Den Helder



Den Helder is the most northerly town and municipality on the mainland of the Dutch province of North Holland. The municipality is located in the Kop van Noord-Holland or Noordkop region. To the northwest of the city lies the Noorderhaaks sandbank, to the north the Marsdiep with the island of Texel on the other side and the extensive mud flat Balgzand to the east.

The municipality has 56,388 inhabitants (August 1, 2020, source: CBS) on an area of 178.83 km², of which 133.42 km² is water. About 41,000 people live in the city itself.

Den Helder is the home port of the Royal Netherlands Navy and a hub for offshore activities in the Dutch part of the North Sea. Den Helder Airport is one of the largest offshore airports in Northwest Europe in terms of passenger transport to and from production platforms. Pipelines are coming ashore and there is a large NAM gas treatment installation.



Until 1928 Helder was the official name of the municipality. Because the place was sometimes referred to as' t Nieuwediep or Willemsoord and there was so often confusion, the name was changed to Den Helder on 20 July of that year. In popular parlance den Helder had been common for much longer.

The exact origin of the name Helder is not entirely clear. The name probably refers to 'helle' or 'helde', which means slope or sloping piece of land, or 'helre', which means a small sandy ridge. Another explanation may be that it descends from 'Helsdeur', which is the name of the deepest tidal inlet in the Marsdiep. Because of the strategic location of this tidal inlet, this would have been hell for the enemy ships that wanted to sail into the Zuiderzee. However, this statement more than likely originated from a strong story or a single event and may date back to the 18th or 19th century.

Nicknames residents
Inhabitants of the city are called Nieuwediepers, named after the channel and harbor Nieuwediep and the adjacent residential center. A nickname for someone from Den Helder is Jutter, but there is no clear definition for this. According to some, someone must have been born and raised in Den Helder to be referred to as Jutter, according to others people should only call themselves Jutter when both parents were also born and raised in Den Helder. The nickname Jutter refers to the beachcombing that was common in earlier times. The terms Nieuwedieper and Jutter are regularly used interchangeably by news media or replaced by the later coined terms Heldernaren or Heldenaren.

Residents of the Visbuurt are called Piloërs and people from Julianadorp are referred to as Dorpers. Residents of the nearby island of Texel who, because of the lack of a hospital on Texel, were born in Den Helder are sometimes referred to (in a somewhat pejorative way) as Den Helder crows. This comes from the nickname 'crows' by which old Bright sailors were known.

Outdated locofaulisms mockingly referring to people from the old Helder or 't Nieuwediep are teardrops, truss-cutters and thief-pressers.



Earliest History
In the early Middle Ages, the territory of the current municipality of Den Helder belonged to the shire Texla. The oldest core of the current municipality is Huisduinen, the oldest mention of which dates from the mid-9th century. After major storm surges at the end of the 12th century, Huisduinen and Callantsoog to the south remained as islands. In the wadden region to the east of Huisduinen, high sand hills arose that remained dry at high tide. These nollen had the names De Schooten (nowadays known as De Nollen), 't Torp, de Gast, Ringelsant,' t Quelderen, Henesant and Koegras. In the late Middle Ages, the Counts of Egmont were lords of the area. The Den Helder coat of arms is derived from the coat of arms of these graves.

Around 1500, the Helder buyrt was created a few kilometers north of Huisduinen, on the same island. During the All Saints' Flood of 1570, pieces of dune were swept away and the centers of Huisduinen and Helder were lost. The villages were rebuilt further inland. Since the construction of the Zanddijk between Huisduinen and Callantsoog in 1610, the area has been connected to the mainland.

Growth into a port city
The new village of Helder was at the level of what is now the Oud-Den Helder district. The population made a living from fishing and pilotage. The village's first church was built of wood in 1624 at a place called "de malle Croft". Due to the disappearance of coastal land, this church was placed on the beach; in 1679 this Protestant stolpkerk was moved to "de Conijnsbergh". Later an exhortation, a hidden Catholic church, an old Catholic church and a synagogue were put into use.


To the east of the village of Helder was a channel, the Nieuwediep, which could be transformed into a harbor by deepening it. This harbor would offer much more protection than the Rede van Texel. In 1779 Stadtholder William V had the possibilities of a new harbor investigated. There was a lot of opposition from the cities of Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Medemblik, who saw a serious threat in a competing port to the already ailing economy in the Zuiderzee ports. Nevertheless, in 1781 it was decided to make the Nieuwe Diep suitable for sea-going vessels and in 1782 the first work had already been completed. In the years that followed, the harbor was further deepened until a modern tidal harbor was created. There was a keel place for warships, called 'Het Nieuwe Werk'. In 1795 the Dutch fleet surrendered on the Nieuwediep to the French cavalry who could reach the ships over ice. More than four years later, in 1799, during the War of the Second Coalition, the Dutch fleet in Den Helder was captured by a British-Russian invasion force.

