Zwolle travel guide

Zwolle Tourism | Zwolle Guide

You're Going to Love Zwolle

The capital of the Netherlands' Overijssel province, Zwolle was once a mighty trading port. Now it's a beautiful city of around 125,000 people that can be explored by bike. Plenty of festivals, activities to enjoy, and historical museums make it a town that punches well above its weight.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Zwolle

1. The Medieval Center

In the 14th century, Zwolle was the hub of the Hanseatic League, growing rich trading across the Baltic and North sea region. These days the medieval core is almost intact, and landmarks like the Pepperbox Tower offer a portal back in time that few other cities can match.

2. There Are Some Fantastic Museums

Check out the City Museum (housed in the Drostenhuis, an opulent 18th-century mansion), and don't miss the Museum De Fundatie, one of the finest contemporary art spaces in the Netherlands.

3. Festivals for Foodies, Theater Fans, and Music Lovers

Zwolle has a busy events schedule. From dance events like Kingdance, to the Bevrijdingsfestival (which commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany), and June's Vier Oost theater festival, there are events for everyone.

4. It's a Wonderful Place to Explore

One of the great things about Zwolle is how accessible it is. The core can be explored on foot, but there's a 30-mile-long cycle route around the city center, and you can even rent "water bikes" to navigate the town's canals.

5. There Are Plenty of Day Trip Destinations

Giethoorn is just a few miles to the north and is a real treat. Lacking any roads, it solely relies on canals - just like Venice. Kampen is close by too, another Hanseatic port, with a remarkable drawbridge and a quaint medieval center.

What to do in Zwolle

1. A Masterpiece Of A Museum

Visually striking due to its neoclassical facade and outlandish lozenge-shaped addition on the roof, the Museum de Fundatie is one of the Netherlands' premier art galleries. That's saying something in one of the world's great artistic nations. But don't expect to encounter too many Reubens or Rembrandts here. Instead, the museum is dedicated to modern art, with works by giants like Van Gogh, Mondrian, and Marc Chagall, along with regular retrospectives and showcases of established and rising artists.

2. Picnic, Take A Dip, Or Ride The Thrilling Zips

In the warmer months, Wythmenerplas is Zwolle's recreational hub. This large mix of parkland and lakes is a few miles southeast of the medieval center, but easy to reach via bike paths or buses. When you make the trip, it's the perfect place to unwind or cool off, with swimming ponds, cycle trails, and the adrenaline-filled thrills of the Lakeside Cablepark and its numerous ziplines. And with winter markets and activities like skating, it's actually a year-round attraction. So if you need some outdoor fun when you're in town, you know where to go.

3. A Towering Tribute To Zwolle's Medieval Greatness

Zwolle's iconic main church was built in stages during the 14th and 15th centuries, as the city established itself as a trading and financial center. A dominant feature on vistas of the city's heart, you can't miss it when wandering the narrow lanes - and experiencing the main chapel is a must for all visitors. But an even bigger attraction is the chance to scale the 234 steps of the church's tower. When you reach the top, you'll realize that the effort was worthwhile as you survey sublime views of the city below.

4. Zwolle's Vibrant Shopping And Dining District

If you want to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, or find Zwolle's finest eating and drinking spots, heading to Melkmarkt in the center of town is a must. Located on the star-shaped island which form's the historic downtown, every weekend this street becomes a vibrant market where fresh produce, second hand goods, fashion, and crafts are all on display. And with bars, French bistros, Vietnamese noodle joints, Italian cafes and much more being cooked up nearby, it's an enticing place to wander any day of the week.

5. A Little Slice Of Medieval Magic

Like Zwolle, Kampen rose to prosperity in the medieval era, but never became a larger urban center, partly due to the sea retreating, leaving its port almost totally obsolete. Located just 10 miles west of Zwolle itself, its medieval core has been miraculously preserved, with evocative towers, walls, 600 year-old homes, and a famous drawbridge. The Stedelijk Museum provides a fascinating explanation for the town's decline, there's the oddly leaning Nieuwe Toren, and countless bakeries to fill up on Dutch pastries before heading back to Zwolle.

1. A Masterpiece Of A Museum

Visually striking due to its neoclassical facade and outlandish lozenge-shaped addition on the roof, the Museum de Fundatie is one of the Netherlands' premier art galleries. That's saying something in one of the world's great artistic nations. But don't expect to encounter too many Reubens or Rembrandts here. Instead, the museum is dedicated to modern art, with works by giants like Van Gogh, Mondrian, and Marc Chagall, along with regular retrospectives and showcases of established and rising artists.

