Cultuur in Velsen

Insider tips! Experience the coast, history and nature in Velsen

It’s holiday time, let’s go to the coast! Feel the sand between your toes, take a dip in the cool water when it’s sunny, let off some steam with water sports and have a relaxed evening on the beach while the sun goes down. You can experience all of this and much more in IJmuiden because the municipality of Velsen, to which IJmuiden belongs, has everything to make your stay on the coast a special experience. So feel free to stay a little longer in our beautiful municipality so you can visit the country estates, do a walking or cycling tour through the dunes, visit the historic villages or stand face to face with knights at the castle ruins.

Janna Kamphof

Take in the fresh air of the IJmuiden aan Zee coast

It is completely understandable that you would start your holiday in Velsen with a visit to the coast. Few places in the Netherlands allow such a generous view of the horizon: as far as the eye can see, there is only beach, sea and dunes. The beach at IJmuiden is nice and wide, so there is always enough space for everyone: the children who build sandcastles in the summer, the blokarts that race along the coastline, the hikers who want to get some fresh air and the cultural tourists who end a day full of sightseeing with a dinner by the sea. IJmuiden aan Zee is particularly interesting for people who enjoy being outside. Feel the adrenaline when the sail of your blokart catches the wind or learn to kitesurf on the waves of the North Sea. Do you prefer a more relaxed experience? The beach of IJmuiden is also perfect for hiking or mountain biking, for example to Bloemendaal or Zandvoort. Alternatively, you can take a short walk across the pier where you can walk more than two kilometres into the sea until you reach the lighthouse at the end. Afterwards, all you have to do is take a seat in a cosy beach bar, enjoy the casual atmosphere and indulge in dishes with local products such as fresh fish.

The raw beauty of the harbour town of IJmuiden

Straightforward, uncomplicated and even a little rustic – that’s typical of IJmuiden and you’ll notice this when you take a trip to the harbour. People work hard here: kilos of fish are brought into the harbour every day. So when you visit IJmuiden, be sure to try some fresh fish! You can buy it (and eat it immediately) at ‘De Dolfijn’ on the Viskade, for example. You should have seen the Viskade anyway: the various buildings are home to local shops such as a bakery (tip: the homemade croissants!), a cooking studio and a café. You can eat your freshly bought delicacies on a bench overlooking the fishing boats. Mmmm!

Face to face with a Highland Cow in Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

And I have more good news for active holidaymakers: Velsen is the gateway to Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, a beautiful nature reserve that you can easily explore on foot or by bike. The park is a mosaic of vast dunes, forests, dune grasslands, lakes and winding paths. Did you know that the park is home to 40% of all plant and animal species in the Netherlands? Whether spring, summer, autumn or winter, thanks to its enormous diversity, the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is always worth a visit. Start your tour at the ‘Duin en Kruidberg’ entrance in Santpoort, for example, and walk or cycle through the national park towards the beach. With a bit of luck you will meet the impressive Highland Cows or the sturdy Konik horses. You can also find foxes, roe deer, rabbits and fallow deer living in this beautiful piece of nature on the coast.

Step back in time at the Beeckestijn Country Estate

Greenery and nature are always nearby in Velsen. Combine nature with history on a walk around one of the country estates. These used to be built by wealthy regents and merchants from Amsterdam who wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the city at weekends. And you can still do that today! At Buitenplaats Beeckestijn in Velsen-Zuid, for example, you will discover many different garden styles, because each new owner of the estate would add a new piece to the garden. During your walk, you will take a journey through time and pass by different styles such as Classicism, Régence and Rococo. Another special feature at Beeckestijn is the herb garden with serpentine walls. Don’t worry, you won’t see a snake here. The name comes from the winding shape of the walls, they’re also called “crinkle crankle” walls. This allows them to store the warmth of the sun for a longer period of time so that espalier fruit can grow there. After your walk, you can enjoy a bite to eat or a drink at Brasserie Beeckestijn.

