Welcome to Walcheren
Walcheren is bordered by water: two sides face the North Sea, and another the Westerschelde estuary. From its beaches you can watch the seagoing ships pass just off the coast.
HistoryAll the way back to Roman times, the area around Walcheren was inhabited and Domburg was an important trading town. Walcheren became a county after the 4th century, and a circular stronghold to defend it against the Normans was built in the 9th century. Middelburg arose around that time, named for its location between Domburg and Souburg. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it grew to become one of the largest port and trading towns in the Dutch Republic.
Formerly an island, Walcheren has been a peninsula since the end of the 19th century. That’s when the Sloedam was constructed and the railway from Zuid-Beveland was extended to Vlissingen.
During the Second World War, Walcheren was crucial to controlling the port of Antwerp. German occupiers turned Walcheren into a large fortress with around 200 bunkers. Fierce fighting broke out around the Sloedam, taking the lives of many soldiers. The allied forces flooded much of Walcheren to weaken the German position, and it was finally liberated on 8 November 1944.
Walcheren largely escaped damage in the North Sea flood of 1953. The subsequent construction of the Veerse Dam, part of the Delta Works, created the Veerse Meer lake, now a popular water sports destination in Zeeland. The tradition of ring riding is especially popular in Walcheren: almost every town has its own competition. This involves a rider on an unsaddled galloping horse trying to put a lance through a ring. A knight’s challenge.
Villages and townsZeeland’s capital city, Middelburg, is centrally located on Walcheren. Nearby is the town of Vlissingen, with its famous boulevard along the Westerschelde. In Vlissingen’s harbour, the ships come so close to shore that you can almost touch them. The seaside town of Domburg has always been a popular place for bathers. It also attracted many artists in the early 20th century, who came to see the beautiful ‘Zeeland Light’.
Domburg is the oldest seaside resort on the Walcheren coast.
In 2013 Domburg was given the official status of ‘health resort’. This means it meets all the international criteria set out by the German Spa Association. The sea water, the climate and the natural resources of the soils here have health-giving properties. Together with Cadzand, Domburg is the only Dutch seaside town to have this designation.
To do in Domburg
, museum for the natural scenery of the province of Zeeland
Het Badpaviljoen (or ‘beach pavilion’) is an iconic building in Domburg’s dunes. The first beach pavilion was built on the same site in 1837. It served as a coffee house and a bathhouse. In 1983, the present building became a listed monument. It now houses a restaurant. From the beach terrace there are fantastic views along the coastline. Domburg has many other historic buildings, such as the old town hall, the Weltevreden mill and the water tower.
A historic city with a rich architectural heritage. The city has an illustrious past to which today’s townscape bears witness.
Middelburg owes its name to the fact that it was once the middlemost ‘burg’ - or stronghold - on the island of Walcheren. In the 9th century, when the Vikings invaded, ramparts were constructed along the island’s coast. Middelburg was the middlemost of these and so acquired its name. Once the danger subsided in the Middle Ages, the town developed into a trading centre and in 1217 it was granted a municipal charter.
When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was in its pomp, Middelburg became one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. In the space of 200 years, the shipyards here turned out no fewer than 300 seagoing vessels. These ships sailed to Asia to ply trade in spices, textiles and porcelain. There are still many buildings in Middleburg today to remind us of this Golden Age.
Second only to Amsterdam, Middelburg once had the largest number of historic buildings. Even today, there are still over 1100 listed structures in the old town. During the Second World War, Middelburg suffered much war damage. The city fire of Middelburg (shelling and bombing) in 1940 reduced a large part of the historic inner city to ashes. After the war, the city was rebuilt along traditional lines.