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Zutphen is a city in the Netherlands that many people like to visit. Not surprisingly, because Zutphen has many attractions such as remnants of city walls, of towers and still in good condition ancient buildings. Zutphen is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Already in Roman times a Germanic settlement was founded along the river IJssel, on a complex of river dunes: Zuid Venne. After Vikings caused much destruction during several attacks in the 9th century, the settlement was protected with a ring wall and moats.
Zutphen and the Hanseatic League
From the 13th century, a stone city wall with entrance gates and several towers was built in stages. At that time, Zutphen became a member of the German Hanseatic League, as did 21 other cities in the Netherlands. Much money was made from trade, most of which was driven across the river IJssel.
23 places of interest in Zutphen
The rich history has left many beautiful things behind in Zutphen; many monuments and protected cityscapes can be found there. In this article an overview of sights in Zutphen.
The Berkelpoort is perhaps one of Zutphen’s most famous landmarks. The water gate was built in the early 14th century, when there were two settlements on either side of the Berkel River that were merged. The city wall was extended and two water gates became part of the enclosure. At the end of the 18th century, the other water gate near the Berkelpoortstraat was demolished. Since 2016 it has been possible to view the Berkelpoort from above with a guide, tickets for this are on sale at the tourist office.
Armenhage city wall and wall towers
Armenhage is where the best remnants of the city wall and two wall towers can be seen. These parts of the city wall are an extension of the Berkel Gate and are no longer contiguous. Construction of the stone city wall began in the 13th century. The walls were over a meter thick and in many places the wall was as high as 12 meters. On the outside of the city wall was a moat. The moats have been filled in, but if you look closely, you can see exactly where a moat used to be in certain places in the city due to differences in height.
The Drogenapstoren was built in the mid-15th century. When it was built, the tower was called Saltpoort because it was located on Saltmarkt (Zoutmarkt, now Zaadmarkt). A century later, people started calling the gate Drogenapstoren, because Drogenap was the nickname of the city trumpeter who lived at the top of the tower. The Drogenapstoren, Drogenap Tower, was never really used as a gateway to the city. About 20 years after its construction, the gate was bricked up and used as a storehouse for fuel and goods. When the city expanded in the 19th century, most of the entrance gates were torn down. The Drogenapstoren was the only one that remained standing. The entrance was only reopened after the tower had served as a water tower for decades.
The Broederenklooster is Zutphen is a 13th century national monument. The building has served as the municipal museum for more than half a century but in recent years has been converted into a boutique hotel and restaurant. In the spring of 2020, the Brotherhood Monastery (Broederenklooster) opened its doors to guests. Vaults, original stone floors, pointed arches and other medieval details have been preserved. There are 15 hotel rooms, and former star chef Niels Minkman sways the kitchen of the restaurant. Want to eat in a room where monks ate for centuries, sleep in a former dormitory and taste wine in a medieval wine cellar? Then this is the place to be in Zutphen.
The Kruittoren stands somewhat in a remote corner of Zutphen, so close to the railroad tracks. Presumably the tower was built at the beginning of the 14th century, as an extra defense of the city. The city wall then connected on both sides and on the side of the railroad there was a moat. In the 17th century, the tower was completely bricked up and gunpowder was stored there. Probably from this period the tower was called Kruittoren.
The Wijnhuistoren used to be the central point of the city. Many cities in the Middle Ages had a wine house or an inn where people gathered, where important meetings were held and where announcements were made to the inhabitants of the city. An inn was already present on the site of the Wine House Tower before the construction of the tower began. The city council purchased the inn as early as the beginning of the 15th century. A small tower was built with a clock. At the beginning of the 17th century came the beautiful platform with stairs on both sides, the tower became significantly higher and a bell and a carillon were placed on top. The Wijnhuistoren got its present appearance at the beginning of the 20th century, when the building was rebuilt after a severe fire. Today, the building houses an Italian restaurant. The Wijnhuistoren is one of the landmarks in Zutphen that you can hardly miss, so prominent is the tower in the city center.
