Amster-done? Visit a castle

In my last Amster-done? post I talked about taking a day trip to the beautiful city of Delft. Today I’m featuring two medieval castles far from the noise and pungent smells of Amsterdam, but still less than an hour away by public transport.

Muider Castle, known to the locals as Muiderslot, is a twenty minute bus ride from Amsterdam’s Amstel station. Get off at the stop for Muiden and take a short walk through a park, then the village of Muiden, and along a harbor where you’ll see the castle in the distance.

It’s a pretty sight. This castle was founded around the year 1285 to protect Muiden harbor. It was expanded over the years and now appears much as it did when major building was completed in 1450. There’s a peaceful garden off to one side, and an open area where falconry demonstrations are held. If you’ve never seen a falcon doing its stuff, this alone is enough to make you glad you came. These regal birds are amazingly quick and well-trained, and can pluck a bit of meat out of their trainer’s hand while swooping past at blinding speed.

The interior of the castle is made up like it was in the olden days, with chambers for the lord and lady, an armoury for the soldiers, a creepy dungeon for people who use their cell phones in restaurants, and even some primitive privies. The privies are noticeably lacking in the dungeon. Serves them right.


The Castle de Haar (Kasteel de Haar in Dutch) is another fine relic of the bad old days. If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get there is to take a train or bus to Utrecht Centraal Station and then take bus 127 in the direction of Breukelen/Kockengen to the “Brink” stop at Haarzuilens. It’s only a 15 minute walk at that point.

This is one of the most attractive castles I’ve seen in Europe. It was built sometime before 1391 and expanded in the following century before falling into disrepair. A massive restoration project of the castle and nearby town brought it back to its former glory. Around the castle is a large baroque garden filled with flowers and dotted with ponds, perfect for snuggling with that special travel companion.

Both of these castles make for a fun, easy day trip from Amsterdam, and their close enough that you can be back in time for the nightlife.

Do you have a favorite day trip from Amsterdam? Post a comment!

Amster-done? Try Delft

Amsterdam has long been a favorite for travelers, whether they are dope smoking hedonists or art loving dilettantes (or both) but what many visitors don’t realize is that the city offers a wealth of fun day trips. Here’s one of my favorites.

Delft is less than an hour by train from Amsterdam and is filled with history, beauty, and good food. What more could you ask for? Oh, and there are coffee shops, so even the potheads don’t have an excuse to skip it.

The city became prominent in the Middle Ages and developed into one of Holland’s leading centers for trade and commerce. Rich citizens built elegant houses like the one pictured here, and two giant churches, the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Old Church and New Church) tower over the skyline.

Like a lot of Dutch towns, Delft is crisscrossed by canals lined with tidy houses, shops, and cafes. A lazy stroll along the water is a good way to spend the day, but if you’re more into sightseeing, here are four spots well worth a visit.

Oude Kerk. Built in 1246 and added to over the years, this church’s impressive 75 meter high tower rises over the main canal and makes for a great photo. Inside there’s a soaring arched roof, the grave of the famous painter Vermeer, an intricately carved 16th century pulpit, and a giant 19th century organ. Neither this nor the New Church have any original stained glass, because in 1654 the city’s supply of gunpowder exploded, blowing out every window in the city and killing more than a hundred people. The city fathers would have liked to have interrogated Cornelis Soetens, who was in charge of keeping the powder safe and accidentally set it off during an inspection, but they couldn’t find any part of him big enough to question.


Nieuwe Kerk. The so-called “New Church” was started in 1396, showing once again that in Europe the term “new” is highly relative. One day an eccentric beggar named Brother Simon fell on his knees in the Market Square and claimed he had a vision of the heavens opening up. This might have been shrugged off as the ravings of a lunatic, but a respectable merchant saw it too and raised the funds to start construction. This work went on for more than a century but the end product is worth it. The church and its tower grace one end of the market and is the tallest building in the city. The most impressive sight within the church is the ornate marble and bronze mausoleum for the House of Orange, the Dutch royal family.

The Markt. A farmer’s market has been held in the market square between the town hall and the Nieuwe Kerk every Thursday for more than four hundred years. This is a great place to buy Dutch cheese, as well as lots of other delicacies. If you’re traveling on a budget, lots of stands sell cheap food like chicken and felafel that you can eat on the go. There’s also handicrafts such as the famous Delft blue pottery. Adjoining streets behind the town hall have an antiques market the same day.

Prinsenhof. This medieval monastery served as a palace for King William the Silent until he was assassinated in 1584. The bullet holes are still visible. Needless to say, the royal family didn’t really want to live here after that. Now it’s a municipal museum housing the usual historic bric a brac, along with a pleasant garden. You didn’t think you could read a feature by Gadling’s resident museum junkie and get away without a museum did you?

The Dutch being an efficient people, they’ve set up an informative English website covering Delft’s sights, hotels, and restaurants.