Staying with locals is always such a great way to get a taste of the real country and I was lucky enough to have a close friend living in Deventer, in the heart of the Netherlands. Despite the particularly gloomy weather, this small Dutch city has a young, vibrant atmosphere, great restaurants and lot of history. Dating back to the 8th century, it has gone through many stages – for example, did you know it was looted and burnt down by Vikings in 882? More notably, it was always an important trading city, which later gave way to industry. I love to imagine being back in time when I walk down the streets in these historical centres.
1. Visit the City Square
Still the heart of the city today, you will find old buildings, museums and plenty of restaurants, open day and night. Be sure to take a seat outside, if it is sunny, and watch the comings and goings of this bustling centre.
2. Check out a Cheese Shop
Just like in France, the Dutch know how to make a good cheese. Some of them might be a bit heavy to take home with you on carry-on, but it’s worth ducking your head in to take a look at the way the cheese-lovers of the world live.
3. Eat Stroop Waffles
These are one of my favourite Dutch sweets. When I first ever tried a Stroop Waffle, I was at a market in Amsterdam. I had heard so much about them, but no one had every mentioned that (unlike the thick, soft waffles I was used to), they were thin, cold and crunchy. This trip, I learnt how to warm them up over a cup of tea, so that the caramel goes all gooey inside! Such a treat!
4. Go Shopping
There are so many independent, boutique shops to wander around, as you weave in and out of the small streets. It is a great place to do gift shopping, or simply browse! I particularly enjoyed this second-hand book shop, which was filled to the brim, right the way down to the basement!
5. Walk Along the River
Despite the strong wind and cloudy skies, it is always nice to get a breath of fresh air and stroll along the bank of a river. When boats go by, I like to imagine the time when Deventer was a busy trading city, back in the day!
6. Try a Traditional Breakfast
Think slabs of cheese, oven-baked bread rolls, peanut butter and chocolate sprinkles! That’s right, the Dutch have an interesting sense of taste in the mornings. I am all for cheese and bread, but the the latter ingredients were not quite my cup of tea! Still, when in Deventer, we must do as the locals do!
7. Cycle Through Town
What would a trip to a Dutch city be without riding a bicycle! The Netherlands is full of bikes – I’ve never seen so many in my life! It is great to see people using this form of transport as their main means of getting from one place to another. Plus, it is so much fun! You seem to soak in so much more of a place when you slow down the pace.
8. Wander the Old Town
Don’t forget to look up as you walk through town – the rooftops of these buildings remind me of something that might come out of a children’s book. Some buildings are so tall and thin, you wonder how people manage to live inside them. And don’t miss the two churches in town – the Great Church and the Mountain Church (though the latter is on more of a hill, so don’t raise your expectations too high)!
9. Try the Mustard Soup
On a cold Autumn day, there is nothing like this Dutch mustard soup to warm you up. Served with fresh bread and garlic butter, it is the perfect pick-me-up in a day of sight seeing.
Have you been to Deventer? Are there any other interesting places to visit in the surrounding area?