‘s-Hertogenbosch was founded as a fortified city and that heritage can still be seen today. After World War II, plans were made to modernize the old city, by filling in the canals, removing or modifying some ramparts and redeveloping historic neighborhoods. Before these plans could come to effect however, the central government declared the city a protected townscape. Most historic elements have been preserved. Because the main ramparts are crucial in keeping out the water, they have never been slighted, their usual fate in the Netherlands. In contrast to cities like Rotterdam, ‘s-Hertogenbosch also survived the Second World War relatively unscathed. Much of its historic heritage remains intact, and today there are always renovations going on in the city to preserve the many old buildings, fortifications, churches and statues for later generations.
In 2004 the city was awarded the title European Fortress City of the year. It is planned to restore the city defenses to much of their old glory in the coming years. ‘s-Hertogenbosch also has the oldest remaining brick house in the Netherlands, ‘de Moriaan’, which was built at the beginning of the 13th century. In the 1960s, ‘de Moriaan’ was renovated to its former glory based on a famous 16th-century Dutch painting called ‘De Lakenmarkt van ‘s-Hertogenbosch’ (‘The linen market of ‘s-Hertogenbosch’).
In the north of the old city, the hexagonal powder arsenal, or ‘Kruithuis’, still exists, one of only two of its kind in the country. The Townhall is an originally 14th-century Gothic building, transformed in the typical style of Dutch classicism in the 17th century. Around the city itself many other fortresses can still be seen. Until recently it was a major garrison town.
The old city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch is still almost completely surrounded by continuous ramparts. On the south side, this wall still borders on an old polder, kept intact as a nature reserve, that stretches all the way to the city of Vught. These city walls are currently undergoing renovations. Hidden below the old city is a canal network called the ‘Binnendieze’ that once spanned 22 km (14 mi). It started out as a regular river, the ‘Dommel’, running through the city in medieval times but due to lack of space in the city, people started building their houses and roads over the river. In later times it functioned as a sewer and fell into disrepair. In recent decades, the remaining sixth of the old waterway system has been renovated, and it is possible to take several guided subterranean boat trips through it.
‘s-Hertogenbosch is also home to ‘Saint John’s Cathedral’ (Sint Jans kathedraal in Dutch), which dates from c. 1220 and is best known for its Brabantine Gothic design and the many sculptures of craftsmen that are sitting on almost every arc and rim along the outside of the cathedral. In 2010 an extensive restoration was completed, undoing the damage of many years of wear-and-tear and acid rain.
Museums are the ‘Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch’, ‘Noordbrabants Museum’, ‘Jheronimus Bosch Art Center’ and ‘Museum Slager’. The painter Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) remains probably the best known citizen of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The city is also the location of the Bolwoningen complex, an array of fifty experimental spherical houses designed by Dries Kreijkam