Not far from Sneek you will find IJlst/Drylts. IJlst was founded around the year 1000 with the building of the Ylostins (a noble house). IJlst was granted city rights as early as 1268, making it the fourth largest city in Friesland. IJlst developed into an important trading center and the rich past is still visible in the old part of the city. The historic center is crossed by canals with so-called overtuinen (gardens divided by the water) on both sides, old lime trees and beautiful historic buildings.
Trade in IJlst was primarily centered around wood and shipbuilding. IJlst was also the cradle of the Frisian wooden strap-on skates. They were made in the Frisia skate factory and by the Nooitgedagt family. When the Frisian wooden skates became less popular, the family turned to the production of wooden tools and wooden toys.
Today IJlst is a small town with only 3,200 inhabitants. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to do. Water sports play an important role here, but there is also much to learn about the history of woodworking and shipbuilding.
Need a stamp?
You can get your stamp for IJlst at the Utherne restaurant. It is a real meeting place for young and old, locals or tourists. Take a seat on the beautiful sun terrace and enjoy the splashing water of the flower fountain, which you can see from the terrace. There are delicious dishes and plenty of loaded baguettes. Also available for takeaway or delivery.
During low season, the opening hours are (due to covid restrictions they can vary, so have a look at the website for the current opening hours):
Wednesday 11 AM – 6 PM
Thursday 2 PM – 8 PM
Friday 11 AM – 8 PM
Saturday 8:30 AM – 8 PM
Sunday 5 PM – 7:30 PM
You can stamp every day at Utherne. If you want to stamp on Monday or Tuesday afternoon, you can do so at the Tourist information in IJlst. See the opening hours on the website.
What to do in IJlst?
Despite its modest size, IJlst is definitely a city worth visiting. We have listed the best things to do in IJlst for you!
As in all eleven cities, a fountain was also constructed in IJlst in 2018. The name of the fountain in IJlst is ‘Immortal Flowers – Rikka’. The fountain was created by the Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki. In the fountain, the history of IJlst is combined with the Japanese art of flowers, Ikebana. The fountain symbolizes the eternal connection between man, culture and nature. Combine a visit to the fountain with the 11 fountains walking tour. This takes you past all the highlights of IJlst and the open-air exhibition Schepenfries which tells the story of IJlst.
2. Molen de Rat (Windmill the rat)
IJlst used to be a real town of wood. The wood came to IJlst and was sawn there to be used for all kinds of purposes. The sawing was first done with the water mill, later with steam and then with electricity.
Molen de Rat still reminds us of former times. The mill was used for sawing wood. It was originally located in the Zaanstreek, where it eventually came to a standstill. The mayor of IJlst, Mr. Ringnalda, bought the mill and had it moved to IJlst. Later the mill was taken over by Oppedijk and S.O. de Vries. The mill was in operation until 1950. After that it was threatened with demolition, but the municipality of IJlst decided to prevent this. The mill is now a state monument and property of the municipality of Súdwest Fryslân. It has been restored and, since 1977, it is used for sawing wood again . When you visit the mill, you can see for yourself how it is done. The logs that have been lying in the water in front of the mill for a year are dragged in and sawn with wind power. A spectacular scene!
The sawmill is managed and operated by Stichting Houtzaagmolen De Rat (Sawmill Foundation). The mill is open all around the year on Saturdays from 9:00 to 17:00.
In the period from May 1 to September 30 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it is also open from 9:00 to 17:00. The entrance fee for adults is 2,00 € p.p. and for children 1,50 € p.p.
3. Museum and workshop Houtstad IJlst
Besides sawing wood, the people in IJlst also made wooden products. In IJlst they also made wooden ships, known as Koggen (cogs). For the winter months when the only way to get around on the water was with ice skates, there were the wooden Frisian skates of the Nooitgedagt family, better known in Friesland as ‘houtsjes’. Many Dutch people learned to skate on a pair of so-called ‘houtsjes’ from IJlst! If you want to learn even more about wood production in IJlst, visit the museum and workshop Houtstad IJlst. The windmill De Rat is also located near this workshop.
4. Boat trip
Near the museum and mill is the Houten Bok, a replica of a wooden boat that was made and used in IJlst. You can take the Houten Bok on a trip through and around IJlst. You can sign up for this at the tourist office at Geeuwkade 4.
On both sides of the Ee in IJlst you will find so-called Overtuinen (gardens separated from the water). These gardens were formerly used for drying and bleaching white laundry. For the residents of the canal, these gardens were located on the other side of the street, hence the name (overgardens). Nowadays, white laundry is no longer bleached in this way, but the gardens of IJlst have been preserved. The gardens belong to the municipality, but are used and maintained by the residents of IJlst. On the first Saturday in June, the “Overtuinenfair” (a cozy market) is also held here.
6. Walking and cycling
Of course, the surroundings of IJlst are also perfect for nice walks and bike rides. Besides the walking trail along the fountain, there is also an adventure trail through the city. The Dutch writer and poet Teerdze Holtrop takes you on this walk to important places of his youth. At the tourist office, the VVV, you can also book a guided walking tour through the city.
Two beautiful cycling routes around the city are the “Rondje IJlst”, which goes along the surrounding villages (52 km), and the “Vierstedentocht”, which goes directly through the fields along four of the Frisian Eleven Towns. This route is 100 km long, but you can also skip a town.
7. Rent a boat
You can easily rent a boat in IJlst t and discover Friesland from the water. You can of course choose a boat with a motor, but you can also paddle or sail yourself! The Reidmarroute takes you through a landscape with endless views, farms and quiet hamlets. From the Frisian lakes you can easily reach Bolsward or IJlst. Would you prefer to take a boat trip with the help of a motor? Then pay close attention. This route is an electric-only route.