The Oskamstraatje in Zutphen has a bizarre past. Walking into the Oskamstraatje, you have a good view of the historic wall houses. To the left of the gate you will see a wall tower, called Geckentoren in history books. In the mid-16th century, women with mental health problems were locked up here, and later also men, in the room next to the wall tower. The gate to Bornhovestraat is not as old as many other gates in the city, but I still think it is worth a visit.
Walburgiskerk and Librije
The Walburgiskerk is the oldest church in Zutphen, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and among the 10 most beautiful churches in the Netherlands. A true landmark in Zutphen therefore, and for many people the church is at the top of the list of places they want to see in the city. There has been a church on this spot since the 12th century; at the beginning of the 13th century they began building the church as it is today. The tower has grown higher and higher over the centuries. The tower used to be made mostly of wood, so lightning could strike well several times and cause fires. In rebuilding the tower, they kept making it a few meters higher. The tower is now 76 meters high, and a climb up the 102 steps treats you to a beautiful view of the city. The 1643 Henrick Bader organ in the Walburgiskerk is among the most impressive organs in the Netherlands.
In 16th century, a public reading room was established in the church by two church masters. The reading room was open to all and a considerable variety of books was available. Because books regularly disappeared, the most important books were fixed to chains, making the Librije officially a chain library. Only two original chain libraries remain in Europe: the Librije and Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy.
Apenstert is a street that is no longer there. In World War II, this part of Zutphen was hit hard during a bombing raid, and basically then the street Apenstert disappeared in one fell swoop. Only a nameplate of the street and a memorial stone remained at this spot.
If you are tired of the city life for a while, you can walk along the water, along the IJssel. From the Oude IJsselbrug it is a nice walk over the IJsselkade towards the Vispoorthaven. On the way you pass the small lock, where water from the Berkel flows into the IJssel. A little further on is the statue of poet Ida Gerhardt. Over the Bult van Ketjen you walk into the Vispoorthaven, where you can walk back into the center via ‘s Gravenhof.
The Civic Hall (Burgerzaal) is a surprising building in Zutphen. This building served in the Middle Ages as a meat hall and later as a court, butter hall and even as a prison. Especially special in this building is the roof construction. If you look up, it seems as if you are looking at an inverted ship. The hall now often hosts meetings and exhibitions.
The Spanjaardspoort was a barbacane, a fortified outpost built in front of the Nieuwestadspoort as an extra defense. At the end of the 16th century, the Spaniards managed to enter the city through this gate, causing a massacre of Zutphen’s population.
In the 15th century, the 12-meter high Burgundy Tower (Bourgonjetoren) was built in Zutphen, as protection against the Burgundians who tried to take control of Zutphen. The tower is part of the stronghold on the IJsselkade, popularly known as Bult van Ketjen. The walls of the tower are as much as 4 meters thick in the middle. At the time of its construction, the tower was immediately adjacent to the moat. After the moat was filled in, the ground rose much higher so that the lower embrasures were no longer visible. Since the tower later no longer had a military function anyway, permission was granted to build a cupola on top of the tower, which was used as a teahouse by a baron who lived directly behind the tower.
De Rokende Moor
A beautiful little building in the center of Zutphen lies on the corner of Broederenkerkhof and Turfstraat. It stands out because of its beautiful stepped gable as well as a gable stone on the side. In the second part of the 18th century, the building was known as where the smoking moor hangs out, probably because it housed a tobacco store. It is almost unbelievable, but the exterior of the property was completely plastered smooth in the early 1900s. Some 50 years later, this plaster was removed again. Still managed to get it back in good condition :-) The building is owned by the Wine House Fund and was completely restored in 2009. As a reminder of the time of the tobacco store, the Moor’s facade stone has been bricked into the wall.
Opposite The Smoking Moor (de rokende Moor) is a gate to the Rosmolensteeg. In the gate itself, don’t forget to look up at the original ceiling of wooden beams. Further down the alley there used to be a Synagogue, in the rear of a building on Turfstraat. Across the alley is now the terrace of the Broederen Monastery, converted into a boutique hotel, on the site of the former courtyard garden. The alley itself suffers quite a bit from graffiti which is a shame, because it could be a lot more atmospheric without all that junk on the walls.
