—  Municipality  —


Coat of arms
Coordinates: 51°49′N 4°40′E / 51.81°N 4.67°E / 51.81; 4.67Coordinates: 51°49′N 4°40′E / 51.81°N 4.67°E / 51.81; 4.67
Country Netherlands
Province South Holland
 – Total 99.45 km2 (38.4 sq mi)
 – Land 79.53 km2 (30.7 sq mi)
 – Water 19.92 km2 (7.7 sq mi)
Population (30 November 2009)
 – Total 118,601
 – Density 1,491/km2 (3,861.7/sq mi)
  Source: CBS, Statline.
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 – Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Satellite image of part of the Rhine-Meuse delta, showing the Island of Dordrecht and the eponymous city (7)

Dordrecht (About this sound pronunciation ), colloquially Dordt, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009. The municipality covers the entire Dordrecht Island, also often called Het Eiland van Dordt (the Island of Dordt), bordered by the rivers Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, Nieuwe Merwede, Hollands Diep, and Dordtsche Kil. Dordrecht is the largest and most important city in the Drechtsteden and is also part of the Randstad, the main conurbation in the Netherlands. Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland and has a rich history and culture.



The name Dordrecht comes from Thyre, the name of a river, and Middle Dutch drecht "ford", meaning "Thure river crossing". Some documentation speaks of the river actually being called Thuredrith. Inhabitants of Dordrecht are Dordtenaren (singular: Dordtenaar). Dordrecht is informally called Dordt by its inhabitants.


Early History

The city was formed along the Thure river, in the midst of peat swamps. This river was a branch of the river Dubbel and ran approximately near the current Bagijnhof. Around 1120 the first reference to Dordrecht was made by a remark that count Dirk IV was murdered 1049 near "Thuredrech".

View of Dordrecht, by Aelbert Cuyp.

Dordrecht was granted city rights by William I, Count of Holland, in 1220, making it the oldest city in the historical region of Holland. In fact, Geertruidenberg was the first city in Holland to receive city rights, but this municipality currently is part of Noord-Brabant.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dordrecht developed into an important market city because of its strategic location. It traded primarily in wine, wood and cereals. Dordrecht was made even more important when it was given staple right in 1299.

In 1253 a Latin school was founded in Dordrecht. It still exists today as the Johan de Witt Gymnasium and is the oldest gymnasium in the Netherlands. From 1600 to 1615 Gerhard Johann Vossius was rector at this school.

On 17 April 1421, the Saint Elisabeth's flood flooded large parts of southern Holland, causing Dordrecht to become an island. Over 100,000 people died in the flood.

Union of Dordrecht

Dordrecht around 1565, by Jacob van Deventer

In 1572, four years into the Dutch Revolt, representatives of all the cities of Holland, with the exception of Amsterdam, as well as the Watergeuzen, represented by William II de la Marck, gathered in Dordrecht to hold the Eerste Vrije Statenvergadering ("First Assembly of the Free States"), also known as the Unie van Dordrecht ("Union of Dordrecht"). This secret meeting, called by the city of Dordrecht, was a rebellious act since only King Philip II or his stadtholder, at that time the Duke of Alva, were allowed to call a meeting of the states.

During the meeting, the organization and financing of the rebellion against the Spanish occupation was discussed, Phillip II was unanimously denounced and William of Orange was chosen as the new stadtholder and recognized as the official leader of the revolt. Orange was promised financial support of his struggle against the Spanish and at his own request, freedom of religion was declared in all of Holland.

The gathering is regarded as the first important step towards the free and independent Dutch Republic.[1] Other gatherings such as the Union of Brussels (1577) and the Union of Utrecht (1579) paved the way for official independence of the Netherlands, declared in the Act of Abjuration in 1581.

The Union of Dordrecht was held in an Augustinian monastery, nowadays simply called het Hof ("the Court"). The room in which the meeting was held is called de Statenzaal ("The Hall of States") and features a stained glass window in which the coats of arms of the twelve cities that were present at the meeting can be seen.

