Trips / Oostwold / Bourtange

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Fort Bourtange

Fort Bourtange was originally built in 1593 during the Dutch Revolt. Between 1739 and 1742 the fort was brought back to a defensible condition and expanded. In 1851 the star fort was given up and Bourtange became a normal village. In the 1960s, the municipality of Vlagtwedde took the initiative to reconstruct the fortress as it was in 1742. The plan was implemented between 1967 and 1992. Ramparts were erected again, canals were dug and soldier barracks were built. It is currently an open-air museum.


In 1580, during the Dutch Revolt, the city of Groningen followed the northern stadhouder Rennenberg in his choice for Spain. The city was then supplied from Germany, via a route on a sand ridge (tange) that led through the Bourtangar swamp.

To block this supply route, William of Orange ordered the construction of a rampart on the route. In 1594 the city of Groningen was reconquered and the Bourtange fortress became part of the border defense of the three northern provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe.

Among other things, the fortress was improved in 1665 during the First Münster War, and in 1672, during the Second Münster War when Groningen was attacked.

In 1704 a new powder house was built with a special construction. The roof is loose on the walls, so that the entire building would not explode in the event of an explosion. Only the roof would be blown away. Previously a powder magazine consisted of meters thick walls and a heavy roof.

Bourtange was given the status of a fortress by the establishment of citizens. In 1742 the fortress reached the largest extent. On the east side, between the half bastions of the crown, two ravelins came and the glacis was dug off.

Bourtange 1742
Bourtange 1742
Bourtange first half 20th century
Bourtange first half 20th century

The shape of a pentagon is striking at the Bourtange Fortress. The 14 lime trees on the market square were originally placed along the sides of the middle pentagon.

However, as the Bourtange marsh became more and more dried up, despite measures to prevent this and the firepower of guns increased, the military significance of the fortress decreased. The fortress was officially dissolved in 1851, and Bourtange became an agricultural village in Westerwolde.

Reconstruction Fort Bourtange

Around 1960 the village emptied. Bourtange had not moved with the times and was not a place where young people settled. The municipality of Vlagtwedde then had the fortress rebuilt in the state as it had been in 1742.

Reconstruction fort Bourtange
Bourtange before and after the reconstruction
Bourtange 1977
Reconstruction ongoing, 1977
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Reconstruction Bourtange
Bourtange 2019
Bourtange 2019

Visiting Fort Bourtange

Bourtange revolves around its central market square, which features several shops, cafés and restaurants. In the summertime, terrace seating is available on this cobbled plaza, making it the perfect spot for afternoon tea, early dinner or evening drinks.

Visitors are free to roam through Bourtange's photogenic streets or climb the fort's grassy battlements. To discover more about its history, travellers can stop by several museums, many of which are located inside charming, old military buildings. During the warmer months the village regularly hosts historical reenactments, where volunteers dress up in period outfits and recreate certain aspects of Bourtange's past.

Bourtange map

Vesting Bourtange Willem
Lodewijkstraat 33
9545 PA Bourtange
T: 0031 (0)599-354 600
Entree en parkeerplaats
 1 Informatiecentrum

 2 Terra Mora
 3 Museum "de Baracquen"
 4 Synagogaal museum
 5 Kapiteinswoning
19 Dagen van Roem
20 Nieuwe Kruithuis

21 Molenbastion met standerdmolen
22 Oude Kruitmagazijnbastion
23 Heckmansbastion met kanonopstelling
24 Nieuwe kruithuisbastion
25 Pastoorbastion
26 Contrescarp en buitengracht
27 Ravelijn
28 Glacis en Natte Horizon
29 Kroonwerk 'Schuitendiep'

36 Voorm. Pastoorswoning
37 Voorm. Soldatenbarakken
38 Voorm. Brugwachterswoning
39 Voorm. Arcenaal
40 Voorm. Provoostwoning
41 Gebouwd voor de reconstructie

17a Logementen 1 t/m 8
17b Logementen 9 t/m 12
18 Ontbijtzaal "De Gasterije"

