Deventer is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. It is on the river IJssel and was a member of the Hanseatic League. This town in the province of Overijssel offers a great collection of heritage. It is home to the country's oldest brick house, the oldest park and the oldest academic library. Today, the town is also known for its annual Dickens festival in December.
It is home to almost 100.000 people, and was first mentioned in documents of the 9th century. It is believed that it was the Anglo-Saxon missionary Lebuinus who established the settlement that became Deventer, by building a church there around 870. In the 11th and 12th century, Deventer was a very important and wealthy city. A member of the Hanseatic League, her wealth was mostly achieved by trading along the river IJssel. Many of the buildings erected in those profitable days still remain and the historic centre make Deventer an appealing town for visitors.
Schiphol Airport (AMS IATA) near Amsterdam is the largest airport in the vicinity. From there, directly under the arrivals area, regular trains can be boarded that take about 1½ hours to reach Deventer. By car, the journey takes fractionally longer and will involve navigating the ring roads around Amsterdam before hitting the A1.
From Amsterdam, Deventer can be reached via the A1 motorway. The ride takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on traffic. Other important road connections into town are the N337, N344 and N348.
Deventer has two train stations, of which 1 . is the main one and of most use to travellers. Regular trains connect the city to all major destinations in the Netherlands. The international train between Amsterdam and Hannover/Berlin also makes a stop at Deventer. The second station is 2 . , which mostly serves the east of the city. This station is one you'll likely not see, since only local trains between Almelo and Apeldoorn call here.
Direct intercity services connect Deventer to Amsterdam as well as Schiphol Airport. In both cases, the journey will take about 90 minutes. Other direct connections (typically running every half hour) include Zwolle, Arnhem, Enschede, Utrecht, Tilburg, 's Hertogenbosch and Rotterdam.
The historic city centre is small and most suited to explore on foot. The Waag is a good place to start, as it houses the Tourist Information Office and a museum. Themed walking routes can be obtained here. As in most Dutch cities, pedestrian road signs also give directions to the prime sights.
A small passenger ferry runs all through the day to bring pedestrians to the other side of the IJssel river, allowing for easy access to the Ossenwaard natural area, which offers lovely walks and (in summer) some pleasant river side beach areas. No bikes are allowed on the ferry, and a single/return ticket costs €1/1.40. The ferry ride offers some nice views over town and makes it possible to park without charge at the Worp (so on the other side of the river).
To see more of the city's natural surroundings, renting a bicycle is a good alternative. They're available from the VVV Tourist Office in the Waag building. When it's closed, on Sundays, try the Fletcher Gildehotel (Nieuwstraat) or the Sandton IJsselhotel (at the Worp, across the river).
The oldest part of the town, just south of the railway station, still contains many medieval buildings. Just walking around the compact center there will be plenty to look at. The 1 Brink is the central square, and when the new city wall was constructed in 1350, it became an important trading quarter.
The Bergkwartier area is a small part of Deventer centered around the Bergkerk, a church placed on a hillock that came into being around the 12th century. The yearly markets ushered in a new age of prosperity for Deventer. Newcomers settled in the newest part of town, Bergkwartier. It is situated between the Brink and the harbor. The prosperity ended in 1570, when Deventer became the focal point of various wars. New defensive works where created to protect those in the new part of town, which later helped to secure the city from unwanted company. This irrevocably meant the end of the expansion of the district, as tearing down the defense works to expand the city was forbidden. The traders that came until 1570 left leaving Bergkwartier and all the heritage that can be seen today.
Today, after many years of restoration, many old buildings have lost their function as warehouse and have become living quarters, shops, taverns, restaurants and offices. A lot of old sights were restored, as some were in decay or damaged by various wars. Now the Bergkwartier is one of the main tourist attractions in Deventer because of its rich history and very open character. The Noordenbergkwartier is a very old quarter west of it.
- 2 Bergkerk (Saint Nicholas Church), Bergkerkplein 1. The Gothic church dates from circa 1200 and stands on the highest part of the Bergkwartier. Today, it is used for concerts and expositions.
- 3 Saint Lebuïnus Church (Lebuïnuskerk), Grote Kerkhof 42. Nov 1-Apr 1: M-Sa 11:00-16:00; Apr 1-Nov 1: M-Sa 11:00-17:00; Su closed. The main church of Deventer, built in Gothic style. No entry fee, donations welcomed.
