One of the places to visit in the Utrecht province is Abcoude. While it is one of the small towns and villages that you can find in the Utrecht region, there are many things to do in Abcoude. There is enough to see in Abcoude and its surroundings to spend a weekend in this town. From exploring the sights and attractions in Abcoude to discovering why Abcoude is worth visiting: This article will show you a perfect Abcoude itinerary, so you can do some sightseeing in the centre of Abcoude and will find why this Dutch town deserves more tourism.
History & Facts about Abcoude
Abcoude is a village and a former municipality and home to a population of around 8100. While it is found in the province of Utrecht, it borders Amsterdam’s municipality and used to belong to two other provinces before the provincial borders were changed.
Abcoude was first named in a report of the bishop in Utrecht in 1085. At that time, they talked about ‘habitatores de Abecenwalde’, or the home of inhabitants of Abecenwalde. Abecenwalde meant ‘the woods of Abbeke’, of which Abbe is a Frisian name and Abbeke the diminutive. Until the 8th century, this area was part of the Frisian territory called Niftarlake. And around 719, this part of Western Frisia became part of the Frankish Kingdom. However, the Frisian nobility was still governing the area of Niftarlake until 953. The area was taken from the Frisian Count Hatto by Otto the Great, who then gifted the region to the Stift of Utrecht.
Later on, on the border of the Earldom of Holland and the Stift of Utrecht castle Abcoude was found. The Abcoude castle was first mentioned during the destructions of Gijsbrecht van Amstel in 1274. The castle was rebuilt at the time, but nowadays, you can see some fundaments in the landscape and a restored moat.
The municipality of Abcoude was founded on the 1st of May 1941 and existed out of the combination of the municipalities of Abcoude- Baambrugge and Abcoude- Proostdij. On the 1st of January 2011, the municipality of Abcoude and De Ronde Venen merged. The village of Abcoude is found around 1 kilometre south of the southeastern part of Amsterdam. And several rivers flow through Abcoude, such as the Angstel and Gein rivers. The population of Abcoude is around 8100 people. Enjoy this Abcoude travel guide.
What to do in Abcoude
Free walking tour in Abcoude
One of the things you need to do in Abcoude is to explore the town on foot. We are starting our Abcoude tour in Brugstraat. From there, you will walk to Kerkplein 45, where you can admire the Dorpskerk, or village church of Abcoude. This is the oldest building in Abcoude and dates back to around 1470. But, it is said that the fundaments of the current church, some parts of the pillars and the tower are from the 13th-century Romanesque church that was found on this location before.
After admiring this sight in Abcoude, you will walk further onto the Kerkplein (where you can see tons of 17th and 18th-century buildings) to Kerkstraat, Gein Noord and Gein Noord 33. Here you will see the Broekzijder Molen, a traditional Dutch windmill dating back to 1641. It is located next to the small river called ‘Gein’ and was used as a water pumping mill until 1980. After its restoration in 2010, the windmill continues to help to pump water out of the polder. You cannot visit this windmill.
Then cross the bridge and walk to Gein Zuid 22. Here you can see Huis Bijlmerlust, a manor house in Abcoude that dates back to around 1760. Interestingly enough, the house was built in the Westbijlmerpolder in the municipality of Amsterdam. But, as Amsterdam continued to expand and destroyed the farmland to create homes, the house couldn’t stay here. In 1967, the municipality of Amsterdam bought the house, and it was taken apart (stone by stone) and rebuilt on its current location in around 1968.
Continue walking to Gein Zuid 14, where you find the Oostzijdse Molen (also named Molen Delphine). This mill dates back to 1874, but the first windmill that ever stood on this location was in 1468. This Dutch windmill in Abcoude was used to drain the Oostzijdse polder until 1950. The polder’s water level is very low, and the windmill has been used to drain the polder since 2009 again.
This windmill is also famous as the Mondriaan mill. Piet Mondriaan painted this Dutch windmill on the Gein river more than twenty times. You can see one of these paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Now, walk to Hoogstraat 24, where you can spot manor house Binnenrust. It dates back to 1680 and functioned as housing of mayors of Abcoude from 1893 until 1980. The river Angstel flows at the back of this manor house, and Binnenrust is the closest still existing vacation and weekend house to Amsterdam that is found along the Angstel river. It has been named ‘Binnenrust’ since at least 1706, and the whole estate is around 1,7 ha big.
