Drachten, Netherlands


Drachten is the capital of the municipality of Smallingerland in the Dutch province of Friesland. It is located northeast of Heerenveen and southeast of Leeuwarden.

The Drachtstervaart runs through Drachten. In 2020 Drachten had 45,075 inhabitants, making it the second largest city in the province of Friesland by population. The hamlets fall under Drachten; Buitenstverlaat, Folgeren, Nijtap (small part), Noorderend, Zuidereind and Zuiderheide.



Drachten originated in the 17th century from the villages Noorder-Dragten and Zuider-Dragten or Noorderragen and Zuydervragen on the river Drait of Dracht. The area was rich in raised moors and the Drachtster Compagnonsvaart was dug to remove the peat extracted from it. Later, shipyards were established in the area, including Shipyard De Pijp. Many skûtsjes have been built on these yards.

The establishment of a Philips factory in 1950 attracted many jobseekers to Drachten, so that the population had already increased to ten thousand in the 1950s.

Drachten does not belong to the Frisian eleven cities, because it has never had city rights (in Friesland the term stain / stain is also used for these kinds of places). However, according to modern concepts (size, employment, public facilities), Drachten can be called a city. However, the local media do not always agree and sometimes continue to call it a village due to the lack of city rights. In 2015, the Ministry of the Interior was even asked whether Drachten could indeed call itself a city.



Because Drachten only became a larger town in the 1950s, most of the buildings date from after that time. Nevertheless, there are some buildings of architectural importance from before that time. Some examples are the former monastery on Burgemeester Wuiteweg (where this road passes under the A7), the Bleekerhûs (a mansion on the Moleneind) and a Jugendstil house on the corner of Stationsweg and Lange West.

Around Torenstraat you will find a number of houses designed by municipal architect Cees Rienks de Boer, the woodwork of which is painted after a design by Theo van Doesburg from 1921. Because of the primary colors that Van Doesburg prescribed, the district is called the Papegaaienbuurt.

To steer the explosive growth in the 1950s on the right track, the municipality of Smallingerland hired the architectural firm Van den Broek en Bakema, which also has the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam to its name. They have designed the shopping and pedestrian area of ​​the town (the most centrally located parts of De Kaden, Moleneind, Zuiderbuurt and Stationsweg) following the example of the Lijnbaan and are also responsible for the "Tjaardaflats", three residential flats of thirteen floors on the eastern edge of Drachten (where the Splitting used to enter Drachten) to give Drachten a more urban look.

The water tower, also from the 1950s, has been nominated as a national monument. Drachten has 24 national monuments and 37 municipal monuments.

In the 1990s, the city council decided that this urban appearance did not suit Drachten and the pedestrian area was renovated. The most striking change of that time is the Carillon at the central intersection of the shopping promenades. At the beginning of 2012, construction began on the new shopping center Raadhuisplein. The new central square, which belongs to the shopping center, has also been used as a city square.

Nowadays there is talk of the Drachtstervaart, which was located on the Moleneind, filled in in the 1960s, and extended to the center again. In preparation for the construction, artist Henk Hofstra designed a symbolic blue road measuring ten by a thousand meters. The text Water is life appears in white, which is also the title of the artwork. This led to a lot of protest from local residents, because they were not or hardly informed about this in advance. The temporary project also costs the municipality an amount of 37,500 euros. However, the blue road did generate a number of reports in the national and international press for Drachten.

In the spring of 2006, two unique bicycle bridges were opened in Drachten:
The Ring is a bicycle bridge over the A7 motorway and is a joint project of the municipalities of Smallingerland and Opsterland.
The Slinger is a bicycle bridge over the Zuiderhogeweg from the Overstesingel to the Eikesingel. With a total length of 240 meters, it is the largest bicycle bridge in the Northern Netherlands. The bridge is built above a roundabout and these two together ensure a good flow of traffic. Before the roundabout was built, cyclists and pedestrians had to cross the intersection via a crossing with traffic lights. This resulted in a lot of traffic jams, because the intersection is near the exit of the motorway. The bridge itself is quite steep, which causes some problems for the elderly and children. A viewing platform has been placed in the middle of the bridge, from which you can look down on other traffic. There is a fence with bars around the plateau. Above it is a large cone that makes the total height of the bridge 30 meters. In the evening the entire bicycle bridge is illuminated.