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Elfstedentocht monument ( photo mosaic ) on a bridge near Giekerk
Details (mosaic tiles) of the Elfstedentocht monument

Elfstedentocht ( Dutch ), also Alvestêdetocht ( Frisian ) or German Elfstädtetour , is the name for a natural ice long-distance speed skating race that takes place in the Netherlands and is experienced as a significant cultural event.

An Elfstedentocht is carried out in harsh winters in the Dutch province of Friesland (Frisian Fryslân ) on frozen drainage canals, rivers and lakes, along the eleven Frisian towns with historical city ​​rights , and attracts up to 17,000 runners and 1.5 million spectators. Since the first Elfstedentocht in 1909, the weather-dependent “Tour of the Tours” has been carried out fifteen times, most recently in 1997.


Course of the Eleven Cities Tour

Over frozen canals and small lakes, the almost 200-kilometer stretch from the Zwette Canal in Leeuwarden leads clockwise over ten other Frisian cities and then back to Leeuwarden to the Bonke Canal. The route between the hamlet of Bartlehiem and Dokkum is run in both directions.

Until 1933 and in 1941 the route was run counterclockwise.

Eleventh cities
Frisian Dutch km from the
Snits Sneek 022nd
Drylts IJlst 026th
Sleat Sloten 040
Starum Stavoren 066
Hylpen Hindeloopen 077
Warkum Workum 086
Boalsert Bolsward 099
Urine Harlingen 116
Frjentsjer Franeker 129
Dokkum Dokkum 174
Ljouwert Leeuwarden 199


The event is organized by the association Koninklijke Vereniging de Friesche Elf Steden ( German Royal Association of the Frisian Elf Cities ), which has around 30,000 members. An Elfstedentocht only takes place if the ice thickness is at least 15 cm along the entire route. For this purpose, the ice may be reinforced in some critical places by implanting ice sheets.

Only members of the association are allowed to take part in the tour. All members who were members on June 1, 2014 are entitled to start. Members who join later can obtain the right to start via a waiting list. This regulation was introduced in December 2014 and has been in force since winter 2015/16. Before that, around 16,000 starting places were raffled, mostly among the members. They had the right to take part in the Elfstedentocht every other winter - if it took place. In addition to the runners drawn, some of those members who were already members of the club in 1986 had the right to start. The right to start is not transferable.

There are two categories of participants: enthusiasts (“toertochtrijders”) and competitive skiers (“wedstrijdrijders”). It starts in groups from the early hours of the morning, starting with the competitive runners.

Anyone who completes the Elfstedentocht in full, collected all stamps and reached the finish before midnight, receives the Elfstedenkruisje , a medal in the form of a Maltese cross. The competitors only get the Elfstedenkruisje if they do not exceed the winning time by more than 20%. There are also separate prizes for the overall winner and the first eleven places in the men's and women's rankings.


Unofficial tours already existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Officially, 15 eleven cities tours have been carried out so far.

Ed. year date Participate
winner place of residence Time
1. 1909 1020January 2nd 00023 00007th Minne Hoekstra Warga 13:50 189
2. 1912 2070February 7th 00063 00024 Coen de Koning Arnhem 11:40 189
3. 1917 127January 27th 00150 00092 Coen de Koning (2) Etten-Leur 09:53 189
4th 1929 212February 12th 00301 00114 Karst Luxembourg Leeuwarden 11:09 191
5. 1933 016December 16 00512 00481 Abe de Vries
Sipke Castelein
09:53 195
6th 1940 130January 30th 03,404 00152 Piet Keijzer
Auke Adema
Cor Jongert
Durk van der Duim
Sjouke Westra
De Lier
11:30 198.5
7th 1941 2060February 6th 01,900 01,672 Auke Adema Frjentsjer 09:19 198.5
8th. 1942 12222nd of January 04,832 03,936 Sietze de Groot Weidum 08:44 198
9. 1947 2080February 8 02,061 00309 Jan van der Hoorn Ter Aar 10:51 191
10. 1954 20303 February 02,735 02,206 Jeen van den Berg Heerenveen 07:35 198.5
11. 1956 21414th of February 06.329 04,843 - (*) 190.5
12. 1963 118January 18th 09,862 00126 Reinier Paping Ommen 10:59 196.5
13. 1985 22121st of February 16,455 13,290 Evert van Benthem St. Jansklooster 06:47 196.8
14th 1986 226February 26th 16,999 14,989 Evert van Benthem (2) St. Jansklooster 06:55 199.3
15th 1997 1040January 4th 16,738 11,460 Henk Angenent Woubrugge 06:49 199.6


(*)Jan van der Hoorn, Aad de Koning, Jeen Nauta, Anton Verhoeven and Maus Wijnhout were the first to cross the finish line arm in arm against the rules. Therefore, no winner was recognized in 1956.

During the cold spell in Europe in 2012 there was no tour in February 2012. The reason for this was the insufficient thickness of the ice on the route. During the time of the German occupation of the Netherlands, the tour took place twice (1941 and 1942).

As of October 2019.


