Bergen op Zoom is a city located in the far west of the province of North Brabant. The origin of the name is not entirely certain. The most obvious option is that reference is made to the Brabantse Wal (height differences) and its edge: the zoom. One cannot be 100% sure about this, because it has never been recorded in the past. The city has been around for a while: since the Middle Ages. Sometime around the beginning of the thirteenth century, Bergen op Zoom received city rights. At that time, Bergen op Zoom was flourishing as a trading city. In the fourteenth century, the city was surrounded by a wall. The fortress was dismantled at the end of the nineteenth century. A city gate has survived from the Middle Ages: the Gevangenpoort.
According to Countries and Learners, Bergen op Zoom has been surpassed by other cities in many ways. For example, nearby Roosendaal is now a bit bigger than Bergen op Zoom and Breda is the major city in the West Brabant region. That does not alter the fact that Bergen op Zoom, thanks to its rich history as a trading city and later a garrison city, has numerous monumental buildings and is therefore definitely worth a visit for tourists. In addition to the aforementioned Gevangenpoort, the Markiezenhof, the old Town Hall and various buildings on the Grote Markt, among others, are a wonderful example of historic buildings within the city.
Top 10 sights of Bergen op Zoom
The Markiezenhof is the absolute top attraction of Bergen op Zoom. As soon as you walk through the gate it seems as if you have stepped back in time centuries. This late-Gothic city palace has been here since the year 1485. Actually, this late-medieval building would be called ‘het Hof van Bergen’. After having had different marquises as residents for almost three centuries, the Markiezenhof came into the hands of the French army in 1795. It became a military hospital and later a barracks. After the soldiers left the Markiezenhof, it fell into disrepair. It was not until the 1960s that the Markiezenhof was restored and regained its former splendour.
Today the Markiezenhof is a popular place in the center of Bergen op Zoom. It is a well-visited museum where you can see how the marquises used to live here. It is possible to get married in the Markiezenhof. It is also a popular location for taking wedding photos. The romantic character and the many beautiful places make for special pictures.
#2. Large market
The Grote Markt is seen as the heart of the city. This unpaved square has been the core of Bergen op Zoom since the twelfth century. As the city grew, the role of the Grote Markt became increasingly important. After all, this is where the town hall and St. Gertrude’s Church stood. A huge city fire largely destroyed the Grote Markt in 1397. Only two buildings were spared: De Draecke and De Oliphant. De Draecke is now called De Draak and is the oldest hotel in the Netherlands.
Virtually the entire Grote Markt is also surrounded by historic buildings. Many are from later centuries. Most buildings nowadays have catering facilities and the market square is mainly filled with terraces. They provide a lively atmosphere in the heart of Bergen op Zoom. The Peperbus is a characteristic part of the market square. This church tower dates from the fourteenth century. During Vastenavend (that’s the name of the carnival party in Bergen op Zoom) the Peperbus temporarily has a face and is dressed. He then becomes an active part of the party.
#3. Prison Gate
After Bergen op Zoom received city rights, the city was turned into a fortress. He had to protect the city against uninvited guests. Several city gates were built in the fortress walls. Only one of these remains: the Prison Gate. This city gate was built somewhere in the middle of the 14th century. This makes it the oldest existing building in Bergen op Zoom. The original name was Lievevrouwepoort. During the Protestantization the name was changed to Gevangenpoort. The gate was a prison at the time (and remained so until 1931). Today it is a national monument in which exhibitions are regularly held. Make sure to look at both sides of the Prison Gate, as they are completely different. On the center side, the brown brick is emphatically present and the gate has a more graceful appearance. On the side of the Westersingel, the outside, it looks especially robust because of the two large round towers. Gray tones dominate here.
#4. Fort de Roovere
Fort de Roovere is officially located on the municipal land of the neighboring municipality of Halsteren. As the crow flies, Fort de Roovere is only 1600 meters from the northern ring road of Bergen op Zoom. We dare to include this attraction in this top ten. Fort de Roovere was part of the West Brabant waterline. This seventeenth-century defense line served against the Spaniards, the French (several times) and the Belgians. The stone buildings were dismantled in the early nineteenth century. The walls are still the same as before. You can see the pattern of this defense well from the watchtower that stands here today. A special element of Fort de Roovere is the trench bridge that was installed in 2010. This bridge continues instead of over the water. Hence the name Moses Bridge.
#5. View from the Peperbus
If you want to enjoy a panoramic view of Bergen op Zoom, you can choose to climb the Peperbus. This is the church tower of Saint Gertrude’s Church, which is centrally located in the city. It does take some energy to look out over the city. You have to climb 183 steps for it, but then you also have something. There is a limited number of hours that the Peperbus is open to the public. For example, you cannot climb the monument during a service. In winter, the Peperbus is closed to the public on weekdays.
#6. Estate Mattemburgh
Just south of Bergen op Zoom you can visit Landgoed Mattemburgh. This estate is now managed by “Brabants Landschap”, who recommends this place as one of the five best-preserved period gardens in our country. We don’t think they said too much. After you park your car in the parking lot and enter the Mattemburgh Estate, you will be surprised by the beauty of the domain. The French garden south of the Orangerie is perfectly maintained and a beautiful sight to see. From the terrace belonging to the restaurant you have a fantastic view of this garden. The garden, which is located slightly to the north, in front of the villa built in 1847, is furnished in the English style. A beautiful element is the tea dome, which is situated on an artificial elevation. From here you have different views to places on and around the estate. The park and garden are open during opening hours from to visit the Orangerie.
#7. Ravelin on the Zoom
The Ravelijn op den Zoom is a fortress that is now surrounded by the city of Bergen op Zoom. When the fortification engineer Menno van Coehoorn. often compared with contemporary Vauban, the Ravelijn op den Zoom designed this was a corner of the city. During its construction in 1703, the Ravelijn was part of the larger defenses of Bergen op Zoom. This is nowadays seen as Van Coehoorn’s masterpiece. Unfortunately this is the only part left of it. During the last major renovation (in 2018), the many trees and shrubs were removed. This allows you to see the shape of the defense again. The Ravelijn op den Zoom can be visited accompanied by a guide, after you have crossed the floating bridge over the Pielekeswater.
#8. City sewer de Grebbe
The largest monument in Bergen op Zoom is located underground. City sewer de Grebbe dates from the thirteenth century. At that time it was still an above-ground drainage canal. Over time, the Grebbe has disappeared from view. Enclosures were built over it. A part of the Grebbe has been restored to its former state and can be visited accompanied by a guide.
#9. The Square
Shopaholics can’t miss the Square in Bergen op Zoom. This is the nicest shopping area in the city. It is mainly the nice separate shops and boutiques that dominate the streets here, interspersed with some nice contemporary catering establishments. At first it was mainly fashion that struck the clock here. Nowadays you see that the range of shops is becoming more and more diverse. The shops in the Vierkantje have one characteristic in common: they are mainly local entrepreneurs with businesses that have their own identity. That’s what makes browsing this wonderful shopping district so much fun!
#10. The heath
De Heide is the most popular nature reserve in Bergen op Zoom. Here you have everything together: forest, heath, water and beach. De Heide is extremely popular, especially on hot days. So much so that it often cannot handle the influx. During the weekend it can quickly get crowded in the summer season. The true beauty of De Heide is therefore best seen at times when the majority of the Netherlands is at work or in school. Then go for a nice walk, splash in the water (officially it is not bathing water) or enjoy the available catering. At Brasserie De Berk you not only enjoy the Burgundian life where the province of North Brabantso known for, you are also fantastic here.