Enschede is situated in the extreme east of the Netherlands, in the Overijssel province. It’s only a few kilometers from the border with Germany and and has great national and international train connections. As such, Enschede is a popular destination for a daytrip.
In this article, we’ll show what you can see and do in Enschede.
What is Enschede like?
The Netherlands is famous for picturesque city centers full of historic buildings and canals. However, not all cities in the countries are like that. Enschede is actually very different from the “typical Dutch city”.
Why’s that? The city has seen its share of destruction. It received city rights in the early 14th century, but since most houses were made of wood (as is the case for most medieval cities), it was always at risk for fires. In the centuries that followed (16th, 18th, and 19th), Enschede experienced fires that devastated the city.
During WWII, its proximity to the German border made Enschede one of the first Dutch cities to be captured by German troops. It experienced many bombings during this time, which caused a lot of damage.
Sadly, the story of Enschede doesn’t stop here. As you might have read in the news, in May 2000, the city experienced a fireworks disaster at a local fireworks factory. The tragedy cost 23 lives, injured almost 1000 people, destroyed an entire district with nearly 2000 homes which cost the city over €450 million in damages.
Through it all – Enschede endures. Most buildings that you’ll see in Enschede today were built after WWII. There aren’t many century-old buildings or sights. Nevertheless, the city is home to a few great museums, breweries and recreational parks. As a popular city for students, it boasts an energetic city center that’s great to visit day and night.
Enschede – What to See and Do in
Due to its history, Enschede isn’t the place if you’re looking for histroric sights. However, it’s a great place to experience the vibrant Dutch culture, local breweries, shopping and nightlife. Let’s have a look at the 8 best things to do in Enschede!
1. Grolsch Brewery
Whether you’re a beer drinker or not, you probably know the iconic green bottle with its flip-top closure of Grolsch. The company has been brewing beer here since 1895 so it’s no wonder that there are Grolsch Brewery tours conducted here.
During the extensive 2.5 hour tour, you’ll get to know all about the company’s history, its brewing process, and the many beer variants it produces. Of course, the highlight is the beer tasting at the end of the tour.
Our tip: The Grolsch brewery tour is a great alternative to the Heineken experience in Amsterdam.
2. Rijksmuseum Twenthe
Rijksmuseum Twenthe holds a massive collection of art and artifacts in the east of the Netherlands. It’s so big that only a portion is shown at any given time, which makes every visit a bit unique. Numerous exhibits are held each year so check the calendar to see which ‘master’ is being showcased at the time of your visit. End your visit with some coffee (or tea) and some local cake (Twentse krentenwegge) at the museum café.
3. De Museumfabriek
If Rijksmuseum Twenthe is about indulging your visual senses with art, the De Museumfabriek is all about getting hands-on with nature, history, science, and old and new technologies.
The museum is actually the union of a local natural history museum, a textile museum, and a cultural-historical collection. Since 2016, plans are underway to further merge these collections into a ‘Museum of Wonderful Science’.
Although there’s plenty to see and take part in, don’t miss one of the highlights of the museum: a 3.6-meter-tall skeleton of a mammoth.
4. Nature Park near Vliegveld Twenthe
Vliegveld Twenthe (Twente Airport) is a small active airport open to private and business planes, as well as a glider club. However, the southern part of the airport is a nature reserve that’s open to the public. The area near the small airport offers amazing walking and cycling routes that will bring you through forests, groves, and meadows. You’ll also see old airplane hangars, which function as event venues today.
5. Shopping and Eating
Enschede us a shopping mecca! The city used to be the center of a thriving textile industry. When these businesses closed to move their production facilities to Asia, Enschede undertook massive renovation and rejuvenation works in its city center to improve its appeal. This meant having modern shopping centers and department stores that you’d normally only find in big cities like Amsterdam.
Besides big labels, you’ll also find some small shops here, selling anything from clothing, homeware to local specialities. The large variety of shops is partly the result of the city’s close proximity to the German border too. You’ll find many German-originating shops here.
All that shopping is bound to make you hungry, so be sure to visit the Twentsche Foodhal, where you can sample food from different world cuisines. If you’d like to stick to Dutch cuisine, you’ll surely love the amazing Dutch fries!
The Volkspark (People’s Park) was commissioned in 1872 and was meant as a place for textile workers and their families to relax during their free time. Today, it’s open for everyone to enjoy. Spread over 15 hectares, the park offers a wide variety of flora and fauna, a fishing pond, an aviary, a 23-meter high fountain, and a great playground for kids to enjoy.
It’s a great place to relax and have a picnic. When the weather is good, the park is usually well frequented, especially by younger people.
Enschede is home to the University of Twente, one of the leading public technical universities in the world. And as you know, where the young are, an active nightlife follows. The city center square becomes a very welcoming and lively destination at night with many places to eat and drink. Many people go to Enschede just to experience the gezellig (cozy) atmosphere here at night!
8. Walking and Biking Tours
For people interested in the history of the city, the local historic society has created three walking and biking tours. The Wigboldroute (Wedge-Bold Route) is a 5 km city walk along the outskirts of the city proper, while the Grensstenen Route (Boundary Stone Route) is a 25 km cycling route along the border between the Netherlands and Germany. If you’d like on a longer route, the Markestenenroute (Markstone Route) is an 80 km cycling route that takes you along the old borders of the former marks of Enschede: Lonneker, Esmarke, Usselo, Twekkelo, and Groot Driene.
If you have a simple bike and a moderate level of fitness, we strongly recommend to explore the Grensstenen Route. It takes around 1.5 hours to complete and incorporates city and nature. The Markestenenroute requires a race bike or an electric bike, and will take at least half a day to complete. It’s a great activitiy if you’re visiting Enschede for multiple days and have a good level of fitness.
Accommodations in Enschede
Enschede offers many accommodations to suit every preference and budget. There are cozy B&Bs, campsites, vacation rentals, budget and luxury hotel rooms, and ‘farm apartments’.