The unmistakable skyline can be recognized from afar. If you are lucky enough to arrive in Kampen on a sunny Saturday, market day, the carillon in the New Tower (1664) will play you a happy tune as you enter town.
We are talking about the 15th century, when there was a flourishing trade in herring, amongst other goods. There were so many ships in Kampen in those days. The fleet was larger than all the fleets of North-Holland put together. To this day, historical boats are moored along the quay of the River IJssel. The boats known as the “brown fleet” keep the memory alive of the glorious days of shipping. Brown refers to the colour of the sails of these traditional cargo ships which nowadays passengers can charter – skipper and all. Kamper Kogge is a replica of a 14th century cargo ship used in shipping in the days that the merchants of Kampen were members of the Hanseatic League. It can be found at Koggerwerf shipyard, a very interesting workplace where the Middle Ages come to life.
Kampen is full of history. If you would like to visit a museum you will be spoilt for choice.
Stedelijk Museum, Kampen Town Museum, has three locations: The former Synagogue, Koornmarkt Town Gate, and the Old Town Hall dating to 1543. Have a guide explain to you why Kampen is so very proud of the historical Schepenzaal where the aldermen passed judgment on the townspeople for centuries.
Considering that Kampen was a harbour town on the Zuiderzee, it is not surprising that the oldest church in Kampen was dedicated to St. Nicolas, patron saint of sailors. In 1580 an angry mob of Protestants vandalized the interior of the church destroying every image of Christ and the saints. They did this because the worship of religious imagery is forbidden in Protestantism: Only God should be worshipped, not manmade images. From then on, stripped of all decoration, the Bovenkerk was used for Protestant worship. With its slender spire and long nave, it still dominates the town’s skyline today.
Ikonenmuseum has a collection of religious art: icons from Russia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece and Ethiopia.
If you cycle out of town through the Cellebroederspoort (one of the Town Gates) you will reach the water that used to constitute the town’s defensive moat. The town walls were pulled down in 1874. Were you to continue 2,5 km in a southwesterly direction, you would reach a country lane called Zwartendijk. This road is where the sea defenses used to lie that protected Kampen from flooding by the sea. Zwartendijk is approximately 675 years old.