Het Nieuwe Diep was originally designed as a safe harbor for merchant shipping. Although the population of Den Haag benefited from the new port, it did not result in an urban expansion because building along the Nieuwe Diep was officially prohibited. The construction of a naval port was first started in French times. After a visit by Napoleon to Den Helder in 1811, the Stelling Den Helder was built, a retranchement (ring of fortresses) around Den Helder and the harbors. Huisduinen fell outside this protection, but was given its own fort, Fort Kijkduin. After the departure of the French in 1814, the navy stayed in Den Helder, which expanded the harbor into its most important point of support.

In 1824 the harbor was connected to the interior by the construction of the Noordhollandsch Kanaal. As a result, Den Helder became an outer port of Amsterdam. The consequences were limited by the status of "unfree territory", which was given to Den Helder in Napoleonic times to prevent smuggling. Goods could only be transferred from sea-going vessels to barges and then sailed to Amsterdam. Any other port activity was prohibited. In 1844 the government wanted to lift the status, but Amsterdam managed to delay a decision until 1851.

The Helders Kanaal was completed in 1829. It connected the village with the Noordhollandsch Kanaal. During the construction of both canals, workers had established themselves along the canal, creating the residential center Nieuwstad (also called Strooien Dorp, the current Visbuurt). The residential areas Helder and Nieuwstad expanded along the canal and became connected to each other. New churches were built and the center moved to the area between Willemsoord and Oude Helder. In 1845 a steamboat service to Amsterdam was opened by Gebr. Zur Mühlen. The Royal Navy midshipmen's training was established in Den Helder and in 1865, at the initiative of King Willem III, a rail link with Amsterdam was established.

Due to the opening of the North Sea Canal in 1876, the city lost a large part of its income. The ships destined for Amsterdam no longer passed Den Helder. The number of inhabitants decreased by almost 10%. After the loss of the merchant navy, the fishery absorbed some of the losses. After a new fishing port was opened in IJmuiden, the fishermen also left after the merchants. Because the naval institutions moved to Den Helder, workers came to the city to work in the state yard, the "Wervianen". In 1896 a steam tram opened to the seaside resort of Huisduinen, where there was a bathing pavilion. This ran until 1917. In 1909 Julianadorp was founded.

Because of the mobilization of the First World War, hundreds of soldiers came to Den Helder, which was good for the middle class. A canal was dug between 1918 and 1921 and in 1922 Queen Wilhelmina unveiled the navy monument on the Havenplein. The city within the line reached its present size in the 1930s. Den Helder had become a prosperous city with a busy nightlife, as befits a port city, and a high level of amenities. The navy was a reliable employer, which attracted many new residents to Den Helder during the crisis. By January 1, 1940, the population had risen to 37,328, making Den Helder the fifth largest city in North Holland after Amsterdam, Haarlem, Hilversum and Zaandam.


The boom of Den Helder came to an abrupt end in May 1940, when the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. The occupier took the naval complexes into use, which prompted the Allies to bomb the city. However, the nighttime bombings often hit civilian targets. The safety of the residents could no longer be guaranteed. On June 25, 1940, it was therefore decided to evacuate. Inhabitants had to find shelter elsewhere at night. During the day, especially at the beginning of the evacuation, life in the city continued as usual. But the longer the evacuation took, the more people stayed away. Large parts of the city were abandoned.

Den Helder was regularly bombed, first by the Germans, later by the English and Americans. Especially the Marineterreinen were targeted, but many bombs fell on the residential buildings. The city became the most bombed place in the Netherlands. From 1943 the entire city was declared Sperrgebiet.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the old center began. The Germans needed a free field of fire for a possible English invasion. The Atlantic Wall required the demolition of all buildings along the seawall. Not only 19th-century buildings along the Kanaalgracht and the Weststraat were demolished, the entire Oude Helder - the 18th-century city center - also fell victim to the demolition hammer.

When the city was liberated in 1945, only a small proportion of the residents returned. Not only had some of them become victims of the acts of war and the Holocaust, survivors often delayed their return. After all, it was not certain whether the navy - and therefore employment - would return to the battered city after the war.

Reconstruction and expansion
After the war it was decided that Den Helder should once again become the naval port it had been before the war. The reconstruction could begin. De Oude Helder, which had not been the commercial center of the city for almost a century, now became a residential area with a contemporary architecture. Elsewhere, the war damage was repaired as best as possible, although some important buildings such as the Westerkerk and the synagogue were not rebuilt.

