From Dalfsen to Ommen: A Day in the Overijsselse Vecht Valley

Vecht river with grassy banks on either side, and two flags in front of a small wooden shed on the right bank

Look, I know I talk a lot of shit about living out here in the Dutch countryside — but there are some definite upsides.

For starters, there are places like this: the valley along the Overijsselse Vecht river (an area called the “Vechtdal” in Dutch). The Vecht river valley spans more than 200 kilometers across the Netherlands and Germany; and while I can’t speak to the German side yet, I can tell you the Dutch one is filled with wide green meadows, small secluded forests, old-fashioned windmills, tucked-away castles, cute cosy hamlets, and much more.

So, what are you waiting for?

If you answered “for someone to tell me exactly where to go,” then you’re in luck, cause…that’s kind of why I made this blog.

Quick note: This is the Vecht river found in the province of Overijssel, not to be confused with the Vecht river found in the province of Utrecht. Isn’t the Netherlands fun?

The Overijsselse Vecht Valley

Though there are plenty of spots to see along the Vecht, I’m going to focus this post primarily on two places: Dalfsen and Ommen, which are situated close enough to each other to easily visit in a single day.

If possible, I would suggest traveling the Vecht valley by either car or bicycle, to really get the “full effect.” If not, you can also take the train; there are stations in both Ommen and Dalfsen, and the journey between them takes less than 10 minutes. (Be aware that both stations are about 1 to 1.5 km outside of their respective town centers.)

Dalfsen

Dalfsen is one of the only settlements along the Vecht to never have recieved city rights, so we’re allowed to call it what it really is: a village.

Church tower and buildings of Dalfsen, along the bank of the Vecht river

Dalfsen is home to about 7,000 residents, as well as more than 120 national heritage sites (“rijksmonumenten”). Like many places in the Netherlands, its creaky old buildings are mixed with little touches of modernity; and like many places around here, it’s got a rather weird-looking town hall. (The one in my municipality was even voted ugliest building in the Netherlands a few years back. So, yeah: get in line, Dalfsen.)

On nice days, people sail their boats down the river and under the blue bridge (creatively called the “Vechtbrug” in Dutch), while cows graze on the riverbanks. A short boardwalk leads along the water from the itty-bitty harbor to the shops and cafes in the town center.

Other notable spots include the Westermolen, a 200-year old windmill, and the Great Church, or “Grote Kerk,” whose tower rises higher than any other building in town.

Looking down the Vecht river with a blue-arched bridge and house off in the distance -- Dalfsen, the Netherlands

Church clock tower surrounded by trees in Dalfsen's town center

Buildings, boats, and trees along the Overijsselse Vecht river in the Netherlands

Speaking of which: if you want to look over Dalfsen and the Vechtdal from above, head along the Welsummerweg to the Vechtdal viewing tower (“uitkijktoren”). Here, you can climb 20 meters of steps for a sweeping view of the valley below.

Rechteren Castle and Vilsteren

From Dalfsen, drivers have two options to get to Ommen: via the N340 (slightly faster) or via Vilsteren (much more scenic, and the route I would recommend taking).

The road via Vilsteren is narrow and quiet, with the cycling path running alongside. Shortly after leaving Dalfsen, you’ll come to Rechteren Castle (“Kasteel Rechteren”), which — though it’s kind of hard to tell from this angle — sits on its own little island on the river.

Outside view of Rechteren Castle, partly concealed by trees

Rechteren is the only remaining castle in Overijssel from the Middle Ages, having originally been constructed in 1190 — though of course, it’s been renovated multiple times since then. Its proximity to Dalfsen is actually the main reason the village has never received city rights.

The castle isn’t open to the public, so you’ll have to be content with exterior views. There’s not really anywhere to stand except on the cycling path, so if you stop to look or take photos, be sure to keep an eye out for cyclists approaching from either direction.

Sun shining through the trees next the a grassy field, with a cycling path running alongside

Further on, you’ll pass through Vilsteren: a teeny-tiny hamlet that brings new meaning to the phrase “blink and you’ll miss it.” Home to about 200 people, it was one of the only settlements in this area to remain Catholic during the Protestant Reformation.

Around the village is the Vilsteren Estate (“Landgoed Vilsteren”), one of the largest estates in the Netherlands. Here, you’ll find a campground, walking and cycling paths, the old Vilsterse windmill, an information center, and Huis Vilsteren — a beautiful castle-like mansion (which is privately inhabited and off-limits to visitors).

The estate is open to the public, though certain areas are restricted. Be sure to stay on the marked pathways, so as not to disturb the natural landscapes or trespass on private property.

About 14 kilometers from Dalfsen, you’ll arrive in Ommen.

Ommen

Unlike its neighbor, Ommen was given city rights hundreds of years ago — so even though it’s got fewer than 10,000 residents, it’s still technically a city.

In fact, it’s one of the Netherlands’ Hanseatic cities, or “Hanzesteden” (an old collection of market cities that formed a route through Northern Europe in the Middle Ages).

The small city of Ommen, the Netherlands, next to the Vecht River

But please, don’t let that fool you: Ommen is small, and it feels small — with narrow streets, tiny buildings, and a slow, laidback vibe.

There’s a wide and grassy riverbank (perfect for lying around and watching the boats go by), and a number of waterside terraces (perfect for grabbing a drink and watching the boats go by).

And if it’s warm enough to do those things, then it’s probably also warm enough to head to the IJssalon Ekkelenkamp, which serves up regionally famous ice cream from its curbside kiosks. (Be prepared to wait in line — though if it’s any consolation, it’s probably the only place around here where you’ll have to.)

People lounging on the grassy bank besides the Vecht river in Ommen

The oldest building in Ommen is the Reformed Church — originally built in the 13th century, and the only part of the city to survive a devastating fire in 1672.

There are also three old-style windmills in the center: De Lelie, Den Oort, and de Konijnenbelt. De Konijnenbelt is no longer in operation, but De Lelie and Den Oort both remain in regular use.

Into museums? Den Oort windmill also houses the Streekmuseum, which covers the city’s culture and history. Nearby, you’ll also find the National Tin Figure Museum, which holds over 10,000 tin figures, including a miniature diarama of the 1227 Battle of Ane.

Narrow curving street lined with reddish-brown brick buildings in the city of Ommen, the Netherlands

Old-fashioned style Dutch windmill in Ommen

Every summer, the city also hosts the Ommer Bissingh, beginning in mid-July. This festival began as a simple three-day market more than 450 years ago. Today, it spans several weeks, and consists of live music performances, talent competitions, and other festivities, as well as markets.

That about covers Dalfsen to Ommen — but if you’re looking for more to see in this part of the Netherlands, I’ve rounded up some other ideas over here.

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Visit the Vecht river valley in the Netherlands for charming small towns, picturesque country landscapes, tucked-away castles, and more.     Ideas for a day along the Overijsselse Vecht river in the eastern #Netherlands -- including Dalfsen, Ommen, Rechteren Castle, and more.

Experience the picturesque and idyllic Dutch countryside with a visit to the Vecht river valley in Overijssel.