Restaurants en winkels
 7 's Lands Huys, café-restaurant
 8 De Commanderie
 9 Klokkenmakerij, Majoorswoning
10 't Oal Kroegie
11 Jaap Speelman fotografie
12 D' Oude Waght
13 't Convooimeesterhuis
14 Kaarsenmakerij Victoria
15 't Lutje Winkeltje
16 De Sikkepit

 6 Oude Kruithuis
 9 Houten paard
30 Secreet
31 Poterne met steiger
32 N.H. kerk met pastorie
33 Turfschuur
34 Rosmolen
35 Corps de Garde


1. The Information Centre

The Information Centre (entrance building of the fortress) forms the starting point of your visit. You will find information about the following:

  • General information about the fortress
  • Tickets to the fortress museums
  • Information & reservations for Group Visits
  • Information & reservations for the Fortress Lodgings
  • Information about the region
  • Wheelchair and walker loan, public toilets, post office and cash point.
  • Souvenirs

During the season there is an electrical shuttle bus which rides from the parking place to the centre of the fortress and back. Tickets are available from the driver or at the Information Centre.

2. Now and Then

The Past
The Eighty Years' War marks the beginning of the fortress' history. In 1580 prince "Willem van Oranje" ordered the building of an entrenchment with five bastions on a sandy ridge in the swamps near the Dutch-German border. The road that connected the city of Groningen with the cities of Lingen and Westphalen used to run over this sandy ridge, or 'range' in Dutch. The Spanish, the adversaries of the Dutch during the war, used this road to bring supplies to the city of Groningen, which was in Spanish hands. Prince William hoped to isolate the city by building the entrenchment. It was completed in 1593 under the command of count Willem Lodewijk van Nassau. Throughout the centuries Bourtange was further reinforced until the onset of 'modern warfare. Eventually, Bourtange lost its military status, the fortress was dismantled in 1851. Bourtange grew into a thriving agricultural village where craftsmen, traders and farmers found a place.

The Present
Today time seems to be standing still in the fortified town of Bourtange and at the same time there are many things to see and do. The visitor is offered a wide range of possibilities for a pleasant day out. The fortifications, the countless places of interest, the museums, the Fortress Lodgings, the historic events the many options for group visits, the picturesque market square and the original cannons will guarantee a magnificent experience. Experience the fortress Bourtange and believe yourself being centuries back in time.

3. The Museums

Your visit to the fortress is incomplete without a visit to the different museums and exhibitions, which will provide you with an impressive journey through the history of Bourtange. The required combination ticket can be bought at the Information Centre.

Terra Mora
Central in 'Terra Mora' is the relation between the wetlands (swamp) and the fortress. The tourists, especially families with children, discover the fortress in an exciting fashion in 'Terra Mora. 'Actively experiencing together' forms the starting point.

Museum "De Baracquen"
In the museum "De Baracquen", a former soldier's barrack, you will find on display various archaeological findings, found in the surrounding area of the Fortress Bourtange.

The Synagogal Museum
The fortress' Synagogue dates from 1842 and was in service until the second world war. The Synagogue is now a museum.

The Captain's House
The Captain's House is one of the most picturesque buildings of the fortress. This officer's lodging is dating back to 1661.

Days of Glory
A (DVD) presentation about the history of the fortress is shown.

New Gunpowder House
Starting in 2016, it houses exhibitions.

New gunpowder house
New gunpowder house
Horse Mill
Horse Mill

4. Places of interest

There is a lot to see in the Fortress Bourtange. For example the officer's lodgings (the Major's House, the Captains House, The Convoy Master's house) the Vicarage, the cannons, the two entrance gates, the bastions, the bridges, the canals, the ramparts, the gate houses, the picturesque market square, the bridge keeper's houses and so on. Below is a description of some of these sights.

Standard Mill
Once Bourtange had a mill for hulling and grinding grain. This wooden windmill was located on the Mill Bastion, but lost its function after the soldiers had left. In 1980 an accurate duplicate of this early 17th-century mill was placed on the reconstructed rampart in Bourtange. It is the only remaining original in the northern Netherlands.