In the 1950s it was decided to modernize the city center, which consisted of 19th century streets. Urban planner Wieger Bruin devised the Center Plan. To this end, the railway line was shortened and partly broken up, so that the station was located further south and a better connection between the various neighborhoods was created. The new terminal was opened in 1958. The railway to Alkmaar was also electrified in that year.

Beatrixstraat was constructed, a modern city street that would connect the new station with the Rijkswerf. Part of the original buildings were sacrificed for this. New urban blocks were to determine the appearance of Den Helder. Not all plans were carried out, so that the city center has retained much of its 19th-century buildings.

The city within the line was already built up before the war. After the war, the neighborhoods Nieuw-Den Helder and De Schooten were built. Julianadorp grew into a village with a lot of new construction. When the municipality of Callantsoog joined the municipality of Zijpe, a two kilometer long strip of dunes and beach north of the Callantsogervaart became part of the municipality of Den Helder. This is how the municipality of Den Helder got its current shape.

21st century
At the beginning of the 21st century, plans were made to renovate the center of Den Helder. The aim was to make the center of Den Helder more lively. In many places in the center, holes had formed in the buildings due to the demolition of dilapidated buildings. This made sure that the streets did not form a whole. By filling these places with new construction, replacing dilapidated buildings and renovating shop facades in a historicizing style, a more attractive center was created. A network of streets and squares provided pleasant walking routes.

An important part of the renovated center is the old Willemsoord state yard. After this area was restored in the 1990s, the plan was conceived in the 21st century to realize catering establishments and shops. This led, among other things, to the construction of a cinema and the new theater. In the summer of 2009, Den Helder was under the spell of a number of major fires, for example, the replica VOC ship Prins Willem, a bulb company and a large sports hall of the Lyceum aan Zee went up in flames in just over a month. A former German guesthouse or administration building from the war, popularly called the Casino, also burned down. In 2019, the ruin of the Casino will be converted into the Atlantic Wall Center, an information center about the Atlantic Wall.


Until around 2000, the area in and around the Falgabuurt in Nieuw-Den Helder was a disadvantaged area. The neighborhood faced drug nuisance, unemployment, deterioration and crime. The nuisance caused by the residents got so out of hand that the municipality decided in the late 1990s that it could no longer be done like this. The demolition of many run-down flats was started. These flats were replaced by detached houses in a dune-like area. On May 18, 2011, Queen Beatrix opened the new shopping center on Marsdiepstraat. The Falga shopping center a little further away was refurbished and modernized.

At around the same time, the refurbishment of the Defense Line Den Helder was started. Little maintenance had been done in recent decades. The municipality decided to make the Defense line visible again. The bunkers and depots that can be found in the line were completely overgrown with trees and shrubs. Fort Dirks Admiraal was in bad condition due to vandalism and failure to carry out maintenance; volunteers have done this together with Stichting Stelling Den Helder. Today, the section between Sportlaan and Middenweg is visible again as a line dyke.



Den Helder is located on the northernmost mainland of the province of North Holland. The municipality of Schagen is located south of the municipality and the municipality of Hollands Kroon to the southeast. To the west is the North Sea, to the east the Waddenzee and to the north the Marsdiep strait with the island of Texel on the other side. About two kilometers northwest of the mainland lies the Noorderhaaks sandbank, also known as Razende Bol, which is part of the territory of the municipality of Texel. Den Helder, together with the surrounding municipalities, is part of the Kop van Noord-Holland.

The municipality has a row of dunes on the North Sea coast that changes to the sea dike north of Huisduinen. The Laurens Brandligtdam is located in the Waddenzee to the east of Den Helder. The outskirts of the municipality is known for the colorful bulb fields in the spring. The municipality comes under the water board of the Hollands Noorderkwartier water board and the household waste is collected and processed by HVC.

In addition to the city of Den Helder and the villages of Huisduinen and Julianadorp, the municipality has various other residential areas. To the west of Julianadorp lies the seaside resort of Julianadorp aan Zee, a neighborhood consisting mainly of holiday homes. Neighborhoods in the municipality are De Kooy, the Friese Buurt and Noorderhaven.



Den Helder, like all of the Netherlands, has a maritime climate. Because the municipality is surrounded by water on three sides, the temperatures are often lower in summer and often higher in winter than elsewhere in the country. A weather station is located just south of the built-up area, at De Kooy airport. Den Helder has been referred to several times by the KNMI as the sunniest place in the Netherlands and with 2194 hours of sunshine in 2003 it holds the national record of the number of hours of sunshine per year.


