All 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 towns
Zeeland’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’.