Over 100 years ago, the Luxor in Zutphen was founded. At the time, the luxury movie house held 248 people. It was owned by one family for 60 years, but unfortunately it had to close its doors in 1987. In 1989 the movie theater reopened after a major renovation. The Luxor in Zutphen is the oldest operating movie theater in the Netherlands.
Broederenkerk and public library
The Broederenkerk is one of the three large churches in Zutphen and one of the best preserved monastery churches in the Netherlands. The church houses the public library. You’ll feast your eyes when you walk around inside. The walls are plastered white and on the ceilings are beautiful original vault paintings from the 16th century. On a wall of the side aisle of the church you can admire a bricked-in guild stone from the 17th century. In the early 17th century, the city decided to start ringing the bell at the time the city gates closed in the evening. Still today, the bell rings every evening from 9:50 pm to 9:55 pm. Now no longer to warn of the closing of the gates but to remind of the time when Zutphen still had city gates.
The oldest hofje in Zutphen is the Oude Bornhof. At the beginning of the 14th century, Borro, a clergyman, bequeathed his house to the poor and needy people of Zutphen. For years, the white house was the centerpiece of the beautiful spot in the middle of the city center, with no surrounding buildings. Only in the 17th century were cottages built around it. These were replaced for new ones at the end of the 19th century. Only Borro’s house remained standing and the original entrance was preserved. Other well-known hofjes in Zutphen are the Agnietenhofje (only accessible for a certain part of the day), the Luthershofje, the Ruitershofje, the Sareptahofje (closed to the public) and the Wöhrmannhofje.
The Drogenapsteeg is a narrow alley between the Bolwerck and Wijnhandel Schaapveld, so you can get from the Zaadmarkt to the Drogenapstoren. I think this is a beautiful part of Zutphen, you really imagine yourself back in the Middle Ages. Bit gray and dark, damp and spooky!
Immediately to the right of the Drogenapsteeg is the building The Bolwerck. Built in the mid-16th century, this stately building is somewhere at the top of the list of places of interest in Zutphen. Over the centuries, the building has been modernized several times, according to the ideas and standards of the period. The Bolwerck has had various functions. For example, a wine merchant lived in it for many years but the building also served as a public library. A wing of the house was used as a carriage house and later as an office. In 2013, the approximately 685 m2 building was completely restored and currently the Bolwerck houses an art house and a B&B.
Shopping in Zutphen
If you want to spend some more hours shopping, the Beukerstraat is the place to be. In this shopping street you will find the big chains such as HEMA, Rituals, Kruidvat, Vero Moda and ICI Paris, among others. Not so keen on these well-known stores? Then I would definitely take a stroll along the nice stores in the Korte Hofstraat and Lange Hofstraat. These include (organic) bakeries, concept stores, interior design shops and delicatessen stores.
Front doors in center of Zutphen
While walking through all the old streets in Zutphen, do not forget to admire the different front doors. You will notice that in several places there are several front doors right next to each other. Sometimes there are so many next to each other that you wonder how things are done behind the front doors. Are there lower and upper houses joined together or are there also back houses to which corridors lead? If you are interested in this information, it might be fun to walk through the city with a guide, who can probably tell you all about this.
Museums in Zutphen
Of course, there are also several museums to visit in Zutphen. These include the Stedelijk Museum, the Museum Shop, the Clockhuys Museum and Erve Eme. More information about the various museums in Zutphen can be found on the website of the VVV.
Parking in Zutphen
In Zutphen you pay for parking in the center, from Monday to Saturday from 08.00h to 18.00h and on shopping nights (Friday evening) until 21.00h. In Zutphen a distinction is made between long parking (€ 1.45 per hour), medium parking (€ 1.85 per hour, max. 4 hours) and short parking (€ 2.25 per hour, max. 2 hours). The cheapest parking is behind the police station. A whole day parking here will cost you € 2.20, per hour costs € 0.60. It’s a bit further to walk to the center but you’ll save some money. You can have an extra cup of coffee (or 2) :-) Current costs and more information about parking can be found on this website.
Hanseatic Route by bike
Discovering Zutphen by bike is also highly recommended, for example as a stop when you go on the Hanseatic Route. Op deze route kom je naast Zutphen ook langs de steden Doesburg, Deventer, Zwolle, Hattem en Kampen.