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12 hours in Castles & Gardens: fortresses and castles

Spend a day exploring the incredible museums, fortified towns and cultural history of the Castles & Gardens region. From ancient castles and stunning churches to the mysterious fortress hidden on Pampus Island, this 12-hour adventure takes you through the highlights of the area.

Explore the remarkable star-shaped fortifications of Naarden

Image from creativebros

Naarden is one of the best-preserved fortified towns in Europe, famous for its ‘star fort’ grid which resembles a giant snowflake from the air. The history of Naarden is explained at the fascinating Dutch Fortress Museum, which features canons, weapons, uniforms and an audiovisual presentation. Learn all about how the soldiers protected Amsterdam and its surroundings from enemies and explore the dark corners of the fortress, where the soldiers once fought, lived and slept.

Marvel at Naarden’s historic church

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Naarden has plenty of cafés, shops and attractions to explore including the Grote Kerk which is one of the Netherlands’ oldest churches. Step inside to admire the impressive architectural details of the church, including the famous barrel-vaulted ceiling above your head.

Take in the harbour views in Muiden 

Docked boats at the Muiden lake.
Image from Koen Smilde

Muiden is a charming town that's rich in history with plentiful opportunities for a tranquil stroll. This fortified settlement near the IJmeer dates back to the 10th century and boasts stunning riverside views, historic landmarks and a picturesque harbour. You'll find a range of convivial cafes and restaurants along the waterfront, where time seems to pass more slowly. For one of the best views, head over to Café Ome Ko. A former hangout for skippers and sailors, it's the oldest pub in the area and has been pouring beer since 1810. It is said that even Napoleon Bonaparte once visited on horseback.

Prepare for battle at Castle Muiderslot

The Muiderslot is a medieval castle in the North Holland town of Muiden, built around 1285, restored to its former glory from 1370 and a national museum since 1878.
Image from Koen Dijkstra

The medieval Castle Muiderslot is undoubtely one of the highlights of the Castles & Gardens region. This impressive fortification, built in around 1285, looms over the mouth of the River Vecht in Muiden. Take a tour through the impressive knight’s hall, towers, dungeon and armory to find out more about the building's fascinating history. Keep your eye on the agenda for jousting tournaments and other family-friendly activities. 

Explore the mysterious fortress on Pampus Island

Exhibition inside Forteiland Pampus
Image from Tony Perez

From there, follow the canal towards Muiden, until you see the ferry to Pampus Island. This mysterious island and abandoned fort make for an interesting day out for visitors of all ages. The fort was once part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam, a 135-kilometre-long system of fortifications that defended the city by means of flooding.

Tuck into a delicious seafood

From Michelin-star restaurants to cosy local pubs, the Castles & Gardens region has no shortage of gastronomic delights. If you're in need of refreshments, the wonderful Pampus Paviljoen on Pampus Island, with its excellent water views, is a great place to pause for a late lunch and snacks.