The city of Amersfoort, in the Netherlands, is a 34-minute Intercity rail journey from Amsterdam’s central railway station.
While visiting Amersfoort I joined one of the walking tours led by Inge Vos, who, with Harald Ket, runs Amersfoort Gidsen. They were happy to answer questions to provide a local’s perspective of their city.
Why do you think people should visit Amersfoort?
Amersfoort is the exact centre point of the Netherlands, so it’s easy to reach. Still, it is not at all overrun by the tourist crowds you will find in Amsterdam – Amersfoort is refreshingly authentic.
Its origin is medieval, and if you walk around the old town, the centuries seem to disappear, as if you travelled back in time 500 years. But it’s also a vibrant place, with many summer festivals, small local shops that sell everything from handmade chocolates to quirky clothes and an abundance of squares covered with terraces to invite you for a cup of coffee or lunch.
What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with your town?
The ladies of Amersfoort saved the city with beer.
In 1427, we were under siege. The enemy had put a huge catapult on the frozen river, launching burning objects to set our city on fire. The ladies, who did most of the brewing in those days, decided to empty kettles with boiling hot beer from the city gates onto the ice. The result? The ice melted, the catapult sank, the army drowned. Hurray for our women!
What is your favourite place in Amersfoort?
Our favourite place is a courtyard called Armen de Poth (Pothstraat 16, 3811 JL Amersfoort). It dates back to the 1500s and was used as an almshouse, accommodating victims of the plague. Nowadays, it provides housing for elderly people and it is such a lovely, quiet place. You forget that you’re in the middle of a city.
The Muurhuizen (wallhouses) were built in the 16th century, on the spot of the first city wall. Bricks were very expensive, so they reused the bricks and foundation of the wall to build new houses. They are unique and still form a complete circle around the medieval quarters, with the moat still running behind their backyards.
If you were going to take a guest to lunch or dinner, where would you choose and why?
If you enjoy small cafés for lunch, you’ll be very happy in Amersfoort – we have so many of those, of which The Blueberry (Hof 21, 3811 CJ Amersfoort; tel. +31 (0) 33 752 0226) is our favourite.
Everything is homemade by the owner Lisette and her team, and I recommend saving some room for dessert. If you can’t choose, try their Walk of Fame, a plate covered with samples of all their heavenly treats.
If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be and why?
A visit to Amersfoort is not complete without a splash into our beer history. In medieval times, Amersfoort was one of the major brewing cities of the Netherlands, when up to 60 per cent of income came from beer sales.
Nowadays, we cherish this heritage. Several craft brewers have started up businesses, and you can visit the Drie Ringen Brouwerij (Three Rings Brewery; Kleine Spui 18, 3811 BE Amersfoort; +31 33 465 6575). All of the draft beers are brewed on the premises.
If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see?
Rent a bike from the train station and cycle out into the countryside. The Netherlands is a great biking country – we have more bikes than people.
You can cycle along the river Eem, visit a traditional windmill in Soest (Molenweg 30, 3764 TA Soest) and go back through the woods. In the middle of the forest, you will find a huge beach, with no water. These sand dunes are a remnant from the Ice Age, when the glaciers deposited a lot of Scandinavian sand here.
After outdoor activity, the Dutch like to eat pancakes. Try them at the local pancake barn Kabouterhut (Barchman Wuytierslaan 202; 3819 AC Amersfoort, tel. +31 (0)33 461 9092) and discover that a pancake is a proper meal for us.