Knights, damsels and the enchanting Ruïne von Brederode

Another place where it feels like you’re going back in time is at the Ruïne van Brederode in Santpoort-Zuid. Founded in the second half of the 13th century by Willem I van Brederode, a history of destruction and reconstruction followed for the castle. The last lord of Brederode, Wolfert, died childless in 1679 and thus the castle came into the hands of the state. Therefore, in the 19th century, it was one of the first buildings in the Netherlands to be restored by the state. It was not known exactly what the castle had once looked like, and it later turned out, for example, that the courtyard had been excavated a little too deep because it was mistakenly thought that there had been cellars there. But the result is definitely worth seeing. The Brederode castle ruins can be visited from March to October and great activities for both young and old people are regularly organised. Your visit will be particularly memorable if you make it during the Knight Tournament in June. During the tournament, you will witness spectacular sword fights and meet knights and damsels in full armour.

Strolling through the narrow streets of historic Oud Velsen

Also very rich in history is Oud Velsen, the old village centre, which is now part of Velsen-Zuid. Walking through the narrow streets today, it is hard to imagine that this was once the religious and administrative heart of the area. Velsen was still called Felison at that time, as Charles Martel’s deed of donation from the 8th century proves. For years, church leaders, princes, farmers, gardeners, merchants, innkeepers and many other people lived and worked here. The hustle and bustle came to an end at the end of the 20th century when a third of the village had to make way for the widening of the North Sea Canal and the town council moved to a new town hall in IJmuiden. Fortunately, the old village was classified as a historical monument and the once beautiful old buildings were restored. Now they shine in new splendour. Oud Velsen is an oasis of calm, wedged between modern residential areas and the North Sea Canal. You will be amazed when you walk past the houses with beautiful shutters and see the facade of the former town hall. Also be sure to visit the Engelmundus Church, whose foundations date back to the 12th century. But the history of the church goes way back even before then, as a wooden church was first founded here in the 8th century.

Flour from the mill: Molen de Zandhaas

If you drive past the windmill ‘De Zandhaas’ in Santpoort at the weekend, you will probably see a queue of people standing outside. What are they doing there? Buying flour! De Zandhaas is a well-known place in the region for every (home)baker. The flour is still ground here the way it was in 1779 when the mill was built. Milling with millstones ensures that the grain is ground in its entirety, resulting in the purest wholemeal flour. This is what makes every bread (or cake) tastier! The reason why the sails of the mill are rotating again is the current miller Jos Kors. He made sure that flour was ground again in the 90s after the mill had stood still for years. In his own words: “Now the monument is in operation again.”

The shop in the mill is open from Thursday to Saturday. There you will find everything you need to bake delicious bread, cakes and biscuits. You can buy many types of flour, but also other ingredients, which are often locally sourced. Many of the products are also of organic origin. Would you like to see the inside of the mill? Then it’s best to make a note of the National Mill Days on the second weekend in May. On both days of the weekend , the millers will be happy to show you the ingenious technology of a windmill. You can take a look up into the attic, where it squeaks and creaks when the strong wind grinds the grain on the millstones. An extraordinary experience!

A little discovery tour on Forteiland

After spending some time inland, we head back towards the coast. Here, the big ships leave the North Sea Canal and sail into the North Sea. If you were to look at the mouth from above, you would see that there is an island there. An uninhabited island? Well, in a way, yes. This is the fort island of IJmuiden, part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, built at the end of the 19th century to protect the Dutch capital. During the open days, you can take a ten-minute boat ride from the mainland to the island and that’s where the adventure begins. Join a guided tour or do a little exploring on your own. Here you can spend hours wandering through the long system of corridors, enjoy breathtaking views over the canal and the North Sea, and experience history in over 40 rooms and an impressive domed hall. This special place will leave you mesmerised!

After an exciting day, you go back to the mainland by boat. On the Sluisplein, you can end the day at the Kop van de Haven restaurant with delicious fresh fish and a fantastic view of the passing ships. This is how you experience IJmuiden and Velsen at their best!