The Netherlands is not as famous for it’s castles as other European countries. Many of the medieval castles here were destroyed, either under siege in the 12th and 13th centuries or during WWII. However, there are some pretty impressive castles that can still be found right here in this country we now call home. Castles are expensive to upkeep, so in order to be able to do this, most of the remaining castles now serve as museums, hotels or function centres for events such as weddings and fairs.
Here are the top five rated castles in the Netherlands:
1. Muiderslot Castle (rated #2o worldwide): This restored and striking 13th century moated castle is rated as the best castle in the Netherlands. Located at the mouth of the Vecht river, 15 kilometers South-East of Amsterdam, it is now a national museum with rooms that have been restored to look as they did in the 17th century.
2. De Haar Castle (rated #81 worldwide): Located near Utrecht, this impressive castle was originally founded in the late 1300’s by the Van de Haar family and is now fully renovated and surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens.
3. Doornenburg Castle (rated #107 worldwide): A 13th century castle (originally a manor built in the 9th century!) located just East of Nijmegen. It contains a front-castle and a main castle, which are connected through a small wooden bridge. It is one of the biggest and best preserved castles in the Netherlands.
4. Doorwerth Castle (rated #133 worldwide): This castle is located 8 km West of Arnhem. The original castle, probably wooden, is first mentioned in 1260 when it was besieged and burned to the ground, after which it was rebuilt in stone. In 1280, this second castle was again attacked and the outer wall was burned down. During the 14th century the castle was continually enlarged and reached it’s largest form just after the middle of the 16th century.
5. Radboud Castle (rated #154 worldwide): This 13th century castle is located in Medamblik, in the province of North Holland, North-East of Alkmaar. The building was commissioned by Floris V. The exact date of building is not known but the castle was completed before the St. Lucia’s Flood of 13 December 1287. Restorations were then done in the late 1800s.
These are just five of many castles located throughout the Netherlands. So as you can see, there are some pretty impressive castles here available for you to visit!
For now, I would like to talk further about the two castles that I have personally visited, which just so happen to be number one and two from the list above.
The Muiderslot Castle is possibly the most famous and visited castle in the Netherlands. Located at the mouth of the Vecht river, just 15 kilometers South-East of Amsterdam in Muiden (which actually means ‘rivermouth’), where the river flows into what used to be the Zuiderzee, it has been featured in many television shows set in the Middle Ages.
Count Floris V built the original stone castle back in 1280. The Vecht river was the trade route to Utrecht, one of the most important trade towns of that age. The castle was used to enforce a toll on the traders. In 1296 Gerard van Velsen conspired together with Herman van Woerden, Gijsbrecht IV of Amstel, and several others to kidnap Floris V. The count was eventually imprisoned and after he attempted to escape, Gerard personally killed the count on the 27th of June 1296.
In 1297 the castle was conquered by Willem van Mechelen, the Archbishop of Utrecht, and by the year 1300 the castle had been distroyed. A hundred years later (ca. 1370-1386) the castle was rebuilt on the same spot based on the same plan, by Albert I, Duke of Bavaria, who at that time was also the Count of Holland and Zeeland.
The next famous owner of the castle shows up in the 16th century, when P.C. Hooft (1581-1647), a famous author, poet and historian took over sheriff and bailiff duties for the area (Het Gooiland).
At the end of the 18th century, the castle was first used as a prison, then abandoned and became derelict. Further neglect caused it to be offered for sale in 1825, with the purpose of it being demolished. Only intervention by King William I prevented this. Another 70 years went by until enough money was gathered to restore the castle to its former glory.
There is plenty of activities and special tours at the Muiderslot castle which are catered specifically towards children and families. For example, every Wednesday afternoon there are special tours for families from 13.00 (from April to October) where you can take walking tour through the magnificent rooms and learn all about what it was like to be a child living in the castle during the Golden Age. You can also go on a treasure hunt where you can follow the exciting Tower route and ‘defend the castle against the enemy’. On the Knight’s route, you can dress up as a knight or a noble lady. If the children complete all the assignments, they will be knighted and receive an authentic Muiderslot knight’s medal. During the school holidays there is also special entertainment for children.
Outside on the castle grounds, you can visit the falconer in his tent and watch the magnificent birds of prey from up close (from 1 April to 31 October). You can even book a children’s birthday party here at the castle!
Overall, a visit to the Muiderslot Castle is very enjoyable and educational for the whole family. More information on opening times and ticket prices can be found here.
De Haar Castle
Castle De Haar is the largest and most luxurious castle in the Netherlands and my personal favourite. The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle and walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century.
In 1801, Castle De Haar was passed to JJ.van Zuylen van Nijevelt, a distant cousin of the Zuylen family. He had inherited a castle that was in a poor state of repair due to 200 years of neglect. Upon his death, these magnificent ruins passed to his son Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt in 1890.
Today the castle is surrounded by a vast parkland and manicured gardens, but this was not always the case. From the medieval period to the end of the 19th century, the village of Haarzuilens had been surrounded the castle. Haarzuilens was completely demolished and relocated some one and a half kilometres away to the west. The village chapel however was saved from this destruction and incorporated into the new park.
Castle De Haar is now a museum and open to the public. You can choose to purchase either a ticket onto the grounds only, or a ticket which includes both access to the grounds and a tour of the castle. There are also several different treasure hunts for children available both inside the castle and through the castle park grounds, which cost one euro per child and can be purchased in the museum shop. In the school holidays, extra activities are organised for children. You can buy an ice cream and/or pancakes at one of the two cafe’s located on the grounds, or simply take a rug and your own picnic lunch to eat while you enjoy the view. You can spend hours here wandering through the beautiful surrounding parkland. Stunning.
More information on opening times and ticket prices to De Haar Castle can be found here. It is well worth a visit and one of my favourite places to take any visiting friends or family members.
Have you visited any of the above castles? Which one was your favourite?