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Image from Mirte Vreemann

Art and culture in Castles & Gardens

Filled with castles, fortress towns, gardens and museums, the Castles & Gardens area is certainly not short of culture. Learn everything about the background of the region, from the wealthy merchants that once called it home and their country estates to the part it played in defending Amsterdam from the city’s enemies.

Singer Laren Museum

Art fans should not miss the Singer Laren Museum, which houses impressive collections of work from 1880 to 1950, assembled by Anna and William Singer in the early 20th century. The outstanding permanent display and various changing exhibitions are well worth a visit. On the grounds, the stunning sculpture garden - designed by renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf - features work by contemporary Dutch artists, including Guido Geelen, Maria Roosen and Famke van Wijk. Based on a theme of connection, the works meld culture and nature and are nestled between beautiful seasonal fauna.

Dutch Fortress Museum

Image from toerisme gooi en vecht

The charming town of Naarden dates from 1350 and is one of the most remarkable examples of a preserved fortified town. From the air, the town’s unique layout resembles a gigantic snowflake, comprising six bastions, a double rampart and a double ring of canals. The history of Naarden is explained at the fascinating Vesting (Dutch Fortress) Museum, which features canons, weapons, uniforms and an audiovisual presentation. Experience how the soldiers protected Amsterdam and its surroundings from enemies from the east, and explore the dark corners of the fortress, where the soldiers once fought, lived and slept.

Museum Hilversum

Museum Hilversum photography gallery interior and exhibition
Image from Rick Mandoeng

Located in Hilversum’s 250-year-old town hall, the inspiring Museum Hilversum has a particular focus on new media arts and photography. On top of a changing programme of roughly ten exhibitions a year, the museum hosts both World Press Photo and De Zilveren Camera - the most important journalistic photo competition in the country. Keep an eye on the agenda for lectures, performances or media labs and drop by the cosy café for refreshments during your visit.

Kasteel Museum Sypesteyn

People on museum tour at castle-museum Sypesteyn Loosdrecht
Image from

The final heir to the Van Sypesteyn family, Henri van Sypesteyn (1857-1937) built this magnificent Castle-Museum to preserve his family’s 500-year lineage. Located in the middle of the Vecht region, Kasteel Museum Sypesteyn houses a fascinating art collection and exhibition on the Van Sypesteyn family. At the same time, the beautiful garden is perfect for a walk. Be sure to check opening times as the castle is closed during winter. 

Forteiland Pampus

Exhibition inside Forteiland Pampus
Image from Tony Perez

Seen across the water, the tiny island of Forteiland Pampus looks like any other island. But take a closer look, and you’ll see this is no natural landmass at all but a submerged sea fort built in the 1890s to protect Amsterdam from its enemies. Visit Pampus by boat to explore the secret tunnels, battlements, and historical artefacts dotted around the island. The fortress was once part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam and makes for a fascinating day out for visitors of all ages.

Cobra Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of Kosmogonie: Zinsou – een Afrikaanse kunstcollectie Cosmogony: Zinsou -- an African art colleciton contemporary art exhibition in October 2022
Image from Peter Tijhuis

Cobra Museum is a must-see for modern art lovers, with changing exhibitions featuring the great names of the mid-20th-century CoBrA movement, such as Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille and Jan Sierhuis. There are also major temporary exhibitions of work by individual artists and their contemporaries from related movements and temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.

Museum JAN

Museum JAN exhibition in Amstelveen
Image from Eddy Wenting

Situated in Amstelveen's ‘Old Village’, Museum JAN specialises in glass art and Dutch design. Over the years, it has assembled a rich collection of modern work by the masters in this field, as well as other sculptures and paintings. Discover mesmerising glass art collected by founder Jan van der Togt alongside contemporary art exhibitions such as Lisa Konno: The Porcelain Body (14 February to 16 June 2024). The exhibit reflects on beauty ideals in Japan and the Netherlands through a combination of Japanese porcelain and textiles.

Castle Muiderslot

Muiderslot, inside the castle
Image from Ben van Melzen Photography

Muiden is home to the grand Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot – built around 1285 – which looms over the mouth of the River Vecht. Given its drawbridge, five towers, moat and battlements, it will probably come as no surprise that the castle and grounds have been used in several TV shows set in the Middle Ages. Many of the castle's chambers have been restored to reflect the splendour that its owners enjoyed during the 17th century. You'll also find regular markets, workshops, exhibitions and musical events on the agenda throughout the year.

Museum Weesp

Spring Market at the Weesp city hall
Image from Koen Smilde

Filled with boutiques, historical buildings and riverside terraces, the charming town of Weesp looks like a miniature version of Amsterdam thanks to its many canals. The town dates back to the 14th century and – as you’d expect – features dozens of fortifications and battlements. Weesp’s former town hall is a stately, neoclassical building and now houses the municipal museum, Museum Weesp, devoted primarily to 18th-century porcelain crafts. 

Huizen Nautical Quarter

Huizen was originally an agricultural village about two kilometres from the sea. It later expanded to become a coastal town, boasting the IJsselmeer’s most vibrant fishing industry. In recent years, Huizen has developed into a modern village bordering the Gooimeer (Gooi Lake), with several marinas and a lively historic centre offering great shopping and the medieval Dutch Reformed Church. Built around the Oude Haven (Old Harbour), where you can still see beautiful flatboats, some over 100 years old, Huizen Nautical Quarter includes a lovely hotel, restaurants and convivial cafés.