Terneuzen is the city of the Flying Dutchman, of mussels and sailing ships in the Westerschelde estuary. Archives first mention the city in 1325, when it was called Ter Nose. The harbour of Terneuzen was first mentioned in 1460, and it was granted city rights by Prince William of Orange in 1584.
From the very beginning, shipping has been a key part of the city. In the old harbour, on the site of the current market, goods were loaded and then transported to Ghent by canal boat. At the initiative of King William I, construction of the Ghent–Terneuzen Canal began around 1825. The city’s economic boom began with railway lines to Mechelen and Ghent, which made Terneuzen an important hub for handling and storing goods.
In the mid-19th century, fortifications were built around Terneuzen. The Arsenal in the city centre stands as a reminder of that time. The Germans occupied Terneuzen in the Second World War, but they fled across the Schelde river in early September 1944.
During the North Sea flood of 1953, the lowest parts of the city centre stood under a metre of water. This flood led to the massive Delta Works, which protect Zeeland and other coastal provinces from the sea.
A larger sea lock in the 1960s attracted international companies like Dow Chemical to Terneuzen. The city has thus become the economic heart of Zeeland-Flanders.
About 70,000 ships a year pass through the locks complex, known as the Portal into Flanders. Their information centre can answer any question about inland shipping, seagoing vessels, freight transport or employment in Zeeland. Visit the Portal for free. Engineering freaks just love the ‘innards’ of the sluices.
A walk along the river boulevard (Scheldeboulevard) is a marvellous experience. The ships on the Westerschelde estuary come so close you can almost touch them! The boulevard is also home to one of the largest bronze statues in the Netherlands: the Vesalius statue (the man with a cape) by the noted English sculptor Thom Puckey.
Terneuzen was also home to Willem Van der Decken, captain of the ghost ship ‘The Flying Dutchman’. As the story goes, he sailed against his better judgement on Easter Sunday. The ship then ran into a storm and was never seen again. According to the book by English writer Frederick Marryat, this legend comes from Terneuzen. You can now visit the ‘ghost ship’ here.
Feeling the call of the slopes? Then strap on your skis. Skidôme Terneuzen offers an indoor ski slope with real snow. Enjoy a snowball fight in the summer!
For art and culture, the Scheldetheater is the place to be. Visit the nearby restaurants on the river boulevard and make a night of it. The legendary Porgy and Bess is also a must-see. From its origin as a jazz café, started by Frank Koulen in 1944, it has grown to attract the biggest stars from the jazz world, as well as rock, roots, classical and more. It also hosts literary readings and lectures.
The bond between Terneuzen and jazz is tied tighter by the annual jazz festival. Nowadays known as Zeeland Jazz, this week-long festival is co-held in Terneuzen and Middelburg. Come feel the beat.
Another longstanding tradition is the city’s Harbour Days. For three very bustling days, the area in and around Terneuzen’s harbour is full of activity. You can find these and other happenings in our event calendar.