Ah, the majestic River Lek, winding its way for roughly 60kms west from Wijk bij Duurstede to Kinderdijk through Utrecht and Gelderland, and between South Holland and Utrecht. It meanders past a collection of both hidden gems and world-famous tourist destinations alike, so with no further ado, here’s our list of top 5 tourist spots to visit along the River Lek.
Wijk bij Duurstede
The first stop along the river Lek as you journey from East to West, Wijk bij Duurstede not only boasts the world’s only drive-through windmill (De Runmolenpoort) but also Kasteel Duurstede, one of the oldest and most beautiful castles in The Netherlands. Not only does this castle sit atop a “fairytale castle island”, but it even has a drawbridge, moat and picturesque towers. Wow!
Vianen officially became a city back in 1337 and was originally built as a fortified town, with city walls and gateways. The oldest church in the city (The Grote Kerk) was built in the early fourteenth century, hence its distinctive Romanesque forms. Well worth a visit to experience its awe-inspiring architecture first-hand.
The Stedelijk Museum with its walled garden and ever-changing exhibitions is another must-see attraction in Vianen. The kid-friendly educational workshops and craft afternoons they host are a great way to keep the kiddos entertained while you browse the museum at your leisure.
Then there is the Windotter, one of the largest, fully operational corn mills in the Netherlands. The bread, pancakes and pastries made from the exceptional quality artisanal ground mill flour are some of the best you’ll ever taste, not to mention their delicious mill beer, made in the traditional way.
The “Silver City”, Schoonhoven is nestled in the middle of the Dutch “Green Hart”, a mostly rural area with a low population density, making it an ideally-situated city for those looking to escape the crowds of Amsterdam.
From as far back as the 17th century, gold and silversmiths have called Schoonhoven home. For this reason both the Dutch Silver Museum and the International Silver School are both located here, the former of which allows visitors to “see, feel, smell, and hear silver, while discovering many other facets of this most versatile precious metal.”
Silver isn’t the only thing the city is known for. Believe it or not, clocks are its other claim to fame, the best example of which is the Van den Gheyn Beiaard which is in the medieval town hall.
For those looking to immerse themselves fully in rural Dutch life, you won’t find a more authentic experience than paying a visit to the sleepy agricultural community of Lekkerkerk. In fact, it’s been said that if you want to see what the Dutch landscape might have looked like before it was cultivated by man, a stroll through Het Loetbos, a nature and recreation area perfectly suited for walking, cycling, canoeing or fishing. It’s grassy meadows, flowing rivers and mysterious forest made Het Loetbos a haven for nature lovers looking to reconnect with their roots.
Last but not least, right where The Lek meets the Noord River and becomes the Nieuwe Maas as it surges toward the mighty North Sea you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage site, Kinderdijk.
One of the most famous tourist destinations in the Netherlands, Kinderdijk consists of no less than 19 windmills built in the 18th century to drain the polder. It’s widely considered one of the world’s most impressive engineering feats. Standing nearly 30 meters tall, these ancient marvels make for an impressive site, dotted along the lush landscape.
Be sure to stop by The Blokweer polder windmill, a museum windmill in which you get to experience what a miller’s trade is like first-hand, the perfect end to your voyage along the River Lek.