Synod of Dordrecht

The Synod of Dordrecht 1618/19

In 1618/1619, an important religious meeting took place in Dordrecht, called the Synod of Dordrecht. It settled a theological dispute between the orthodox Calvinists and the liberal Arminians that had brought the country on the brink of civil war. The Arminians were defeated, resulting in the formulation of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith.

The Patriots movement

From 1780 to 1787, Dordrecht was home to the Patriots faction which intended to remove the hereditary Stadtholder position held by the House of Orange-Nassau. The Netherlands was after all a republic de jure. Soon after, more cities followed and William V fled from Holland. But his brother-in-law, King Frederick William II of Prussia, came to the aid of William V and on 18 September 1787, Dordrecht capitulated to Prussian troops. The Patriots were defeated and Willem V was restored in his position as Stadtholder.

Modern history

The Japanese battleship Kaiyō Maru was launched at Dordrecht in 1865. She was the largest wooden warship ever launched from a Dutch yard.

In the 18th century, the importance of Dordrecht began to wane, and Rotterdam became the main city in the region. Yet throughout the centuries, Dordrecht held a key position in the defense of Holland. It hosted an army division well into the 20th century. During the mobilization of August 1939, infantry and artillery were sent to Dordrecht to defend the island.When the Germans invaded the Netherlands on the 10th of May 1940 German paratroopers landed in Dordrecht. After fierce fighting they overtook the bridges Dordrecht-Moerdijk and Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht.Many buildings in Dordrecht were destroyed.

At the end of the Second World War, during the winter of 1944–45, Dordrecht and its surroundings were in the middle between the opposing armies. The border between occupied and liberated regions ran along the Hollands Diep.Dordrecht was finally liberated by the Canadian Army

In 1970, the municipality Dubbeldam (then ca. 10,000 inhabitants) and the southern part of the municipality of Sliedrecht were incorporated into Dordrecht, making Dordrecht Island one municipality.


Dordrecht is divided into 27 districts, neighbourhoods and hamlets:

Plan of Dordrecht from 1868.
  • Binnenstad (“city centre”, district 1)
  • Reeland (district 2)
  • De Staart (district 3)
  • Oud-Krispijn (district 4)
  • Stadspolders (district 5)
  • Wielwijk (district 6)
  • Crabbehof, Zuidhoven (district 7)
  • Sterrenburg (district 8)
  • Dubbeldam (former village, now district 9)
  • Kop van 't Land (hamlet)
  • Tweede Tol (hamlet)
  • Wieldrecht (hamlet)
  • Willemsdorp (hamlet)
  • Noordflank
  • Nieuw-Krispijn
  • Bleyenhoek
  • Land van Valk
  • Oudelandshoek
  • Zeehavenlaan
  • Lijnbaan
  • Klein Dubbeldam
  • De Hoven
  • Zuidpolder
  • Transvaalbuurt
  • Indische buurt
  • Vogelbuurt
  • Van Gogh-buurt


In 2008, around 17% of the population of Dordrecht was of non-Western origin. Between 2005 and 2008, this number has not changed. The allochthonous population consists for a large part of young people while the indigenous population has started to age very quickly. Over six thousand Turks live in Dordrecht, many of whom are originally from Kayapinar.

According to the Social Geographical Office of Dordrecht, the population consisted of the following ethnic groups in 2005[2] and 2008;[3]

Population of Dordrecht
Ethnic group 01-01-2005 01-01-2008
Native Dutch 86.594 86.611
Western allochtonen 11.610 11.580
Turks 6.113 6.326
Moroccans 2.521 2.611
Surinameses 2.759 2.796
Netherlands Antilleans 3.199 3.037
Other non-Western allochtonen 6.528 5.226
Total 119.324 118.187


Because of its long and important role in Dutch history, Dordrecht has a rich culture. The medieval city centre is home to over 950 monuments.[4] The city also houses 7 churches and 6 museums in a relatively small area and hosts many festivals and events every year.

