Den Helder is the port guarding the entrance to the Zuyder Zee (now the Ijsselmeer) at the northern tip of the North Holland peninsula. The waters of Den Helder were the assembly point for Dutch fleets trading to distant parts of the world in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The port has been fortified for many centuries, but new military installations were built following the visit of the Emperor Napoleon in 1811, although some remained incomplete until 1827, well into the reign of King William I. The principal installations were the Kijkduin fort and the Willemsoord naval dockyard.
Willemsoord was used by the Netherlands Royal Navy from 1827 until 1993, and was the official centre of the nation’s naval operations from 1947. The navy’s operations have moved to modern installations and the Willemsoord yard has been rehabilitated as a recreational area with cafes and shops, and facilities for privately-owned vessels. Within the dockyard is a large collection of historic ships, including sailing barges, a light vessel from the island of Texel, several lifeboats and a minesweeper.