IJlst is a beautiful city in Friesland, The Netherlands and has plenty of things to do. You can easily spend a day in IJlst and its surroundings. The city is quaint, small and surprising. Even Dutch people don’t often visit IJlst, let alone foreign tourists. If you’re looking for things to do in IJlst, one of the most underrated small cities of The Netherlands and Friesland, continue reading.
Last updated 11th of June 2022
About IJlst, Friesland
IJlst was the fourth city that got its borough rights, after Stavoren, Hindeloopen and Harlingen. IJlst obtained the rights in 1268. You can see the history of IJlst when you walk through this beautiful city in The Netherlands.
The city of IJlst got its name because of a river that used to flow through the town, named Ee or Ye. I’m guessing people were creative with the name of the river that Ee or Ye turned into IJlst. Most of the river Ee is gone, but a few fragments are left. One small part of this old river still flows through the centre of the city of IJlst, Friesland. You will see beautiful canal houses and gardens next to the river. This river is the old river the Ee that was flowing through the same place hundreds of years ago.
If you’re wondering, ‘all great and stuff, but where is IJlst, Friesland exactly’? IJlstis located not too far away from Leeuwarden, that makes IJlst also a perfect day trip from Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.
The city centre of IJlst, or Drylts in Frisian, hasn’t changed a bit since the 19th century. Even though nothing has changed, IJlst didn’t become an open-air museum. This is a Frisian city, as Frisian as it can be. IJlst was and is a city that is famous for its crafts that involve wood and building boats. Here you will find how to spend a day in Ijlst, Friesland.
One tip: Don’t call IJlst a part of Holland. Holland is two of the twelve provinces in The Netherlands. Friesland is one province in The Netherlands and some people would feel offended if you’d say that Friesland is a part of Holland.
Things to do in IJlst, Friesland
You don’t know what to do in IJlst, The Netherlands? This city has so much to offer, so have a look below to see all the things you can do in IJlst, Friesland.
Walk along de overtuinen
These are beautiful gardens located next to the river Ee that flows through the middle of IJlst, Friesland. You will see beautiful canal houses, a road, gardens, and a river. People have to cross a road before they can enter their gardens. These gardens, also called overtuinen or bleken (bleaching), were used to bleach the laundry in the early days. Nowadays, the gardens are used by their owners and for the few markets that are held. This is definitely one of the best things you should do and one of the highlights in IJlst, The Netherlands.
Canal tour IJlst
Discover IJlst from the canals and get a completely different view than before. You will be sitting in a boat that is an old-fashioned Houten Bok. This is a wooden boat that was used in IJlst and surroundings to transport cattle, wood and a lot more. While these wooden boats were incredibly popular at first, they were eventually replaced with steel ones. The steel boats were cheaper, and less maintenance was needed.
However, especially for the canal tour through IJlst, there was a new Houten Bok created. With the wood that comes from the sawing windmill in the city. Go to the local tourist office, or VVV in IJlst, at Geeuwkade 4 in IJlst to inform yourself about the canal tour. Keep in mind that it doesn’t run during the winter: these canal tours in IJlst only from from mid June until mid September every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 14:00 and 19:00. A ticket costs 10 euros and the entire tour lasts roughly one hour. If you have the chance to go on a tour, take it. This is one of the things you have to do when you’re in IJlst, The Netherlands.
Visit one of the 11- fountains
As IJlst is one of the 11-cities of Friesland, that means that IJlst also gets a fountain. If you’re not aware of the 11-cities of Friesland, The Netherlands yet, the 11 cities are the only Frisian cities that obtained borough rights. The fountain of IJlst is a lot more gaily than a lot of other fountains. And in the evenings the fountain lights up.
You can find the fountain here:
De Dassenboarch 1
8651 CB Ijlst
Do you desperately need to go to the toilet in IJlst, Friesland? You’re in luck. There are free toilets in the street behind the bakery that is opened between 08:00-22:00 during high season and a few hours less during low season. But, be nice. Keep them clean.
Walk in de Ruterpolder (3,5km) and spot the rare red/white Frisian cow
Note: You cannot walk this route from the 1st of March until the 1st of June because of the breeding season of birds. Dogs are not allowed on this route. During winter, the little ferry can be hard to operate if there is ice on the river. Unless you’re fine with walking 7 km, I’d skip this walk if you see that there is thick ice on the canals of IJlst.
Exploring the surroundings of a city is something I prefer to do while walking. This is the same way in IJlst, The Netherlands. One of the best things to do in IJlst is to walk through the Ruterpolder. You will go from a fairy-tale city in Friesland to seeing one of the rarest Frisian cows while enjoying the sound of birds.
