During the 11th century, the settlement of Hulust took root on the spot where the Grote Markt stands today. It was granted a town charter in 1180 by the Flemish Count Filips van de Elzas, and it gradually grew as an important fortress- and harbour town. In 1453, it was totally destroyed in the Salt War, also known as the Revolt of Ghent.
As the 17th century opened, defence walls were added, of which some remain visible today. On their landside, a moat; on the southern perimeter, a double moat. The defensive ring comprised six gates, four ravelins (an arrow-shaped outwork), nine ramparts and a town mill. Three gates are still erect, and the mill stands proud on its own rampart, the Molenbolwerk. You can take the 3.5 km walk around the defences.
In all, our province has 17 protected townscapes – Hulst is one. Among its 68 listed sites are the defence ring, town hall on the Grote Markt and the basilica.
Eye-opener supreme in Hulst, the Sint-Willibrordusbasiliek. It had modest beginnings: around 1200 a small, Romanesque church was built at the foot of a small mound. In the 15th century it made way for a Gothic-style church which, after stops and starts, was completed in 1535. Precisely 400 years later, Pope Pius XI elevated the church to a basilica. The original spire was lost in the Second World War; its concrete replacement was installed in 1957.
Vos Reynaerde, the Fox
Hulst is mentioned in the early medieval epic tale of Van den Vos Reynaerde, later translated as Of Reynaert the Fox. This 13th century story recounts how the cunning creature evaded capture through scheming and deceit. It is one of the rare works in Dutch literature which has influenced foreign oeuvres: amongst those impacted were Chaucer, Shakespeare and Goethe. Because it features in the opus, Hulst has adopted the name Reynaert. Hence at the Gentse Poort you’ll find a bronze statue on a hard stone base. The name and the story pop up all over town: street names, statues and more. Use your own cunning to find them!
Very close to town, the nature reserve Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe. In the late medieval period, the manor of Saeftinghe stood here until a series of surge tides and floods submerged it. It is now largely managed by the elements, and forms the largest salt marsh area in Europe. Come prepared, the ‘wet wellies walk’ will lead you, and leave you, in awe at the rhythm of the tides.
Walk it, or wheel it. There’s an intriguing network of bike paths, walking trails and marked routes that will show you the hidden creeks, old dividing dikes and forts around Hulst. No divisions now though: you can easily pop over the border to Flanders.
Vestrock and many other events
Another reason for Hulst’s stellar reputation is its raft of annual events. A fast-rising newcomer is the annual music festival, which has grown into a three-day gig of some 25,000 people. Take a look at the Events Calendar for an up-to-date listing of what’s going down in Hulst. Want to know more about Hulst? You can get more information at one of the tourist information point.