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Muiderslot, inside the castle
Image from Ben van Melzen Photography

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 to the mysterious fortress hidden on Pampus Island, this 12-hour adventure takes you through the highlights of the area.

Cycle to the countryside through Amsterdam

Image from Koen Smilde

From: 10:00 to 11:00

For a local cycle route that offers a little bit of everything, check out this cycling route from Amsterdam starting from the Amstel river and leading into some spectacular Dutch countryside. Watch as the buildings fade away, replaced by swaying reeds, green meadows and historic villages. Touring this idyllic region with a bike rental will make you feel just like a 17th-century artist might have. You'll find plenty of flat and accessible bike paths through the area including this cycle route which departs from Amsterdam.

Explore Fort Diemerdam

From 11:00 to 12:00

On your way to Muiden, you will find Fort Diemerdam—a defensive fortification whose structure is still visible today. Right next to it, you'll find Paviljoen Puur, with its characteristic pavilion in the shape of a snail shell, inspired by its surroundings. While the venue mostly opens for private events, everyone is welcome to stop by for a Sunday lunch from 12:00 to 17:00. Soak in the history and recharge before continuing your cycling journey.

Take lunch with the harbour views of Muiden

Docked boats at the Muiden lake.
Image from Koen Smilde

From 12:00 to 13:00

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

From: 13:00 to 15:00

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 15:00 to 17:00

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 delicious seafood

Proef Pampus bij Fort Pampus
Image from Rien de Jager

From 17:00 to 19:00

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.

Spend the night in a fortress hotel

Naarden was granted its city rights in 1300 (the only town in Het Gooi with these rights) and later developed into a fortified garrison town with a textile industry. Naarden is the home of the Netherlands Fortress Museum (Nederlands Vestingmuseum).

Looking to extend your stay? Settle into the rooms of this charming fortress hotel in the heart of Naarden. With historic rooms and a welcoming atmosphere, this accommodation will set you up for the perfect getaway.

Check out these 6 and 24-hour guides for more inspiration on how to make the most of your time in the Castles & Gardens region.