IJlst was the fourth largest city in Friesland, after Stavoren, Hindeloopen, and Harlingen, and received city rights in 1268. The variety of beautiful historic buildings certainly reflects this history. The tourist office city walk doesn’t only bring you along these beautiful buildings but also to sawmill 'The Rat'. This impressive sawmill is located right next to the new wood museum. IJlst is a perfect place to stay for water sports enthusiasts. Especially motor boats like to moor on the quay and the new marina, located behind the centre of this picturesque town. The centre has an elongated shape with striking lime trees along the Galamagracht and the Eegracht. These old lime trees mainly serve as sun protection. The hospitality industry offers many facilities with a pleasant terrace and an excellent restaurant.
Events and activities
At the banks of the Geeuw, the ancient water connection between IJlst and Sneek, the unique sawmill ‘The Rat’ is situated, which is still in production. Trunks lying in the water, the sound of the rotating vanes, the tramping of the sawing frames that go up and down, the smell of freshly sawn wood, here you can still experience the old sawyer craft that has been carried out daily in ‘The Rat’ for more than three centuries. It is a must to visit this extraordinary mill!
Every year on the first Saturday of June, the Overtuinen fair takes place. In the various overtuinen (gardens across the water), about 50 stalls with a diverse product range can be found. The products vary from curiosities, collectibles, antiques, and statues of Saints to flowers, plants, and clothes. In addition, there are delights, home accessories, garden furniture, and arts and crafts.
Some seventeenth- and eighteenth-century facades of captain and merchant houses still bear witness to a distant past. Especially the shipbuilding industry and timber trade were strongly represented. The size of IJlst’s shipping industry in the 17th and 18th centuries is difficult to determine. However, it is known that they sailed the European coastal area of the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Up to 1800 the IJlster type of ship, the "Cog", was the prominent cargo ship of the Netherlands. Around 1825, after the time the Netherlands were occupied by the French, this ship type disappeared. It is, however, preserved in the city coat of arms and the city’s flag.
The city owes its name to a little river that used to ran through IJlst, the old Ee. Yet, only fragments remain of this river. One of them makes up the central axis of the town and has the character of a canal. The street runs right next to the houses and the gardens are situated across the street on the bank of the Ee. These gardens adjacent to the water are called ‘overtuinen’. They belong to the houses next to the canals and were once used for laundry bleaching.