Located just 30km from Amsterdam is the breathtaking castle Kasteel de Haar, full of opulence and splendor, waiting to be discovered. Surrounded by an expansive garden and designed by Pierre Cuypers who famously designed Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Central Station, Kasteel de Haar makes for the ideal day trip from Amsterdam.
The first known building on this property dates back to 1381, under the de Haar family, who owned it until 1440 when it was taken over by the Van Zuylen family. The castle fell into disrepair until 1892 when it was inherited by Baron Etienne van Zuylen and his wife Baroness Helene de Rothschild (yes, the Rothschild family) , who combined his dream of restoring the castle with her deep wallet to create the most extravagant building in all of the Netherlands.
Kasteel de Haar is by far the most grandiose castle in the Netherlands – this is really a castle as you would imagine it, despite that it was never actually used by anyone from the Dutch royal family. Most Dutch castles like Muiderslot or Loevestein served a functional rather than opulent purpose, so their designs are much more modest. At it’s peak, the castle was more advanced than even the royal palaces and residences, featuring central heating and elevators which was very industrialized for that time. While the Dutch are very famous for their modesty and humility (even when it comes to architecture), Kasteel de Haar was always seen as ostentatious and over the top by Dutch standards.
After 20 years of restoration, Kasteel de Haar became the place for the rich and famous from around the world to visit in the Netherlands. It hosted the likes of Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gregory Peck. It boasts 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, and would host up to 24 couples as guests at a time. Van Zuylen and Rothschild would assign guest rooms based on the social status of their guests: the more important the guest, the likely they were to be accommodated on the ground floor.
A tour around the castle takes about an hour, giving you the chance to explore the entry, library, Baron and Baroness’s bedrooms, and the castle’s equally impressive kitchen. Don’t be afraid to ask the hosts in each room about how the room functioned – they all speak English and add special knowledge and information to the room cards.
When the flowers are in bloom (unfortunately they weren’t for us since we visited around Christmas), take a stroll around the castle’s huge gardens. One of the best stories about the castle is that the fully grown trees on the property were actually uprooted from the forests nearby the castle at the request of the Baron when it was being restored. Something like that could never happen today, of course, but its fascinating what you could do if you had the money back then!
How to get to Kasteel de Haar from Amsterdam
The easiest way to reach Kasteel de Haar is by car – so if you can drive, do it! It only takes about 30 minutes from Amsterdam. If you don’t have a car, no problem – it is reachable by public transport as well.
Departing from Amsterdam Central Station, take the Intercity train to Utrecht where you will transfer to a Sprinter train to Vleuten. From Vleuten take Bus 111 to Kasteel de Haar.
I strongly recommend buying your tickets ahead of time, especially on weekend or in peak tourist season. Kasteel de Haar is also a hit with families with kids, so expect a lot of local tourists as well.
Explore the area
Kasteel de Haar is located close to the city of Utrecht, and adorable, almost mini-version of Amsterdam that deserves a visit as well. After touring around the castle, consider making a quick hop over to Utrecht for a few hours where you can wander around the Oudegracht (Old Canal), a special dual-level canal that is especially lovely in summertime when the terraces at canal level are packed with Dutchies enjoying the weather and sipping a beer.
Utrecht’s icon is the dominating gothic Dom Tower, the highest tower in the Netherlands which dates back to 1321. Strolling under the gaze of the Dom Tower, taking in the charm of Utrecht is the perfect way to finish up your day trip from Amsterdam to the area.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
There are countless great places to stay in Amsterdam. Here are a few picks for each budget:
CityHub is the ideal place to stay if you are on a budget but don’t want to stay in a hostel. The prices are nearly as low as a hostel, but you’ll still get your own modern, private pod. Toilets and showers are shared, but you won’t have the hostel vibe as this hotel caters to those looking for a step up from the hostel experience. City Hub is also located just around the corner from the Food Hallen, Amsterdam’s huge food stall hall complete with a cinema and local boutiques.
This design hotel located in Amsterdam East (still within the ring and just 10 minutes walk from the city center) was founded as a global community to unite students, professionals, travelers and creative nomads. The Student Hotel has hotel rooms, co-living and co-working spaces.
The Hoxton is a famous boutique hotel chain known for its both its accommodations and for its restaurants. The Hoxton breathes hip-ness and is the must visit for those who like to be recognized for their taste.
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