Visiting Breskens, The Netherlands, on the Scheldt River: bracing gateway to Zeeland Flanders

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Breskens, The Netherlands, at the North Sea mouth of the Western Scheldt; Vlissingen in the background
Breskens, The Netherlands, at the North Sea mouth of the Western Scheldt; Vlissingen in the background | Source
Zeeland Flanders Ferry, Breskens, The Netherlands
Zeeland Flanders Ferry, Breskens, The Netherlands | Source
Breskens marina, The Netherlands
Breskens marina, The Netherlands | Source
Breskens beach, The Netherlands
Breskens beach, The Netherlands | Source
Map location of Sluis municipality, Zeeland, The Netherlands
Map location of Sluis municipality, Zeeland, The Netherlands | Source

Wind and interesting geography

Particularly for many foreign visitors to The Netherlands, Breskens is a place they travel through, rather than to. This is in some ways a pity, since for a number of reasons it is a worthwhile destination in itself. A well appointed marina, a historic lighthouse dating from 1867, and expansive, sandy beaches which receive bracing, estuarine winds, are included in its points of interest. But these beaches, which stretch along the Western Scheldt (Dutch: Westerschelde ) estuary to the North Sea (Dutch: Noordzee ) are well known by Dutch people and Belgians, also.

The main reason why some people have gone to — or through — Breskens, however, is because of the existence of its ferry terminal, and thus as a gateway to Vlissingen, Middelburg and beyond. This in itself is linked to the location of Breskens on the southern shore of the Western Scheldt River.

The area below this southern shore is known as Zeeland Flanders (Dutch: Zeeuws Vlaanderen ). This name signifies that it lies geographically contiguous to Flanders, Belgium, but belongs administratively to the Dutch province of Zeeland, the fortunes of which have for centuries been linked with the sea.

The geographical location of Breskens therefore makes for some interesting local, territorial psychologies. Being so obviously on the southern shore of the Western Scheldt, its people are very much identified with a land mass which stretches into Belgium. But at the same time, they are very much linked historically and politically with Dutch life.

Towards the end of World War Two, the area was strategically important to the advancing Allies. The locality underwent heavy bombardment in September 1944 and saw hundreds of casualties.

Interestingly, in the local, Zeeland dialect, Breskens is known as Bresjes .

Since 2003, road traffic through Breskens has lessened because of the opening of the Western Scheldt Tunnel (Dutch: Westerscheldetunnel ). The ferry service to Vlissingen from Brekens is now limited to pedestrians and cyclists.

Breskens is located in the Sluis municipality of Zeeland province, The Netherlands.

January 5, 2013

Also worth seeing

Sluis (distance: 17 kilometres) has a Medieval belfry and some picturesque canals.

Bruges (Dutch: Brugge ), Belgium (distance: 36 kilometres) has many cultural treasures and examples of Medieval architecture, including an 83 metre belfry. Many visitors go on canal tours of the city.

How to get there: Brussels National Airport (Brussel -Nationaal -Luchthaven) , Belgium, where car hire is available, is the nearest large international airport to Breskens (distance: 123 km). Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels National. By road from Brussels, take E19/A1 and E34 to exit near Aardenburg, by the Belgian-Dutch border, close to Sluis. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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