The friendly city of Zwolle, a very nice place to visit, is located in the east of the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province Overijssel and lies near the banks of the River Ijssel with a population of about 112,0001.
Zwolle gets its name from the fact it sits on a hill; the word soulle, which means 'hill', altered over time to provide its current moniker. The area was probably first settled around 1500BC by a tribe known as the Isala, and then began to grow into a modern city in around 800 when Frisian merchants used the location as a trading point. The town then flourished by trading on the river, holding fish and cattle markets. To this day Zwolle has a large agricultural industry, with dairy products and beef providing its main revenue.
Things to See and Do
Zwolle is not like the big cities in the west of the Netherlands, it is more like a rather large village. People from the western parts of the country see the inhabitants of Zwolle as farmers, but this is not entirely accurate2. Zwolle is of historic interest and has some beautiful 13th and 15th Century buildings; however, the urban planning of the early 1980s resulted in some rather strange and ugly buildings emerging near the centre of the city. If you can, take time to visit the Roman Catholic Church which dates back to 1399, and the church tower called the Peperbus (pepperbox). One of the tallest in the Netherlands, it is best known for the tale of the Blauwvingers (blue fingers), which recounts how the elders of Zwolle sold their church bells to the nearby town of Kampen, but insisted on having payment made in copper coins. On counting the coins to ensure they hadn't been duped, they all ended up with blue fingers!
Something for the Weekend?
You can have a pretty good time in Zwolle, but it is best for a short visit. A long weekend is just right, where you can spend a day enjoying the history and then another day enjoying the many bars like the Bierton Party & Uitgaanscentrum, or cafes such as the Public Grand Café, along the canal. There are also various sporting events - football, field hockey, volleyball and basketball are played at high level - for those who enjoy more energetic activity. There are often concerts and Zwolle frequently hosts major national and international events, such as the Street Festival, the Rhythm & Blues Festival and the Student Cabaret Festival. Students come from the nearby Windesheim University, also in the city, and the student pub Het Vliegende Paard (The Flying Horse) offers Internet facilities and various meals. And as with Amsterdam, you can buy and use cannabis in the city as it has been decriminalised.
Travelling Within Zwolle
Zwolle hasn't got a tram or a metro system - and just one railway station. The best way to find your way in the city is by bus, taxi (the city is not that large, so costs will not be very high) or bike which can be rented near the railway station.
Arriving at Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam), you can either take an extremely expensive taxi, or train to Zwolle. There is a direct Intercity link between Schiphol Airport and Zwolle; the trip will take approximately one hour and 20 minutes (if there isn't any industrial action). If you are already somewhere else in the Netherlands, the best way to get to Zwolle is by rail.