Things to Do in Middelburg – a Lovely Historical City

The city of Middelburg, Zeeland is located in the south-western region of the Netherlands and serves as the capital city of the province. A mere stone’s throw from the North Sea, the somewhat small city is big at heart.

Middelburg has a population of around 49 000 people, making it one of the smaller cities in the Netherlands. Although small in area, there are many places to visit in Middelburg when exploring the Zeeland province.

a street with Dutch-type of houses with stepped gables and cafes on the ground floor and on the sidewalk; a street with cafes in Middelburg

In this guide, you will learn about the many things to do in Middelburg that you never knew existed. From the historical sites of the Zeeuws Museum and Oostkerk to the Old Harbour, the Vismarkt, and more, there is no shortage of Middleburg attractions to keep you busy on your visit to the city.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing walking tour through the city, ticking the main attractions off the list, or simple sightseeing, Middelburg has it all. So, sit back, relax and enjoy learning about this lesser-known Dutch city.

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a quaint street with a red lamp post and trees with autumn leaves, a street in Middelburg

How to get to Middelburg

As Middelburg is located on what once was an island, it is a kind of isolated from the rest of the country, which of course has its charms, but makes it a bit difficult to reach by public transport from other major in the Netherlands.

Tip: Read this post about using the public transport in the Netherlands. It’s packed with tips that only a local knows!

If you are staying around Rotterdam or The Hague, or Antwerp in Belgium, Middelburg will be the perfect destination for a day trip.

Reaching the capital of Zeeland by car is quite easy from almost everywhere in the Netherlands, with Groningen being the farthest major city (about 350 km), which I won’t advise to take a day trip from.

Here are some distances from other major cities in the Netherlands to Middelburg by car and the time it takes both by car and by train:

  • Amsterdam – Middelburg: 170 km/2 hrs 15 min; by train: 3 hrs
  • Schiphol – Middelburg: 160 km/2 hrs; by train: 3 hrs
  • Groningen – Middelburg: 350 km/3 hrs 45 min; by train: 5 hrs
  • Utrecht – Middelburg: 170 km/2 hrs; by train: 2 hrs 30 min
  • The Hague – Middelburg: 115 km/1 hr 45 min; by train: 2 hrs 15 min
  • Rotterdam – Middelburg: 100 km/1 hr 30 min; by train: 1 hr 50 min
  • Eindhoven – Middelburg: 165 km/1 hr 45 min; by train: 2 hrs 15 min
  • Maastricht – Middelburg: 190 km/2 hrs; by train: 3 hrs 30 min

The best way to find out how to travel from A to B in the Netherlands is to use the Glimble app. You can buy your tickets in the app and travel hassle-free. The app is absolutely free to download.

For international travel options, check out Omio, where you can also buy train and bus tickets.

The top 15 things to do in Middelburg

On the handy map below I’ve marked all tourist attractions in Middelburg. You can add the map to your Google Maps and use it even if you are offline.

In no particular order, I give you the list of top places to visit and things to do in Middelburg. Enjoy!

1. Zeeuws Museum and the Abbey of Middelburg

The Zeeuws Museum, housed in the old Abbey of Middelburg within the centre of Middelburg, is a museum that focuses on the history of the Zeeland province. It contains many traditional items and tells the story of the history of Zeeland and what makes it the city that it is today. For starters, the old abbey in which the museum is housed, was founded in the 12th century by practicing monks and speaks volumes about the history of the province.

a large complex of buildings with church towers and an inner yard with trees with autumn foliage; the Abbey in Middleburg

Another striking feature of the Zeeuws Museum are the 16th century wall tapestries of the once Provincial Executive of Zeeland. The first commissioned piece was a depiction of the battle of Bergen op Zoom which occurred in 1591, followed by other pieces of various naval battles in Zeeland.

a large old building with a tower in the middle and red shutters on the windows, a tree with yellow leaves to the left, some bicycles parked in front of the building; Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg - one of the best things to do in Middelburg

Aside from the tapestries, there are many other historical art pieces such as paintings, traditional costumes, and other archaeological objects. All of them telling the story that piece together the history of Zeeland. There are also some modern exhibitions on display that change regularly but are representative of the now modern Zeeland.

