Latest update: 27 March 2021
Secretly kissing and sticking chewing gum in the ginkies, climbing the highest mountain in Flevoland, and eating a Dikkertje. Only on Urk! The former island is ideal for a day out in the Netherlands. Naturally, I must eat some fish and stroll along the harbor, as any tourist should. But Urk has more to offer. Let’s go! Let’s go!
Where is Urk located?
Urk is located in Flevoland, in the Noordoostpolder (it is an independent municipality). It’s about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam. If you’re looking for a rental car, try the all-inclusive rental company Sunny Cars. It’s your best option, as public transport will take over two hours. The village is located directly on the IJsselmeer. Urk was once an island in the Zuiderzee and later in the IJsselmeer. The Afsluitdijk split the Zuiderzee into the IJsselmeer and the Waddenzee. Now, Urk borders the IJsselmeer.
In the early 1930s, Urk was still an island, but in 1939, Urk and Lemmer’s dike was completed. Because of this connection with the mainland, the fishing village was no longer an island. A few years later, in 1941, a large part of the seabed around Urk was drained, and then there was no denying it: Urk was now Dutch mainland. Urk still has a “coastline”, so there is enough water to imagine what it once looked like.
Now you know why you are ON Urk. Do not dare to say IN Urk! The island feeling is cherished and protected by the locals.
Fishing on Urk
With so much water around the village, it is not surprising that many sights in Urk have to do with water and fishing. In the freshwater of the IJsselmeer, the fishermen fish for eel and some perch. When the Urk fishermen no longer had direct access to the sea thanks to the Afsluitdijk, they entered the North Sea. Life is so interconnected with fishing that looking for another profession was unthinkable.
The Urk cutters (the fishing boats) catch the fish in the North Sea and take the catch to the fish auction in Urk. The fish is processed, stored, and sold here. Although many people on Urk no longer fish themselves, they still work in fishing, but now at shipyards, carriers, and fish processors. Fish auction Visveiling Urk is even the largest fish auction in the Netherlands. You can also check out the IJsselmeer Afslag in the summer (May to August) from 2.15 pm when the fish sale starts. Please note: closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. On Saturdays, you can buy fresh fish yourself.
A walk through Urk: the Ginkie tour
If there is only one thing you are going to do on Urk, do the Ginkie tour. For real! Tourist Info Urk organizes the tour and is very worthwhile. For a little over an hour, you will be on the road with a guide, and you will get to know the sights of Urk. But even better: you can hear all the inside scoop about Urk!
I set out with guide Gert-Jan. While we walk through Urk, he tells stories and interesting facts about Urk continuously. As we walk through the ginkies (alleys), everyone on Urk seems to know him: a greeting here and a wave there. We dwell on the bubble gum ginkie: boys and girls come here to share a kiss. For the ultimate kissing experience, you need to have fresh breath. Right? So quickly chew some gum and then stick it on the wall. Easy as that.
The wall was once completely gray-white from the chewing gum, but the neighborhood cleaned it all up. There are still a few chewing gum pieces, and a little further down the village, a new chewing gum ginkie is slowly growing. So there is still kissing on Urk! Gert-Jan, unfortunately, does not want to share if one of the chewing gums is his.
During the Ginkie tour, I learn about the history of Urk, the stubborn inhabitants, and local customs. I love how the Urkers describe the pain of childbirth as “pulling the Bethel church through the chewing gum ginkie.” Local legend tells that at Ommelebommelestién (the Urk equivalent of the stork), you had to pay one guilder for a baby girl and two guilders for a boy and that the Urkers use their dialect like to see it as a language.
Visit the Fishermen’s Monument
Directly on the IJsselmeer is a special place where the deceased fishermen of Urk are commemorated. The men (as yet not a single woman) died at sea, usually in heavy weather. All their names are engraved on marble slabs. There is a large statue of a fisherman’s wife; she looks over her shoulder towards the sea, hoping to see her husband again. The monument was already unveiled in 1968. If fishers die today, their name will be added to the marble slabs.
Tip! Curious about that earring that the boys in Urk wear? There is a whole story behind it. Read more about the Urk earrings.
Eat fish at De Urker Vishal
You simply cannot miss the Urk Vishal. There is always a queue here because of the tasty, fresh fish for a competitive price. So pop in, even if it’s just for a single herring or a portion of kibbelingen to share. The Urker Vishal is in the center of the village.
The Dikkertjes of Urk
A Dikkertje (a fatty) is a piece of butter cake filled with 100% almond paste. Some cheaper versions of the cake do not have a 100% almond filling. On Urk, you get the real deal. You can actually buy the Dikkertje at any bakery, but I recommend that you go to De Oude Bakkerij. Sit down at a table and enjoy many more cakes. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks are also possible here!