Walk from Eegracht 21 straightforward through the entire street (Eegracht). Keep walking until you notice that you are walking out of IJlst, Friesland. Not in the direction of the station of IJlst, but the other way, so that the street on the other side of the canal is the Galamagracht.
You will walk onwards to the Ruterpolderwei and follow the shell path through the nature reserve of the Ruterpolder. As you continue to walk through the reserve you can spot roe deer, meadow birds, and endangered red and white Frisian cows. In 1957 there were 2.500 red/white Frisian cows and bulls left, in 1993 only 17 cows and 4 bulls. Nowadays there are a total of 500 cows and bulls of the red/white Frisians.
As you follow the route you see the city of IJlst coming closer again and see a small river that needs to be crossed. Not with a fierljep stick, but with a small ferry that you need to operate yourself. As you have crossed the little river, walk straight until you arrive at the Eegracht again.
Visit the fierljepschans (fierljepjump)
Fierljeppen is a typical Frisian sport and tradition. The sport involves a long pole and a body of water. The pole has a flat, round plate at the bottom to prevent the pole from sinking into the river or canal bottom. The pole is between 8 and 13 meters long. Ijlst is one of the most important places for athletes who do fierljeppen.
It was used to jump from one meadow to the next one, as there are a lot of rivers in Friesland. This was the easiest way to get into the next piece of land from the farmer. Overtime it turned into a competition. The first official match was in 1771!
If you want to fierljep you’d need to first sprint to the pole. After that, you need to jump and grab the pole while climbing to the top of the pole and trying to control its forward and lateral movements. But don’t forget, you need to do all of this, while you’re moving over a body of water. You finish by, hopefully, landing in the sand on the opposite of the starting point.
If you’d want to do this typical Frisian sport in IJlst you can do a clinic, but this is only possible in groups. For groups up to 15 people, it’s 15 euros per person, with more than 15 people you get a discount. If you find some people in a hostel that want to participate in this, bring them together and do this clinic. It’ll be … interesting to see how everyone is trying to jump. This has to be on the top of your ‘things to do’ list of IJlst, Friesland.
Visiting this windmill is something else than the other windmills you might’ve visited in The Netherlands. This windmill is used to saw wood and is in production most days of the week. You will see tree trunks in the river, hear the sound of turning wings and smell the scent of freshly sawed wood. At this windmill, you will find out everything you need to know about this special craft. And how they have been sawing wood for more than three centuries the same way as today. This windmill is located next to the new wood museum in IJlst which I will talk about next.
Opening times windmill De Rat, IJlst
Every Saturday from 09:00-17:00. During the months of May-September the windmill opens, besides Saturday, also on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:00-17:00. Entry is a few euros.
You can find the windmill at Sneekerpad 16, 8651 NE, IJlst
Houtmuseum (Wood museum)
The Houtmuseum of IJlst exists out of different parts. It has a workshop and a museum part, where you will get to know everything about the history of IJlst and timber wood.
Opening times Museum IJlst
April and May from Wednesday- Sunday 13:00- 17:00 (closed on King’s Day). June, July and August daily from 13:00- 17:00. September and October Wednesday until Sunday from 13:00- 17:00. November until March every Saturday and Sunday from 13:00- 17:00. Price for an entry ticket is roughly five euros.
8651 NE, IJlst
Museum Nooitgedagt in IJlst
In Museum Nooitgedagt you will find everything you need to know about the rich, industrial history of the city of IJlst, Friesland. If you don’t know what to do in IJlst, The Netherlands, then visiting Museum Nooitgedagt is a great option. During the 19th century, Ijlst had a lot of companies that were in the ship-building business or in the timber trade.
One of them was Jan Jarich Nooitgedagt. In 1865, Jan started with building tools and ice-skates. It eventually turned into a leading, industrial company which was unique for the city of Ijlst. This is why the museum is called Nooitgedagt. The company existed more than 180 years but couldn’t survive the beginning of the new millennia.
It is housed inside the Houtmuseum (wood museum).
8651 NE, IJlst
Most beautiful streets of IJlst
The centre of IJlst is incredibly beautiful and filled with historic buildings. While I do admit the city is pretty small, you can still take a beautiful walk through the most scenic streets and have the most amazing time. This is definitely one of the things you have to do in IJlst to get a good feeling of the Frisian city.
The most beautiful streets of IJlst, The Netherlands are the following: Stadslaan, Geeuwkade, Eegracht, Galamagracht, Uilenburg, and Zevenpelsen.
