Are you looking for things to do in Deventer, Netherlands?
Today, I’m diving into everything to do in Deventer, Netherlands. I’m glad you found this post. Even if you just stumbled upon it. Because you’re in for a treat.
I’m a Dutch local, and I love Deventer. I’m excited to share this hidden find in Holland with you.
I just returned from a weekend in Deventer and couldn’t wait to get to my computer to write this article. The hardest part was choosing which photos to use.
This city is purely photogenetic. It’s not without reason Deventer is home to the yearly Dickens Festival based on the books by Charles Dickens. It has the perfect decor.
While researching this post for links to the sights, I found so much outdated information it wasn’t even funny. I’m glad I can provide you with up-to-date information so you can enjoy this city’s best things to do without disappointment.
But first things first:
Why should you visit the small Dutch city called Deventer? This fantastic city is a hidden gem off the tourist map. The tourists you do find here are Dutch locals. Maybe they’re German. But Americans or Brits, you will be a unique sight.
This medieval city is such a nice break from the tourist crowds of Amsterdam. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful. You better bring an extra power bank because you will always have your phone out for taking pictures.
Deventer was lucky it didn’t suffer bombings like other Dutch cities like Rotterdam, Eindhoven, and Arnhem. And because of that, we can all still enjoy the beauty of this city today.
Deventer is a city in the eastern parts of the Netherlands, in the Dutch province of Overijssel, on the banks of the river IJssel. It’s a super easy day trip from Amsterdam. It just takes over one hour by train from Amsterdam to Deventer.
The city is known for a few things that every Dutch person can instantly tell you (well, they might not know about the oldest house, but you do now):
- Bussink koek (Honey Cake) It’s been made since 1593. It has to be good if it’s around that long.
- Dickens Festival > Where Charles Dickens books come alive every December.
- Wilhelmina Bridge (You might happen to know it for the Hollywood blockbuster movie “A Bridge Too Far”.)
- The Old Medieval City Center (it’s here where you find the oldest house of stone in the Netherlands.)
- Books, it’s known as the book city.
Table of Contents
40 Things to Do in Deventer Netherlands
When I wrote the title, I thought that didn’t sound very good. I mean, when I read it elsewhere, I roll my eyes. 40? Are you just naming every building in town? I hate that. I already think that with “15 best things” lists, but don’t worry; everything on my list is worth your time.
For easier reading and to help plan your trip, I have grouped the different Attractions in Deventer by:
Museums in Deventer
Of course, you would visit Amsterdam and Rotterdam for the country’s leading museums like the Van Gogh Museum and The Rijksmuseum. But Deventer has a lovely mix of small museums that are well worth your time when you’re here.
De Waag Deventer History Museum
So I went inside this beautiful landmark looks so beautiful. PS, it’s not you. The building is tilting.
A long time ago, this was the site to weigh goods sold in the city. It’s the oldest of its kind in the Netherlands.
The museum celebrated Deventer’s Hanseatic heritage during my most recent visit in August 2023. The 12th-century Hanseatic League brought prosperity to over 200 Northern European cities. Deventer is one of the nine main Hanseatic cities in the Netherlands.
The second floor showcased local art. Two pieces caught my eye. One depicted the Waag Building. I just thought the building looked precisely the same when I entered as how the painter saw it centuries ago.
The other was Han van Meegeren’s forgery, “The Supper at Emmaus.” Once believed to be a real Vermeer. I recently watched “The Last Vermeer” on Netflix about this story. So, seeing the painting in real life was a treat. I did not know Han was originally from Deventer.
The top floor zoomed in on the history of Deventer, especially on trade. It has a dedicated section on the famed “Bussink” Koek, a honey cake with origins dating back to 1411, still available today and sold all over the city.
A chilling reminder of the city’s commitment to fair trade hangs at the entrance: a copper kettle used for boiling dishonest traders in hot oil or water till death followed. Thankfully, such brutal punishments are relics of the past, but it underscore the city’s dedication to fairness. The kettle on display is known to have been used at least once for this punishment.
Visiting the Waag is a great starting point to learn more about the city and to feel the hustle and bustle from back in the day.
The Charles Dickens Cabinet Museum
This was the museum I was most excited about. I had seen this curious museum before, but it was always closed. It only opens on Saturday between noon and 4 p.m. You have to plan for it, but when you do (and you’re a fan of everything Dickens), you’re in for a treat.
