Often we go on weekend breaks and often we consider cities such as Paris, Berlin, London or Rome. Big cities. Capital cities. But most of all…. well known cities. Over Easter, my boyfriend and I went on a short break to the relatively unknown city of Den Helder, and one of the Dutch ‘Wadden Islands’ namely Texel.
After both having been really busy for the past few weeks, this break was well deserved and kind of necessary. So on was the search for a cheap hotel in a place far away, but within NL, that we could reach by train. Via hotelkamerveilingen.nl, a discount site for hotel rooms, I found a good one in Den Helder – Hotel Wienerhof. The hotel is located in central Den Helder, and just out of the station. The staff was friendly and helpful and the rooms were good. Especially the shower, I loveeeee strong hard showers!. We only paid €27 for the room, including breakfast.
Now for those of you who don’t know Den Helder. Don’t worry …. all I knew about it was its name and location… oh yes… and that it is the base of the Royal Dutch Marine. The Marine, that has been around ever since the Napoleon times, is the most important factor of the city. Their base in Den Helder is the most important one in the country, and also hosts The Marine College.
Lots of this maritime history can still be seen on the docks. The ‘island’ of Willemsoord, that was ordered by Napoleon himself to protect the nation, houses the Marine Museum and the Rescue Museum. Besides that all… there’s a whole scala of old torpedo’s, a gigantic submarine and a range of canons. After we’d walked around the docks, the cold wind was catching up on us and we could really use a hot drink! Fellow blogger Lisanne hinted me to go to Hotel Restaurant ‘Lands End’ from where we could watch the ferry to Texel.
Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of islands, water and boats so obviously we had to catch the ferry. Texel is the biggest one of all the Wadden Islands, which are spread between The Netherlands, Germany & Denmark, and can be reached from Den Helder via a 20 minute ferry-crossing. Budget tip: Now here’s the thing: …. if you don’t take your vehicle, this crossing will only cost you (drumroll please) €2,50 return each! You can book your tickets in advance via the TESO website or at the ferry terminal.
Texel is home to approximately 14.000 people and just as many sheep! Move over Ireland! Since we only had a day on the island, we took he bus around to cover most of it. Bus 29 is a good one to explore, starting at: Ferry Terminal – Den Hoorn – Den Burg – Oudeschild – De Waal – Oosterend – De Cocksdorp and back which basically covers the whole east and central parts of the island.
Texel is a 2-sided island: large agricultural grounds on 1 hand and charming old and cute villages on the other. Oudeschild for one, has a lively harbor where several ships leave on seals and cockle tours, a museum where visitors can relive the ancient times of the VOC era and experience the Texel Beer Brewery.
Insider tip: Visit the cafe/restaurant/hotel ‘Het Vooronder’ in the harbor for a low-budget Dutch snack-styled lunch but make sure you’ve filled your tummies before 2 PM as the ships for the tours leave around this time.
De Koog is the only seaside village and is therefore crawled over by tourists in high season. Den Burg on the other hand is the unofficial capital of the island and boasts with energy. With a grand square, unique and cute shops and a diversity of cafes and restaurant, this village offers a buzzing atmosphere. Insider tip: have a cup of tea or a local Texel Beer in the cosy lunchroom ‘De Kastanjeboom’ on Stenenplaats 2. The beer I tasted was the ‘Skuumkoppe’.
Insider tip: Visit the MikMak shop in Den Burg on the Binnenburg 19. They have the cutest (yet a tad bit expensive) things such as wallets, tablet covers, home accessories etc.
A day-trip to this beautiful island is way too short to fully discover it all and a return-visit probably won’t take long. I’d like to think of this trip as a ‘exploratory-trip’ to discover what the island has to offer. Tristan and I already talked about the other things we would love to do when we get back, so here are a few of our hints:
– Take a seal / shrimps / cockle tour from the Oudeschild Harbor.
– Don’t waste your time by touring the island this day and stay the night at Het Vooronder Hotel (with views of the harbor).
– Once you get back from the tour (or before you go on it), drop by the ‘Kaap Skil Museum’ for a tour back in the VOC-era. You’ll find relics found from the wrecks, a imitation of the VOC-fleet and replicas of what the guilds used to be like during that time. We had a short visit and it was definitely worth your money.
– Visit the Brewery just out of Oudeschild and discovers Texels proudest product.
– Cycle around the island. I discovered in Ameland (another Dutch Wadden Island that I will write about in a later post) that cycling is the best way to discover the place. The land is flat and therefore easy to ride. On your tour, be sure to pay a visit to the tiny village of Den Hoorn which some believe has the cutest church on the island. Discover the so-called ‘Sheep boeten’ (sheep barns) which have a typical look, ride up to the lighthouse near the village of De Cocksdorp way up north.
– Each Tuesday, De Kastanjeboom in Den Burg organizes ‘The Stichy Bitches’, a free walk-in knitting club.
I sure did enjoy our little outing up north and hopefully will get to return to the island soon. In the mean time, I just keep on exploring the rest of our beautiful tiny country. Have you ever visited Den Helder or Texel? What are your thoughts :)? Enjoy your weekend!
Happy travels, xoxo
We had a blast!