Climb the Urk lighthouse
The Urk lighthouse was used to help boats find their way to the harbor in the dark and prevented them from getting stuck on the sandbank just before land. The lighthouse is about 18.5 meters high, and in the summer months, you can climb it for a small fee. In the other seasons, you need to make an appointment.
From this point, you have a beautiful broad view. You can look over the IJsselmeer and see three provinces on a clear day: North-Holland, Flevoland, and Friesland.
Stroll through the ports of Urk
Urk has several ports. In the historic harbor, Westhaven, you’ll find old fishing boats and the old wharf slope. Internees dug it up by hand during the First World War. No, not a shovel, by hand! At the time of WWI, there was an internment camp on Urk. About fifty people stayed here —a kind of Dutch variant of Alcatraz.
The Urk Orca
Pleasure boats are in the Oosthaven. On a nice day, people like to moor their boat here. The orca of Urk also lives here: an enormous fountain that sprays water from time to time like a real orca. The suspicion is that the name Urk comes from Orca because, on ancient maps, Urk is called “Orc”. It is already the second Orca of Urk because a fallen tree and a fire destroyed the first.
3D Graffiti in the harbor
If you look at the paintings on the ground in front of Tourist Info’s entrance through your telephone, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. The graffiti comes to life, and you can see depth. This is 3D graffiti, and it is really beautifully made. The lighthouse seems to be standing up, and definitely have a look at the edges of the paintings to experience the full effect. Well done!
Kerkje aan de Zee
The Kerkje aan de Zee was once a gift from Amsterdam. However, a present with a condition: the inhabitants of Urk all had to convert from Catholic to Protestant. The population thought that was fine because the church was built. Now, Amsterdam had a beacon on Urk, and Urk had a church again. A great deal for both parties.
It was built in 1786. At that time, Amsterdam owned Urk; the city bought the island of Urk and the island of Schokland in 1660. Urk became independent in 1792, but on the stone above the church’s door, you can still see the three Amsterdam crosses.
By the way, this church is located on the highest mountain in Flevoland. 8.5 meters! Okay, maybe it’s more of a tiny hill.
Can’t get enough of churches? Then Urk is the right place for you. The village has more than twenty churches, and they still build new ones now and then. They are all Protestant churches from 13 different denominations.
Museum The Old Town Hall
If you are curious about the history of Urk, then Museum Het Oude Raadhuis is worth a visit. Admire the costumes and jewelry, learn about fishing and how the Urkers used to live. The museum is located in the old town hall and next to it is an old fisherman’s house. It is completely furnished as it looked around 1920, including a poo room. If you visit the museum, you can also snoop around the fisherman’s house.
The birthplace of Appie Baantjer
Make a short stop at the birthplace of Appie Baantjer, the Dutch author of the Baantjer books. The books even turned into a long-running Dutch television show with detective De Cock – who always introduced himself by spelling out his name: ceeooceekaa. The information sign even highlights this little detail. Love it. You don’t need more than a minute for this sight. And if you’ve never seen the show, you will probably skip it anyway.
Walking in the Urkerbos
If you’re up for a nature walk, follow the coastline towards the windmills and enter the forest. You’ve arrived in the Urkerbos. It has a small recreational lake where people like to fish; otherwise, it is just a lovely forest to walk through.
Other things to do on Urk
- Take the ferry service to Enkhuizen, take an IJsselmeer cruise, or another round trip with passenger ship De Zuiderzee. Check out the options.
- Go to the beach; there are two beaches on Urk. Don’t expect a beautiful beach full of beach clubs or long walks on the beach, but the narrow strips are excellent for a short break.
- Every last weekend of November, the Urk Wintersferen event takes place. Urk is converted into a historic village for a weekend, and people walk around in clothes from that time period.
- Grab a table outside in the harbor or warm up inside when the weather isn’t that great. You will find various options right next to each other on the Oosthavenkade.
Is it possible to visit Urk on a Sunday?
Urk is a rather religious village, so life more or less comes to a halt on Sundays. You can visit Urk on Sundays, but keep in mind that many sights, restaurants, and shops are closed.
Hotels and other accommodations on Urk
Would you like to spend more time on Urk? Then make sure you have a good night’s sleep. Urk doesn’t have any hotels but plenty of other accommodations.
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Want more travel advice? Do check all my blogs about beautiful places and fun activities in my home country. Also nice: buy the Lonely Planet of the Netherlands as it has lots of practical information. Available at Amazon and Book Depository. The latter is usually the cheapest but often has a slightly longer shipping time.
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I was invited by Tourist Info Urk to experience the Ginkies tour myself for this blog.