The Charles Dickens Cabinet is housed in the former Women’s Prison on the famous Wal Street. It’s a small-scale museum that features numerous items, books, and so much more, all grouped per book. Some are first editions, prints, fine costumes and figurines of Dickens characters, and a table set with Dickens dinnerware.
I smiled from ear to ear the entire time I was inside the museum. My favorite item: a little box with a hand sticking out from the sides. Can you find it?
The impressive Dickens collection is a private collection of Emmy Strik, a founding member of the Dickens Festival that takes place every year in December. On the upper floor, you can peek into a vast storage room full of costumes used for the event.
Deventer’s Toy Museum boasts the Netherlands’ largest public toy collection. Housed in two historic Hanseatic merchant homes, the exhibits reveal that toys, beyond amusement, also offer insights into our identities.
The collection of old and new toys is fun for adults and kids. It has something for everyone. This museum is named one of the Kids Proof Museums in the Netherlands, with plenty of room for them to play.
Fun fact: The toy museum features a unique tin drawing clown from 1897. It’s the only automaton in the collection. The clown can sketch figures like Napoleon using interchangeable discs in its base by turning its mechanism. Pretty cool, right?
Other beautiful things you’ll find at the museum are a selection of dollhouses, vintage dolls, and the part I enjoyed most: the miniature rail tracks.
Whether traveling with or without kids, this is a great place to visit.
Hidden Church Inside The Penninckshouse
Please marvel at the beautiful facade before entering the Penninckshouse on Brink Square. The facade is a Dutch Renaissance masterpiece. Commissioned by merchant Herman Penninck in 1588, it showcases his affluence and education. The entrance features six statues representing faith, hope, love, prudence, strength, and temperance. It’s easy to find next to the Bussink Cake store and cafe, where the blue VVV flag is waving.
You will find the city’s tourist information (VVV) here, but that’s not all you’ll find inside. There is also a Hidden Church in Amsterdam, the “Our Lord in the Attic” museum. The version in Amsterdam is more beautiful, but this one is also worth a look inside. It’s free to enter!
PS: Why are there hidden churches in the Netherlands? This a curious phenomenon from the 17th century when public Catholic worship was prohibited after the Protestant Reformation. Catholics had to practice their faith discreetly, leading to the creation of these concealed churches.
TIP: Don’t hesitate to talk to the VVV employees. They will be happy to help you plan your time in Deventer.
Working Saw Windmill (Bolwerksmolen)
The only still functioning wind-powered sawmill in Overijssel, built in 1863 by the Elfrink brothers, is located in Deventer. Owned by the Deventer municipality since 1967, it underwent a significant 18-month restoration due to foundational issues. Thanks to that, we can still visit the mill today.
The mill and its volunteers demonstrate sawing techniques every Tuesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. free of charge (donations are welcome). Visitors can learn all about the milling process and go up the windmill.
I have to admit I did not know the windmill was there. It was a surprise find when I walked over the Wilhelmina bridge and saw it on the other side working and open. I loved going in. You’ll find passionate volunteers.
This century-old library is the oldest city library in the Netherlands, created in 1560. The Athenaeum library is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But if you’re here, why not bring a quick visit? It’s easy to understand why Deventer is also called the city of books.
It houses over 350,000 books and prints emphasizing Deventer’s printing history and the Moderne Devotie movement.
Geert Groote Huis Museum
Geert Groote (1340–1384) was a Dutch Roman Catholic deacon from Deventer. He founded the Brethren of the Common Life, part of the Devotio Moderna movement. This movement focused on personal devotion and practical approaches to Christianity during the late Middle Ages. Groote’s teachings had a significant impact across Northern Europe.
Not exactly a theme I’m personally interested in. However, for many people, his thinking is still relevant today, and if you’ve heard about his name before, visiting the Geert Groote museum is worth going to.
The Churches of Deventer
As a medieval city, you will expect a few beautiful churches, and Deventer will not disappoint.
Lebuinuskerk (renamed to the Grote Kerk)
This is the most well-known and hard-to-miss church of Deventer. It’s massive. When you’re coming from the south, from across the IJssel river, the church beautifully reveals itself, towering over the medieval skyline of Deventer. You have the best views from the ferry landing at the “The Worp” side or the Wilhelmina bridge.
The church you see today was built in the Middle Ages in the 15th century between 1450 – 1525. But before that, the Anglo-Saxon missionary Lebuinus built a small wooden church in 768 AC on this same spot, and this event is now widely regarded as the birth of the city of Deventer.
Other well-known churches are the Berg Church and the Broederenkerk (The formal name for the Broederenkerk is Roman Catholic St. lebuïnus church; however, that name is hardly ever used). It’s confusing because the Lebuinus is a separate church. But both are related to the same person.
The Bergkerk is located in one of Deventer’s most enchanting neighborhoods, called Bergkwartier, towering above the medieval houses. It also goes by the name of the St. Nicholas Church. Yes, the guy who is now the main character of the Dutch children’s fest, Sinterklaas, that the Dutch celebrate on December 5th.
Hundreds of years ago, he was the patron saint of sailors. The church was constructed between 1198-1209. It’s old! Additions were made in the 15th century, but parts are still original.
All churches are open to visit free of charge, but sometimes an exhibition takes place, and an entrance fee will be charged. If that’s the case, it will be signposted.
Explore the Old Town of Deventer
Deventer looks like a film set for Oliver Twist. It’s not without reason this city is the backdrop for the annual Dickens Festival.
I’ve mentioned the Bergkwartier quickly in the previous paragraph. It’s an area you want to explore. The medieval city quarter is the backdrop of the famous Dickens Festival held in Deventer every year. If you’re visiting the Netherlands in winter, this is a must!
The two streets where the event occurs are the “Bergstraat” and the “Walstraat.” Both are incredibly photogenic all year round.
I prefer the Walstraat myself because of the many original and one-of-a-kind stores and restaurants it’s home to. If you love shopping, be aware of entering this street 🤭.
Another beautiful area where you will spend some time is Brink Square, called “De Brink” in Dutch. Home to the Waag Museum, the Saturday Weekly market, a beautiful water fountain, and countless restaurants and cafes welcoming you for a bit to eat or a drink.
The Penninckshouse is found here. As is the nostalgic Bussink Cake store and cafe. Once again, you better make sure your phone’s battery is juiced up for all the photos you want to take.
Grote Kerkhof (Lebuinus Church)
When you go from the Brink Square to the “Grote Kerkhof,” you’ll pass “Proosdij,” the oldest stone house in the Netherlands. I was excited to see it and take photos, but it’s nothing special. That was a small disappointment; although the idea was cool, more beautiful buildings surrounded it. But it is the oldest!
The buildings around the Lebuinus Church on Grote Kerkhof are also worth your camera’s space. There is much to photograph here, like the former bakery on the corner. And if you pass it, you’re at the IJssel river banks.
From here is a short walk to the “Wilhelminabrug,” which might look very familiar. That is not that strange because the world-famous war movie “A Bridge Too Far” was shot here. While being portrayed in the movie as a bridge in Arnhem, it was this bridge that turned Deventer into Hollywood for a short while
Spanning the majestic IJssel River, it’s impressive to walk over it. It takes you no more than 10 minutes to cross it by foot. Halfway, you’re rewarded with beautiful views over the city’s old skyline and the surrounding area. Across the bridge, you can visit the Bolwerksmolen (saw windmill) on the left and enjoy a drink at Deventer “beach” on the right.
You can then return the same way you came, or walk a few minutes along a lovely footpath towards the IJssel Hotel (an excellent suggestion to sleep) instead and take the ferry back to the city.
Shopping in Deventer
Deventer is a shopping paradise. It offers over 70 unique shops and galleries in medieval streets and alleyways, making this a special place.
Ensure you have space in your suitcase when you visit because you’ll need it.
Here are a few areas I think are the best for finding the city’s shops. It’s just a starter because once you start strolling around, you’ll stumble across many cute little stores.
- “Walstraat”: This is the best street for quirky stores. I can’t list the entire street, but here are some: De Olde Bakkerieje (The Old Bakery), De Oude Mosterdfabriek (The Old Mustard Factory), Die Kostall (the Cow stalls) market hall, and Skokolaa. Skokolaa is a hazardous store when you have a sweet tooth. At the “Olde Bakkerieje,” you won’t find baked goods but an array of curiosities instead.
- “Kleine Overstraat”: Known as the umbrella street, it is another street for unique finds. Three stores worth checking out are: 1. Koester Vintage. I love this shop. Can you find the pink Elephant on the roof? Are you feeling playful? Pick up some rings from the basket outside and throw them towards the umbrellas. Then there is 2. “Antiquariaat Jan Praastink Wessels,” a beautiful store full of maps and curiosities. You are transported to another world once inside. People love this store. And then finally store 3. “Hoge Ramen” is another Deventer classic.
- “Korte Bisschopstraat”: This, and the surrounding streets, are home to the Dutch chains you find all over the country. The Hema department store is the largest of them. You can find HEMA everywhere, but still, it’s a great place to try classic Dutch snacks like the Tompouche pastry, Rookworst (smoked sausage), or get some “Stroopwafels.”
- Saturdays Market on Brink Square: If you’re in Deventer on a Saturday, you’re in luck. This is the day the weekly market is held in Deventer. It is a perfect place to get Dutch cheese, try raw herring, or for the less adventurous Kibbeling (fried fish), and of course, a warm Stroopwafel (get the plain one; chocolate ruins it)
Events in Deventer
If you’re in the Netherlands on the two days the Dickens Festival is held in December, you’re in for a treat. Make your way over to Deventer for the top-rated Dickens Festival. But do know it’s insanely popular. More than 100,000 other visitors decide to do the same every year.
Yes, it is in December, and we are in Nothern Europe. But December weather in the Netherlands is not as cold as it used to be. Temperatures are usually in the high 30s or the 40s (0-10 Celsius). It will be dark, but that only adds to the atmosphere. And don’t forget to pack a raincoat.
The city will burst at its seams, but I can’t think of a better place to get into the Holiday spirit. The organization ensures the event is perfectly organized to the smallest detail. It’s just so much fun! Come early, accept the crowds, and enjoy. The event is free to enter. More information can be found on the Dickens Festival website. It is one of the top activities in Deventer that puts the city on the map for most Dutch people.
Another popular event in Deventer in August is the yearly Book Market, the largest in Europe. Known as the city of books, this event ensures it takes that title seriously. More information about the Deventer Boekenmarkt (as it’s called in Dutch) can be found on their website. It’s in Dutch only, but if you visit the page with Google Chrome as your browser, you can translate it quickly.
Restaurants in Deventer
The city is full of fun, quirky, and luxurious restaurants. I can’t list them all, but here are a few of my favorites:
My favorite spot in Deventer for Lunch or a break is Volkhuis on the Kleine Overstraat. I had lunch here, and it was delicious! And also quite the experience.
The Volkshuis in Deventer is a unique lunch café. Its workforce and food make it special; the café employs twenty individuals with different abilities. They are dedicated to serving delicious vegetarian dishes made from fresh, preferably organic, and locally sourced ingredients. They have their vegetable garden from which most ingredients are sourced.
I had the Dutch pancake with locally matured “Deventer Roem” cheese as the topping. Wow, I love a good Dutch pancake and matured Dutch cheese. Now, combine the two, and I felt I was in heaven.
The introduction by the server was so honest and sweet that it made it even more special. In a voice the entire restaurant could hear, she announced I was in for a treat and continued explaining why this cheese was that special. She didn’t exaggerate anything. It was fantastic!
When you go here, don’t be rushed. This is not the place for that. You’ll receive the best possible service. Honest, attentive, and real. But it will also be slow. And that is OK. Take a seat and wind down 😌.
If you have room left, their pies are homemade and yummy! It’s worth the splurge.
PS: Want to take some Deventer Roem cheese with you? Then, visit the authentic Dutch cheese store: “De Brink.” Here, you can buy the famous local Deventer cheese called “Deventer Roem.” You have them in different strengths. I love the grey version of 15 months of matured cheese. It’s so good. That’s the one I took home. Not sure which one you like best? Just ask the helpful staff.
Betti is a breakfast spot across the Lebuïnus church. With its large windows, it offers great views of the church. The seats are made from old Auping beds, a trivial fact that is still cool to know (and I expect it to be very comfortable). Betti serves a local breakfast daily. They also offer local Deventer DAVO beer and a curated selection of wines, but maybe that is not the best beverage choice for breakfast.
I did not get a chance to eat here this time, but it’s high on my wishlist for next time.
Bussink Store and Cafe on Brink Square
The Bussink store is lovely. Here, you can buy the original Bussink Koek (Honey cake), whether you go for the original or other flavors. They have them in countless gift packages. It also features a cafe where you can take a break and try the cake for yourself.
PS: It’s a spiced cake, so don’t expect anything overly sweet. I took a box home myself.
City Beach Meadow
Meadow, located on Deventer’s City Beach, offers a unique spot by the IJssel River, close to the historic city center. With a stunning view of Deventer’s skyline, it’s open from April to October. Visitors can savor coffee, drinks, and summer dishes. The seasonal pavilion is crafted from modified shipping containers and recycled building materials.
DAVO Bieren Stadsbrouwerij & Proeflokaal
In Deventer, DAVO is a fantastic destination for beer enthusiasts. Just a short stroll from the city center, the DAVO Beers Brewpub offers a chance to enjoy Dutch craft beers with the option of brewery tours and tastings.
Beer Cafe De Heks
Just behind the Waag, where a witch once flew into the wall (I didn’t make that up), you find the renowned specialty beer café, De Heks. Established as an inn in the early 1300s, it’s now one of the city’s oldest establishments. De Heks has over 200 beers in stock.
Are you looking for a filling meal without all the fancy? Then you can’t go wrong with Roasted, where they serve Grilled Chicken and Burgers. The building makes you feel you’re inside a Medieval inn. This is where I would go to get my Burger or Chicken fix. In case you want to try the local Davo beer? They have it on the menu.
JackiesNYC offers a dining experience inspired by New York City. I mean that alone in the small city of Deventer is special. It’s a high-end restaurant. The menu includes steaks, sushi, and hamburgers, influenced by Chinatown and Little Italy.
Hotel Huis Vermeer is something different and another great restaurant. This is a restaurant to go to for a fine meal. You don’t come here for a burger. The restaurant prides itself on a menu made with seasonal and regional ingredients. The setting is unique. Look at photos on the “Huis Vermeer” website to see what I mean.
PS: You can still find many references on other sites to a food court called Food Dock, but unfortunately, it’s been permanently closed since 2020! The same is true for “A Taste of Honey.”
Other things to do in Deventer
Take the Ferry – Pontje Deventer
The small ferry is most definitely a highlight of your visit to Deventer. Locals call it lovely “De Stokvis.” (Stockfish). It connects the southern banks of the river IJssel with the city center.
Once on the other side, you’re rewarded with great city skyline views. You can walk back over the bridge to the city for more great photos (or return to the Ferry for your journey back to the city).
The crossing takes just a few minutes and is very cheap. You can either buy a one-way or a discounted return ticket.
Murals In The Ludgeruskwartier Neighborhood
If you’re looking for something different and love street art, you might want to head to the Ludgeruskwartier. A lower-income neighborhood where you’ll now find bigger-than-life murals on the side of apartment buildings. If you’re interested, you can find more information about street art in Deventer on this website.
It’s a 25-minute walk or a 10-minute bus ride from the city center. Too far? There are two exciting murals in the city center as well. One in the “Kleine Overstraat,” the umbrella street. It looks like a medieval painting but pause and look more intently. Can you find the modern references? Another great mural is Greetings from Deventer on the Keizerstraat next to Bagels and Beans.
Find A Place To Stay In Deventer
Update your (intended) travel dates for accurate prices. TIP: Zoom out on the map (-) in the bottom right corner. This will show more options and availability.
While many tourists flock to the well-known tourist attractions in Amsterdam, a trip to Deventer is one of the top things within the Netherlands you can do that remains largely unknown by visitors. Given its rich tapestry of old buildings and deep-rooted history, it’s beyond me why Deventer isn’t a tourist destination.
Sure, the top attractions in Deventer might not mirror Amsterdam’s fame, but they’re fantastic on their own. Here, you can visit one of the most picturesque cities in the country.
Visiting Deventer is like finding a hidden treasure, but this time, it’s one where you can wander through.
Coming here allows you to step away from the typical tourist attractions and discover a more genuine side of the Netherlands. You’ll have something special to talk about when you return home.
PS: I’ve seen other recommendations for city parks and things to do in Deventer. The one called “Rijsterborgherpark” behind the train station is nice with benches, trees, and waterways but not precisely the park in the Netherlands to come to Deventer for, so why it’s mentioned, I don’t know. The same is true for the “Belevingscentrum De Scheg swimming pool.” It has great water slides, but I don’t think you will visit it soon unless you’re here longer.
Are you considering visiting Deventer?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: I'm curious to know how did hear about Deventer? Did you know about it before? Or did you just discovered it today? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
Every Coffee ☕️ Counts!
I hope this guide was valuable for you and has made planning your trip to The Netherlands easier. Writing these in-depth articles take a lot of time. Please consider making a small donation with “Buy Me A Coffee“ —your generosity is greatly appreciated and used for the costs of maintaining this website!