New Gunpowder House
This austere building was used as a storage for gunpowder. It could hold no less then 45.000 pounds of this explosive material!

Horse Mill
This completely reconstructed building houses an original horse mill, "ready for use". The grinding stone is put in motion by a horse. The gear wheel defines the final speed of the grinding stone. The building and the adjacent mill on the rampart are regularly open to the public.

Protestant Church
The first Protestant Church in the province of Groningen was built before 1604 and was located in Bourtange. This small church was demolished in 1869 and replaced by the present building, which is now more than a 130 years old. In the church there still is the creed board from 1607, in the form of a triptych.

Wooden Horse
In front of the Major's House there is a replica of a Wooden Horse, an instrument of torture from the old days. The convicts were put on the horse with weights attached to their feet. Reconstructed in 1988.

Wooden Horse
Wooden Horse

Shops en Restaurants
You will find a surprising and extensive range of souvenirs, clothing, old fashioned Dutch candy and other knick-knacks in the fortress. There is also the Candle Maker Shop "Victoria" and "De Sikkepit"

In the picturesque centre of Bourtange you will find a restaurant and a cafe. Both restored buildings breathe the atmosphere and ambience of the rich history of the fortress. Whether you want to have a cosy drink, an intimate dinner or a special outing, there are plenty of options.

5. Events

Cannon Fire
A demonstration of cannon fire given by the local re-enactors of the "Exercitie Peloton Bourtange" takes place almost every Sunday during the season, as well as on Ascension day, Easter Monday and Whit Monday.

Next to this there are on several days in the season various other activities. For example pageant-play, diverse historical groups, the shepherd with his flock of sheep and much more.

Annually there are a number of events and markets organised in the fortress Bourtange. During the year they take place at the centre of the fortress and on its bastions. They bring life to fortress atmosphere and represent at the same time a lively picture of the rich history of Bourtange. All events have a unique character, which is enhanced by the unrivalled entourage of the fortress.

Spring Market
The diversity in stands and products make the market. Whatever you can imagine thinking of spring ... you find it at the Spring Market in the fortress. Of course enjoying something to eat and drink is part of the experience.

Battle for Bourtange
Hundreds of soldiers from times gone by, the bellowing canons, the shots of muskets and the daily life of old times. A unique experience for young and old.

Fortress Spectaculum
The whole town back to 1742. Merchants, craftsmen, musicians and soldiers inhabit the fortress. Relive the turbulent life of old at a historical setting.

Autumn Market
In the pleasant autumn sun, enjoying a stroll over the market that offers products of the season.

Magic Samhain
Experience one of the oldest holidays of mankind at a fantastic, magical place. Artists play the old music. Elves, witches, trolls and other creations of a neighbouring dimension inhabit the fortress. People dress up and visit, making Magic Samhain an experience of a lifetime.

Christmas Market
The genuine feel of Christmas at one of the most popular Christmas markets in the northern Netherlands. Thousands of lights, Dickens-choirs and other artists, a market providing everything and more expected of a Christmas market. Need to catch your breath from strolling the market? Stand or sit and enjoy a glass of warm wine and a bite to eat.

During a number of weekends in July and August, Living History takes place in the fortress.

Autumn Market
Autumn Market
Fortress Lodging
Fortress Lodging

6. Fortress Lodgings

Do you fancy a restful overnight stay in a wooded area? In the middle of the fortress you will find the Fortress Lodgings. Twelve beautiful rooms, a number of which have real traditional bed boxes! Explore the romantic fortress town of Bourtange or discover the scenic, wooded Westerwolde. This is your chance to become a temporary inhabitant of the fortress! The beautiful Fortress Bourtange and the lovely cycling and hiking routes guarantee a pleasant stay in this yet undiscovered part of The Netherlands.

Arrangements for groups
There is a variety of exciting programs which can be arranged for almost every size group and for every budget. A visit to the fortress as a group is also possible outside of the regular opening hours. You can put together your own program by choosing one of the many varied components.

For prices and information please contact the Information Centre of the Fortress Bourtange, Telephone +31 (0) 599 354 600 | or visit our website:

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