The turbulent history of Zierikzee is reflected in the 568 registered national monuments in this city, and in the medieval street pattern of the center. The narrow streets are as tortuous as they were five hundred years ago. The large merchant houses along the Havenpark and the Oude Haven indicate that there was once a Golden Age.
Notable buildings are the Sint Lievensmonstertoren (popularly called the Toren), the Nieuwe Kerk, the Gasthuiskerk met de Beuze and the Lutheran church, the three city gates, the former town hall (now a museum), the Burgerweeshuis and the Gravensteen. You can not miss these buildings when you walk through the streets. You will also see large, beautiful merchant houses next to small, old houses.
Zierikzee was once strategically located on the Gouwe, an important sailing route between Flanders and Holland. That location also caused a lot of battle for the city. Zierikzee received city rights and the surrounding area in 1248. The heyday started in the 14th century with growing international trade contacts. Ships from Zierikzee sail to both the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. The city had a monopoly position for the cloth industry, grain and madder (red dye), was renowned for its salt and the technical knowledge of its shipbuilders. At the end of this century, Zierikzee had approximately 5,500 inhabitants; only Haarlem and Dordrecht were bigger. The church, destroyed by fire in 1832, was the largest in Zeeland. The decline started at the end of the 15th century through a multitude of events. Trade flows shifted, a precipitated rebellion against tax increases, major urban fires, the silting up of the Gouwe and sieges of Spaniards, it was not easy for Zierikzee.
Between 1597 and 1599, the city council dug the Havenkanaal to maintain access to the sea. It worked, but it was a stay of execution. In the French period (1795-1813) Zierikzee lost the connection with modern life, the industrial revolution largely passed this town. The fact that Zierikzee still has so many monuments, including (unique for the Netherlands) three city gates, is the result of this development. The city did not need new buildings, building materials or wide streets for the growing traffic. And so there was little or no demolition. Only in the second half of the twentieth century was structural new construction committed, partly on the grounds of city farms and former monasteries, partly outside the city moat (first Malta, later also the districts of Poortambacht and Noorderpolder).
Where the historic buildings in the city center are still standing proudly after centuries of use, the new construction from the 1950s is once again undergoing a major renovation. Extensive information about Zierikzee then and now can be found at Zierikzee Monuments City. The VVV Schouwen-Duiveland sells city walks. In the summer season you can also discover the facts of the city under the guidance of a guide.