In earlier times, the territory southeast of Amsterdam was a place of strategic importance, as evidenced by the grand military constructions still standing today, such as the 13th-century Muiderslot moated castle in Muiden and the star-shaped fortifications of Naarden.
13km (8 miles) SE of Amsterdam
A 14th-century, fairy-tale-princess castle, with a moat, turrets, and stout crenelated walls, Muiderslot, Herengracht 1 (tel. 0294/256-262; www.muiderslot.nl), perches on the bank of the Vecht River just outside the small IJsselmeer harbor town of Muiden, a handsome place with gabled waterfront houses. Count Floris V of Holland, who in 1275 granted toll privileges to the vibrant new Aemstelledamme (Amsterdam) settlement, built the castle around 1280, and was murdered here by rival nobles in 1296.
The poet Pieter Cornelisz Hooft served here as castle steward and local bailiff for 40 years in the early 17th century, and the castle is furnished essentially as Hooft and his artistic circle of friends -- known in Dutch literary history as the Muiderkring (Muiden Circle) -- knew it. You'll find distinctly Dutch carved cupboard beds, heavy chests, fireside benches, and mantelpieces. The castle is open April to October, Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from noon to 6pm; November to March, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6pm. Admission is 11€, 6.25€ for children ages 4 to 11, and free for children 3 and under.
Connexxion bus 157 departs every 15 minutes or so from outside Amsterdam Amstel station for the 20-minute ride to Muiden; from there it's a walk of 1km (2/3 mile) north through Muiden to the castle. By car from Amsterdam, take the A1/E231 east.
19km (12 miles) E of Amsterdam
This small town doesn't have too much to recommend in it, but it does have one of Holland's best-preserved rings of old military fortifications.
Getting There -- Trains depart every 15 minutes or so from Amsterdam Centraal Station for Naarden-Bussum station; the trip takes around 25 minutes. A round-trip ticket is 8.10€ in second class or 14€ in first class. By car from Amsterdam, take the A1/E231 east.
Visitor Information -- VVV Naarden, Adriaan Dortsmanplein 1B, 1411 RC Naarden (tel. 035/694-2836; fax 035/694-3424; www.vvvhollandsmidden.nl), is located inside the old town's walls. The office is open May to mid-September, Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 3pm, and Saturday from 10am to 2pm; and mid-September to April, Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
What to See & Do -- Much in the spirit of locking the barn door after the horse was gone, Naarden erected its star-shaped double fortifications after Don Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo and his Spanish troops brutally sacked the town in 1572. The fortifications were begun in 1580 and completed in 1730, and since the inner ring wasn't completed until 1685, the French were able to storm the works in 1673.
Beneath the Turfpoort, one of six bastions, visit the casemates (artillery vaults) which house the Nederlands Vestingmuseum (Dutch Fortification Museum), Westwalstraat 6 (tel. 035/694-5459; www.vestingmuseum.nl), filled with cannons, muskets, accoutrements, and documentation. The museum is open mid-March to October, Tuesday to Friday from 10:30am to 5pm, and Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from noon to 5pm; November to mid-March, Sunday, and Saturday before Christmas to Sunday after New Year, Tuesday to Friday from 10:30am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm; it's closed January 1, and December 25 and 31. Admission is 5.50€, 4.50€ for seniors, 3€ for children 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.
Also take in the town's 15th-century late-Gothic Grote Kerk (Great Church), Marktstraat (tel. 035/694-9873), noted for its 45-m (148-ft.) tower, fine acoustics, and annual pre-Easter performances of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. The church is open June to September daily from 1 to 4pm. Admission is free.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.