In the 12th and 13th centuries, Dordrecht was an important trading city. At the time it was even the most important city in the County of Holland. The city's rich past can still be seen in the beautiful medieval centre. Along the old harbour and canals there are solemn merchant houses. The expression 'The closer to Dordt, the worse the smell', probably dates back to the time when traders were obliged to market there products in Dordrecht first, which cost time and allowed fresh produce to rot.
Dordrecht has almost 120,000 inhabitants. They are nicknamed 'sheep's heads', because some the city's medieval inhabitants tried to evade paying toll by smuggling a sheep in human clothes into the city.
The city is located in the south-west of the Netherlands, where the river Merwede divides into the Noord and the Oude Maas. This is the reason why the city is also called the Merwestad, although the inhabitants simply refer to the city as 'Dordt'. The city is the centre of the so-called Drecht cities: Dordrecht, Zwijndrecht, Papendrecht and Sliedrecht. Together these cities make up an industrial area, immediately to the south-east of Rotterdam. However, Dordrecht is also located near a very beautiful and quiet nature area: the Biesbosch, a marshland located to the east of the city.
The port has always played an important role in the city's economy, and it continues to do so. Although shipbuilding has become less important, Dordrecht still has a shipyard. Also, there are factories of the chemical company DuPont and also the metal and timber industry contribute to the local economy.
All of the city's suburbs are easy to reach with the city buses that on average depart every 15 minutes. The central bus station is located on the Spuiboulevard. The co-called City bus (line 20) drives to the heart of the old city.
Because Dordrecht is surrounded by rivers it is connected to surrounding place by water: water buses to Zwijndrecht, Papendrecht and Sliedrecht and a fast ferry to Rotterdam.
Dordrecht is easy to reach via the A16 motorway (Rotterdam-Belgian border) and via the A15 (Rotterdam-Nijmegen). These roads are connected to the east of Dordrecht by the N3, also known as the Randweg (Circular Road).
The centre of Dordrecht is car free. The streets are closed off by movable poles in the road surface, which are only removed for loading and unloading.
In and around the centre there are four indoor car parks and three parking areas. The route to the parking facilities is indicated on signs along the so-called P-route. Two parking areas are free: P-Energiehuis and P-Weeskinderendijk. A bus moves back and forth between these two areas and the city centre. Near Central Station, there are two P+R areas. From the station it is about a 10 minute's walk to the centre.
Dordrecht has a reasonable number of hotels. There are no 4 or 5 star hotels, but there are beautiful luxury apartments near the intersection of the rivers Oude Maas, Noord and Merwede. Unless you want to stay at a particular hotel, there is no need to book in advance. A very special accommodation is the 'Bed and Bread aan de Haven' (at the harbour). It has only three rooms, but it is beautifully decorated in an old building on the only harbour in the centre of Dordrecht that is still in use.
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