Vlaardingen: from capital of Holland to fishing village

There are few cities in Holland that have a bigger, more turbulent history than Vlaardingen. From a strategic court of the Counts of Holland to territory occupied by the Dukes of Lower Lorraine and floods. Even a murder in the toilet is part of this city’s history. Much of this turbulent history can no longer be seen in present-day Vlaardingen. However, the area remains a future archaeological goldmine and an excellent place to visit. Vlaardingen is located on the Nieuwe Maas and is surrounded by Schiedam (east), Maasluis (west) and Midden-Delfland (north). Present-day Vlaardingen consists of a number of old village centers including: Vlaardingerambacht, Holy and Zouteveen.


Vlaardingen is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Holland. Between 3,500 B.C. and 2,500 BC. the area was already inhabited. However, the area looked very different than it does today. The area was a swamp and dunes and the coast was probably much closer to Vlaardingen than it is now. The residents mainly lived by hunting and fishing. The existence of the settlement since the Late Stone Age has given its name to the culture of the Late Stone Age in the Netherlands: the Vlaardingen culture. The most famous resident of this early settlement was found in 1990 by three boys in the crab pool. This native of Vlaardingen was about 43 years old and lived around 1,300 BC. This makes him the oldest man with human DNA ever found in the Netherlands.


Confusion exists about Vlaardingen in Roman times. Traces have been found that people lived in the Vlaardingen area in Roman times, but no remains of a Roman settlement in Vlaardingen have ever been found. A copy of a Roman travel map was made in the 13th century. The Tabula Peutingeriana or Peutinger card. This travel map shows a place called Flenio or Flenium between Oud Alblas (Tablis) and Voorburg (Forum Hadriani) (40 km from Oud Alblas and 26.5 km from Voorburg). However, it is believed that the name is a clerical error and that it should actually be Elinium or Elenio. The map indicates the rest areas between Nijmegen and Voorburg.
Very likely Vlaardingen is the place where Flenio was located. Over the centuries, however, Putten, Crooswijk in present-day Rotterdam, Oostvoorne and Naaldwijk have also been mentioned as places where Flenio was located. Vlaardingen comes closest when looking at the distances and it seems most likely.

Capital of Holland

From 250 AD. to about 700 AD. the area of Vlaardingen is uninhabited. Around 700 AD. However, a small church was founded in this area on the site where the large church of Vlaardingen now stands. The church is the oldest mother church in Holland. The church was located on a hill (terp). A small trading settlement was located just north of this church on another hill (terp) where Hoogstraat in Vlaardingen is now located.
In the Middle Ages, the Netherlands was the property of the German emperor. The German emperor gave the area of Holland to the Dutch counts. Vlaardingen was a very important strategic place for the Dutch count. After all, Vlaardingen is located at the mouth of the Maas. Whoever manages the mouth of the Meuse controls the trade on the river and the hinterland. The Count of Holland had Vlaardingen fortified with a castle on the site where the large church now stands and a count’s court built. This made Vlaardingen a capital of the county of Holland.
Count Dirk III of Holland (982 May 27, 1039) uses Vlaardingen to illegally levy tolls on trading ships on the river. This gets him into trouble with the German Emperor Henry II. The German emperor sent an army of about 1,000 men under the command of Godfrey of Lorraine to Vlaardingen.

First battle of Vlaardingen

Godfrey and his soldiers were defeated by Dirk III in the first battle of Vlaardingen (1018). Godfried was ambushed and the fleeing soldiers drowned in the swamp landscape around Vlaardingen in their attempt to reach Godfried’s ships on the river. Godfrey himself was captured by Dirk III.

Second battle of Vlaardingen and the toilet murder

In 1047 AD. the German emperor took control of the area after the second battle of Vlaardingen. The Duke of Lorraine became the administrator in the name of the German Emperor of the area. On February 26, 1076, the Count of Holland took revenge on Duke Godfrey III (the hunchback) of Lower Lorraine. On this day the Duke went to the toilet. The toilet was an excellent space so that feces did not accumulate within the walls of the building. While Godfrey was sitting on the toilet, an assassin in the employ of the Count of Holland stuck a sword straight up into the Duke’s ass from outside. The duke died from these injuries. This political murder is known as the Vlaardingen toilet murder.

The downfall of Vlaardingen

In 1163, Holland and therefore Vlaardingen were hit by dike breaches and floods, culminating in the Sint-Thomas flood of December 21, 1163. Many polders were flooded. This was the beginning of the end for the mighty strategic Vlaardingen. The position was eventually taken over by Dordrecht. The count’s court in Delft became more important than Vlaardingen and Vlaardingen resembled a swampy Wadden area.

Eighty Years’ War

The final blow for Vlaardingen came during the Eighty Years’ War. Vlaardingen is an open city and hardly defensible. When the Spaniards took possession of Maassluis in 1574, the princely families feared an attack on the princely Schiedam. William of Orange decides to make Vlaardingen unusable for the Spaniards. The citizens of Schiedam moved to Vlaardingen. Vlaardingen was plundered and burned to the ground. The fleeing citizens of Vlaardingen were refused entry to Schiedam. Until the twentieth century there were fights between Schiedam and Vlaardingen youth. Until 1830, Vlaardingen remained a backward area under a craft lord with few rights.


Because Schiedam focused on the gin industry and Rotterdam on trade, Vlaardingen was able to focus on herring fishing. This allowed Vlaardingen to develop strongly into one of the major ports of the Netherlands.

Sights in Vlaardingen

Although much of Vlaardingen’s history has disappeared, the city remains worth a visit. The protected cityscape invites you to have a drink on a terrace in the city. The Grote Kerk is an attraction in the city. In the old harbor you will find Museum Vlaardingen with a replica of a wooden city crane from 1858 and the herring lugger VL92 Balder.

How do I get to Vlaardingen?

Vlaardingen is located on the A20 highway from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland. Vlaardingen also has three train stations, Vlaardingen East, Vlaardingen Center and Vlaardingen West. Near Vlaardingen Oost Station there is also a metro station (Schiedam Vijfslokken) of the Rotterdam metro.

Shopping in Vlaardingen

Every first Sunday of the month there is a shopping Sunday in Vlaardingen. Shopping evening in Vlaardingen is on Friday evening. Vlaardingen also has a number of special days such as the late summer festival in September, the VL Loggers Festival as the successor to the Herring and Beer Festival and the Vlaardingen Carillon Weeks.