This absolutely stunning Muiderslot castle in the typically Dutch town of Muiden, where the locals will smile/converse with any friendly visitor, was first constructed in 1350 after being destroyed.
It sits on the edge of the former Zuidersee, which was a large body of water that comprised a significant portion of what is now the Netherlands. After a deadly flood in 1916, plans to reclaim the land began, so there’s a lot less water near Muiderslot that you would expect than in its heyday.
However, the location of Muiderslot was very important for many years as it was the gateway to the many prominent port cities that are now landlocked.
Due to its location guarding the entrance to the Zuiderzee, it had many defenses, which seem a bit much given that it was never formally under attack. It has an incredible moat and windows (murder holes) above the moat where soldiers could camp out to throw hot tar/stones onto invaders.
The castle has even installed a video game where you can practice doing this in the same spot. For both young and old, this castle has some of the best interactive exhibits, including a jousting game, that I’ve ever seen in a castle. It takes hours to explore properly and the gardens are also really beautiful. On some days, they also have falcons at the falconry.
This small castle situated between Amsterdam and Utrecht in the city of Breukelen (the namesake of the Brooklyn in NYC!) is a beauty that I stumbled upon after getting very lost on the way to Kasteel de Haar on bike. The Netherlands is full of these smaller castles that were used by families, rather than as fortresses.
Nijenrode castle was originally built in 1275 although it was rebuilt following a public auction. It was even up for rent part of the year under one of its owners. It was resold many times and eventually sold to the Nyenrode Business School (the only Dutch private university and a very good business school) following World War II.
The castle is generally not open to the public, however the grounds are although you can request a tour.
Het Loo Palace
This beautiful castle was built for William and Mary (yes, that William and Mary!). This is the Dutch Versailles, but a bit less elaborate. It’s quite epic looking and one of the more famous castles here in the Netherlands. The gardens are done in a Baroque Style.
Kasteel De Haar
The grounds are absolutely stunning and in the English style. Interestingly, prior to the reconstruction, the owners moved an entire village one kilometer over to ensure that they had a good road to the castle. For the romantics, you’ll often see couples in wedding attire getting married or simply faking photos.
Note on Public Transit/Biking: All of these trips from Amsterdam involve taking a NS train or biking. The trains and buses here in the Netherlands run great and assume they will be on time. This means that you will need to go to Amsterdam Centraal and buy a ticket beforehand from a booth/machine to your destination. For the buses, you will need euro coins to pay (it is about 2.50 at most typically!). The iAmsterdam card is NOT valid for this. (Click for a detailed explanation of how the Dutch trains work, ticketing, and what you’ll need to do to take the train.)
It is possible to bike to Muiderslot from Amsterdam and Nijenrode/De Haar from Utrecht. If you have rented a bike, you can buy a bicycle supplement that allows you to bring your bike with you on the train for the whole day although you’re not allowed to bring it on during rush hour on weekdays.
You will have no difficulty finding bicycle rentals for Utrecht and Amsterdam. The signage is typically very clear (no need to do a tour!) although I recommend maps.me for good off-line bicycle directions.