- 4 Waag (Weigh house), Brink 56. M closed, Tu-Su 11:00-17:00. Deventer has its own Leaning Tower of Pisa, the 'Waag' (courthouse), that leans over quite a lot. 18+: €9, 13-18: €2.50; <13: free.
- 5 Geert Groote Huis, Lamme van Dieseplein 4. Museum about a religious leader.
- 6 Proosdij, Sandrasteeg 8. The Proosdij is the oldest stone house of the Netherlands, having been built around 1130 AD.
- 7 De Drie Ridders (Mini Oranje Museum), Pontsteeg 24, ☏ . W-Sa 11:00-17:00, Su-Tu closed. Being primarily a shop for delicacies, De Drie Ridders also houses the Mini Oranje Museum, a small museum dedicated to the house of Orange-Nassau, the royal family of the Netherlands, featuring mostly a plethora of smaller curiosities.
- 8 Stadhuis (City Hall), Grote Kerkhof (across the street from St Lebuïnus Church). Both the old and new city hall stand almost as neighbouring buildings. The old city hall (at #4), built in 1693, consists of different architectural styles including a classicist front facade. The new city hall, opened in 2016, is a copper-colored modern building built with windows bearing patterns. Between the two city hall buildings is the Landhuis built in 1632. An interior courtyard has access to all three buildings.
- 9 Broederenkerk, Broederenstraat 18. The Broederen church was built in the 14th century.
- 10 Rijsterborgherpark (Vogeleiland). The park is a national monument (rijksmonument) and features works of art between the greenery, a Bird Island (Vogeleiland), a pavilion and a music dome.
- 11 Het kloostertuin Buiskensklooster (Cloister Garden), Het Klooster 3. Unlike the former Buiskensklooster building, a former convent now used as a city archive and library, the cloister garden is open to the public. The garden contains a few large trees and a large plant collection provided by two local residents.
Beyond the city centre:
- 12 Wilhelminabrug, Rijksstraatweg. The bridge from the movie A Bridge Too Far. In the movie, the bridge substitutes for the one at Arnhem, as its surroundings had changed a lot between Operation Market Garden and the shooting of the film.
- 13 Bolwerksmolen, Bolwerksweg 6 (across the river, near the Wiliminabrug). Tu-Sa 9:00-17:00 April-Sept. Historic windmill powering a sawmill; completely rebuilt in 2007.
- 14 Watertoren (Water tower), Ceintuurbaan 401 (in the park: het Nieuwe Plantsoen). interior not open to public. This late 19th century water tower looks as if it should belong to a fairy-tale castle rather than a water utility.
- Go up the bell tower in the Lebinius-church for some amazing views as well as the bullet holes in the walls outside.
- Take a walk on the river promenade, if it's not high tide.
Deventer hosts a number of large events every year, attracting many thousands of domestic and international visitors. See also the bookmarket mentioned in the buy section.
- Dickens Festival, Brink 89, ☏ . The last weekend before Christmas, the annual Charles Dickens festival brings some 140.000 visitors to Deventer's Bergkwartier. Local volunteers and business owners turn the city quarter into a 19th-century town by enacting famous scenes from Dickens' novels and dress up to be Oliver Twist, Scrooge and hundreds of other characters. The rest of the city joins in the celebrations with Christmas markets and other activities, providing a lively, overall buzz. Admission is free, but count on some queueing to enter.
- Deventer op Stelten (Deventer on Stilts). This July weekend is full of international theatre acts, including a good number on stilts. Most of the acts are performed free of charge and on stages throughout the city.
- Boekenmarkt (Book market). The first Sunday of August, the biggest European book market is held in the city center.
Every first Sunday of the months, shops in the city centre open their doors between 12:00 and 17:00. Thursday evening they stay open late, until 21:00.
Deventer has a good variety of boutiques and stores, including all the common Dutch brand stores and dozens of small, individual shops and galleries. The large chain stores are mostly situated in the Smedenstraat, Lange Bisschopsstraat, Korte Bisschopstraat and the Engestraat. If you're more interested in the small scale businesses, make sure to stop by at the Tourist Information Office to pick up its free walking route along some 75 speciality stores and boutique shops. The Walstraat and the Bergkwartier are good places for antique shopping.
Deventer is moderately famous for its bookstores. Most will be in Dutch, but there might be a rare find somewhere. Every first Sunday of August, the city centre hosts the largest open-air bookmarket in western Europe. Some 6 km long, due to the 875 or so book stalls, this large market attracts up to 130,000 visitors.
The city's most famous foodstuff is "Deventer Koek", which can be bought in the Koekhuisje (Cookie House) at Brink 84.