Places of interest

The Grote Kerk and one of the many canals (New Harbor)
  • The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Kerk ('Our Dear Lady Church') or simply the Grote Kerk ('Big Church') was built between 1285 and 1470. The 65-meter tower contains a carillon with 67 bells including one weighing 9830 kilos, making it the heaviest bell in the Netherlands.
  • The Augustijnenkerk ('Church of the Augustins') was built around 1293 and is currently owned by the Dutch Reformed Church. The church includes the Augustinian Monastery het Hof ('the Court') which was built in 1275 and was the location of the First Assembly of the Free States.
  • The Nieuwkerk ('New Church') was built in 1175 and is, ironically considering its name, the oldest building in Dordrecht.
  • The Munt van Holland ('Mint of Holland'), mint built in 1366. The majority of the coins used in the region of Holland in the Middle Ages were struck here. Nowadays, the building houses a music school.
  • Kyck over den Dyck ('View over the Dike'), the last windmill in Dordrecht. It was built in 1612 and used to produce malt that was used by Dordts beer brewers.
  • The Groothoofdspoort ('Big Head's Gate') is the original city gate of Dordrecht, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is situated at the point where the rivers the Meuse, the Merwede, and the Rhine meet.
  • Arend Maartenshof (Arend Maarten's Court), built in 1625.
  • Stadhuis city hall, built in 1383.
  • Statue of Ary Scheffer (1861), by Joseph Mezzara.
  • Statue of Johan and Cornelis de Witt (1918), by Toon Depuis.
  • River quay.
  • Canals.
  • Merchant houses.


The following museums are located in Dordrecht:

  • Dordrechts Museum, informally called Schilderijenmuseum (the paintings museum). Every summer, its garden, known as de Museumtuin, (the Museum garden), hosts the showing of several art house films that gained significant attention in the previous year. Re-opened in late 2010 after an extensive renovation.
  • Simon van Gijnmuseum, named after honorary citizen Simon van Gijn and winner of the museum prize 2004–2005, awarded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.
  • Nationaal Landschapskundig Museum, (National Museum of Landscaping)
  • Lips Slotenmuseum, (Lips Museum of Locks) The museum has closed down and it is not known when or indeed if the inventory will be on display again.
  • Museum 1940–1945, also known as het Verzetsmuseum (the Resistance museum).
  • Naaimachinemuseum Dordrecht, (Museum of Sewing machines Dordrecht)

Events and festivals

Dordrecht hosts around 20 cultural and historical events and festivals each year. The city won the title of "Best events city of the year" in 2003[5] and was nominated for the same title in 2004 and 2005.[6][7]

Dordt in Stoom (literally: Dordt in steam) is the biggest steam event in Europe during which historical steam trains, steam boats etc. can be seen in action. It is organized every year and attracts a quarter of a million visitors.[8] Attention is also paid to Dordrecht’s art and architecture during Kunstrondje Dordt (literally: Little art circle Dordt) and Dordt Monumenteel (Dordt Monumental), which attracts around 100.000 visitors ever year.

Dordrecht hosts the second largest book market[9] and the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands.[10]

Wantijfestival is an out-doors music festival that has been held annually in the second week of June since 1995. It takes place in the Wantij park and attracts around 35.000 people each year.[11] Wantij park also hosts the Wantijconcerten (Wantij concerts) that are held every Monday night in July and August. Other popular music festivals held in Dordrecht are the World Jazz dagen (World Jazz days) held annually in August or September, the Dancetour or Boulevard of Dance, which takes place on Queensday, Big Rivers Festival, a film, music, poetry and theatre festival held in June, and the Cello festival, held every four years in the weekend of the Ascension.

Dordrecht’s annual fun fair is among the highest-ranked in the Netherlands and the International Puppet festival, held in June, includes performances from artists from all over the world, including Italy, Germany, Taiwan, Israel and the US.[12]


During Carnaval, Dordrecht is called Ooi- en Ramsgat (Ewe's and Ram's hole), and its inhabitants are Schapenkoppen (Sheepheads). This name originates from an old folk story. Import of meat or cattle was taxed in the 17th century. To avoid having to pay, two men dressed up a sheep they had bought outside the city walls, attempting to disguise it as a man. The sheep was discovered because it bleated as the three men (two men and one sheep) passed through the city wall gate. There is a special monument of a man and his son trying to hold a sheep disguised as a man between them, that refers to this legend. The logo of Dordrecht’s professional football club FC Dordrecht includes the head of a ram and its supporters are known to sing Wij zijn de Dordtse schapenkoppen (we are the Dorsts sheep heads) during matches. There is also a cookie called Schapenkop (sheep head) which is a specialty of Dordrecht.

