20km (12 miles) SW of Leeuwarden; 26km (16 miles) NE of Stavoren
The placid inland waterways -- lakes, canals, and rivers -- around Sneek (pronounced Snayk, like "snake") have made this Friesland's most important sailing center, with a marina and sailing schools in the bustling town (pop. 33,000).
Getting There -- Trains go from Leeuwarden to Sneek, a 20-minute ride, every half-hour. By car from Leeuwarden, take A32 south to junction 15, and then go west on N354.
Visitor Information -- VVV Sneek, Marktstraat 18, 8601 CV Sneek (tel. 0515/414-096; fax 0514/423-703; www.vvvsneek.nl), is in the center of town.
What to See & Do
In the old, canal-ringed center of town, note the rococo facade on the 16th-century Stadhuis (Town Hall) on Marktstraat, which is close to the landmark Martinikerk (St Martin's Church), from the same century.
Interested in ships and the sea? Spare some time for the Fries Scheepvaartmuseum (Frisian Maritime Museum), Kleinzand 14 (tel. 0515/414-057; www.friesscheepvaartmuseum.nl), in a canal-side house from 1844 east of Markstraat. The first part focuses on Friesland's maritime traditions on the sea, lakes, and inland waterways. Models of old sailing ships, marine paintings, reconstructed boat interiors, and more allow you to just about smell the salt tang of the sea. Antique local silver, paintings, and recreated house interiors are in the second part. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm (closed Jan 1, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Ascension Thursday, and Dec 25). Admission is 3€ ($4.80) for adults, 2.50€ ($4) for seniors, 1€ ($1.60) for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under.
Astride the entrance to the port in the south of the old town rise the twin octagonal turrets of the brick Renaissance Waterpoort, a gate from 1613 and the only remains of the town's defense walls, which were razed in the 18th century.
The Friese Meren (Frisian Lakes)
The constellation of lakes south of Sneek -- Pikmeer, Sneekermeer, Heegermeer, Slotermeer, and Tjeukemeer -- is the main tourism region in Friesland. In the summer, you can rent powerboats, sailboats, rowboats, and canoes. The lakes are connected by rivers and canals so you can easily move between them.
Among the most attractive places around is Sloten (Sleat), beautifully sited on a tree-fringed canal south of the Slotermeer. The village's narrow streets lined by 17th-century houses make for a pleasant stroll. Just west of here is the forested Gaasterland district, which contains a hamlet called Nieuw Amerika and is good for hiking.
Southeast of the lakes, at Wolvega (Wolvegea), snap a picture of the statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Netherland (New York State), who was born in 1592 at the hamlet of Scherpenzeel (Skerpenseel), 10km (6 miles) west.
Sailing Days -- During 2 weeks in July and August, Friesland falls under the spell of the Skûtsjesilen (Skûtsje Sailing) races between traditional flat-bottomed sailing barges. These boats, 20m (65 ft.) long, once used for transporting goods on the Zuiderzee, race on the lakes around Sneek, and on the IJsselmeer from Stavoren. More than a dozen boats compete, dating from 1910 to 1930. They don't look too maneuverable, but the crews have an arsenal of tricks designed to outwit their rivals. VVV Sneek can provide information on dates and places, or visit the race organizers at www.skutsjesilen.nl.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.