7 of the most beautiful fortified cities in North Brabant

By: Tamara Adventurous | Read time: 6 minutes
  • Vestingstad Heusden van bovenaf
  • Willemstad haven
  • Grave - kanonnen
  • Grave centrum

In the Middle Ages, the Brabant fortified cities offered protection against plundering armies and roving bands of robbers. Now the fortresses with their bastions, city gates, moats and narrow streets are a fantastic reason for an excursion in North Brabant. Each fortress is even more beautiful than the previous one! We have drawn up a list with seven of the most beautiful fortified cities in North Brabant.

1. Willemstad

  • Willemstad straatje

Star-shaped dikes, forts, bunkers – and can you spot the cannonballs in the city walls? In Willemstad it is very clear: you are in a fortress here. While visiting the Mauritshuis (House of Maurits), you will learn all about the turbulent history of the city. You must definitely visit Fort Sabina; the largest for in North Brabant is still beautifully intact. Be pleasantly surprised by the continually changing exhibitions and settle down on the terrace. Amazing boat trips can be made to Willemstad from the Jachthaven Waterkant (Waterfront Marina) in Dinteloord.

2. Heusden

Wander through the picturesque streets with studios

Wander through the picturesque streets with studios

Heusden belongs to the most beautiful fortified cities in the Netherlands. The city even won a prestigious Europa Nostra restauration award. Strolling over the large cobblestones between monumental buildings and charming squares, it is not difficult to understand why. You can learn more about the history of Heusden and area in the Governor’s House. Afterwards, go on a city walk and wander through the picturesque streets with studios, galleries and unique boutiques.

Camperplaats Heusden Heusden straatje Vestingstad Heusden met haven en molen

3. Ravenstein

  • Ravenstein molen
  • Ravenstein kerk

In the fortified city of Ravenstein, you go back in time. One of the most beautiful spots in the fortress is De Nijverheid, the historic tower mill where the brewers of Wilskracht Stadsbrouwerij brewed their local beers. Enjoy a drink on the terrace and purchase a delicious homegrown Brabant treat from the shop for on the road. Just down the road is a visit to the picturesque Leerlooierijmuseum or Leather Tanning Museum. Beautifully located in the city garden on the water.

Staying overnight in Ravenstein?

4. Megen

  • Megen Gevangentoren

The characteristic Megen is one of the most beautiful fortified cities in the Netherlands for anyone interested in religious heritage. There are even two monasteries that are still active. While walking through Megen, admire monumental buildings, attractive squares, monastery gardens and charming restaurants. There is good reason for various artists to have settled in the old city core. It is now possible to enjoy a delicious meal in Megen’s old prison tower.

Would you like to discover more about life in the Brabant monasteries?

5. Grave

Grave had 5 times as many soldiers as there were residents

Grave had 5 times as many soldiers as there were residents

Not far from Ravenstein is a gem in the Land van Cuijk: the fortified city of Grave, located along the Maas. Grave is the most besieged fortified city of the Zuiderwaterlinie (Southern Water Defence Line), and often held five times as many soldiers as there were residents. The Zuiderwaterlinie’s visitors centre, located in the monumental city hall, is a good point of departure for a city walk. Be sure to visit the historic Hampoort, which houses the Graafs Museum.

Grave centrum Grave - kanonnen Grave

6. Woudrichem

The fortified city of Woudrichem – Woerkum, as the locals call it – is not a part of the Zuiderwaterlinie, but it has been a part of the New Holland Defence Line since 1814. It is definitely worth a visit since the fortress is still completely intact. Go back in time at the prisoner gate, wander through the historic harbour and climb the Marinus Tower for an amazing view over the fortress.

You cannot help but notice that Woudrichem is a photogenic city. The Dutch television series Dokter Tinus was recorded here.

7. Geertruidenberg

It is not just the monumental buildings and splendid Geertruidskerk that make Geertruidenberg one of the most beautiful fortified cities. It is also beautifully located next to Biesbosch National Park. A visit to the fortress of Geertruidenberg can easily be combined with a day of cruising in the Biesbosch. Hire a boat, so you can moor at the Timmersteekade, where there are five historic utility vessels. Stretch your legs on a city walk in the fortress and enjoy yourself at an outdoor cafe at the market. All of these are ingredients for a wonderful day out in North Brabant!

Would you like to find out more about the Zuiderwaterlinie?

The Zuiderwaterlinie connects a total of eleven fortified cities in North Brabant, from Bergen op Zoom in the west to Grave in the east. It is the oldest, longest and most used waterline in the Netherlands. A hydraulic masterpiece and a ribbon of heritage sites. The fortresses tell the typical Dutch story of defence using water and are connected to one another throughout the vast Brabant landscape. Other Brabant fortified cities are Bergen op Zoom, Steenbergen, Klundert, Breda and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

The Zuiderwaterlinie Hiking Trail is a fantastic way to become acquainted with it. The route is 290 kilometres in total, set out over the Brabant hiking junction system. Of course, it is also possible to follow separate stages during an excursion in North Brabant. Enjoy your walk!


“If you would rather cycle along the Zuiderwaterlinie, I cycled past the fortified cities Grave, Ravenstein and Megen, with wonderful stopovers between them."

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