Culture and recreation

Den Helder is best known for the many sights that have to do with the navy. The city has a number of 19th century churches and striking buildings. Part of Den Helder is a protected cityscape and in the municipality are several municipal, provincial and national monuments (in municipality and city).


Construction works

The former town hall of Den Helder is located on Kerkgracht. The listed building was built in 1851 and served as an orphanage until the 1920s. The building was then converted into a town hall and retained this function until the 1980s. On January 22, 2005, a fire broke out in the building; it was restored to its original state, including the characteristic turret. From 2020, the public counters of the municipality will temporarily be housed in the building. A little further on the same canal is the courthouse from 1864. Diagonally opposite these buildings is the National Monument for the Rescue Service, popularly called Het Carillon.

On the navy site on the Paleiskade / Het Nieuwe Diep are the commandements building from 1823 and the building of the Royal Institute for the Navy from 1870. The building for the pilotage from 1847 is also located on Het Nieuwe Diep. Adjacent to the navy site is the old Rijkswerf Willemsoord. This area was built for the Royal Netherlands Navy from 1812 and contains many buildings worth seeing.


Despite its name, the Nieuwe Kerk is now the oldest church in the city and was built in 1839. In the 1860s, the poet Piet Paaltjens was pastor of the church. A year later, the Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, the oldest church in the diocese of Haarlem, was inaugurated on Kerkgracht. It is the only Catholic church in the city center of Den Haag since the closure of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Immaculate-Received Church from 1876, designed by Theo Asseler, in 1990. The OLVOO church is located in the Visbuurt and a climbing wall is now located in the former church. Not far from the Petrus-en-Pauluskerk on the Kerkgracht is the Mennonite Driemasterkerk from 1853. Until 2015 it was used for church services. Today it has a destination as a cultural center. Loge Willem Frederik Karel, founded in 1825, is located on the Molengracht. In September 2013, a Hindu temple, more than 17 meters high, was opened in Nieuw-Den Helder. It is the first Ganesh temple in Europe.

The lighthouse of Den Helder is popularly called Lange Jaap and is located near Huisduinen. At 63.45 meters it is the highest cast iron lighthouse in Europe. The 16-sided tower was built in 1877 and the light was turned on on April 1, 1878. The water tower is located in the center near the De Vijflijst roundabout. This tower was built in 1908 to replace the old water tower, which was built in 1856 as one of the first water towers in the Netherlands and was demolished in 1908. In the 1950s the new tower was given a concrete layer on the outside, in 2005 it restored to its original state with brick finish.


War memorials

Since 2018, there has been a foundation that has placed memorial stones in sidewalks at residential addresses of Jews murdered in World War II.


Museums and art

In the city you will mainly find nautical museums. The Navy Museum can be found at the former Rijksmarine yard Willemsoord. It shows the history of the Royal Navy. In the water outside the museum are two museum ships and on land is submarine Hr.Ms. Tuna on display. The museum lightship Texel and the National Rescue Museum Dorus Rijkers, a museum about the Dutch rescue system at sea, can also be found at Willemsoord. This museum also has museum ships in the water. In Huisduinen is Fort Kijkduin, a fort built in 1811 by order of Napoleon Bonaparte, which now houses a museum including a sea aquarium and the skeleton of a sperm whale.

In nature reserve De Nollen a museum is under construction designed by R.W. of the Wint. The large works of art made of Corten steel in the dune landscape of De Nollen were the lifework of this sculptor. Several galleries can be found throughout the municipality.

In April 2018, the Rob Scholte museum, located in the former post office next to Den Helder station, was evacuated. The internationally renowned Käthe Kruse doll museum closed its doors in 2013, after 25 years. The Police Museum was located under the police station on the Polderweg and the Solex Museum was located in the Molenstraat until the end of 2012.

There are four library branches in the municipality. Three of these can be found in Den Helder and one in Julianadorp. All these branches are part of KopGroep Libraries. Library School 7 is the main location of this library group and opened in the center of Den Helder in 2016. The library won the IFLA's international title of 'Public Library of the Year 2018' in 2018. In addition to regular libraries, there are also several street libraries in the municipality.

Den Helder has had a city poet since 2004. The city poet makes poems about events in the city and recites them at openings or other occasions. From 2012, poles with a QR code had been placed at various locations in the city, which could be scanned to read a poem about the various locations. At the entrance of a number of buildings you can find poems by the city poet in natural stone.