2. Picnic, Take A Dip, Or Ride The Thrilling Zips

In the warmer months, Wythmenerplas is Zwolle's recreational hub. This large mix of parkland and lakes is a few miles southeast of the medieval center, but easy to reach via bike paths or buses. When you make the trip, it's the perfect place to unwind or cool off, with swimming ponds, cycle trails, and the adrenaline-filled thrills of the Lakeside Cablepark and its numerous ziplines. And with winter markets and activities like skating, it's actually a year-round attraction. So if you need some outdoor fun when you're in town, you know where to go.

3. A Towering Tribute To Zwolle's Medieval Greatness

Zwolle's iconic main church was built in stages during the 14th and 15th centuries, as the city established itself as a trading and financial center. A dominant feature on vistas of the city's heart, you can't miss it when wandering the narrow lanes - and experiencing the main chapel is a must for all visitors. But an even bigger attraction is the chance to scale the 234 steps of the church's tower. When you reach the top, you'll realize that the effort was worthwhile as you survey sublime views of the city below.

4. Zwolle's Vibrant Shopping And Dining District

If you want to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, or find Zwolle's finest eating and drinking spots, heading to Melkmarkt in the center of town is a must. Located on the star-shaped island which form's the historic downtown, every weekend this street becomes a vibrant market where fresh produce, second hand goods, fashion, and crafts are all on display. And with bars, French bistros, Vietnamese noodle joints, Italian cafes and much more being cooked up nearby, it's an enticing place to wander any day of the week.

5. A Little Slice Of Medieval Magic

Like Zwolle, Kampen rose to prosperity in the medieval era, but never became a larger urban center, partly due to the sea retreating, leaving its port almost totally obsolete. Located just 10 miles west of Zwolle itself, its medieval core has been miraculously preserved, with evocative towers, walls, 600 year-old homes, and a famous drawbridge. The Stedelijk Museum provides a fascinating explanation for the town's decline, there's the oddly leaning Nieuwe Toren, and countless bakeries to fill up on Dutch pastries before heading back to Zwolle.

Where to Eat in Zwolle

For fine Dutch cuisine like mussels in garlic butter or pancakes and asparagus, check out Poppe, and try Het Wijnhuis for a mixture of gourmet food and outstanding wine. Expect meals to cost around EUR25-40.

When to visit Zwolle

Zwolle in August
Estimated hotel price
$120
1 night at 3-star hotel
Zwolle in August
Estimated hotel price
$120
1 night at 3-star hotel

Zwolle's best tourist season is summer. From June to September, you can enjoy the cycle paths, swim at lakeside beaches, and attend most of the city's festivals.

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Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
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How to Get to Zwolle

Plane

Eelde Airport (GRQ) is the nearest to Zwolle, but it's actually quicker to travel from Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS). Just take the Dutch Railways service straight to the city (1 hour 24 minutes, EUR17-20).

Train

Trains run into Zwolle from Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and you can reach the city from most major northern European cities.

Car

From Amsterdam take the E30, then the A50 at Apeldoorn.

Airlines serving Zwolle

United Airlines
Good (3,008 reviews)
Lufthansa
Good (2,431 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,552 reviews)
KLM
Good (366 reviews)
Air France
Good (450 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,425 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,624 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (3,213 reviews)
SWISS
Good (498 reviews)
Iberia
Good (978 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,349 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (1,742 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (1,131 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (298 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (613 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (124 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (464 reviews)
Finnair
Good (746 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (408 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (356 reviews)
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Where to stay in Zwolle

Citycentrum - the center of Zwolle is separated from the rest of the town by a star-shaped man-made moat, and it's a magical place to explore.

Popular Neighborhoods in Zwolle

Assendorp - south of the center, Assendorp is much newer and is home to an eclectic community of students, artists, and well-to-do locals. It also hosts the city's train station.

Katerveer - Katerveer is a gem of a neighborhood, and is crowned by the sublime Spoolderbos, a beautiful woodland park that visitors can cross to reach the town center.

Where to stay in popular areas of Zwolle

How to Get Around Zwolle

Public Transportation

Local buses are operated by Syntus and provide pretty good coverage. To ride them, you'll need to get an OV-chipkaart. After that, a single journey will cost EUR1.50.

Taxi

Taxis should charge a flag drop of around EUR5, followed by around EUR3 per mile.

Car

Car rental options include Hertz and Europcar, and rates can be as low as EUR8 per day.

The Cost of Living in Zwolle

Shopping Streets

Modern Zwolle continues to be a trading city, with plenty of great stores to explore. Head to the old center and check out boutiques like LIV, September, and La Ropa, or visit the Melkmarkt to find fresh food and drink.

Groceries and Other

Supermarkets in Zwolle include Jumbo and Spar, where 12 eggs will come to around EUR2.10.

Cheap meal
$26.62
A pair of jeans
$151.86
Single public transport ticket
$5.33
Cappuccino
$4.43