Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

When Amsterdam was still a tiny settlement, nine cities in the east of The Netherlands were blooming trading ports of great importance. What did they have in common? Their location along the river IJssel. The cities of Deventer, Zwolle, Kampen, Doesburg, Harderwijk, Elburg, Zutphen, Hattem and Hasselt formed the Hansa Towns in The Netherlands. These nine gorgeous historical towns are the perfect destination for a road trip in The Netherlands.

Plan your road trip The Netherlands

Road trip The Netherlands, along Hansa Towns in The Netherlands (photo: Judith Elders ©NBTC Merel Tuk)

Hansa Town, road trip in The Netherlands (photo: Gemeente Doesburg, Arjan Almekinders)

  • If you don’t have your own car with you, rent a car for your road trip in The Netherlands.
  • If you’d rather travel by public transport, several Hansa Towns are easy to reach by train. You can travel to Zwolle, Kampen, Deventer, Zutphen and Harderwijk by train. A OV Chip Card is nice to have when you travel by public transport in The Netherlands.
  • There are many lovely hotels in the Hansa Towns. Below I will tell you where to stay in each city. Do book ahead as the Hansa Towns are popular destinations for both Dutch as foreign visitors.

Vakantiepark Landgoed ‘t Loo

Photo: Landal Landgoed 't Loo

Photo: Landal Landgoed 't Loo

During your road trip in The Netherlands you can drive from Hansa Town to Hansa Town and stay in several different cities, this is a fun experience. There are quite some pretty hotels along the route. But if you’d rather discover the Dutch Hansa Towns from a holiday park, Vakantiepark Landgoed ‘t Loo not only has the perfect location for your road trip, but has all the facilities for a lovely holiday in The Netherlands. This holiday park has beautifully, recently renovated holiday cottages. The location is perfect: close to all Hansa Towns, but also near Veluwe and famous ‘t Loo Castle. The park has a great swimming pool, water park and play facilities for kids of several ages, as well as

About Hansa Towns in The Netherlands

Hansa Towns, The Netherlands (graphic by Visit Oost/ Hanzesteden)

The Hansa Towns (or Hanzesteden) in The Netherlands are true hidden gems. The Hansa Towns follow the IJssel river along the edge of the IJsselmeer. Deventer, Zwolle, Kampen, Doesburg, Harderwijk, Elburg, Zutphen, Hattem and Hasselt were all part of the Hanseatic League, which formed a powerful trade network from the 11th century on that crossed from Portugal to the Baltic states. Many of you will know Hansa cities like Bremen and Hamburg, but the Dutch Hansa Towns are each well-worth discovering. They are filled with historical monuments and have cosy city centres with lots to discover.

5x why you should visit Hansa Towns in The Netherlands

Street art Hansa Towns, The Netherlands. Photo by: De Strakke Hand - Robert Oosterbroek

  • The Hanseic cities are relatively small and have compact city centres. Everything is within walking distance.
  • The distance between the Dutch Hansa Towns is short: it’s possible to combine a visit to two towns in one day, especially the smaller ones like Elburg, Doesburg, Hattem and Hasselt.
  • The Dutch Hansa Towns are a chocolate box of culture with excellent museums, nice galeries and theaters.
  • Street art lovers will really enjoy the brand new murals in the Dutch hanseic cities which were made by well-known Dutch street artists and collectives and designed to unite past and present.
  • The Dutch Hansa Towns are a gastronomic paradise. Because of the proximity to both IJssel river and IJsselmeer seafood and fish is especially good in these parts, plus The Netherland’s renowned 3 star Michelin restaurant De Librije is located in Zwolle.

9x Hansa Towns, The Netherlands


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Deventer | Your Dutch Guide

Start your road trip in The Netherlands in Deventer, one of the loveliest Hansa Towns and one of my favourite cities in The Netherlands. It’s a bustling city which hosts the famous book festival in summer and the Dickens Festival the second weekend of December. Wander the historical streets of the Berg Quarter, shop at the colourful indie shops, taste the wholesome Deventer koek and have a local beer at the DAVO brewpub.

  • Stay at beautiful Finch Boutique Hotel in Deventer.
  • All top things to do in Deventer.


Hattem, The Netherlands (photo: Marketing Oost, Gijs Versteeg)

Hattem may be small, but it’s close to the biggest national park in The Netherlands: Hoge Veluwe National Park, a hiker’s and cyclists’s paradise. Hattem is over 800 years old and has several historical monuments to admire, like the Romanesque with foundations that were laid in the 13th century. Furthermore, the small town has no less than 3 museums.

  • Aparthotel Hattem has lovely hotels rooms and apartments
  • Visit the Anton Pieck Museum, dedicated to Dutch artist Anton Pieck (who was also the designer of The Netherlands’ theme park, Efteling).


