Discover Amsterdam
Meetings and Conventions
Live, Work and Study
What's on
See and do
Travel and stay
City Card and tickets
Discover Amsterdam
Meetings and Conventions
Live, Work and Study
Image from Koen Smilde

Things to do in Castles & Gardens

The Castles & Gardens region of the Amsterdam Area perfectly combines, culture, history and superb natural scenery. Explore picturesque villages and harbours, climb the ramparts at defensive forts and be wowed by the former country retreats of Amsterdam’s wealthy merchants - all within an hour’s journey of Amsterdam city centre.

Snoop around extravagant country estates

Image from

Enjoy the grandeur of the beautiful country houses and estates dating from the 17th-century, when Amsterdam’s wealthy merchants would leave their homes in the heart of Amsterdam and retreat to their rural estates during the summertime. One such estate is the magnificent Kasteel Museum Sypesteyn, built by Henri van Sypesteyn (1857-1937) to preserve his family’s 500-year lineage. Located in the middle of the Vecht region, the museum houses a fascinating art collection and exhibition on the family, while the beautiful garden is perfect for an afternoon walk.

Go boating along the Vecht or Amstel

Image from creativebros

Flanked by two rivers, the Amstel and Vecht, the Castles & Gardens region is undoubtedly one of the best spots for boating and sailing around Amsterdam, offering splendid vistas and the chance to relax away from the hustle and bustle. A great way to explore the Amstel River Countryside is by hiring a boat in Uithoorn and heading up towards the charming village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Likewise, the city of Muiden is also an excellent place for boat lovers to visit, with countless ships sailing in and out of the historic harbour before heading downriver.

Test out your sailing legs

Image from

For a watery adventure, the Loosdrechtse Plassen (Loosdrecht Lakes) are perfect for water sports: sailing, rowing, canoeing, waterskiing, and speedboating are all possible here. If taking a boat out yourself is not your thing, join a sailboat or speedboat excursion, or just relax on a terrace and admire the view from dry land.

Top tip: for anyone heading along the Vecht to the lakes on two wheels, De Fietsboot (the Bike Boat) lets you hop on and off and continue by bike as you please! There are three departure points on the Loosdrecht Lakes at Porseleinhaven, the Fuut and the Strook.

Unleash your inner knight or damsel

Image from Ben van Melzen Photography

Home to many old castles, fortified towns and ruins, the picturesque fortress stretch offers a chance to glimpse what life was like during the medieval age. Muiden is one of the most spectacular destinations. Its grand Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot, built around 1285 by Count Floris V, looms over the mouth of the picturesque River Vecht. With a drawbridge, five towers and preserved battlements, Muiderslot is a true medieval stronghold. Take a tour through the impressive knight’s hall, towers, dungeon and armoury, enjoy the fantastic views from the ramparts or stroll through the beautiful herb and vegetable gardens that retain the Dutch Renaissance atmosphere.

Admire modernist masterworks

People walking in Singer Laren museum sculpture garden with flowers
Image from Singer Laren

At the end of the 19th century, the quiet, picture-perfect beauty of Laren attracted artists like Jozef Israëls, Anton Mauve, Albert Neuhuys and Hein Kever - to become known as the Laren School of Painting. Situated in a former villa built in 1911 by two collectors, Singer Laren Museum houses an impressive art collection and sculpture garden. Art lovers should also head over to Amstelveen, where the Cobra Museum of Modern Art and Museum JAN host changing exhibition programmes of modern art, sculpture and photography.

Visit the architectural jewels of the Fortress Stretch

Sign of the fortress Uitermeer, part of the Defense line of Amsterdam.
Image from Koen Smilde

The region known as the De Stelling van Amsterdam (the Defense Line of Amsterdam), once protected against the Netherlands’ enemies. Now, visitors can roam the bastions along this 35-kilometre-long ring of fantastic forts and imagine life hundreds of years ago. Both Muiden and Weesp are fantastic starting points for exploring the area with bike routes that take you past the most beautiful highlights, among them Fort aan de Ossenmarkt and Fort Uitermeer. The latter of which can be viewed from the delightful restaurant, Uit & Meer.

Cycle along the Amstel

A cyclist crosses the church bridge (Kerkbrug) in the direction of the Sint Urbanus church.
Image from Koen Smilde

For a local cycle route that offers a little bit of everything, follow the River Amstel south from Amsterdam into some spectacular Dutch countryside. Watch as the buildings fade away, replaced by swaying reeds, green meadows and historic villages. Touring this idyllic region will make you feel just like a 17th-century artist might have, and you'll find plenty of flat and accessible cycle routes throughout the area. Don't miss our Amstel River cycleseeing route for the best map.

Relax on the riverside terraces of Ouderkerk

A boat in the water near the church bridge (Kerkbrug) over the river Amstel in the village of Oudekerk aan de Amstel.
Image from Koen Smilde

Featuring some of Amsterdam’s most breathtaking rural views and bustling riverside terraces, historic Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is a charming spot to spend an afternoon. The village dates back to the 12th century and has various churches and windmills that are well worth a visit. You’ll also find Beth Haim, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. Filled with ornately carved marble gravestones that feature beautiful inscriptions in Dutch, Portuguese, and Hebrew, the graves belong to Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled to the Netherlands in the 17th century and their descendants.

Visit a perfectly preserved fortress town

Image from toerisme gooi en vecht

With its town centre still encompassed by two elaborate star-shaped moats and stone walls, Naarden is one of the most remarkable examples of a fortified town in Europe and a perfectly preserved piece of Dutch defensive history. As well as its unique layout, it is also home to charming cafés, shops and attractions including the Weegschaal Museum and Dutch Fortress Museum. Naarden’s Grote Kerk is among the country’s oldest churches and hosts organ concerts and a bi-annual photo exhibition. Step inside to admire the impressive architectural details of the church, including the famous barrel-vaulted ceiling above your head.

Spend the night on a mysterious fortress island

An artificial island fort, Forteiland Pampus, once served as part of Amsterdam's line of defence and as a port for traders. These days, however, it’s a getaway for intrepid day trippers. Summer Lights on Pampus (every year from July to August) capitalises on this, inviting visitors for a boat ride to the island (departing from sleepy Muiden or Amsterdam IJburg) followed by a delicious picnic dinner and sweeping sunset views across the water. For an optional sprinkle of summer magic and a memorable overnight stay on the island, end the night in one of the custom tents, complete with mattresses and linen.