- 1 Chez Antoinette (bar bodega Chez Antoinette), Roggestraat 10-12, 7411 EP Deventer (walk from Central Station, 5 minutes), ☏ . Portuguese restaurant, bar and bodega in the historic heart of Deventer. It is the town's evergreen—this place has been around for a long time and is rated high by the locals. Don't get fooled by its French name—this place serves truly authentic Portuguese drinks and dishes. There's a very nice bar which is open till late at night and things can get quite crowded or gezellig as the Dutch would call it. The restaurant definitely requires a booking if you want to be sure of a table. Just ring and make a reservation.
- 2 Le Thai Cuisine, Grote Overstraat 30, ☏ . Those with a taste for Asian food return time and again to this local favourite. It serves a range of Thai dishes in a cosy restaurant, situated in the arched vaults of a historic mansion. For groups of 4 to 8 people, there's a free taxi service if you're staying in or directly around the city. Mains from €16, surprise menu €32 per person.
- 3 ’t Arsenaal, Nieuwe Markt 33-34, ☏ . If the weather is nice, reserve a table on the charming inner courtyard, rather than the terrace in the front. The food is French/Mediterranean and of good quality. Service can be a bit hasty when it's busy, but is overall adequate. Good spot for a romantic dinner too. €35.
- 4 Theater Restaurant Bouwkunde, Klooster 2-4, ☏ . The floor above is a theatre, but the cozy downstairs restaurant serves non-theatre guests as well. High-quality produce and a love for food are their corner stones, but take into account that waiting times between courses can be on the long side. €32.
There are countless establishments throughout the city centre. In summer, when the weather allows, the outdoor terraces at De Brink and the Grote Kerkhof are especially packed and buzzing with life.
- Bierencafe de Heks, Brink 63, 7411 BV Deventer (It's next to the Waag.), ☏ . M-Th 15:00-02:00, F 15:00-03:00, Sa 14:30-03:00, Su 15:00-02:00. A small pub that specialises on all kinds of beer. They have more than 70 different sorts of beer.
- 1 Hotel Gilde, Nieuwstraat 41, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Upper budget hotel in the historic center of Deventer. Some rooms have a balcony and view over the inner garden, but not all of them. Free Wi-Fi. €88.
- 2 Hotel Hanzestadslogement De Leeuw, Nieuwstraat 25, ☏ . A small, quaint family-run hotel with an atmosphere quite like no other. It's in a historic building and a former bakery and houses a small museum collection on the Hanseatic League. Rooms come in different sizes and prices. The cheaper ones are a bit small but the exceptional charm and friendly owners get this place raving reviews nonetheless. €79-119.
- 3 Sandton IJsselhotel, Worp 2, ☏ . On the other side of the IJssel river, the terraces and restaurant of this modern 29-room hotel offer some of the best views of the city around. Some of the rooms have those views too, but ask when booking. The small passenger ferry is right outside the hotel, making it an easy 5-minute trip to the centre. The ferry runs every few minutes until 23:00 and costs €1.50 for a return ticket. Use of the fitness area is free, the sauna costs €10. From €75 for a standard room.
- 4 Hotel Royal, Brink 94, ☏ . €90.
- 5 Hotel Finch, Keizerstraat 20, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. €75.
- 6 De Vischpoorte, Nieuwe Markt 40, ☏ . €77.
- 7 Camp Site De Worp (Stadscamping De Worp), Worp 12, ☏ . Right on the other side of the river, and easy to reach through the ferry, this quiet campsite is just a stone's throw from the city centre. It has 60 camp spots, including a number of tents ready for rent. €16.50 per night, including 2 people.
- A ten-minute drive from Deventer, Zutphen and Apeldoorn (home to a royal palace open for the public) both have pleasant historic centres too. Zwolle (30 min) and Arnhem (1 hr) are other options with the same kind of qualities.
- If you're rather looking for some nature, head to National Park The Veluwe.
|Routes through Deventer|
|Amsterdam ← Apeldoorn ←||W E||→ Hengelo → Osnabrück|
|Hoogeveen ← Ommen ←||N Z||→ Zutphen → Arnhem|
|Zwolle ←||N Z||→ Arnhem → Roosendaal|
|Schiphol Airport ← Amsterdam Zuid ←||W E||→ Hengelo → Enschede|
|The Hague ← Utrecht ←||W E||→ Hengelo → Enschede|
|Berlin ← Hannover ←||E W||→ Amersfoort → Amsterdam|