Overijssel is a Dutch province that stretches from the German border in the east almost to the Ijsselmeer in the northwest. The most famous cities are Giethoorn, Enschede, Deventer and Zwolle. Overijssel is overall very rich in nature, with countless forests, nature areas and idyllic villages to explore. In this article you’ll find an overview of the best sights and activities in Overijssel.
Sightseeing in Overijssel
Overijssel is definitely worth a visit, no matter if you’re looking for world famous sights, villages or nature areas. Let us first introduce you to the top sights in Overijssel.
Undoubtedly the most famous destination in Overijssel is the water city of Giethoorn. This fairytale town is located in the far north of the province. Giethoorn is often called the Venice of Holland because many houses here are built along the water. You should plan at least half a day or even a whole day to explore Giethoorn. Make sure to read our travel tips for Giethoorn.
The museum farm ‘t Olde Maat Uus is also worth a visit: here you can learn about the history of Giethoorn and immerse yourself in the culture of the region.
Not far from Giethoorn is the national park Weerribben-Wieden. What used to be a popular peat and reed mining area once is now a great place for hiking.
Zwolle is a historic Hanseatic city located on the western border of the province of Overijssel. The city is a perfect blend of old buildings and modern architecture.
The museum De Fundatie on the Blijmarkt with its eye-catching dome is one of the main sights in Zwolle. Make sure to visit this museum to take a journey through history, from the Middle Ages to the present.
Zwolle is also fantastic for walking and cycling. Make sure to explore the old streets and take a look at the historic houses located in the center. The canal bordering the city center is great for a boat trip. You’ll get to see the major sights of the city from the water (Wijntoren, Sassenpoort, the theater De Spiegel and the museum De Fundatie).
Kampen is an ancient Dutch Hanseatic town with centuries of tradition in shipping and trade.
The city has over 500 monuments and a fish market dating back to the 14th century. If you’re interested in the history of Kampen, make sure to visit the Stedelijk Museum, the main museum in Kampen.
Want to travel between Kampen and Zwolle? We recommend the Kamperlijntje, which is a direct connection (12 km / 7.5 mi) between the cities.
Located at the border with Germany, Enschede is a famous shopping city, especially with German visitors.
In addition, Enschede is a popular student city. As such, the city’s atmosphere is lively and modern and has many bars, restaurants and clubs. In the summer, Enschede hosts the Food Truck Festival and the Singelloop (annual footrace).
Those looking for a quiet area should head to Het Volkspark, a beautiful park located on the outskirts of Enschede.
Deventer is a Hanseatic city on the Ijssel. In the historic town center, you’ll find numerous ancient monuments, a few small museums and shopping streets.
Every year in July the popular open-air theater festival Deventer Op Stelten takes place, turning the whole city into a huge theater.
Deventer is also called koekstad, meaning the city of cakes. Make sure to try the delicious cakes of Deventer that are still being made according to a secret recipe dating back to the 14th century!
What makes Deventer so beautiful, especially in summer, is its location right on the Ijssel. Take one of the bridges (or the ferry boat) to get from the city center to the other bank of the Ijssel. There you will find some very well maintained beaches on the Ijssel, a large park (Plantsoen Worp) and some cafes.
Activities in Overijssel
Hiking and Cycling
Overijssel is full of walking and cycling trails! The most beautiful routes are those in and around the famous nature areas of the Overijssel province. Our favorites are De Zwarte Dennen (in the northeast of the province), Weerribben-Wieden (northwest, close to Giethoorn), Sallandse Heuvelrug, Vechtdal, Lutterzand and Lemelerberg in the heart of Overijssel. There are many small lakes and cozy restaurants across the province where you can take a break.
Zoo Tamam Indonesia
Taman Indonesia Zoo in Kallenkote is a small zoo with animals from Indonesia. They are home to some exotic birds, mammals and reptiles. Tamam Indonesia is popular with families, especially for a stopover from/to Giethoorn.
Looking for some refreshment in the summer? One of the main water parks in the Overijssel province is Heuveltjesbosbad Balkbrug. There are three large (heated) pools for adults and kids, as well as a nice playground. The park is located in the middle of the beautiful nature het Heuveltjesbos. A great opportunity to combine walking, cycling and swimming.
Accommodation in Overijssel
There is a large choice of accommodations in Overijssel suiting every taste and budget. However, our recommendation to make the most of your vacation in this unique province is to stay on a campsite. You’ll find plenty of campsites in Overijssel, some of which are family-run.
If you prefer something more comfortable, there are many holiday parks in Overijssel offering chalets (stacaravan). These are small houses on wheels usually consisting of one to three bedrooms and fully furnished and equipped.
Additionally, there are countless vacation apartments, bed & breakfasts and conventional hotels in Overijssel.