The Dutch city of Zwolle is home to some 120.000 people and, although second in size to Enschede, it serves as the province capital of Overijssel. It is known as a "green city" for its many parks and the municipality's efforts to maintain them through sustainable activities. Zwolle is surrounded by different rivers and lies at a meeting point of different ecological zones. For visitors, it's well-kept town centre is one of the main attractions, with an abundance of historic buildings and a pleasant city atmosphere.


The Wijndragerstoren is one of the remaining towers of the city's defence walls

The area where Zwolle lies has been inhabited since the Neolithic times, for which proof was found in the form of archeological artifacts and a (Bronze time) timber circle which is colloquially called Zwolle's Woodhenge. In Roman times, Salian Franks lived here. The city as we know is first documented in the 11th century, but it was the 13th century city- and market rights that made the Zwolle grow. It became a member of the Hanseatic League and grew into a flourishing trade centre. There was strong competition with neighbouring Kampen.

Get in

Zwolle is an important transportation hub towards the Northern Netherlands, both for road and rail traffic.

By car

The A28 between Groningen (in the north) and Utrecht (in the middle of the country) passes right through the city. The part near Zwolle is one of the busiest roads outside the Randstad area. Although additional lanes have been created over the past years, traffic jams are still not uncommon during rush hour. Direct road connections via the A28 include those to Assen (45min) and Groningen (60min) to the north, and Harderwijk (30min), Amersfoort (45min) and Utrecht (60min) to the south-west.

The A50 intersects with the A28 just a few kilometres out of town (intersection Hattemerbroek), providing easy connection to Apeldoorn (30min), Arnhem (45min) and Eindhoven (85min). From the intersection Hattemerbroek, this national road continues north-west as the N50 to Kampen and Emmeloord.

By train

Zwolle is a major rail transportation hub, and with trains running in 8 different directions from here, it's second only to the central station of Utrecht. The standard schedule sees eleven different trains arriving around the same time, twice per hour (~.15 and .45). This allows for a broad range of easy transfers. All southbound trains from Groningen and Leeuwarden stop in Zwolle, allowing for transfers from those lines to connections in all other directions.The station is served both by fast intercity trains to large destinations and regional services to smaller towns. Important train connections passing through or ending in Zwolle include:

Other directly connected destinations via several regional Sprinter trains are Enschede, Almelo, Hengelo, Emmen and Kampen.

Get around

The city centre is compact and in part car-free, so the best way to get around there is on foot. It's about a 10 minute walk from the train station to the centre.

To get to the outskirts of town or to see the surroundings, renting a bike is a good idea. You can rent one at Fietspoint Spruijt, the guarded bike parking at the train station. It's open early morning until late at night.

Although most visitors will remain mostly in the city centre, there are of course plenty of bus lines available to the different city district and surrounding towns. City buses are operated by Syntus. Regional bus connections are carried out by Syntus and OV Regio IJsselmond. There are two bus terminals, one on the east side of the train station, and one on the left. The division can be a bit confusing, but most of the city-bound buses leave from the west side, while most of the regional lines leave at the east side.


View of Zwolle, with the Peperbus tower

Most of the city's 14th century defensive walls are gone, but a few parts remain. Especially in combination with the few surviving city gates, some towers and the canals, it's not too hard to get an impression of the extend of the fortified city from late Medieval times to the 17th century Dutch Golden Age. This area, the historic city centre inside the canal ring, is the most charming part of town and holds a range of other old buildings.


Famous as one of the country's "greenest" cities, Zwolle has no less than 33 parks on its city grounds. Many are small, but all are well-kept and where possible, sustainable and environmentally friendly measures are used for all necessary maintenance activities. A stroll or a summer pick-nick are excellent ways to get away from the city buzz. One or two of the parks contain historic graveyards, and most have some sort of playground for children.




Zwolle serves as a regional centre for shopping and there's a wide selection of shops. You'll find all the chain stores that other large Dutch cities have, as well as a range of smaller boutiques and family shops. Combined with the pleasant atmosphere and ample cafés and restaurants, there's plenty of opportunity for a fun day of shopping.

The Diezerstraat is the centre of the shopping area, with surrounding streets offering plenty of choice. For smaller shops and more exclusive fashion boutiques, try the Luttekestraat, Sassenstraat or Melkmarkt The Assendorperstraat or Thorbeckegracht have some interesting picks as well.

Shops open their doors on every first Sunday of the month. On Friday morning (08.00 - 13.00) and Saturday (09.00 - 17.00) there are markets in the city centre, around the Melkmarkt, Grote Markt and adjoining streets.



Outdoor terraces on the market square

The old centre is full of small and large cafés, perfect for some drinks and a good conversation. When the weather allows, outdoor terraces fill up. Thursday - Saturday, there are several dance clubs to choose from.



There are a number of bookstores and supermarkets that sell stamps. For other post office services, try one of the following mail service points:

Go next

Although much smaller, the nearby city of Kampen has a comparable historic feel. Easy as transportation is from here, the lively student city of Groningen, historic Amersfoort or Utrecht are just a few train stops away. If you're travelling with children, consider hopping over to nearby Apeldoorn, to see the great range of primates in the Apenheul, or for a broader selection of animals consider the famous zoo of Emmen. Walibi Theme Park in Biddinghuizen is only half an hour's drive from here.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.