A fleeting visit to Vlissingen
By Marjan Smit
Vlissingen railway station is the terminal, still today. As a child, I thought it was great that the train could not ride any further. But the station is great starting point for a trip into town. I worked for more than 25 years at the VVV Tourist Office advising the town’s visitors about the nicest places in and around town. So please join me now for a trip to some of the sights you should include in your visit to this most maritime of cities.
Being on the outskirts of town, the NS-station Vlissingen is a cool base camp for your adventure. Fancy a walk for starters? Stroll over the sluices and head along the Green (Groene) Boulevard. Prefer a conductor to take you? Then take the tourist Zonnetrein to the centre.
Very views, very vistas
The Groene Boulevard follows the water towards the centre, offering you some splendid views. Ocean-going ships sail past, so close you can almost touch them. After less than half an hour’s walk, you’ll reach the Oranjemolen. Of all the windmills in the Netherlands, this is the one standing nearest the sea. The local area is called ‘Uncle Beach’, in honour of the allied forces which landed here in 1944 in the Battle of the Westerschelde in Second World War. There are several monuments to commemorate these times of liberation.
After the windmill, head for the former traders’ Koopmanshaven harbour downtown. Always nice and busy here. Today, it’s the home base of the pilots’ boats, as they go out to guide the big cargo ships to (from) sea. Well worth a look.
The bastion of the Imperial Keizersbolwerk
No visit to Vlissingen is worth its salt without paying tribute to the statue of Michiel de Ruyter (a renowned Dutch maritime icon) on the fortifications of the Keizersbolwerk. This bastion is part of the Vlissingen defences built from 1548 onwards, for the then Emperor, for protection against the enemies of those times. Now you can visit various rooms and parts of the bastion (known as ‘Kazematten’) and learn about their functions of yesteryear.
Next to the marina, you’ll find MuZEEum, the Dutch maritime museum which was awarded the epithet of ‘Best trip in Zeeland’ – and rightly so. You’ll find out so much about the maritime fabric of and around Vlissingen. Make sure you walk up the tower – the view is stupendous, breathtakingly so. Another must is the Machinefabriek, home to the Panorama Walcheren museum. Some really stunning paintings. When you stand next to one, you’ll feel you’re of it! Next door, more tales are told in the Museum Scheldewerf , a hub of shipping expertise.
Widely known, the boulevards of Vlissingen are well worth a visit at any time of year. Maybe to strut your stuff or just do the promenade, or to watch the big ships and their pilots, take in a fun terrace, have a good meal. Everything can! I enjoy the boulevard most when the wind is up and the skies are busily cloudy. There are two beach pavilions at Vlissingen where you can really enjoy the views of the shipping going past, while you have a bite and a drink. At the end of the boulevard, near the Nolledijk, stands the Windorgel. At this ‘wind organ’, Mother Nature decides which tunes to play.
Is the family on a trip? The pirate park Het Arsenaal is a place to go, with its pirate adventures – some face to face with real live sharks! The look out tower is quite an experience for everyone, with views far and wide. Very different is the Reptielen Zoo Iguana, with its varied collections of reptiles, from large snakes to smaller creatures. And just outside town, Speelpaleis Bambini, offers kids loads of climbing – and more! A newcomer – an arrival in 2019 – is the indoor trampoline park, Streetjump. Its exciting course invites you to jump around and even ‘fly’.