Balk, Netherlands


Balk is a village in the Dutch province of Friesland. It belongs to the municipality De Friese Meren, and was the seat of the older municipality Gaasterlaand-Sloten (Gaasterlân-Sleat). It has around 3,350 inhabitants.

Balk is located between Harich and Wiekel. The river Luts flows through the village. A spot will be created with a beam over the river; hence the name. Later a bridge was built here. Previously, Balk belonged to Harich. In 1585 it was plundered by Spanish soldiers from Grunnen. Balk wodden prospered in the 18th century through the butter trade, and in the 19th century it was an independent village of wodden.

Balk used to know various religious communities. One of them was the congregation of the Mennonites in Balk, which was very strict in its teachings. In the middle of the 19th century, a large group went to America to live in the vicinity of Goshen in the state of Indiana. A facade stone in Balk still reminds of this old community of faith.



Balk originated from a simple beam bridge over the Luts, hence the place name. This wooden beam bridge was later replaced. The place is first mentioned as Balc in 1491. In 1509 it was mentioned as toe balc, in 1520 as Wyckelderbalk and in 1573 as Balck. At first Balk belonged to Harich.

In 1585 Balk was looted by Spanish soldiers from Groningen. It became prosperous in the 18th century through the butter trade, and by the 19th century it had become an independent village.

Until January 1, 2014, Balk belonged to the municipality of Gaasterland-Sloten. It was the main town with the town hall of the municipality.



Part of Balk is a protected village view and is one of the protected town and village views in Friesland.


Town Hall of Balk

The town hall of Balk is the former town hall of the municipality of Gaasterland. The monumental building is located on the corner of Dubbelstraat and Raadhuisstraat in Balk. The town hall of the new municipality of Gaasterland-Sloten is located on the other side of the Dubbelstraat. The old town hall (court house) was built in 1615 by order of the then grietman van Gaasterland Obbe Obbes. The anchors on the front of the building refer to the year of construction. In 1836 the building received a new facade. The entrance is on the northeast side and is accessed via a high staircase with a landing. There are shield-bearing lions on the two corners of the platform. On the roof a ridge turret from 1793 with a bell that was cast in 1615 by the bell founder Gerard Koster. The old town hall is recognized as a national monument. The building was restored in 1912. In 1974, a restoration of the roof ridge took place.



Balk traditionally had various religious communities. One of these was the Mennonite congregation in Balk, which was very strict in teaching. In the middle of the 19th century, a large group moved to the United States to settle there in the Goshen area, Indiana. A gable stone in Balk still reminds us of this old religious community.

At the end of the 17th century, a large number of Huguenots settled in Gaasterland. A Walloon church was established in Balk between 1684 and 1721.

The largest denomination is Protestantism. The Protestant municipality of Balk has about 1800 souls and has 2 church buildings: a monumental church on the Luts and a new (er) church building from 1982. The village also has a Catholic parish with a beautiful church dedicated to Saint Ludgerus.

From 1954 to 1986, almost all Ambonese Muslims lived in the Wyldemerck Moluccan camp (see History of the Moluccans in the Netherlands). The second mosque in the Netherlands was therefore built in Balk in 1956.



The village and the river have inspired the poet Herman Gorter, whose grandfather was a Mennonite minister in Balk in the 19th century, to write his famous poem "Mei". In it, Gorter does not speak of a village, but of a town, and not of a river, but of a moat:

A new spring and a new sound
I want this song to sound like the whistle
That I often heard before a summer night
In an old town, along the water canal.

There is a statue of the poet in memory. Balk also has a historic core, with a town hall from 1615.

A newspaper is published in Balk and the surrounding area: the Balkster Courant.

The radio station of the municipality of De Friese Meren is located in Balk: Radio Spannenburg

Every year, the Kunstkring Gaasterland in Balk organizes one of the largest art markets in the Northern Netherlands. More than 100 artists will show their work on both sides of the Luts.



Balk is a center for water sports. Sailing school De Ulepanne and sailing school De Stipe are located on the Luts. A large marina is located on the edge of the Slotermeer. For cyclists and sailors, a traditional skûtsje sails as a sailing ferry between Heeg and Balk. In the winter months, the Berenburg Cup is sailed from Balk on the Slotermeer.