2. De Lange Jan

De Lange Jan (The Tall John in English) is one of the Middelburg attractions that can’t be missed – literally. It towers more than 90 metres above the ground in the historical centre of Middelburg. Aside from observing the tower from the outside, it’s possible to climb up to the top to observe the surrounding city and beyond.

a very tall steeple with a rooster atop, a church facade in front and some trees; De Lange Jan in Middlebuurg

Although the 207 steps can be quite gruelling, the views will make it all worth it. Aside from amazing views of the city, you can even see the surrounding islands in the Zeeland province on a clear day. There are also great photo opportunities from the top of the tower for the avid photographer.

a beautiful large building with turrets and a square in front of it with market stalls an lots of crate; the Town Hall in Middleburg during market day

3. Stadhuis

The Middelburg Town Hall is recognised as one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the entire country. Construction began in 1452 on the site located at the market of Middelburg and was completed six years later, overseen by the Keldermans family of builders who were of Flemish descent. The Town Hall served as the administrative centre of the city as well as a meat and cloth hall.

cafes and restaurants on a square with people sitting outside, enjoying the sun; the Market Square in Middelburg

Today, it is one of the favourite places to visit in Middelburg as part of a historical exploration of the city. There are also many restaurants in the square in front of the Stadhuis that provide the perfect viewpoint to observe the beautifully decorated façade while enjoying lunch or a quick drink.

Book a guided tour to visit the Townhall.

4. Damplein

Damplein is one of the Middelburg tourist attractions that houses 35 registered national monuments in one location. The Gistpoort (a city gate) and the Emma Monument, dedicated to Queen Emma, can both be viewed from the square, along with other monuments that date back to the 16th century.

Some of the previous streets and buildings were demolished for the construction of a new parking area as the number of cars in the city increased. Once grain traders’ market buildings, they are now shops and restaurants and the perfect spot to stop for a bite to eat and a drink.

a canal with a few boats, lined up on one side with houses, the sun is low and the sky is blue; the harbour in Middelburg

5. The Old Harbour and the Quays

The Old Harbour is considered to be one of the best areas to visit in Middelburg with its beautiful buildings on the Quays (Kaden), bridges and other viewpoints. The uncrowded harbour allows you to simply sit and observe that beauty within and relax a while before heading off to the other Middelburg attractions. The harbour area is a great spot to take a romantic walk and admire the lovely mansion along the Quays.

a small alley with old red brick houses with stepped gables during dusk with one lantern light on; Kuiperspoort in Middleburg

6. Kuiperspoort

De Kuiperspoort is a historical street in Middelburg, named after the cooper’s guild that called the street home in the 17th century. The beautiful, cobbled streets are preceded by a gatehouse that dates back to 1586, while the cooper’s guild only purchased it in the mid 1600s. The buildings along the 200-meter street were restored in the 1970s in order to return them to their former VOC-era glory.

7. Vismarkt

The Vismarkt is a recommended stop when on a Middelburg sightseeing tour. The square was a former operational fish market where the fresh catches of the day went on sale. Today, this recognised national monument is used for weekly markets and gives one a glimpse of what the fish market once was.

8. Koepoort

The Koepoort (Cow Gate) is the only one of the eight city gates that has been fully preserved. Once fully functional, the Koepoort dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries, but later became purely ornamental. Its today’s look the gate got in 1735.

Today, the Koepoort has been restored and now functions as two identical bed and breakfast rooms. The luxury apartments are conveniently located within the city and a short walk or cycle from most of the popular places to visit in Middelburg.

9. Kloveniersdoelen

The Kloveniersdoelen is one of the most beautiful buildings in Middelburg. The building was commissioned in 1607 and completed in 1611. The Kloveniers were the rifle civic service (culveriners) and used the Flemish-esque building as a base and shooting range.

a very beautiful large red building with a tower and a beautiful flower garden as a backyard; the Kloveniersdoelen in Middelburg

Today, you will find a movie cinema, a restaurant and a conference area inside the 17th century building. There’s a lovely terrace behind the building with a beautiful flower garden, where you can enjoy a drink and listen to the humming of the bees in the middle of the city.

