The Challenge to end all Challenges

In Leeuwarden

It can be completed by foot, by bike, with motor assistance, or maybe even by boat. But the best-known way to complete the Elfstedentocht's 200km route is on skates. It's one of the most famous sporting events in the Netherlands, and has a 110 year history. Though the last time that puffing, bibbed hopefuls with razor-sharp skates wove around bumps through Friesland's eleven cities was in 1997, the fame lives on. Powered entirely with cake and eggnog, beer and a warming Boomsma herbal liqueur, Klasina Seinstra and Henk Angenent finished the route in 8 hours that year. Unfortunately, the race has not been run in the 23 years since, so we thought we would explore all the best non-skating ways to discover the picturesque, historic, and sometimes surprisingly small '11 Cities' that define the route.

Day of the Elfstedentocht

On January 15, 1909, the Royal Association the Friesche Elfsteden (the Frisian Eleven Cities) was founded. That is why 15 January has been declared the Day of the Eleven Cities Tour, a day dedicated to the Eleven Cities culture. This year the event will be organized online. Dutch heritage institutions will present their most special objects and archives about the skating tour via the hashtag #11DAG21. Would you also like to participate? Everyone is free to share the most beautiful or impressive skating stories on January 15th via #11DAG21.

11Cities - 11fountains

  • 11fountains Leeuwarden

  • 11fountains Harlingen

    De Walvis
    11fountains Harlingen - De Walvis
  • 11fountains Stavoren

    De Visfontein
    11fountains Stavoren - visfontein
  • 11fountains Sneek

    De Fontein van Fortuna
    11fountains Sneek - de fontein van fortuna
  • 11fountains Sloten

    11fountains Sloten - kievit in Sloten
  • All 11fountains

    All 11fountains

Ice breakers - facts

Whichever way you approach the Elfstedentocht, the start and end-points lie in Leeuwarden: at De Swette and the Bonke. In earlier times, the race ended in the city-centre, on the northern stretch of the city's canal ring that winds along next to the Prinsentuin. You'll feel the Elfstedentocht throughout the city as you wander through it.

The Prinsentuin
This city park was formerly a royal pleasure garden, and was for several decades the Elfstedentocht's finish-line. However, since the 1960's, it hasn't been possible to end the race here as the ice has been too thin, but it's still easy to think of the thousands of skaters passing through every hour, to a heroes welcome.

To the Prinsentuin

The Willemskade
The Willemskade is more than just a photogenic, historic place where you can look over the city's waterways, it was formerly that start and finish line of the Elfstedentocht! Aside from its involvement with the race itself, did you know that the building at Willemskade 12 was where Mindert Evert Hepkema brought about the race?

De Elfstedenhal - Laps upon laps

Ok, so 200 kilometres on skates sounds a bit difficult. But just because the magic words of 'it's on!' haven't been said for quite a long time, doesn't mean that you can't get some Elfstedentocht action in Leeuwarden. The Elfstedenhal is a mixture between a sports complex and a museum, with a life-size statue of the 1963 winner Reinier Paping, the names of all the winners on the walls; a 400-metre ice track, and a 'Wall of Fame'.

To the Elfstedenhal

Also good for when it's not quite freezing - Discover!

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