The first mention of Vlissingen dates from 1235, when it was no more than a hamlet. The town received its city rights in 1315 and the Sint-Jacobskerk church was built around the same time. Trade with France, England and the Baltic countries ushered in Vlissingen’s heyday.
Under Spanish rule, new defences were built around the city. The Keizersbolwerk (Emporer’s Stronghold) fortification was built between 1548 and 1552. It is still visible next to the current Koopmanshaven harbour. Atop the Keizersbolwerk stands a statue of the most famous Dutch naval hero, Michiel de Ruyter.
The Golden Age of the Netherlands came to Vlissingen in the 17th century. Trade flourished under the Dutch East India Company and Dutch West India Company. And the Admiralty of Zeeland, one of five in the Dutch Republic, was established in Middelburg. This was also the time when Michiel de Ruyter made his name. This son of Vlissingen worked his way up to become the commander in chief of the Dutch fleet and won many sea battles. He was also a founder of the Dutch Marine Corps.
Napoleon expanded Vlissingen into a fortified city, building the Westbeer and Oostbeer walls that still stand today. You can also visit the casemates that are part of the Keizersbolwerk. A casemate is a military structure used to defend against enemy fire. Soldiers stored stocks like ammunition there, and were housed in barracks there during wartime. The casemates are now open to the public during the opening hours of the MuZEEum.
The Vlissingen boulevard was completely restored in the 1990s. Michiel de Ruyter’s statue stands at one end, and the wind organ at the other. Along the boulevard are an array of restaurants and terraces that boast unique summer and winter views of the passing sea vessels.
An asphalt slope runs along the boulevard, creating space for walking and cycling. On the slope of Boulevard de Ruyter, between the Prison Tower and the statue of Frans Naerebout, runs a very long bench. This 122-metre stainless steel bench is sponsored by local businesses and individuals, who engrave their own messages on ‘their metre’. The bench offers a beautiful view over the Westerschelde.
Around the wind organ you can find the Badstrand and Nollestrand beaches, the latter with beach huts. These beaches are full of sunbathers in the summer, but dogs romp freely on them all winter long.
A visit to the Zeeland Maritime Museum (MuZEEum) is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about Vlissingen and the maritime history of Zeeland. The main part of the MuZEEum is in the Lampsinshuis, which includes a unique lookout tower. In the 17th century, ship-owner Cornelis Lampsins came here to watch his ships depart and arrive. Now you too can enjoy his beautiful view of the sea.
The walking tour 'Verken Vlissingen: stad aan zee’ (Exploring Vlissingen: city by the sea) leads you through the highlights of this maritime town. The 6-kilometre-long route offers about 1.5 hours of walking pleasure.
Take in another magnificent view of the sea from the crow’s nest, part of het Arsenaal. This maritime attraction is devoted to pirates and sea creatures, and is an ideal place to spend a day with the family.
Vlissingen also has a protected townscape that includes about 300 monuments in the old city centre. Public art abounds, and this art route will help you find the best art around the municipality of Vlissingen.
Vlissingen’s train station stands just outside the centre, about a 15-minute walk away. Or use Vlissingen’s more unusual modes of transport, like the water taxi or the solar train. Some pretty nifty choices there!
In the autumn, the Film by the Sea festival at Cinecity cinema attracts many film lovers to Vlissingen. Spectacular events like Rescue Vlissingen (every two years) or the Bevrijdingsfestival also attract large crowds. You’ll find these and other happenings in Vlissingen in our event calendar.