Amersfoort  is an originally mediaeval city to the east of Amsterdam and Utrecht. It is at the edge of their commuting area, and has expanded in recent years. The city centre (the mediaeval city) is full of historic buildings and streets, and there is accessible forest in to the west and south. The city of Amersfoort (municipality) has about 135, 000 inhabitants, the urban region about 250, 000.
Geography and history
Amersfoort takes its name from a ford (voorde) in the Eem river, which was once called the 'Emer' or 'Amer', at the edge of higher ground, the Utrecht ridge. The ford is on the shortest route across low marshy ground, from the ridge to the nearest higher ground on the east. As a result, Amersfoort was, and still is, on the main road from the western Netherlands to northern Germany,and the later Amsterdam - Berlin railway followed this route. The low-lying area between the Utrecht and Veluwe ridges is called the Valley of Gelderland, Gelderse Vallei, and it is now a zone of intensive farming.
The first written record of the settlement was in 1028. In the 12th century the Bishopric of Utrecht fortified it (because of its strategic location), and in 1259 granted it city rights. The first city wall of stone was built in the late 13th century. Around 1380 a new wall was built: some of the city gates still survive. The city was a late mediaeval pilgrimage centre, and in 1444 began the construction of a cathedral. Most of it was destroyed in an explosion in 1787, but the tower survives, one of the highest in the country. Because of its visibility, it was was the starting point for the accurate triangulation of the country, and it is still the true origin of the Dutch national grid (coordinates 463.000, 155.000).
Amersfoort's mediaeval industries were cloth and beer: in the 18th century it prospered due to the locally-grown tobacco. The railway began the modern expansion. In recent years growth has accelerated, with suburban expansion mainly to the north.
You can cycle from Amsterdam to Amersfoort in about 4 hours. Utrecht to Amersfoort takes about 90 minutes. The long-distance cycle route LF9, from Breda in the south, to the German border at Nieuweschans, at passes through Amersfoort. (There is also a route variant which passes outside the city).
Amersfoort station is a rail junction. One line comes from Amsterdam via Hilversum, another from Utrecht. Beyond Amersfoort, they split. The main line to the east goes to Apeldoorn, Deventer, and on to Enschede. The line north-east to Zwolle is the main line to the north of the country, to Leeuwarden and Groningen. Trains arrive and depart at similar times on both sides of the platform, so you need to be careful about which train you board. There are two suburban stations, Schothorst and Vathorst. The main station is served by...
- from Amsterdam: 2 Intercity trains per hour, in 33 minutes, and 2 slower trains
- from Utrecht: 4 Intercity trains per hour, in 14 minutes
- from Ede-Wageningen station, connecting with trains from Arnhem, every 30 minutes, journey takes 33 minutes.
Amersfoort is served by regional bus lines, some with limited services. The main bus lines run every 30 minutes: line 80 from Wageningen, and three with parallel rail routes: the 70 from Hilversum, the 101 from Harderwijk and the 102 from Apeldoorn.
Amersfoort does have a city bus network, with 10 lines, but services are not as frequent as you would expect, in a city this size. The city centre is small enough to walk everywhere, the station is 10 minutes walk from the centre. Outside the centre, the best way to get around is to cycle. Car access to the city centre is restricted.
The roughly circular historic centre is the main attraction of Amersfoort. The Eem river runs diagonally through the old city, south-east to northwest, from the Monnickendam to the Koppelpoort. It is crossed at right angles by the Langestraat, part of the old highway from Utrecht to Zwolle, and still the main street. The station is on the west side, and the Town Hall is at the western edge of the old city, on the road to the station. Most of the office buildings in the centre are located on or near this road. Apart from the Langestraat, most of the shopping streets are on the west side of the centre also. Specific sights include:
- the remains of the second city wall, which is still intact on much of the eastern side, and the water gate Monnickendam on the south.
- the Koppelpoort - probably the best preserved city gate in the country, a dual water and road entrance to the city, built over the river Eem.
