As we enter this weekend with the prospect of cold temperatures and gloomy skies, it’s reassuring to know that spring is just around the corner. When I first came to The Netherlands in August, I was enchanted by the crowds of people lapping up the evening sun on every green space available; sharing a meal or some drinks and jumping in the canals. After all this time indoors, I’ve built up a list of things I cannot wait to do when warmer days and the sun finally come knocking.
One of those activities is spending a day with friends riding out to Utrecht’s very own Disney castle: Kasteel De Haar. Along the way, you will ride through some of Utrecht’s gorgeous canal-lined suburbs, and past farms and country-side you thought couldn’t be so close to a city. Pack a picnic blanket so that when you get there you can sit in the countryside and bask under the sun with sandwiches, cheese and fruit. I can’t recommend it enough.
Kasteel De Haar has a history that dates back to 1391, at which point the property was transferred to the De Haar family as a fiefdom. Over the years, the castle has been destroyed and restored as it passed through many hands. Today’s buildings date back to the late 19th century and are the work of the same architect behind Amsterdam’s Central Station and the Rijksmuseum (if you haven’t seen them, you should).
Since 2000, the castle and its grounds have been under the management of a foundation which opened the property to the public. As you ride out to the castle, you might think the countryside is reason enough to visit but wait until you get there! From the outside, the castle looks like it has been taken right out of a fairy-tale. The main buildings, made of red brick, rise out of a wide moat. Too many turrets and towers pepper the castle for them to be genuinely useful: I am convinced they are just there to mystify visitors (which they do).
For €16 (free if you have a museum card), you can enter the inside of the castle. Although I didn’t do this, I expect it to feel like stepping back into the 19th century. The interior is as extravagant as the exterior, kept in pristine condition for visitors to marvel at the excess of old barons. You can explore the original kitchens, appreciate the ornate wood carvings and view items of the Rothschilds’ collection which reside in the castle. In each room there are guides to answer any of your questions. An additional 55 hectares of park space is available to paying visitors, which sounds especially nice on a sunny day! Be sure to book as there are limited places available each day.
Where is it and how to get there?
The castle’s address is, funnily enough, Kasteellaan 1. I’ve included a map below for you, but that’s west of Utrecht. From Neude it’s about 14 kilometres or 40 minutes by bike through Vleuten, a gorgeous suburb where it seems that every house has its own canal moat. You would be best off using Google Maps to plan a route from your own place.
If cycling isn’t your cup of tea, bus number 9 from Utrecht Central Station will take you to the castle. Alternatively, if you go on a weekday, there is a sprinter train that goes to Vleuten station from which you can take busses 111 (towards Kasteel De Haar; get off at Kasteel De Haar) or 127 (towards Breukelen; get off at Brink in Haarzuilens and walk 15 minutes). For those of you with a car, parking costs €5.
What can’t you wait to do this Spring? Share your ideas for activities on sunny days in the comments below!