Harlingen, Netherlands


Harlingen (Westerlauwers Frisian: Harns) is a city in the Dutch province of Friesland and the capital of the municipality of the same name. It is located west of Franeker and north of the Afsluitdijk on the Wadden Sea. Harlingen belongs to the Frisian eleven cities. In 2020 the city had 14,740 inhabitants. It is the fifth largest city in Friesland. The city also includes the hamlets of IJslumburen, Koetille, Koningsbuurt, Luidum and Ungabuurt.

The port of Harlingen is the most important port in the province.



Origin and city rights

Around 1157 Eilwardus Ludinga founded the monastery Ludingakerke in the village of Almenum. The monks dug canals to facilitate trade. This made Ludingakerk one of the richest monasteries in Friesland. The neighborhood west of Almenum, Harlingen, became so important that it received city rights in 1234. This makes Harlingen as a city older than, for example, Leeuwarden, Dokkum, Franeker or Amsterdam. Northwest of Harlingen at that time still lay the city of Griend with gates, canals and even a college. Today Griend is only a sandbar in the Wadden Sea. The name Harlingen probably comes from the state of Harlinga. In 1311 "Harlingen" appeared in English port registers. In 1579, envoys from the city signed the Union of Utrecht and on December 22, 1634, Harlingen received his patent from the States of Friesland for Groenlandsch and Strait Daevids fishing (whaling).

Harlingen has existed for two centuries, located on a bogtigen corner of the coast, in the shadow of the university town of Franeker. But prosperity steadily increased due to the connection with the sea. The city used to be more westerly than today, but the sea regularly washed away land. In 1543 and 1565 they expanded in a northerly direction, so that the Noorderhaven became the Binnenhaven, which it still is today. On the afternoon of 17 May 1568, to the surprise of the Harlingen, 1800 Walloon soldiers were put ashore, who were later defeated in the battle of Heiligerlee.

After the storm surge in the summer of 1573, parts of the dyke to the north and south of Harlingen inland had to be newly constructed. The Spanish colonel Caspar de Robles regularly extorted money from the population for the wages of his soldiers. In 1574, now stadholder, he was slow to provide food for the dyke workers and there was also a threat of famine for the citizens of the city. Moreover, they were not allowed to leave the city on pain of forfeiting their property. The planned dike height of 12 feet got stuck at 10 feet.

In 1579, an expansion to the east followed, partly due to the influx of Flemish Mennonites who fled the Catholic repression in the Southern Netherlands. Due to this extension, which was completed in three months, the church of Almenum was now within the city fortresses. Trade to the countries around the North Sea and Baltic Sea increased and in 1598 the city was expanded again, now in a southerly direction. In 1596, the oldest surviving stone house was built, De Vergulde Engel, on Lanen 28. The building can be visited every year on Monument Day.


In 1644 the Frisian Admiralty of Dokkum came to Harlingen. The Zuiderhaven was given the character of a naval port. The renowned Tjerk Hiddes de Vries later becomes Lieutenant Admiral. However, military shipping remained of less importance than commercial shipping. Numerous skippers maintained barge trips to the Wadden Islands, to all corners of the province and to the Zuiderzee ports, of which Amsterdam was the most important. The city had a lot of industry. There were shipyards, beer breweries, soap and salt works, stone and potteries, lime kilns, grain and saw mills. But as was already the case with the Hanseatic cities on what was then the Zuiderzee, Harlingen was surpassed by Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the following centuries. Nevertheless, as a coastal shipping and fishing port with many amenities and the newly dug Van Harinxma Canal, Harlingen remained of great economic importance to Friesland and the rest of the Netherlands.

Orange visits
Harlingen has been visited several times by the stadholder and later the royal family. The first visit was from William of Orange.