Then, head over to Hoogstraat 18-20 to see a small park named: Hugo de Vriespark. It’s named after Dutch biologist, botanist and one of the first geneticists Hugo de Vries. This little park is home to a pond, centuries-old trees and more.
Walk to Het Markvelt, Jacob van Gaesbeeklaan to Fort Bij Abcoude. This fortress is part of one of The Netherlands Unesco World Heritage sites: Amsterdam’s defence line. The Stelling van Amsterdam is a defence line of 135 kilometres that surrounds Amsterdam. It exists out of dozens of fortresses and some batteries that are mainly located between 10 and 20 kilometres from the centre and lowlands that can be quickly inundated during the war. The fortress of Abcoude was the first fort that was built of the defence line of Amsterdam.
The fort of Abcoude is built between 1884 and 1887 and is the only fort of this defence line that is made from brick (it’s walls around 1,8 metres thick!). Two floors offered a place to 360 people. Shortly after the First World War, the fortress was taken out of use due to the invention of the grenade. You can often visit this Dutch fortress near Amsterdam during the summer months. Roughly, every second Saturday from May until September, you can go on a guided tour through this fortress close to Amsterdam. This tour is not free, but it doesn’t cost a lot.
Now, walk to Molenweg and Raadhuisplein 3. This is the former city hall of Abcoude. It was built in 1882 and 1883 for the former municipality of Abcoude- Proostdij. Before this town hall in Abcoude was built, the meetings were held at a restaurant in Abcoude. However, a new law forbidding meetings in a room that also served strong alcohols went into effect in 1881. So, they needed a new place. This building was also home to the police station of the municipality of Abcoude. It is currently privately owned due to the municipality of Abcoude merging with others.
Then head via Koppeldijk and Winkeldijk to the Abcouder Slot. This is the place where the castle of Abcoude was located. Now, you can also skip this part of the tour if you prefer to walk less, especially since you can’t see much remains, except for the canal that surrounded the castle and the piece of land that was home to the castle (where animals now graze on). There are no actual castle ruins to see in Abcoude, but the history is fascinating.
The big castle of Abcoude was built around 750 years ago and was first mentioned when it was destroyed by angry farmers led by Gijsbrecht van Amstel in 1274. The castle was renovated and modernised countless times as the centuries went on. In 1672, the castle was defended against the French troops that set fire to the village of Abcoude on the 6th of November. They returned on the 30th of November to finish what they started, but the resistance from the castle was too much to handle for the French troops.
After that, the castle started to decay slowly as no one lived there anymore. Then, cannon Theodorus de Leeuw bought the castle from the States of Utrecht, renovated it, and lived there until he died in 1744. Then, the castle started to decay again around the 1820s. Then, it was demolished in 1860.
Walk back to the village of Abcoude via Winkeldijk, Koppeldijk, Doude van Troostwijkstraat, Burgemeester des Tombeweg, Blomswaard and Heinkuitenstraat. Then you will walk to Voordijk, Meerweg, Amsterdamsestraatweg to the Abcoudermeer or the lake of Abcoude. This is the end of your Abcoude tour.
You can find the map of the Abcoude free walking tour here.
Explore the fortresses of the defence line of Amsterdam
Fort Abcoude is a must visit in The Netherlands. This was the first fortress that was completed in the Stelling van Amsterdam but was never used. It’s located between the Angstel river and the railway between Amsterdam and Utrecht. You can visit this Dutch fort in the Utrecht region during the summer months.
The fortress of Abcoude was built as the road to Amsterdam from the south was clear for enemy troops, which is not what anyone wanted. The defence line was supposed to be made closer to Amsterdam, but due to changes in the artillery force, that wasn’t needed.
The creation of the fort of Abcoude started in 1884. The fort exists out of several buildings covered by soil and home to seven bomb free spaces surrounded by a moat. The bomb free areas included the main building with two floors and could house 360 people, a kitchen and a hospital. This fort was an example for the rest of the fortresses of the defence line of Amsterdam that were waiting to be built.
