Brielle is a historic and fortified sea side town in the Western Netherlands, about 35 km from Rotterdam. It's a town with a long and prominent history, packed with monuments still today. It played a crucial role in the Eighty Years' War, as the Capture of Brielle by the so-called Watergeuzen (or Sea beggars, the Dutch rebels) on the 1st of April 1572 became the beginning of massive Dutch uprising against Spain. Brielle today is a charming town with one of the highest per capita counts of monuments in the country.
Much of the towns fortifications have survived the test of time, and seen from the air, the typical shape of the traditional Old-Dutch fortification structure is still clearly visible.
Unless you come from the province of Zeeland or the Zuid-Hollandse Eilanden, Brielle is reached via the A15, take exit number 12 to N57/Brielle and follow the signposted route via N57 and N218. From Rotterdam it is about a 30-minute drive. The smaller Rijksstraatweg connects Brielle in 15 car minutes to Hellevoetsluis.
There's no train station in town. Brielle is served by a frequent R-net bus line 403 from Spijkenisse Centrum metro station. Total travel time using the metro from Rotterdam city center and then bus 403 is about 1 hour.
A major part of the village's historic heritage is situated within the old defensive walls, so navigating your way on foot is easy. Nonetheless, especially since it's a small town, many visitors come here as part of a somewhat broader exploration of the area. A bicycle tour is an excellent way to take in some of the lovely island views and include one or two nearby villages or hamlets. Bike rental and maps are available. Renting a boat or paddle boat makes for another fun way to explore the canals, and a nice pass-time.
- Verhuur Centrum Brielle, Slagveld 56, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Renting out is this place's main business. There are no electric bikes for rent, but a range of normal bicycles, boats and (motor supported) paddle boats are available. If you're camping in the area, you might like to know they also rent out barbecues and some other things.
- The main star-shaped structure of defensive walls and canals has changed little since its construction in 1713, making Brielle one of the best preserved fortified towns in the Netherlands. The nine bastions and five ravelins were nicely restored in the 1970s and several of the original city gates are still present. Interesting elements of the walls include a mid-18th-century porter's house as well as:
- 1 Langepoort (gate). A robust 1704 brick gate.
- 2 't Vliegend Hert. This windmill is a replica of the official 19th century city mill. As common at the time, the mill is situated on the walls for the purpose of enjoying the free-flowing wind.
Other sights include;
- 3 Grote of Sint-Catharijnekerk. This massive church would have been the largest in Holland of that time, but the structure was never completed. Building started in 1417 but the last bricks were added in 1482, when only the main nave and a 57-m tower was completed. A stained glass window depicts the wedding of William of Orange and his third wife, which took place here in 1575, after the church was looted and turned into a Protestant church during the Dutch Reformation. It's possible to climb the stairs of the tower, for a nice view over town.
- 4 Arsenaal, Corner of Rozemarijnstraat and Lijnbaan. The town's weapon depot was built in 1708 and served as a military structure until 1922. Today, it's the impressive home of Brielle's library.
- Historic Museum Den Briel in the former City Hall, Markt 1. Tu–Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 13:00-17:00. This small but comprehensive museum gives an insight in the town's history, particularly of its role in the Eighty Years' War. It is housed in the 18th-century City Hall, for which the façade was created by Johannes van Westenhout in 1790. €4 for adults.
If you can read Dutch and have a smartphone with you, you can make use of a special city walking tour. It's not so much a set route, but rather a collection of objects and buildings where a QR code sign provides additional (mostly historic) information. Even if you can't read Dutch, it's a good selection of sights. Flyers with information on the tour are available from the Historic Museum or the Tourist Information Office.
With over 100 shops within the old fortifications alone, Brielle definitely allows for a small shopping spree. In fact, it's one of the main shopping destinations in the area for local and tourist alike. Many of the main Dutch chain stores are present, as well as some small speciality shops. The setting in the charming, historic town makes for a fun experience. The main shopping area is the Nobelstraat and surrounding streets.
- De Steeg, Nobelstraat 50. This shop sells antiques and bric-à-brac. It's surely one of the most charming little stores, if you're interested in their kind of ware. Opening hours are not set in stone, and usually it's only open in the afternoons. In off-season the hours are more limited. Your best bet is to just walk by and see, or check the website.
- 't Kont van het Paard, Kaatsbaan 1-3, ☏ . An all time favourite in town, this old-fashioned diner serves simple but tasty dishes for a friendly price. The food is traditional, like stews, spare-ribs or clams, but it's all fresh and there are a few good vegetarian options too.
- Primo Piano vino e cucina, Lijnbaan 1-2, ☏ . closed M Tu. This is no pizzeria, but a good Italian restaurant with a fine collection of wines. It serves a range of pastas, fish and meat dishes, mostly in traditional Italian fashion. Starters from €9, mains from €21.
- Petros, Voorstraat 126, ☏ . Closed M. Go here if you're craving Greek food, or if you're on a limited budget. €21 for 3 course meals or mains from €14.
- Chez Andre, Turfkade 14, ☏ . This small place has a nice view over the harbour and serves breakfast, lunch, high tea and simple dinners. It's also a good place for some Italian ice-cream.
Don't expect any serious clubbing or night-life here, but there are plenty of cafés for nice cold beers and a few where locals and young visitors come for music and dancing.
- Café Dixi, Maarland zz 1-3. This has been a café for over 120 years, but it's still one of the most lively places. Nice terrace overlooking the harbour, makes a good place for a beer on a summer evening.
There are quite a few places to sleep in this small town. In high season the best ones get sold out quickly, however, so book in advance if you can.
- Atlas Village Brielle, Nobelstraat 20, ☏ . This simple and a bit old-fashioned hotel is part of a mini chain of three hotels in different parts of the country. Facilities are fairly basic and the rooms on the small side, but otherwise pleasant. The place has a 3-star rating and is in the centre of town. This place offers some good last-minute discounts now and then, which make it more interesting. €75.
Most of the places to eat and stay have free wifi, and mobile internet 4G is readily available.
Brielle isn't far from touristic hotspots Rotterdam, known for its modern architecture, and historic Delft. If you'd rather see more of the Dutch sea side history, go on island hopping on the Zuid-Hollandse Eilanden and head on to Zierikzee, Middelburg or Vlissingen, maybe stopping on route to see some of the Delta Works.
If you're more in the mood for nature, consider a visit to the Biesbosch National Park.