Parks and nature recreation
The Juliana Park was a 19th century park near the old station of Den Helder. When this station was demolished in 1958, a large part of the park had to make way for new construction plans before it completely disappeared a decade later. At the beginning of the 21st century, the construction of the new Stadspark was started on almost the same spot where the Juliana Park was located, between the current station and the seawall. The Timor Park, built in the 1930s, is located on the western edge of the city within the line. Between 1965 and 2009 the name of this park was Churchillpark. There is a music dome in the park, which has been copied after an example of an earlier music dome in the old Juliana Park. Other parks in the municipality are: recreation park Quelderduyn, the Rehorstpark and the Schooterduinpark in De Schooten, the Duinpark (on the location of the former Kennedypark) and the Kreekpark in Nieuw-Den Helder and the Loopuytpark in Julianadorp.


There are four king trees in the municipality. These trees were planted on the occasion of coronations or anniversaries of the Royal Family. Hortus Overseas can be found in the center of Den Helder.

The dunes in Den Helder are part of a larger Natura 2000 area. The forest, de Donker Duinen, lies against the dunes. This pine forest was created in 1917, primarily as a work facility, but bearing in mind that over time the full-grown pines could serve as support for the coal mines, thereby generating money for the forest. In the 21st century, many deciduous trees can also be found in the forest in addition to conifers. Next to this forest is the Mariëndal nature and recreation area with a nature and environmental education center and petting zoo, an open-air theater and a climbing forest.

The municipality has seven kilometers of sandy beach with several beach pavilions. There is a nude beach at Falga beach. Since 2011, there have been beach houses of Landal GreenParks near Julianadorp aan Zee in the summer months. The beach is guarded by the Den Helder rescue brigade.

The Noord-Hollandpad walking route runs from north to south through the municipality and along part of the canoe route between Den Helder and Julianadorp. A loop of the Hollands Kustpad runs across Helders territory. Since 2019 it has also been possible to walk an NS walking route called Helderse Duinen. There are five walking routes in Nieuw-Den Helder under the name Het Groene Lint.

Just outside Huisduinen is the Den Helder General Cemetery from the 17th century, including a Jewish cemetery. Adjacent is the RC cemetery of Sint-Jozef. In earlier times there was a cemetery of the Old Catholics on the spot where now the residential area De Schooten stands; it was used until the early 19th century. The cemetery was located on a mound called het Torp, where a chapel stood in the 16th century. Excavations and research in 1965 and 1997 found gravestones and skeletons.

Film, theater and nightlife
Cinema Zevenskoop is a cinema located in the building of the former theater / cinema Rialto on Julianaplein. It takes its name from the former School 7 on the Weststraat (now a library) where it was housed until 2009. Mainly artistic and non-mainstream films are shown. In addition, the multiplex Kinepolis can be found at Willemsoord, with 6 theaters and a total of 776 seats.

Theater De Kampanje has been located at Willemsoord since 2015, in a former boiler workshop and machine workshop from the early 20th century. The complex has a theater hall, a hall for concerts, for example, a small hall with a café and a restaurant.

Traditionally, the entertainment area was located in Koningstraat, there were bars, coffee shops and a dancing. In 2019, a number of the most popular nightlife venues moved to Willemsoord, which means that the nightlife in Den Helder has become spread over these two areas.



Twice every three years, the Navy Days are held on the Nieuwe Haven, the site of the Royal Netherlands Navy. During these open days of the Royal Navy, naval ships are open to the public and demonstrations are given. Sail Den Helder took place a number of times in the port of Den Helder and at Willemsoord. That was in 1993, 1997, 2008, 2013 and 2017. All editions of Sail, except 2008, coincided with the Marinedagen. Maritime Airbase De Kooy hosts a Heldair Maritime Show every five years in September. It is the joint open day of Den Helder Airport and Maritime Air Camp de Kooy. All day long there are flying demonstrations by teams from home and abroad.

The Historical Weekend has been held annually at Willemsoord since 1996, preceded by a parade of old and striking cars through the city. From 2010 to 2015, the Fishery Days were held in August. The Clipper Round The World Race has visited Den Helder several times. Since August 2008 the Racing Aeolus event has been held annually on the dyke.

Music Day has been held annually at the end of May or the beginning of June since 1995. On this day there will be performances by more than 1800 (amateur) musicians spread over approximately twenty stages in the city center. In June, the Julianapop festival is held in Julianadorp. The Last Minute Summer Event festival took place in the Quelderduyn recreation park until 2015. Carnival association De Krabbetukkers organizes an annual carnival party where Den Helder is given the name Waaienburg.

Every year in July, the summer fair can be found on the Koningsplein. At Pentecost there is a funfair on the village square of Huisduinen. An Easter funfair was held at Willemsoord in 2016.