There are many more legends about Dordrecht. One of them is about Saint Sura, a young woman who planned on building an entire church with only three coins in her purse. She was murdered because of her supposed wealth.

Another legend is about the house called de Onbeschaamde (the Unembarrassed). It is about the three brothers Van Beveren who each wanted to build a house and decided to hold a bet on who dared to place the most risky statue on their façade. One of the brothers, Abraham van Beveren, placed a naked little boy on his façade. However, the house that supposedly won has an empty façade today because, according to the story, the statue was so risky that it was removed.

A well known saying about Dordrecht is Hoe dichter bij Dordt, hoe rotter het wordt (the closer to Dordrecht, the more rotten it gets). The previous mayor Noorland added to that; maar ben je er eenmaal in, dan heb je het prima naar je zin (but once you’re in it, you’re perfectly content). The saying can probably be explained as follows; traffic used to go by water and whoever came close to Dordrecht was obliged, according to staple right, to display their merchandise for a couple of days before being allowed to sail on. This caused loss of time and caused products to become rotten. Another explanation is derived from Bommel is rommel, bij Tiel is niet viel en hoe dichter bij Dordt hoe rotter het wordt which is supposed to be said by farmers describing the bad quality of the land close to the rivers Maas and Waal, only suitable for harvesting reed.


The Sliedrechtse Biesbosch, east of Dordrecht, and the Dordtse Biesbosch, south of Dordrecht, together form the Hollandse Biesbosch which is a part of the national park the Biesbosch, one of the largest national parks in the Netherlands and one of the last freshwater tide areas in Europe. The Dordtse Biesbosch has several recreational areas that are used for walking, rowing and swimming.


Dordts is a dialect of Dutch traditionally spoken by the working class of Dordrecht. It is categorized under the Hollandic accents but also has characteristics of Zeelandic and Brabantian.

Typical features of Dordts are:

  • Using the diminutive suffix -ie or -tie in cases where standard Dutch uses -je. (e.g. Standard Dutch: appeltje (“little apple”) Dordts: appeltie)
  • Words borrowed from Brabantian such as akkerdere (“lit. to knock or to fit, fig. “to get along”)
  • The Dutch diphthongs ei and ui tend to be pronounced more like èè and öö. Recently, the ei-sound has started to be pronounced more like ai.

In the 20th century, Dordts has slowly started to disappear as more and more people have started speaking standard Dutch. The strongest Dorts dialect is nowadays found in the working class neighborhoods bordering the city centre.


On 14 November 1992 and again on 12 November 2011, the arrival of the popular holiday figure Sinterklaas was held in Dordrecht and broadcasted on national television.


Harbor area of Dordrecht, seen from the Leeuwenhoekweg

The current economy of Dordrecht is based on ship building, wood industry, and steel industry. The city has the sixth largest sea port in the Netherlands. One of the largest employers on Dordrecht Island is DuPont de Nemours (Nederland) B.V. It has 9 factories here with a workforce of 900 people.

Together with Zwijndrecht, Papendrecht, and Sliedrecht (the "Drecht Cities"), Dordrecht is planning a new ambitious vision to revitalize the region's economy, moving from industry to more business services.

In development are the "Learning" and "Health" Business Parks. The Learning Park is intended to have 60,000 m2 (645,834.63 sq ft) of space for educational institutions. In the Health Park, a wide range of health services will be located, with the Dordwijk Campus of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital as focal point. Other services include a blood bank, pharmacy, and mental health clinic.

Near the Health Park a new Sport Park will be built. A new large sport centre, the equivalent size of 3 soccer fields, is planned complete with gyms, skating rink, and a pool. Next to this Sport Park, a huge outdoor event terrain will be established.


Shopping in the centre of Dordrecht is centred around the Voorstraat, the Sarisgang and the Statenplein (Staten square). The Voorstraat is 1200 meter long, making it the longest shopping street in the Netherlands.[13] Markets are held every Friday and Saturday on the Statenplein and in the Sarisgang and on Tuesday in Dubbeldam.

