The story of 'new land' in the Netherlands is unique. A hundred years ago, there was nothing but water here: the Zuiderzee, a former inlet of the North Sea. For centuries, the Dutch had fought against the water with dykes and dams, until in 1916 the government decided to enclose and reclaim the Zuiderzee. New land was to be created. More than 1,800 square kilometers of land was drained in the first half of the last century, creating the largest polder in the world at approximately five metres below sea level. A narrow body of water was preserved along the old coast to stabilise the water table and to prevent coastal towns from losing their access to the sea. The Flevopolder became an artificial island. The province of Flevoland was officially founded in 1986 and is now home to modern cities such as Almere and Lelystad, which blend modern architecture with futuristic urban planning, all while embracing the water and nature right on their doorstep.
Almere, still considered the youngest city in the Netherlands, is located just across the IJmeer from Amsterdam. It boasts 42 kilometres of coastline, a rich natural environment of lakes and waterways and impressive modern architecture. Almere is a city with ambition. Since it was founded in 1976, it has become the most original and exemplary of the Netherlands’ ‘new towns’. It has been one of the fastest growing cities in Europe and now has a population of roughly 211,000 residents, while remaining energetic, green and sustainable. Because Almere is so new, its buildings are imaginative, drawing on the latest innovations in Dutch design. To immerse yourself in it, book a walking or cycling architectural tour to discover the architecture and urban planning of this futuristic city.
Lelystad, located northeast of Almere along the Markermeer, is Flevoland’s capital city. It’s best known for the Batavia Wharf, the home of the Batavia, an epic, full-scale replica of the infamous Dutch East India Company merchant ship. Like its nearby sister city, Lelystad is a bastion of modern architecture, often embracing water and waterways in its residential designs.
New Land’s watery past is still apparent in its nature, in particular in extraordinary nature reserve Nationaal Park Nieuw Land, a vast nature reserve located between Lelystad and Almere. It comprises 56 square kilometres of protected marshlands and fields, serving as a migration area for birds. As such, it’s an amazing spot for a hike or a day of bird watching. Nationaal Park Nieuw Land’s ‘locals’ include not just birds, but wild varieties of deer, cattle, foxes, hares and Konik ponies. And then there’s Marker Wadden, a nature reserve still in development. This group of small islands in between Lelystad and Enkhuizen is constructed from sand, clay and silt from the Markermeer. As new plants blossom both under and above water, it is quickly becoming a natural paradise for fish and birds.
Another truly unique aspect of New Land is its land art. The area is home to some epic examples of the art movement. These works by internationally renowned artists were influenced by the newness of the landscape, and are as much imbedded in nature as standing out from it. The most famous is Exposure, a 26-metre steel figure gazing out over the Markermeer lake. By car you can tour all nine works in a day.
The striking history, unique natural scenery, modern architecture, beaches and active lifestyle of the area provide countless reasons to take a closer look.