Harlingen is a charming port town with a proud nautical legacy. The town is built around a series of harbours and has been a hub for fishing and shipping since the 1200s. It’s not only one of the oldest port towns in the Netherlands but one of the most beautiful, where you can stroll along picturesque canals, admire historic sailboats and walk on the tidal flats of the Wadden Sea.
Things to do in Harlingen
Despite being popular with holidaymakers, Harlingen has retained its fishing port charm. Canals branch off the harbour and are lined with historic warehouses and mansions, many of which have been reimagined as atmospheric cafes and restaurants. Others house attractions like the Harlinger Pottery and Tiles Factory, where you can learn about traditional tin glazing techniques developed in the 1500s.
Harlingen is part of the fascinating Wadden Sea World Heritage Site. Moored in the outer and inner ports, you’ll see dozens of historic sea vessels. Together, they make up one of the largest historic fleets in Europe.
Boat tours are a great way to explore the various ports and harbours of Harlingen. If you’re feeling adventurous, gear up for a mudflat hiking tour in the Wadden Sea. At low tide, the water recedes and reveals the sea floor, while walking along the expansive tidal flats is an unforgettable experience.
In addition to fishing and shipping, Harlingen has a long history of whaling. A life-sized sperm whale fountain towers over the town centre and pays tribute to the now defunct industry. On the banks of Kleine Voorstraat canal you’ll see a statue of Anton Wachter, a beloved fictional character invented by Dutch author, Simon Vestdijk.
Getting around Harlingen
Harlingen is located in Friesland, a one-hour drive from Amsterdam. The town is compact and easy to get around on foot or bicycle. Trains call at two stations - Harlingen in the town centre and Harlingen Haven next to the harbour while ferries connect Harlingen with Vlieland and Terschelling. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a 1.5-hour drive away.