The 1685 Het Loo palace and estate, outside Apeldoorn, has sheltered generations of Dutch royalty, being the favorite summer residence and hunting lodge of Stadhouders (Heads of State) and the royal house of Oranje-Nassau until 1975. Since 1984 it has served as the magnificent home of this museum, which celebrates the history of the House of Orange. After a complete renovation, in which it was stripped of its 19th-century trappings to reveal the original paneling and colorful damasks, this splendid palace is now an ideal setting for paintings, furniture, silver, glassware, and ceramics, and memorabilia of the royal family. Highlights include the lavish silk-and-damask-embellished private study (1690) and bedroom (1713) of Stadhouder William III, and the dining room (1686) decorated with tapestries illustrating themes of Ovid.
The fascinating vintage car and carriage collection in the stable block includes smooth models like a royal 1925 Bentley. But the jewel in the crown is the formal gardens. These were laid out during the renovation, using the original 17th-century plans and recreating an appropriately small-scale Dutch Versailles. They are in four sections: the King's Garden, Queen's Garden, Upper Garden, and Lower Garden -- a harmonious mélange of plants, flowers, trees, pathways, statues, fountains, and pools.