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Welcome to the heart of the Netherlands and the charming city of Zwolle! With its rich history and vibrant culture, this Dutch city offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. These are the best things to do in Zwolle.
Zwolle is where medieval architecture from the old city walls meets contemporary design, tranquil parks meet bustling markets, and art meets nature. Zwolle is one of the best Dutch cities you’ve never heard of, which is quite surprising since it’s not exactly small.
Located in the Overijssel Province of the Netherlands, the Dutch city of Zwolle upholds centuries of heritage. This is a great place to visit to understand more about the culture and tradition of the Netherlands, as well as take in the interesting architecture, which offers a blend of a modern city and historic charm.
When you visit Zwolle, you’ll realize the cultural lessons from the past and experiences of a lively present, and a direct train from big cities in the Netherlands makes it a great day trip from Amsterdam.
TL;DR: Best By Category
|Best Overall||St. Michael’s Church (Grotekerk)|
|Best Outdoor Activity||Nationaal Park Weerribben Wieden|
|Best Thing to Do with Kids||Dinoland|
|Best Museum||Museum De Fundatie|
Things to Do in Zwolle, The Netherlands
1. Eat at One of the Best Restaurants in the Netherlands, De Librije
Address: Spinhuisplein 1, 8011 ZZ Zwolle, Netherlands
If you want to experience the best Dutch cuisine, visiting De Librije in Zwolle, Netherlands, is a must. This renowned restaurant has earned itself three Michelin stars, making it one of the most prestigious dining establishments in the country. The talented husband and wife duo Jonnie and Thérèse Boer have created a truly exceptional culinary experience.
When you enter the doors, you are greeted with impeccable service and a warm, inviting atmosphere. The menu at De Librije showcases the finest local ingredients and offers a creative and innovative take on traditional Dutch dishes.
Each dish is a work of art, beautifully presented and flavorful. The attention to detail and the passion for perfection are evident in every dining experience that sets De Librije apart.
2. Visit Museum De Fundatie
Address: Blijmarkt 20, 8011 NE Zwolle, Netherlands
The Museum De Fundatie is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts from around the globe. It’s a weird globular wonder atop an equally captivating neoclassical building that looks like the Solar Opposites house if they had better taste in crash sites. Regardless, prepare your soul for modern art like never before.
Museum De Fundatie is a fascinating amalgamation of contemporary art and historical artifacts that provide insight into different periods and cultures. Not only does Museum De Fundatie hold a renowned collection of more than 11,000 pieces, but it also constantly hosts exhibitions by world-famous artists.
The museum’s unique architectural building adds further charm to the visit. The distinctive cloud-shaped upper part of the building, visible from afar, is a work of art. The museum also offers engaging workshops and programs that broaden visitors’ understanding and appreciation of art.
3. Take a boat tour on the Zwolle canals
Embarking on a boat tour on the Zwolle Canals is an unforgettable experience that offers a unique city perspective. This scenic canal boat tour meanders through the heart of the city center, giving you a glimpse of Zwolle’s architectural history and natural beauty. Visitors can appreciate the city’s charm, with its antique houses, historic bridges, and lush green parks viewed from the calmness of the water.
The 17th-century canals in Zwolle, with their still waters reflecting the hues of the sky, set the tone for a serene and calming journey. The boat tour usually lasts an hour, which is just enough time to soak in the alluring sights and sounds of the city.
4. Walk around the old city center
Wandering around Zwolle’s old Dutch city center is like stepping into a richly woven tapestry of history. This small city has a fantastic story to tell, with its brick-marked pathways whispering tales of times gone by. Walking in the center of Zwolle, you are showered with a sense of tranquillity that only a historic town can offer.
Grote Markt, the city’s main square, is a bustling hub of activity surrounded by fascinating architectural blends of both old and new. As you stroll around the grote, the city’s historic charm is laid out before you, presented through a breathtaking collection of medieval buildings, each endowed with its unique, evocative stories.
5. Sassenpoort Gate
Address: Sassenstraat 53, 8011 PB Zwolle, Netherlands
The Sassenpoort Gate is a beautiful and enduring symbol of the city’s rich history. This impressive city gate, dating back to the 15th century, is a testament to Zwolle’s pivotal role in the Hanseatic League and its past as a fortified city. At one point, the city featured over 20 towers on the city walls and eight city gates to enter the center.
The Hanseatic League was a powerful confederation of merchant guilds and market towns that dominated trade in Northern Europe. The Sassenpoort Gate, with its intricate designs and commanding presence, is a striking example of the city’s rich history and architectural marvel.
As an iconic landmark, the Sassenpoort Gate is a visual reminder of Zwolle’s past as part of the Hanseatic League. Its beauty and historical significance make it one of our favorite Zwolle attractions.
6. Admire the Grote Kerk (St. Michael’s Church)
Address: Grote Markt 18, 8011 LW Zwolle, Netherlands
The Grote Kerk, also known as St. Michael’s church, is a national monument and prominent fixture in the town center of Zwolle, Netherlands. As a vital component of Zwolle’s history, the Grote Kerk, a former protestant church, is known for its majestic architecture and towering location in the center of Zwolle.
The term ‘Grote Kerk’ translates to ‘Great Church,’ this name does justice to the imposing structure that has stood in this city for centuries. Built as a testament to the wealth and piety of Zwolle’s inhabitants, it played a key role in cementing the town’s status as an important trading and religious center.
Today, this stalwart heritage site continues to imbue the town center of Zwolle with a sense of grandiosity and cultural richness. Visit the Grote Kerk to experience a piece of Dutch history, attend services, or admire its exceptional structure from the heart of the Netherlands.