Elburg, The Netherlands. Photo: MarketingOost, Gijs Versteeg

Elburg is one of the smallest of the Dutch Hansa Towns, yet it’s such a jewel that it shouldn’t be missed during your road trip in The Netherlands. There are dozens of historical monuments and historical buildings to see, as well as the moats and old city walls.

  • Stay at Boutique Hotel Elburg.
  • Learn more about the town in Museum Elburg.
  • Climb the tower of the Saint Nicholaschurch for a stunning view over the town and surroundings.


Road trip The Netherlands, along Hans Towns in The Netherlands (photo: KampenPartners)

Kampen is probably the most beautifully located of the Hansa Towns, along the IJssel river. The views when you enter the city, both by train or car, will simply take your breath away. Almost 500 monuments remind us today of a rich a glorious past. A stroll along the historic city gates, discovering the hidden courtyards and stumbling onto some coloutful Art Nouveau is definitely a treat. Whe the reconstructed Kogge ships set sail, better hurry to the waterfront for a good view of this spectactle.

  • Boetiekhotel Kampen is set in a pretty Art Nouveau building.
  • Stedelijk Museum Kampen gives a good explenation on how the Hansa Towns flourished and what they are about today.
  • Ikonenmuseum Kampen hosts a fine collection of Russian Orthodox icons, though I preferd the more contemporary exhibit of Henk Helmantel.
  • Historical cigar factory De Olifant is unique in The Netherlands.


Road trip The Netherlands: Zwolle (photo by: MarketingOost)

Zwolle is the largest of the Hansa Towns in The Netherlands. The star-shaped canal and fortification around the old city are stunning and you should absolutely check out the historical Sassenpoort, the only historical city gate remaining. Inside the walls, Zwolle holds great museums, colourful boutiques and amazing restaurants (one of them being Michelin star restaurant De Librije).

  • One of the best hotels to stay in during your road trip in The Netherlands is Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Ter Borch in Zwolle.
  • Discover the city using this self-guided walking tour and audio guide.
  • Don’t miss Zwolle highlight Museum de Fundatie.
  • Step inside one of the most beautiful bookshops in The Netherlands, built in a church,  Van der Velde in de Broeren.
  • Discover Trotse Muren, the street art project of Zwolle.
  • See all top things to do in Zwolle.


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Harderwijk | Your Dutch Guide

Harderwijk is located on the edge of Hoge Veluwe National Park and Veluwemeer. There is plenty to see and do as the historical town has 100 national monuments and the entire old town has been declared a protected monument. Take a seat and have something to drink at the cosy market square or at the city beach to take in the unique atmosphere of Harderwijk.

    • Hotel Monopole is a newly renovated hotel with promenade views and an excellent restaurant.
    • Visit Marius van Dokkum Museum, located in a stunning old building, to admire the colourful and fun expressionist art.
    • Shop vintage household supplies and textiles at  Eef & Co.
    • Taste the finest patisserie at Patrijs.


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Hasselt (photo: MarketingOost - Gijs Versteeg)

Don’t confuse Hansa Town Hasselt with the Belgium city of Hasselt. Though they’re both pretty historical towns, they do have totally different characters. Hasselt in The Netherlands is also known as ‘Little Amsterdam’ and when you take in the canals, bridges, quays and locks in the small city centre, there is no question why. Even the canals are named the same as their Amsterdam big brothers, so do take a walk along Heerengracht and Prinsengracht in Hasselt or take a boat trip to take it all in.

  • Hasselt is a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.
  • Order lunch, overlooking the water, at De Linde.


Road trip, The Netherlands: Zutphen | Your Dutch Guide

Even though Zutphen is one of the grandest of all Hanse Towns in The Netherlands, its origins date back to roman time. The city has a spectacular skyline, best to be seen from the water. The museums, indie shops, cosy market square and excellent restaurants are a visitor-magnet. Zutphen should not be missed during a road trip in The Netherlands.

  • Hotel Broederenklooster is a stunning boutique hotel in Zutphen, set in an old cloyster.
  • The best way to discover Zurphen is by boat.
  • Step inside the Zutphen library as it is set in a stunning old church building.


Hansa Towns, The Netherlands: Doesburg (photo: MarketingOost)

Doesburg is one of the most magnificent fortified, historical and an absolute must-visit during a road trip in The Netherlands. Even nowadays the wealth and importance of days gone by is still very visible. Simply wandering the cobbled streets and taking in the stunning historical buildings is a treat.

  • Stay at cosy and beautiful Guesthouse in het Voorhuys.
  • Climb the 94-meter high tower of the Martinikerk for a stunning view over Doesburg.
  • See some stunning Art Nouveau at the Lalique Museum.
  • Have lunch in Het Arsenaal, the oldest café in The Netherlands, found in 1309.


By Lala