The Smallest of the Eleven, But the Best Preserved The townscape of Sloten, a fortified town definitely worth a visit, has remained the same throughout the centuries. The main reason for this is that its population of 700 has fluctuated little through the years. Sloten is the smallest of the eleven Elfstedentocht towns. It is closed to cars and has the status of a protected townscape. The old commercial centre, enclosed by a canal and the largely intact ramparts, draws thousands of visitors each year.
Major Trading Town Sloten dates back to the thirteenth century. It owes its existence to its favourable location along the trade route from Stavoren to Coevorden and Germany at the junction of the waterway and roads. It also had access to the Zuiderzee in the past by way of the Tacozijl sluice, now a water inlet in the IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel) dike.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Frisian butter was the most important trading product of Sloten, of which England was the primary buyer. Ramparts in 1581, five bastions and four gates were constructed in Sloten: two water gates and two land gates. The water gates on both sides of the central waterway of Het Diep were built to receive boats for toll collection. The land gates served a similar purpose.
There is a lovely view of the town from the Lemsterpoort gate from 1821, which is in the good company of an even older flourmill (1755). The Sneeker, or Woudsensterpoort gate dates back to 1768. The women of Sloten used to use the southern ramparts as bleaching grounds because the sun and wind there were good for bleaching and drying laundry. The clotheslines are still used communally to this day.
The rampart canons are also worth seeing. The local shooting club holds demonstrations near the mill every Friday evening during the summer months. Sloten still has a town crier. The quays of this idyllic town are paved with round cobblestones and the beautifully preserved historic merchant homes along the linden tree-lined central canal, with their 17th and 18th-century neck and stepped gables, recall the towns former wealth.
The Reformed Church (1647) and museum housed in the 18th-century town hall are also worth visiting. Pocket-Sized Municipality until 1984 Sloten was an autonomous municipality until 1984 and one of the smallest corporate towns in the country. Sloten and Gaasterland have now merged to form the municipality of Gaasterlbn-Sleat, as a result of which the town hall lost its function as the municipal office, now located in Balk.