Government and politics

College van B&W

In February 2010,[14] the College van Burgemeester en Wethouders ('Board of Mayor and Aldermen') in Dordrecht consisted of the following:

  • A.A.M. (Arno) Brok, mayor since 02-03-2010.
  • J.W. Spigt, alderman since 12-23-2008.
  • A.T. Kamsteeg, alderman since 12-23-2008.
  • F.J. van den Oever, alderman since 02-17-2009.
  • D.A. van Steensel, alderman since 02-17-2009.
  • J.H. Lagendijk, alderman since 02-17-2009.

Local election

The results of the Dutch municipal elections, 2006 in Dordrecht were as follows;

Dutch municipal elections of 2006
Party Votes in % Seats in City council
PvdA 29.4 12
VVD 15.1 6
BV Dordt 14.9 6
CDA 10.5 4
ChristenUnie-SGP 8.5 3
GroenLinks 7.3 3
VSP 6.8 2
D66 2.9 1
Turnout 48.6 39

Partner cities

Partner cities of Dordrecht are:

Public transport

Water bus to Rotterdam

Dordrecht is well connected to the Dutch railroad system, and has several international connections. There are three railway stations; Dordrecht railway station, Zuid railway station and Stadspolders railway station. The train system hosts:

Four trainlines

The four operating trainlines serve three railway stations within the city boundaries (Dordrecht, Dordrecht Zuid, Dordrecht Stadspolders)

Main connections

  • Arriva, the city bus company of Dordrecht, also serving Werkendam, and also operating the Kop van 't Land ferry on the way

Famous people from Dordrecht

See also People from Dordrecht
  • Beatrix the Rich (b. 1420/21?) – an orphan found after the St. Elizabeth's flood whose education was paid for by the city and who became ancestor of many people of Dordrecht
  • Hendrik Speuy (1575–1625) - organist and composer
  • Simon "the Danser" Simonszoon (1577–1611) – privateer and pirate
  • Gerhard Johann Vossius (1577–1649) – scholar and theologian
  • Jacob Cats (1577–1660) – stipendiary magistrate of Dordrecht and Grand Pensionary of Holland
  • Mathias Balen (1611–1691) – writer, famous for Beschryving der Stad Dordrecht ("Description of City Dordrecht") from 1676
  • Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691) – painter, famous for his landscapes
  • Cornelis de Witt (1623–1672) – statesman and brother of Johan de Witt
  • Johan de Witt (1625–1672) – Grand Pensionary and brother of Cornelis de Witt
  • Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten (1627–1678) – painter, poet, and composer
  • Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719) – painter and writer
  • François Valentijn (1666–1727) – dominie and writer, famous for Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën ("Old and New East-India"), a book about the history of the Dutch East India Company and the countries of the Far East
  • Aart Schouman (1710–1792) – painter and engraver
  • Johannes Immerzeel Jr. (1776–1841) – writer and poet
  • Jan Schouten (1786–1852) – master ship builder, freemason, and poet
  • Ary Scheffer (1795–1858) – painter
  • Simon van Gijn (1836–1922) – banker and collector, whose home is now a museum in Dordrecht
  • Cornélie van Zanten (1855–1946) – opera singer, author, and teacher
  • Karel Lotsy (1893–1959) – sport leader, especially of the Netherlands national football team
  • Marinus Vertregt (1897–1973) – astronomer
  • Peter Hurkos (1911–1988) – popular entertainer known for performing psychic feats
  • Kees Buddingh' (1918–1985) – poet and writer
  • Jan Eijkelboom (1926–2008) – journalist, poet, and writer
  • Willy Batenburg (1926–2000) – folk singer
  • Ad Scheepbouwer (1944) – chairman of the board of KPN

Honorary citizens of Dordrecht

  • Simon Marinus Hugo van Gijn (1848–1937), since 1926 – member of House of Representatives
  • Dr. Theodoor Stoop
  • Top Naeff (1878–1953) – writer
  • Kees Buddingh', since 1978
  • Jan Eijkelboom, since 2001

Image gallery



External links

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