From its rich heritage of glassblowing to its picturesque landscape and architectural charm, Leerdam offers a unique experience for those who venture beyond the well-trodden path. Their slogan is 'Be blown away by Leerdam!', so come with me and discover the best sights of the Glass City of the Netherlands!
Sights and Activities in Leerdam
Leerdams' history dates back to the 11th century when it was merely a small settlement on the banks of the river Linge. Over the centuries, it evolved into a thriving town and earned its place as a Dutch hub for glassmaking. The cities' first glass factory (for bottles) opened its doors in 1765, and until this day this craftsmanship is still flourishing. Visitors can witness artisans in action at the Glasblazerij (glass studio) and gain insight into the artistry behind the shimmering glass masterpieces.
It's fascinating to see how intense and time consuming it is to create one single glass object. Below you can see Marinke van Zandwijk cutting liquid glass.
Maurice La Rooy created a glass object using glass rods as a base. It takes years of training and a high concentration and precision to be able to create these works of art.
While you as a visitor see how a work of art is created, you will receive an explanation from a guide about the entire process from A to Z. In my opinion very fun and educational!
Just outside of the city center you will find the National Glassmuseum located in two villas of former glass factory directors. Nowadays the villas are connected by footbridges which makes it, in my opinion, a unique architectural masterpiece. The museum has an extensive collection of Dutch glass from around 1880 to the present day.
This glass yar with lid from 1919 is a design by Chris Lanooy.
In addition of the permanent collection, there are also changing exhibitions. Keep an eye on their agenda to see what's currently running, and what's next.
The yellow crockery from 1924 by the famous architect Berlage was my favourite.
Don't forget to take a look in the garden of the museum, because a part of the collection is exhibited here in greenhouses and in the open air.
Because of the ramparts you can easily see that Leerdam was once a fortified city. The Zuidwal (south city wall) with Muizentorentjes (mouse towers) along the river de Linge is definitely a must see. The whole structure dates back to the 14th/15th century, which during that time functioned as a protection against the river and uninvited guests.
The 'mouse towers' got their name around the year 1837 when a quay was constructed and the towers were transformed into houses. But at first no one dared to live in them as these houses were easy to take by the enemy. Thus the towers remained empty for a long time, making them a haven for mice and rats... Fortunately this belongs to a bygone era, the houses are currently inhabited or used as a shop.
Unfortunately the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden was closed during our visit, which is known for its beautiful garden and changing exhibitions of sculptures.
When Windmill Ter Leede (dating from 1640) is running at full speed it's a spectacle to stand next to it, you can hear the blades turning, the water wheel rotating and the stream swirling loudly. The windmill can only be visited inside by appointment, so please check their website in advance. During a visit of 1.5 hours, the miller explains everything about how the windmill works and serves a cup of coffee with a local sweet delicacy at the kitchen table.
Coffee and Sweets in Leerdam
At the Museum Café of the National Glassmuseum it is allowed to take yourself a drink; like for example coffee, tea, hot chocolate and/or some sweets. According to the concept 'pay what you think it's worth', you donate a voluntary contribution with which you support the museum. There is even a glass chess set for those who want to play a game of chess.
Just outside of Leerdam, along the beautiful Diefdijk, you will find art gallery and coffee/tea garden Brandstof. It is tucked away behind a lush apple orchard and vegetable garden, and has wonderful views over the farmland with grazing cows. For us it was the perfect place to relax and unwind with a cup of coffee while enjoying some pretty artworks.
During our visit there was a temporary exhibition with the glass artworks by Marinke van Zandwijk, who you have seen in this blog post creating glas objects at the Glasblazerij. Keep an eye on the agenda of Brandstof to see what's coming up.
Lunch and Dinner in Leerdam
At all day breakfast bar Sixteen you can get freshly made sandwiches, bagels, salads, smoothies and of course several types of coffee and tea. We enjoyed a delicious greek salad accompanied by a cup of tea.
Restaurant De Houtloods is located in the same building as the Glasblazerij, which was the former workshop of the Dutch Railways. The shed dates back to 1867 and is the oldest building in the Spoorzone that has been preserved. The extensive lunch and dinner menu has plenty to offer both for vegetarians and for fish/meat lovers. I have tried the plant based soup of the day, which was a very taste cauliflower soup.
How to get to Leerdam
In the middle of The Netherlands you will find an area between two rivers, named Lek and Linge. It's a beautiful part of the country just below the city of Utrecht with polders, floodplains, dikes, windmills, farms and cities like Leerdam.
A train will take you to Leerdam within:
45 minutes from Dordrecht or Utrecht
50 minutes from Den Bosch
1 hour from Gouda, Hilversum or Rotterdam
1 hour and 15 minutes from Breda, Tilburg, Arnhem or Amsterdam
1 hour and 30 minutes from Leiden, Amersfoort, Eindhoven or The Hague
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Please note: I was invited to experience a day in Leerdam by Visit Utrecht Region.