The Elfstedentocht is very important in the Netherlands. The Elfstedentocht is not just a popular real-world event, but a national myth. It is called "the tour of tours" ( fy : daughter fan de tochten, nl: daughter of daughter). As soon as it freezes for several days in a winter, a new edition of the event is discussed in the media. The Dutch Weather Service ( KNMI ) keeps a dossier up-to-date on its website and publishes extensive model calculations on the expected ice thickness in the following days. Television companies send outside reporters to the channels to report on the increase in ice thickness. The Alvestêdetocht is an important economic factor for hotels, restaurants and the tourism industry in Friesland.


  • Since the weather seldom allows for an Elfstedentocht, an alternative Elfstedentocht was set up, which has been held annually in January on the Weissensee in Carinthia since 1989 .
  • In 1986, the current King Willem-Alexander took part in the Elfstedentocht, under the allonym W.A. van Buren .
  • There are also races and tours in other sports along these eleven Frisian cities.
    • Since 1912 there has been a bike tour ( Fietselfstedentocht ) on Whit Monday with (nowadays) 15,000 participants.
    • Since 1946, a five-day hike ( 11-city walk ) has been carried out in the week of Ascension .
    • Since 1985 there has been a rowing regatta every May, known as the Elfsteden Roeimarathon .
    • In June 2019 Maarten van der Weijden succeeded in the floating Elfstedentocht .
  • Those who have successfully completed the Elfstedentocht, the Fietselfstedentocht and the 11-Stedenwandeltocht (not necessarily in the same year) have been awarded a handcalligraphed diploma on request since 1987. More than a thousand such awards have already been presented.


  • Marcus Jan Adriani Engels: De Elfstedentochen - Friesland, het land der schaatsenrijders . Kuurstra, Amsterdam 1947
  • Jan Kaay: Lang's eleven cities: belevenissen op elf-stedentochen . West Friesland, Hoorn 1950
  • Piet Maaskant, Jeen van den Berg: Elfstedentocht, 1890-1956 . Oisterwijk, 's-Gravenhage 1956
  • Fenno L. Schoustra: Elfstedentocht: de schaatsen scherp . Schoustra, Leeuwarden 1970
  • Pieter de Groot, Henk van der Meulen, Willem H. Stegenga: De Elfstedentocht 1909-1985: de complete Elfstedengeschiedenis! . Friese Pers Boekerij, Leeuwarden 1985, ISBN 90-330-1344-4
  • Johannes Lolkama: Triomf en tragiek in de historie van de Elfstedentocht . 2nd edition, Wever, Franeker 1986, ISBN 90-6135-415-3
  • Johannes Lolkama: De daughter of daughters: de complete Elfstedengeschiedenis vanaf 1740 . Victoria, Akkrum 1996, ISBN 90-71293-09-2
  • Ron Couwenhoven, Henny Korver: IJspret & ijsleed . BZZTôH, 's-Gravenhage 1997, ISBN 90-5501-479-6
  • Leo van Houten: De Elfstedentocht - een hele toer - achtergronden, belevenissen, adviezen en statistieken . Van Houten, Alkmaar 1997, ISBN 90-901-1083-6
  • Ron Couwenhoven, Huub Snoep: Negentig jaar elfstedentocht 1909-1999 . 2nd expanded edition, De Vrieseborch, Haarlem 2001, ISBN 90-6076-452-8
  • Gosse Blom: Small encyclopedie van de Elfstedentocht . 6th expanded edition, Eerste Friese Schaatsmuseum, Hindeloopen 2003, ISBN 90-71293-12-2
  • Marnix Koolhaas, Jurryt van de Vooren: De mannen van '63. Verhalen van de twaarste Elfstedentocht of all tijden, nu met compleet overzicht van all daughter . 3rd edition, Van Wijnen, Franeker 2009, ISBN 978-90-5194-263-7


The twelfth Elfstedentocht in 1963 is the subject of a feature film by director Steven de Jong entitled De hel van '63 (The Hell of '63), which was released in Dutch cinemas in 2009. Despite bad reviews, the film reached such a high audience that the director received the Gouden Filmtrofee (Golden Film Award).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Koninklijke Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden: Veelgestelde varsh
  2. Nederlandse Omroep Stichting : Leden akkoord: Elfstedentocht raffles van loting
  3. Lidmaatschap on www.elfstedentocht.nl ( Memento from February 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. www.elfstedentocht2012.nl ( Memento from January 20, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) - not available on October 29, 2019.
  5. ^ Article in the Netherlands Net of the University of Münster
  6. Nader verklaard - Elfstedentocht ( Memento of 9 February 2012 at the Internet Archive ) KNMI
  7. De kroonprins en de Elfstedentocht van 1986 geschiedenis24.nl
  8. Friese Elfsteden Rijwieltocht ( Memento from March 16, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) 11steden.nl
  9. Alvestêdekuiertocht
  10. Sports: Maarten van der Weijden swam the eleven cities! NetherlandsNet, uni-muenster.de, June 25, 2019, accessed October 29, 2019.
  11. De vereniging. Brevettes ( memento of February 9, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) www.elfstedentocht.nl
  12. De hel van '63 imdb.de

Web links

Commons : Eleven Cities Tour  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files