickname “Peperbus” (Pepper Pot) at that time. However the church was rebuilt, but burned down in 1972. All that remains of the original building, are the exterior walls of the nave, the transept and the chancel (15C) and a second transept (16C).
From 1586 to 1966 the reformed municipality had this building in possession. The church was returned in the second half of the 20th century to the Catholic community and is now a parish church The could use the church after a renovation from 1978.
When you visit Bergen op Zoom, it is almost impossible to miss the St. Gertrudiskerk. Its tower is visible from almost the entire city, towering high above the houses, shops and terraces on the Grote Markt. The entrance for visitors, however, is just around the corner in the Kerkstraat, where you will see an imposing iron entrance-gate.
As I've stated several times in other tips about Bergen op Zoom, the opening of the tourist attractions is considerably limited. So we only could admire the outside of the St. Gertrudiskerk and just take a brief glimpse of the interior.
The interior looks nice with a hegemonic stained glass window of Saint Gertrudis, two carved pulpits, confessionals and a striking large organ.
We will certainly come back for another visit and also climb the tower with its 183 steps to enjoy the view over the Grote Markt and the city.
Opening hours: late April – late October, Tuesdays through Sundays 13.00 – 16.30 hours; otherwise only by appointment (see website below).
We consider a city walk always an excellent way of discovering the main sights of a city. Especially if the scale of a city is not too big, as for instance in Bergen op Zoom. The inner city offers quite a lot of interesting monuments and sights. We bought a brochure (2010: € 2,50) with this city walk in the VVV Office (Tourist Information).
It is possible to add a so called ´Monumenten ID´, which allows you to visit heritage buildings in town. We didn’t do it because we made our walk on a Monday, when all these monuments are closed for public. Be also aware that quite a lot of the buildings are only open for public from April 30 till the end of October. See for opening hours: http://www.vvvbrabantsewal.nl/content/pagina/pagina.php?Pagina_id=1171&categorie=1171&subcategorie=0&plaats=Bergen+op+Zoom&Submit=Search
The city walk starts (of course) on the´Grote Markt', the central square of the city, which is almost completely surrounded by sidewalk cafes/restaurants. These cafes are mixed with some interesting historical buildings like the City Hall, dating back to the 14th century,´Hotel De Draak’, the oldest hotel in the Netherlands, theatre ‘De Maagd', established in a former catholic church and the ‘St. Gertrudis Church’, with its impressive bell tower.
In the ‘Hoogstraat’ you are climbing one of the hills of Bergen op Zoom, towards the former synagoque with an original washing place. Walking along some shopping streets we reached the´Ravelijn', a fortress remaining of the city wall.
The´Markiezenhof´was a palace of the Marquis of Bergen op Zoom for many years. The so called´Havenkwartier´has still some interesting houses and buildings. The last important building during our walk was the´Gevangenpoort', a city gate from the year of 1300 and the oldest heritage building in town. Later on it became for many years a prison; nowadays it houses a museum.
From there it is a short walk to the ‘Grote Markt’, where this city walk ends.
The city walk through Bergen Op Zoom took us a couple of hours, but of course it depends a lot of the number of coffee, museum, lunch and/or photo stops you will make along the way.
Having a beautiful sunny day (almost without any wind) we decided to make a bike trip to the province of Zeeland, or better to the former island of Tholen.
First we followed the signs for Halsteren – a village now part of the municipality of Bergen op Zoom. In this area we really could see the hills – with a height until 10 meters - and from the top we descended towards Tholen. After crossing a bridge over the ‘Eendracht’ - part of the ‘Schelde-Rijnkanaal’ - we reached this former island in the province of Zeeland.
Tholen is a quaint small city with some narrow streets, a nice old (former) city hall, two wind mills, the monumental and impressive ‘Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk’and the market with a city pump, bandstand and a double horseshoe stable. The inner city is still surrounded by a moat and the remains of fortifications.
From Tholen we followed the so called 'knooppuntroute' (Numbered Intersections) along the intersections 36 (Tholen) >37 > 38> 25 > 20 > 11 > 10 > 19 till we reached the quiet village of Sint Maartensdijk. Most of this part of the trip we were biking on the dike of the Easter Scheldt, enjoying the wonderful views over the water and the polders, with lots of birds on both sides of the bike path. Just before Sint Maartensdijk lies the ‘De Pluimpot’, a former inlet which is transferred into a nature area.
Sint Maartensdijk - about halfway the bike trip - is a very quiet rural village with a couple of interesting buildings. In one of them - Markt 58 - you may find ‘Hotel Kom’, where we had an excellent custom made lunch in the back garden.
From Sint Maartensdijk back to Tholen follow the signs for Scherpenisse, make a detour along the water tower, Poortvliet and Tholen. Along the way we were surprised by some huge charming flower fields. From a distance they did look like tulips, but once we came closer it turned out they were other flowers (till yet don’t know the name). Further on we saw many wildflowers along the polder roads and dikes.
From Tholen take the same way back to Bergen op Zoom.
We rented our bikes from ‘Kees de Mooij Fiets en Fitness', Zuid-Oostsingel 43, Bergen op Zoom. We paid (2010) about 10 euros a day per bike. Be aware you will have to pay a deposit for your bikes.
More info: www.fietsadvies.nl, phone 0164 240 964.
I found a very interesting website about the island of Tholen with a lot of information: http://islas.ruudbijlsma.nl/tln_en.htm
If I were in charge of choosing exotic vacations for families who love to enjoy fun times while they learn about other countries and their customs, I would send them to Bergen Op Zoom for "Krabbegat", this Dutch town's Carnival. It's a Thursday through Tuesday festival, at Mardi Gras time. This is a Catholic province, with a warm family feeling to the general area. They invest a lot of time into this February festival and it shows. There is a traditional costume now, since the end of World War II, when the villagers were so poor that to celebrate they draped themselves with the fanciest material they had, the curtains from the living room window (see the picture), with a red farmer's kerchief (boerenzakdoekje) and an old hat. Bands march about. There are speeches and songs and dancing. There is history here, fine museums and old, old beautifully restored and maintained architecture. If New Orleans is too crowded for you, if Rio is too crazy, but you still have the Carnival spirit, come here, you'll never regret it.
The area from de Binnenschelde is nice to walk around.... Most of the time there are a some birds to see...
They pretend to be the oldest hotel in the Netherlands. Nice location on the main square in the city...more
GROTE MARKT 36,4611 NT BERGEN OP ZOOM, 4611 Nt Ber
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Antwerpsestraat 56, , Bergen op Zoom, Noord-Braban
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples