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Tall ships and mudflats: a trip to Harlingen

Posted on May 15, 2021 by

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Harlingen is one of the eleven cities of Friesland, a Dutch province in the north of the Netherlands. It’s an important harbour, located at the Wadden Sea (UNESCO Heritage Site) and has a long tradition as a fishing city.

Walking the streets of Harlingen, you can see the history everywhere: in the old warehouses that are perfectly restored, the bridges that are still manually lifted when the boats have to pass or the beautiful house façades on the canals. But the most interesting part of the city is the harbour. Or, better said, harbours, because Harlingen has seven of them! I am obsessed with harbours, so for my first visit to Harlingen, I didn’t get to see much of the city itself, because I was inevitably attracted to the harbour area. I went to see the tall ships (Europa was so beautiful!), the mix of old and new boats, the promenade and the beach. I saw the mudflat for the first time: the tides change every six hours at the Wadden Sea, leaving large tidal flats behind. Hiking on tidal flats is a common activity in this area, and you can do it by yourself or with an organised group. I didn’t try it this time, as you need to be prepared with proper shoes for the experience — my normal hiking shoes not being suitable for it.

The prettiest part of Harlingen is the Zuiderhaven, a picturesque marina overlooked by H. Aartsengel Michaël Church. While the harbours are buzzing with activity, the city itself is quiet and the life seems to flow slowly in Harlingen. I would say one day is enough to see the entire city, but I think an overnight stay would be a nice experience, to explore at your own pace, maybe spend some time at the beach, watch the boats coming and going, listen to the seagulls while eating an ice cream. Maybe next time I’ll do just this, and then take the ferry to one of the amazing Wadden Sea islands, Terschelling and Vlieland, for a beach holiday.

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