A beautiful historical city centre, lively squares and hip hotspots are just some of the reasons Amersfoort is worth a visit. Located in the middle of the Netherlands, the city is easily accessible by car and train. And with a calendar full with events and festivals, there is always something going on, whatever the season.
TEXT: DEBBY GROOTEMAN | PHOTOS: MARISA BROEKHUIZEN
MAIN IMAGE: KOPPELPOORT. PHOTO: SJOERD MOUISSIE
Local Koen Overeem was born and raised in Amersfoort. He is now the owner of Rock City Brewery. “The name was inspired by the history of the city. The nickname of Amersfoort is ‘boulder city’. History says that a squire challenged his friends to bring a very large boulder over a distance of around ten kilometres from Soesterberg to Amersfoort by hand. They succeeded and this was celebrated with lots of food and beer.” Nowadays, that famous boulder is displayed along the city centre ring.
There are five main attributes that distinguish Amersfoort from other cities, and Overeem is undoubtedly the perfect person to speak about them: “Amersfoort has a rich history with beer. At one time, the breweries here were even bigger than Heineken. Beer culture is part of the city’s DNA. And there is a great connection with all the hospitality and welcoming terraces that can be found in the city. For tourists who are looking for something more than just a canal tour – although this can, of course, also be done here – Amersfoort has many things to offer.”
A beautiful city centre full of history
The first thing distinguishing Amersfoort from other cities is its beautiful city centre, full of history. One of the great things is that the old city wall is still visible. This was previously used as a protection against enemies. Overeem explains: “Since Amersfoort was a beer city, one of the things that was thrown over the wall against intruders was the beer they were brewing at that moment. Inside the walls, there are old mansions that are still being lived in. The surroundings are a lovely spot for a walk.” One of the top attractions in Amersfoort is the old tower. “In the old days, a church was connected to the tower. However, the gunpowder that was being stored there caught fire and burned down the whole church. Nowadays, only the contours of the church are visible, but the tower is still standing. From the top you can admire a great view across the centre of the Netherlands.”
“The old town of Amersfoort housed a lot of waterways in earlier days,” Overeem continues. “On the nodes you can find squares that now offer restaurants, bars and terraces. With the first rays of sunlight people can be found on one of the many terraces. But also in colder weather they are equally inviting, with heaters, candles and a roof protection formed by beach umbrellas. The first places open in the morning for coffee and breakfast, and then the last places for drinks and dancing close when the first places are almost ready to open again.” The squares are car free and even cyclists need to walk alongside their bikes. Every now and then, the terraces have to make room for a market, or a cultural event with live performances.
Just a short walk from the city centre, a whole new centre can be found. Old warehouses are now being used for crafts and hospitality. According to Overeem, the old fabrics are still visible. “An old toothpaste factory at a hotspot called ´De Nieuwe Stad´ (The New City) is now the home of different restaurants. One has even mounted a pizza oven in the old factory chimney.” The ´Wagenwerkplaats´ is another hotspot – this was once a maintenance centre for the Dutch railroad company. Behind the yellow and black shutters, many different activities are constantly taking place, yet everything is visible and transparent to visitors. Overeem: “The hotspots are mostly visited by couples and young families who come here for a lunch or dinner.”
Overeem is keen to highlight that there are also many different products produced locally. “Another one of the assets of Amersfoort is the local crafts. For example, there is a baker who makes the dough for bread here in the city. And a bicycle maker who welds bicycle frames in his open workshop. The local brewery also shows how its beer is being made, and this is visible from the connected restaurant. It is great to see how a product is being made and be able to enjoy it at the same time.”
Amersfoort has a lively centre. “A lot of young families live just outside the city centre, close to the schools. Amersfoort is not really a student city – but it is a very attractive place to live for young professionals. It is a city with the usual city elements, but the people know each other as though it were a village. Everybody is friendly and helpful to one another. This is noticeable when walking around the small, cosy streets and squares,” Overeem smiles. “The best way to discover it all is to visit Amersfoort. The locals love to show guests the best of the best of their city.”