- Amersfoortse Kei - this glacial boulder is the symbol for the city. A 17th-century nobleman and poet persuaded 400 inhabitants to drag the stone to Amersfoort, for beer, just to show they would do something useless. The incident made the city the butt of jokes, and it buried the stone for centuries, out of shame. In 1903 the city felt sufficiently rehabilitated to dig it up again, and it became its symbol. In fact, the city started to collect boulders, gifts from other cities: they are displayed on the inner ring road, along the line of the old city wall.
- Muurhuizen or wall houses, built on the first mediaeval city wall. They back onto the canal along 't Zand, Weverssingel, Zuidsingel and Westsingel.
- the Onze Lieve Vrouwe tower, the former cathedral spire. You can climb the 364 steps on a guided tour, Tuesday to Sunday, every hour from 11.00 to 17.00, from July to mid-September, € 4.
- the Sint Joriskerk, the largest church, on the main square, Hof, with the old Town Hall.
Cycling around Amersfoort
There are several signposted cycle routes around Amersfoort. Shorter circular routes are signposted in one direction, taking several hours: follow the route signs (usually hexagonal). The Eemland Route starts in Amersfoort. The Nieuwe Vuursche Route passes the western edge of the city. The much longer Eneco Veluwe Route passes the eastern edge, and the nearby village of Hoevelaken. The route is 265 km long, not counting three short-cuts and two diversions. The route website www.enecoveluweroute.nl, is in Dutch, but has an interactive map. Another long route, Rondje Utrecht, a circle around the Province of Utrecht, passes the city centre.
The LF9 is a long cross-country route, signposted in both directions. It starts in Breda, near the Belgian border, and follows approximately the 0 metre contour. In principle, everything west of this line would disappear under sea water, if there were no artificial barriers. It runs through Utrecht, and after Amersfoort follows the old coastline to Zwolle, and goes through Groningen to the German border (325 km).
However, you don't need to follow a route: most of the surrounding region is suitable for cycling. The most interesting routes are east and north-east to the Veluwe forests about 20 km away, east and south to the forest at the edge of the city, north along the river Eem and toward the former coastline, and south-east along the Gelderse Vallei toward Wageningen.
Boat and bike
From April to October, on 5 days each week, there is a boat service along the Eem and out into the former sea, to Huizen or Spakenburg. It is mainly intended for cyclists, who combine a river and cycle trip by getting on or off the boat, along the riverbank. The round trip takes almost 8 hours, and costs € 18, shorter sections cost € 3 to € 9. Timetable at the website www.eemlijn.nl.
There is a signposted canoe route around Amersfoort, see map and photos at http://home.planet.nl/~vortex1/nl-leusden.htm. Canoes can be rented at Kanocentrum boerderij Berg, Langesteeg 2a, 3831 RZ Leusden. Tel. 033-4945352.
Every Friday and Saturday there is a market in the square in the center of Amersfoort
Mexican: Marimba. Southwest corner of Het Hof (the square) in the center of Amersfoort. Marimba Web Site
There are plenty of bars around in the old City centre. The most important clusters of bars can be found on the two main squares (Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerkhof and Hof), Two of the better pubs there are Lobbes and Blauwe Engel, The Boothill Saloon (in Krankeledenstraat, near Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerkhof), Irish Pub Long John (also Krankenledenstraat) and 't Nonnetje (in Groenmarkt) are great places to go out.
Prices are, as in most Dutch pubs, somewhat high . In Long John a pint of Guinness might, for instance, set you back € 4.50, although the other pubs are slightly cheaper.
- 3 Ringen Brewery, a microbrewery well worth a visit.
You can travel on from Amersfoort in several directions, see 'Get in' for main train routes. There are many other destinations in the vicinity. The last train back to Amsterdam is at 00.07 (2007 timetable, valid from 10 December 2006). http://www.ns.nl (link to dutch railway website)
The most useful routes are bus line 101 through several villages to the town of Harderwijk, line 80 to Rhenen and Wageningen and the 102 across the forested Veluwe to Apeldoorn. It connects with line 104, the only way to reach the smaller villages in the northern Veluwe.
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