The historical city of Stavoren was granted city right in the 1060s, which makes it the oldest city in Friesland. It is mentioned in old texts as the burial place of early Frysian kings. In 1285 Stavoren became a member of the Hanze.
The city declined in the late Middle Ages after the harbour got silted, blocking all ships from entering and leaving the harbour. This spawned the story of the Lady of Stavoren (Frouke fan Starum). It describes how a rich patrician merchant widow. She sent out the captain of her merchant fleet out to find the greatest treasure in the world. He returned with wheat, which can feed the hungry, and therefore is the greatest treasure in the world. The widow didn't accept the 'treasure', and ordered for it to be thrown into the harbour of Stavoren. When she was confronted about this, she threw her ring into the ocean, declaring that she was as likely to fall into poverty as she was of regaining the ring. Shortly after, a banquet for fellow Hanseatic merchants was held. She found her ring back inside of a fish served to her. Soon after she fell into poverty, spending the rest of her life begging for scraps of bread, while the wheat that had been thrown into the sea, formed a sandbank that blocked of the city harbour.
The silting of the harbour meant that Stavoren no longer was of a use on the international market. It however re-established itself in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The nineteenth century brought another wave of decline. The once international harbour declined along with the city, and not much of its glory remains to this day. On touristic summer days, however, the glory of the once so famous harbour city seems to come back. The sea that once threatened the city is no longer around, as the completion of the Afsluitdijk meant that the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea), could be controlled by mankind. Therefore, a risk of flooding is not existent anymore.
Modern day Stavoren is a village of roughly 1000 citizens. It is one of the stops of the Elfstedentocht (Tour of eleven cities), an ice skating race held only in winters so cold that safety can be guaranteed. Since the first Elfstedentocht in 1909, the race has been held a total of fifteen times, with the last one being nearly twenty years ago, in 1997.
There are no highways going directly to Stavoren, nor are there regional roads going directly to it. The city can be reached best using the Afsluitdijk (A7/E22) when coming from the Western Netherlands. Leave the A7 at Bolsward (Exit 17), and take a left onto the N359 heading for Workum and Hindeloopen. Stay on the N359 until you reach a sign directing you to Hindeloopen, which should be a right turn onto the Oosterdijk heading for Hindeloopen. Just before Hindeloopen, take a left onto the Suderseewei, followed by a left onto the Westerdijk, and follow the signs to Molkwerum, where directions to Stavoren will be indicated.
When travelling to Stavoren from the South or East, take the A6 or A50 followed with the A6 to get to Lemmer (Exit 17 on the A6), where you head of the highway and take a left turn onto the N359. Leave the N359 for the Tjalke van der Walstraat, going into Koudum. In Koudum, drive onto the Zwarteweg on your left, followed by another left onto the Spoarleane. Head for Molkwerum, where, once having reached the village, you follow the signs leading you to Stavoren.
When travelling to Stavoren by train, head for Arnhem Centraal (Arnhem) once there, take the train to Zwolle Centraal (Zwolle). The same train will also stop in Leeuwarden, where you will have to switch onto a train heading for Sneek and Stavoren.
During the summer, a boat is serviced between Enkhuizen and Stavoren. This boat will only accept passengers travelling on foot.
Stavoren is rather small and can be easily travelled on foot.
Stavoren's main attraction are its sights over the IJsselmeer, as well as its harbour.
From Stavoren you can reach Enkhuizen by taking the boat across. The boat, however, only services travellers on foot and will only be in service during the summer. By train you can easily reach the cities of Sneek and Leeuwarden.