The buildings were all created on a soil that existed out of peat. As peat isn’t the most robust place to build heavy forts, most of the peat was dug off, and sand was placed there instead. All of the buildings were supposed to be made from brick; however, that plan didn’t last long. After a year, this fort’s creation was halted, as the brisant grenade was created, which would destroy a brick fort. That’s when they changed the design, and most of the fort was eventually made from concrete. Most of the inside walls and the facades were still made from brick, but the roofs were all made from a mix of concrete and brick parts. The rest of the forts of the defence line got cement too, were only one floor and didn’t have wooden shutters for the windows and doors, but got steel ones (with shooting holes) instead. The Abcouder fort was completed in 1887.
There were plans to modernise or even demolish the fort for a new design, but these ideas were never carried out (luckily for us). During the Cold War, the fortress was used as a storing facility for medical supplies.
Rent a boat in Abcoude
One of the best things you can do in the Utrecht region is to rent a boat to explore the beautiful Dutch rivers and lakes. In Abcoude you can rent a boat at Float Gein. I can highly recommend you to reserve a boat in advance, just so you’re sure that you can experience The Netherlands from a boat. Remember: When you rent things in The Netherlands, people almost always ask you for a valid I.D. (such as a passport); without one, you can practically not rent anything. So, that’s standard practice and not something weird.
Go shopping for regional products in Abcoude
Now, if there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss out on when you visit Abcoude, it is its local shops. I can recommend you to head to Babuschka Vintage & Restyle for vintage items from several countries.
Go to Jamie & Joëlle for some nice clothing. And, buy a traditional ‘Amsterdams krentenbrood’ at bakery Remko’s or enjoy some tasty cakes, treats and delicious bread (you can even go here for a small bite and coffee) at Luxe Brood- en Banketbakkerij Both. At Vendetta, you can find good lingerie. Don’t forget to get a piece of delicious, fresh fish at Vishandel Cas Buys & Zn.
Noort Groente Enzo is home to every fruit and vegetable you might have been craving, as well as some other delicious things. Kwaliteitsslager Jan Konijn is the best place for a good piece of meat, some local sausage, etc. And last but not least: Go to La Dolce Vita for the best ice cream in Abcoude.
Visit events & markets in Abcoude
Historical ‘Paardenmarkt’ Abcoude
In 1309, a mention of this market in Abcoude was written down as ‘Apicwoudermarct’. It was held at the end of August, and it still is today. In 1471, Abcoude gained the privilege to have a ‘Vrije Paardenmarkt’, or free horse market. It was then also made clear that this event would occur on the last Thursday of August every year. In 1541, this right and privilege were confirmed by emperor Charles V. In the whole Stift of Utrecht, you could only sell horses in the city of Utrecht or the village of Abcoude.
While it was a simple horse market initially, not soon after that, hawkers, other traders and street artists came to Abcoude. That’s when the horse market in Abcoude slowly grow out into a big yearly market, which people from all distances came to visit. It became an important village fair and grew out into an event of five days: with the famous horse market on the last Thursday of August. Since the beginning of the 20th century, a funfair is also found there during the five days. This historical event in The Netherlands has been a tradition for more than 500 years.
Weekly market Abcoude
The weekly market in Abcoude takes place on Thursday from 12:30 until 17:00 at ‘t Marktveld. Here you can buy local products and tasty foods.
Explore the Abcoudermeer
The Abcoudermeer, or Abcoude lake, is found in this small Dutch town. The lake has been first mentioned in writing by the Bishop of Utrecht in around 1300. At that time, the Stift of Utrecht border was found here, and nowadays, it’s still a border region: between the Utrecht region (South of the lake) and the Noord- Holland province (North of the lake). It is said that the lake was created by a flood of the former Zuiderzee around 1400 B.C. Others believe that the Dutch lake near Amsterdam was created after peat extraction in the 11th century.
This lake in the Utrecht region is a maximum of four metres deep and is one of the places where many people go swimming during summer in The Netherlands. But, when the lake freezes, the Abcoudermeer is also a perfect location for ice skating on natural ice in The Netherlands. There are cycling and pedestrian paths along the lake, so if you want to explore the area (which I recommend you to do), these are the perfect ways to do so.
We’re lucky that this beautiful lake in Abcoude can still be explored and visited today: the municipality of Amsterdam bought the lake on an auction and wanted to turn it into a landfill, which was met with huge criticisms from public bodies and inhabitants, so that didn’t end up happening. There were also plans to turn the lake into reclaimed land to give more people jobs. However, this was also met with significant protests in the 1940s: add to that that the soil wasn’t excellent quality, and you will have a remaining lake in a region that mainly was reclaimed.
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