Although Appingedam is modest in size, it is a city with accompanying rights, where intensive trade took place in earlier times. The traces of its lively past are still clearly seen between the Damsterdiep and Nieuwe Diep canals. Today, there is plenty going on.
As a mercantile town and centre of administration of the Fivelingo county, Appingedam was once a fierce rival to the city of Groningen – the only other real city in the province – for a long time. During its heyday, the shouting of merchants and industrious sounds of craftsmen echoed everywhere throughout the façades. At the quays, cattle, pigs, butter, bacon, beer, cheese and wood was hoisted from the ships, most of which was immediately traded in the weigh house. Remaining goods were initially stored in warehouses at the Damsterdiep canal, also the location of brickyards and tile works, lime kilns and shipyards. The city had six breweries, two genever distilleries, a vinegar house, tanneries, rope-yards and weaving mills. In the 18th century, fifty more seagoing vessels were chartered for trade in the Baltic Sea area, and ferries unmoored almost daily for the regular shuttle service that carried passengers, mail and cattle to Sneek, Amsterdam and Leer (Germany). However, this industriousness has slowly but surely declined.
Pelican with chicks
Today, pleasure yachts are moored in the Stadshaven (city harbour) behind the Nicolaï church and the occasional canoe passes under the white drawbridge known as the Nieuwedieptil. Some tour boats moor opposite the pavilion, and there is a small park with an octagonal bandstand between the harbour and the church. The city’s coat of arms – a pelican with three chicks – is skilfully carved from a dead tree trunk. In the city centre, traces from earlier centuries can be clearly seen: narrow streets, old façades, the small bridges across the Damsterdiep and the three famous hanging kitchens.
The houses from which the kitchens hang high above the water once served as warehouses. These warehouses eventually became too small for their use, but were unsuitable for expansion at the Solwerderstraat side; the narrow dyke at the north of the Damsterdiep, so instead additional space was created at the rear wall above the water.
A walk through the centre taking in the shops at the narrow Dijkstraat (the southern dyke of the Damsterdiep) is not complete without a visit to the Nicolaï church. This church forms a special trio with the detached church tower and the town hall built nearby.
Construction commenced in the 13th century and the walls show that numerous expansions were executed. The red stone church is included in the Top 100 of Dutch listed buildings in the UNESCO list. The ground floor of the small town hall, its façade filled with sculptures, arches and hatches, once served as a weigh house. Until the early 19th century, cattle and pigs were weighed here before they were transferred to their new owners.
- Each year in August, Appingedam hosts the largest shanty festival in Europe, the Bie Daip festival. Choirs perform in the bandstand behind the Nicolaï church and other venues.
- During the annual Coopluyden market, also held in August, knights compete for Ladies, beggars sit at the foot of the church tower, craftsmen promote their goods, people dance and falconry shows are held. For one day, the centre of the city is all about the Middle Ages.
- There are great options for walks in the English landscape-style park of the Landgoed Ekenstein country estate (1648) at the Damsterdiep. It also includes a petting zoo and deer park. Alberdaweg 70
- The Stad Appingedam Museum, opposite the Nicolaï church focuses on the history and numerous guilds of craftsmen in the city. Appingedam was particularly known for its guild of silversmiths. Wijkstraat 25,
- In his historic Muzenheerd farm at the Damsterdiep, painter Rob Mehlmann exhibits realistic and figurative art. Westersingel 102-104,
- Various temporary exhibitions about the city are held in the building of the Tourist Information Office (Oude Kerkstraat 1). They also provide information about city walks and cruises.