Attack and defence

Are you interested in the past of the country that you’re visiting, and its military history in particular? Do you like to visit fortresses, war memorials and battlefields while on holiday? The Defence Line of Amsterdam brings war stories to life and lets you delve into Dutch military history.
© Saskia Bekke

The Defence Line of Amsterdam

A remarkable defensive ring made up of 46 forts and batteries as well as a multitude of dikes and sluices encircles the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. It’s the Defence Line (or ‘Stelling’) of Amsterdam. An extraordinary monument of Dutch military history, the Defence Line is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Defence Line also showcases the Dutch genius for hydraulic engineering: the possibility for flooding the land lies at the heart of this defensive system that is characterized by ingenious logistics. During World War I, about 10,000 soldiers manned the Defence Line of Amsterdam. However, they never came face to face with the enemy. The forts then remained abandoned up until World War II, when the ‘Stelling’ was brought back to its defensive glory. It didn’t witness any actual battle, though.
After the liberation of Holland by the allied forces in 1945, some of the forts were put to use as prisons. During the Corld War the buildings mostly served as storage facilities. By now, many of the forts and batteries have been given another purpose.

A historic day out at the Defence Line

The Defense Line of Amsterdam is perfectly suited for a historic day out. You can visit fortresses and batteries and walk on or around dikes and sluices that are part of this ring of defence. Visiting a Defence Line structure, you can choose to take a guided tour, view temporary or permanent exhibitions, listen to war stories or soak up a bit of Dutch history while relaxing in one of the cafés and restaurants that the ‘Stelling’ has to offer. During the festival ‘Op de Bres’ in the Whitsun (Pentecost) period and the ‘Stellingmaand’ (Defence Line Month) in September, some of the forts that are normally closed will open their doors to the public.

Other things to do

  • You can embark on beautiful hiking and biking tours in the surroundings of the Defence Line of Amsterdam,
  • A visit to the various Defence Line forts is easy to combine with a trip to Amsterdam or picturesque Dutch towns and villages,
  • The ‘Stelling’ is situated in an area abounding with water and can be explored by canoe,
  • Combine a visit to the Defense Line with other touristic day trips, to the flower auction in Aalsmeer or the windmills of the Zaanse Schans for instance.
to top