The Netherlands are famous for many things. I could mention diamonds, or beautiful canals, maybe a few dykes here and there, and I’m sure no one would be surprised at seeing the odd windmill or two. In truth, most tourists visit Amsterdam, see the red light district, annoy a bunch of locals and that’s about it. This is a shame because there’s so much more to see in the Netherlands. If you head North East of Amsterdam, you’ll find the city of Lelystad, a city so new, it didn’t even exist until the mid-1960s. It’s also home to the Luchtvaartmuseum Aviodrome, or the Aviation museum of the Netherlands, based at Lelystad Airport.
As I mentioned above, Lelystad is a very new city. The land it’s built on was created within the Zuiderzee. Work began after World War II with the first section being completed in 1957, and the rest, including the area that Lelystad occupies today. The area is named after Dutch engineer Cornelis Lely. Lely designed the Afsluitdijk dyke that first enclosed the Zuiderzee in the mid 1920s to 1930s.
Lelystad was first inaugurated in 1967, and today is home to around 78,000 people. The city is home to the National Maritime Museum and includes a replica of the Batavia tall mast ship. There’s also an outlet shopping centre in the usual ‘out of town’ style. The city itself is a mix of modern architecture and the just awful 1960s concrete monstrosities that blighted many a British shopping centre.
Modern Times Rock and Roll.
The 60s architecture means the city is laid out in a fairly simple fashion. The block system seems to work here, with the centre of town being built around the train station. The station is modern and can whisk you to Amsterdam Centraal in around an hour.
At this point, it should be pointed out that Lelystad isn’t your usual tourist destination. There’s just one hotel and a mix of local bed and breakfasts and holiday cottages. Lelystad is not even the biggest city. The city of Almere to the south is much bigger. The only reason I’m as familiar with the Dutch city is that once a year, a large show takes place at the Airport museum, and I often worked the show weekend. Does that mean Lelystad is not worth seeing? Absolutely not. Lelystad makes for a fantastic base to get out and explore the Dutch countryside. The train station provides you with access to the north of the country, including the city of Zwolle, just 30 minutes away, and even as far away as The Hague, just over an hour away. If you have a car, then you can experience one of the Netherlands most unique experiences, a drive in the middle of the sea. Lelystad is linked to the west of the county by a large highway that crosses the inner sea. It’s an experience, and if you have a chance to do this in summer, there’s even a ‘halfway point’ to stop and have a coffee and snack. In November, the time I usually visit, it was closed, which given the usual weather in November was probably wise.
On the other side of the sea dyke, is the town of Enkhuizen. It’s a pretty Dutch city that can trace its origins back to the 14th century as a city. It’s filled with gorgeous old buildings, great places to grab a coffee and bite to eat, and great views. Once again, best visited in summer.
Back at base, Batavia Stad shopping outlet is a shoppers paradise. It’s the standard outlet shopping centre, where bargains on those pricy labels can be grabbed. It’s also right on the shore and features a recreated sailing ship, that for some reason I decided didn’t warrant a photo. The ship is a reproduction of the Batavia sailing ship that sank in the sea around where Lelystad now sits. For me, the Batavia Stad was a great place to grab a coffee.
The other side of Lelystad, around 30 minutes from the city centre is the Walibi Holland theme park. Now I’ve never been, but if you like rollercoasters, fun rides and more, then Walibi Holland is worth a visit, no doubt.
My personal favourite place to visit is the Aviodrome Museum out at the airport, a 10-minute drive from the city centre. This sprawling site features lots to see, including a retired KLM 747, the original Amsterdam Schipol airport tower and terminal, moved and rebuilt brick by brick at Lelystad and many Dutch aircraft, including the wonderful Fokker F100. If you get a chance, check it out.
Food and drink.
I couldn’t discuss Lelystad without discussing food and drink. Amstel Beer rules here, so if you want something other than Heineken, it could be a bit tricky. For food, two particular cuisines stand out. the first is the somewhat expected seafood. Fish and chips are easy to find, and all chips or fries come with mayo. Beware, however, as portion sizes are LARGE! It’s also delicious. The second cuisine you should definitely try is steak. Specifically, I recommend a visit to the Steak van de Keizer steak house next to the Apollo hotel. It offers the finest cuts of steak, a great atmosphere, and a friendly staff. I visit this place every time I go to Lelystad, and it’s incredibly popular. Reservations are a must. I’d usually show you a picture of a delicious steak, but it simply doesn’t last long enough to photograph.
Lelystad isn’t your usual destination, but it should be. The awful 1960’s designed city centre is slowly being replaced by much more modern, and interesting buildings. There’s a funky city just waiting to burst onto the world. The people are friendly, delicious food to be enjoyed and bargains to be had. It’s also a fantastic base to explore the wider area. Lelystad is a perfect place for a great family holiday, with plenty for the kids to do, from the Aviodrome museum, the nature park and even the Walibi Holland theme park that’s just 30 minutes by car from the city centre. Lelystad will also change in the future, at least government plans come to fruition. Lelystad airport has been extended and a brand new passenger terminal has been built. The Idea is that the airport becomes an overflow airport for Amsterdam Schipol airport, with many Low-cost carriers like Easyjet and Transavia moving to the new airport to create room at Schipol. Of course, that was prior to the pandemic and the huge fall in traffic. There’s also a lot of local resistance to the bigger airport. But it’s built, and at some point, it will open, and that will bring more people to Lelystad. So who knows how it’ll look in 15 years. For now though, if you want a truly Dutch experience, away from the Tourist traps and cramped streets of Amsterdam, come to Lelystad, It will surprise you.
Getting to Lelystad is fairly simple. Trains run regularly from Amsterdam Centraal train station, and direct services operate from Schipol Airport as well.
If you’re driving, Lelystad is well connected to the national motorway system and its a fairly relaxing drive to get there from most of Central Europe.
A room at the Apollo Hotel starts from just €76.50 and if you get the chance, book a room rate that includes a great breakfast.
If you’re interested in any of the places above or would like to know more about Lelystad itself, check out the links below.
https://www.visitflevoland.nl/en/we/regions/lelystad – Tourist information for Lelystad and Flevoland in general.
https://www.apollohotels.co.uk/apollo-hotel-lelystad-city-centre/ – The Apollo Hotel.
http://www.steakvandekeizer.nl/ – The best steakhouse in town.
https://www.walibi.nl/en – Walibi Holland Theme park.
https://www.bataviastad.nl/ – Batavia Stad Shopping outlet centre.
https://roadhousecheckpointcharlie.nl/food/ – Checkpoint Charlie at the Halfway point in the sea.
https://www.aviodrome.nl/ – Finally, the Aviodrome museum.