10. Oostkerk

With so many options available for sightseeing, Middleburg is the perfect place to discover more of the lesser-known parts of the Netherlands. Next on the list of things to do in Middelburg is a visit to the Oostkerk. This protestant church was designed by two architects, namely Pieter Post and Bartholomeus Drijfhout and was built in the mid-17th century.

a hexagonal church with lots of decorative ornaments on the outside and a large staircase leading to the front door; the Oostkerk in Middleburg

Oostkerk can be recognized by its domical roof, which later became a feature and contributed to the acoustics of concerts that were held in the church. Some well-known artists have performed at the venue making the concerts that much more memorable. Oostkerk can also be hired as a venue for lectures, conferences, business meetings and even for fun events such as beer and wine tastings.

11. Sint Jorisidoelen

This beautiful 16th-century building used to be the seat of the Saint George archers’ guild. Over the years, the archers’ guild transformed into a kind of a brotherhood, which merged in 1764 with the Grote Sociëteit van Middelburg, and went under the name Confrérie Sint Joris.

an old white building with stepped gable and the year 1582 on it, with red shutters and a lit up round fountain on the square in front of it; Sint Jorisdoelen in Middelburg

The Sint-Jorisdoeln was heavily destroyed during the bombing of Middelburg in 1940 and restored to its previous glory in the 1970s.

12. Zeeuwse Bolus

You can’t visit Middelburg and Zeeland without trying a Zeeuwse bolus – a typical sweet pastry, found only in Zeeland, but of Jewish origin. It’s a spiral of bread dough rolled through brown sugar and cinnamon and served mainly with the coffee.

3 pieces of swirled sweet pastry dusted with sugar on a long plate with a cup of tea next to them; Zeeuwse bolussen

So when at Middelburg, stop at one of the lovely cafes and enjoy a yammie and sticky Zeeuwse bolus with a cup of coffee or tea.

13. Windmill De Hoop

Windmills are synonymous with Dutch culture and Middelburg is no different. One of the popular things to do in Middelburg is to take a trip to see the Windmill De Hoop. It was built in 1735 and was used as a peeling mill in the city.

a white windmill reflecting in the water on a bulwark; Mill De Hoop in Middelburg

After a fire destroyed part of the mill in 1753, it was rebuilt and served as a flour and hulling mill. Today, the Windmill De Hoop stands proud at a height of just shy of 25 meters and is the clubhouse for the Juliana Korpsen Middelburg Association. While the mill cannot be entered to visit, a visit to the mill to observe it and take some photos is allowed from the outside.

14. Park Toorenvliedt

Park Toorenvliedt is one of the best places to visit in Middelburg if you’re looking to kick back and relax. There are open spaces to relax and pathways to walk around as well as many bunkers that were built back in the WWII era. These bunkers are still intact today and it’s possible to explore them – a great activity for the kids. A small museum has also been set up in one of the bunkers and is run by the Bunker Preservation Foundation, which runs visits to the bunker museum if requested.

15. Huis Toorenvliedt

The final recommendation on the list of things to do in Middelburg is a visit to the Huis Toorenvliedt (The Toorenvliedt Mansion). Built in 1726, it was previously located outside of the city but today is firmly located within the city of Middleburg. Huize Toorenvliedt was one of the many German headquarters during WWII, serving as the command post for Walcheren and the Bevelanden.

After the war, it was sold to the council of Middelburg and today stands proudly in Park Toorenvliedt.

a street with shops on both sides and a yellow line in the middle, at the end of the street a church tower; lamps hanging above the street and people walking along; a street in Middelburg

Final words

The city of Middelburg is a wonderful place to visit when exploring the Netherlands as there are many things to do, things to see and things to discover in this lesser-known Dutch city. With so many opportunities for sightseeing, Middelburg is the perfect stop on your way south if you’re travelling to Belgium and a side of Dutch culture that is normally missed.

This guide of things to do in Middelburg is a great starting point for the planning of your visit to this south-western Dutch city and should give you more than enough to do and see when visiting. Happy exploring!

About Daniela

Daniela has been living and travelling in the Netherlands since 2009. She has actually been to all the places she writes about. A linguist by education and a writer by profession, Daniela is on a mission to help you plan the perfect trip to her home country - the Netherlands.