7. Go further afield to Kasteel Het Nijenhuis
Address: Het Nijenhuis 10, 8131 RD Wijhe, Netherlands
Expand your horizons with a day trip to Kasteel Het Nijenhuis, a breathtakingly beautiful castle outside Zwolle that embodies history, culture, and art—formulating an authentic Dutch experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
Its story traces back to the Middle Ages, with its pristine condition making it a time capsule of the bygone eras. The castle, set amidst 4.5 hectares of magnificently landscaped gardens, exhibits a striking blend of historical architecture and modern art.
Take in its comprehensive collection of old masters and contemporary art that has turned it into a hub for art enthusiasts. But Kasteel Het Nijenhuis’s grandeur doesn’t stop at its doorstep. Wander into its expansive sculpture park, presenting a picturesque sight at every turn.
8. Explore the Bonami Spelcomputer Museum
Address: Ossenkamp 4, 8024 AE Zwolle, Netherlands
The Bonami Spelcomputer Museum is a must-visit destination if you’re a gamer. This one-of-a-kind museum provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of video games from their early beginnings until the present day. With a vast collection of retro consoles and the latest gaming gadgets, the Bonami Spelcomputer Museum takes visitors on an immersive journey through the history of gaming.
What makes this museum truly special is that it not only exhibits rare and classic gaming equipment but also lets visitors play and experience them first-hand. This interactive approach adds to the museum’s charm and makes it a memorable adventure.
9. Climb the Peperbus Tower
Address: Ossenmarkt 40, 8011 MS Zwolle, Netherlands
If you’re a fan of history and adventure, then a climb up the Peperbus Tower is a must-do experience. Known as the pepper pot, this striking landmark is situated at the Onze Lieve Vrouwe church and is more than just an architectural marvel. With its towering 75-meter-high tower, the ascent up the Peperbus is a thrilling adventure that draws people from every corner of the earth.
This exhilarating climb involves ascending 236 steps and rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views. Once you make your way up the intriguing spiral staircase to the observation deck, you’ll be greeted with a sprawling view of the entire city of Zwolle and its lush surroundings.
The canals winding through the city, the mix of modern and historical buildings, and the bustling town squares combine to create a captivating sight. Despite the challenging climb, the vistas that await you at the top make it all worthwhile. Climbing the Peperbus is a rewarding journey that should not be missed.
10. Explore Waanders in de Broeren
Address: Achter de Broeren 1-3, 8011 VA Zwolle The Netherlands
Waanders in de Broeren is a one-of-a-kind bookstore within a 15th-century Dominican church. This cultural haven boasts unique architecture and an impressive selection of books.
The catalog spans a range of genres, making it a true paradise for literature lovers. The store perfectly complements the city of Zwolle, and after visiting this bookstore, you’ll have experienced a unique facet of the city’s charm.
11. Spend an Afternoon at Dinoland
Address: Willemsvaart 19, 8019 AB Zwolle, Netherlands
Dinoland is a fantastic family-friendly theme park, especially if you want fun things to do in Zwolle with kids. This amusement park is conveniently located near the train station and offers a thrilling journey back in time, where children and adults can explore what life was like during the era of dinosaurs.
Dinoland features dozens of life-sized dinosaur statues, making the experience feel incredibly real and exciting. But there’s more than just prehistoric sightseeing to enjoy at Dinoland.
The park offers interactive activities, like fossil hunting, 4D film viewing, and a climbing course. There’s a playground for younger kids, too, so children of all ages can enjoy an adventure-filled day out.
12. Visit the Herman Brood Experience
Address: Blijmarkt 21, 8011 ND Zwolle, Netherlands
Herman Brood, an immensely gifted Dutch artist in music and painting, hailed from the charming city of Zwolle and has left an unforgettable mark on the art world. His unparalleled creativity and exceptional artistic vision continue to captivate people from all walks of life.
The Herman Brood Experience is a hidden gem that combines a cafe, restaurant, and art gallery, offering a truly immersive experience. Visitors can admire Brood’s masterpieces and purchase them as valuable treasures.
The wide range of prints, sculptures, and other captivating merchandise truly showcases the depth and versatility of Brood’s artistic talent. Moreover, the ambiance of this enchanting venue offers a peaceful sanctuary where one can relish a hot cup of coffee while observing the ebb and flow of life around them.
13. Take a Day Trip to Nationaal Park Weerribben Wieden
Address: Oeverweg, Giethoorn, Netherlands
Experience a delightful day surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of Nationaal Park Weerribben Wieden. This natural paradise spans two zones and boasts 100 acres of lush woodlands, meandering rivers, and enchanting waterways adorned with captivating bogs.
Located just a 40-minute drive north of Zwolle, this magnificent park never fails to captivate visitors with its stunning scenery and thriving wildlife. This enchanting sanctuary is an incredible day trip, where a diverse range of species call it home, from the elegant water soldier and fascinating sundew to the graceful black tern and mighty northern pike.
For an extraordinary trip, hop on a bicycle and follow the myriad cycle trails that meander through the picturesque fields, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquility and splendor of this natural haven. To make this day trip more incredible, visit Giethoorn, the bike-only town often featured in magazines.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
What is Zwolle known for?
Zwolle is a picturesque Dutch city with a rich history and a charming network of canals. It has been a cultural and historical significance hub for centuries, and today showcases museums, architecture, and a famous foodie scene.
One of the top attractions is the Sassenpoort, a majestic city gateway from the 14th century that stands as a testament to the architectural grandeur of Zwolle. Another attraction to see when visiting Zwolle is the Grote Kerk, also known as the Sint-Michaelskerke, a stunning church at the core of the city center featuring outstanding architecture and the Grote Markt, a square with plenty of excellent restaurants with outside seating.