Events in IJlst
The main event of IJlst is the overtuinenfair which is heldannually, on the first Saturday of June. This fair is located in all the overtuinen, the gardens next to the river Ee and this will be the only time you’re allowed to enter those gardens. There will be more than 50 stalls that vary wildly in the products they sell. Some sell local and authentic food, others will show special crafts that is important to IJlst (such as wood products because IJlstis called a wood city) and the next will offer antiques.
The fair is from 10:00-17:00 on the first Saturday of June. The admission fee is a few euros. The money from the admission fee will go to local charities. Bring cash for the entry and for what you want to buy.
Where to eat in IJlst
Whether you have just arrived or if you’ve explored all the things you can do in IJlst, Friesland already, you are going to be hungry sometime. As is a small city you won’t find many restaurants or cafes in IJlst, but the restaurants that are located in IJlst, Friesland are worth a try. And besides, eating is always one of the best things to do, also in IJlst, Friesland.
De Boers Bakkerij: I know this is not a restaurant, however, if you want to try some authentic Frisian food you have to enter this bakery. Ask for ‘suikerbrood’, sugar bread. It is white bread with granules of sugar. They used to give it to mothers who had just given birth to daughters. Suikerbrood is not the healthiest bread, but definitely one of the tastiest. And you’d be crossing one of the Frisian foods of yours to eat list in Friesland, The Netherlands. When you’re in this bakery anyway, also ask for ‘oranjekoek’, ‘fryske dúmke’s’ and ‘kruidkoek’.
Find De Boers Bakkerij at Geeuwkade 1, 8651 AA IJlst. It opens 6 days a week and is closed on Sunday.
Stadsherberg ‘Het Wapen van IJlst’: This is a city tavern and while it seems that this is just the regular table for the city of IJlst and surroundings, you will be pleasantly surprised with the food it offers. You won’t get the most special or strange dishes, but it tastes good and that’s what matters the most to me.
You can find Stadsherberg Het Wapen van IJlst at Galamagracht 2, 8651 EB, IJlst.
Noccio: Get the best (and only) ice cream of IJlst at Noccio. Besides incredible ice cream flavours, they have great coffee and tea, with some treats. So, sit on their nice terrace and enjoy the sun rays, the passing boats and the beauty of the city of IJlst. Noccio in IJlst generally opens from April until September and can be found at Galamagracht 5, IJlst. Have a look at their website for the current opening times here.
Where to stay in IJlst, Friesland
There are not many hotels in IJlst, Friesland that you can stay in, but there are definitely a few. If you are looking for hotels or accommodation in IJlst, The Netherlands then I would recommend you the following places to stay.
Stadsherberg ‘Het Wapen van IJlst‘ offers, besides good food, also a great hotel in IJlst with wonderful rooms. You can go straight to sleep after a long day of exploring one of the most scenic cities of The Netherlands, IJlst.
Sinnehúskes, the last place I recommend you stay in IJlst, The Netherlands are in water-side lodges. These come with a free of charge boat from April until October that charges with the help of the sun. These lodges are incredibly cool, so have a look at them and the prices here.
How to get to IJlst, The Netherlands
I always recommend you to download 9292OV app to plan your public transportation journeys in The Netherlands
From Leeuwarden: Take the train from Leeuwarden train station in the direction of Stavoren. Get out at station IJlst. From here you will walk directly into the city. This will take you around half an hour.
From Groningen: Take the train from Groningen station in the direction of Leeuwarden. Get out at station Leeuwarden. Transfer to the train in the direction of Stavoren, leave the train at station IJlst. This trip will take you around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
From Utrecht: Get the intercity train from Utrecht Centraal in the direction of Leeuwarden. Once you arrive at Leeuwarden train station you should transfer to a train in the direction of Stavoren. Get out at IJlst station. This will take you around 2,5 hours.
From Amsterdam: To get to IJlst, Friesland from Amsterdam Centraal train station there are several options.
Take the intercity from Amsterdam Centraal in the direction of Almere Centrum. Get out at Almere Centrum. Transfer to the intercity in the direction of Groningen, leave the train once you arrive at Zwolle train station. Take another train, this time in the direction of Leeuwarden. Get out at Leeuwarden station and take the train in the direction of Stavoren. Get out at IJlst. This will take you around 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Take the intercity train in the direction of Heerlen but get out at Utrecht Centraal. Take the intercity in the direction of Leeuwarden and get off at Leeuwarden station. Then continue your journey and take a train in the direction of Stavoren, leave the train at IJlst station. This trip will take you a little over 3 hours.
I hope you found this article useful and that you now know what things you can do in IJlst, Friesland. I’m sure you’re able to spend a day in IJlst, The Netherlands with these tips. Is there anything else you’d like to know about IJlst? Click here for the best day trips within Friesland, The Netherlands. Have a look at this page to see what articles I’ve written so far. Share this post!!