The magical Muiderslot castle is more than 700 years old, making it one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in the Netherlands. Adding to its fairy-tale charm is its beautiful gardens, which is still used to grow vegetables and herbs. Between March and November, the garden is tended to by a team of volunteers who are only too happy to teach visitors about forgotten vegetables and herbs that can be used for medicine, dyes and decoration. Behind the castle you’ll find a plum orchard, a source of inspiration for Pieter Cornelisz Hooft, sometimes referred to as ‘the Dutch Shakespeare’, who was resident in Muiderslot castle in the 17th century.
Muiden // Castle Muiderslot
Tea Garden at Weesp
You’ll find this romantic tea garden located in one of Weesp’s former bastions. Built in 1674, the Bakkersschans bastion was once a part of the towns fortifications but has now been transformed into an oasis surrounded by lush greenery. Garden enthusiasts will love the tranquil atmosphere and can enjoy some Dutch delicacies in the adjoining restaurant, housed in a building that was once used to store munitions.
Weesp // Tea Garden at Weesp
Just east of Amsterdam you’ll find the walled city of Naarden, part of Amsterdam’s historic defence line and one of Europe’s best-preserved fortified towns. After you’ve wandered through the city head out to the fortress itself and walk along the unique star-shaped moats and gorgeous green areas with small thickets. Just outside of Naarden you can find one of the oldest and most beautiful nature reserves of The Netherlands, the Naardermeer.
The Singer Sculpture Garden at the Singer Laren museum
Art fans should take a trip to Singer Laren’s sculpture garden. Designed by renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf — a leading figure of the ‘New Perennial’ movement who designed the gardens of New York’s iconic High Line — the free sculpture garden features work by contemporary Dutch artists including Guido Geelen, Maria Roosen and Famke van Wijk. Based around a theme of connection, the works meld culture and nature and are perfectly situated among seasonal fauna referencing art and time.
Laren // Singer Laren museum
Geologisch Museum Hofland
Step back in time and explore the stone garden at the Geologisch Museum Hofland (Hofland Geological Museum) in Laren. It is said that around 150,000 years ago 70 tonnes of Scandinavian boulders arrived in what is now the Netherlands as the ice spread during the Ice Age. You’ll also find stones delivered to the area via the Rhine and Meuse rivers as well, with the origins of the stones as far afield as Eifel, Ardennes, Hunsrück and Vosges. Wander through the heathland to take in smaller stones, or simply sit back on one of the polished seating stones and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Laren // Geologisch Museum Hofland
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel
As far as quaint villages go, Ouderkerk aan de Amstel offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam and is just a short bike ride away. This 12th century town is best reached by cycling along the picturesque Amstel river where stunning vistas await. Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is also home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. This restful spot with tombstones and simple gardens was opened in 1614. Not strictly a garden (sorry folks), the nearby Ouderkerkerplas also offers beaches, a nature reserve and various walking and cycling paths to explore.
For a more intimate garden experience, head to the historic city of Haarlem. This charming destination features more than 20 hofjes, courtyards surrounded by alms houses that hark back to a bygone era when wealthy members of society founded them to house poor, unmarried or widowed women. These days many of the hofjes are open during the day, making them the perfect spot to enjoy some tranquillity before exploring more of Haarlem’s myriad cultural treasures. While in the city make sure to visit Hofje van Bakenes, the oldest surviving hof which was founded by Dirc van Bakenes in 1395.
Haarlem // Haarlem Hofjes
Taking inspiration from English gardens popular in the 1800s, the Keukenhof Castle’s gardens were designed by architect Jan David Zocher, and recently restored by Michael van Gessel, a contemporary landscape architect. Among the gardens you can discover artworks that complement the estate’s rustic character. Be sure to take in the terraced garden on the hill where a fantastic view of the castle and grounds awaits. There’s also a restaurant and a petting zoo for the kids.
Lisse // Keukenhof Castle
Hortus Botanicus in Leiden
Leiden’s Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Gardens) are the oldest botanical gardens in the Netherlands and feature a staggering array of plant species from southern Europe, South Africa and Asia. The garden is located in the heart of the city, and also home to dozens of species of bird, a medicinal herb garden and a tropical greenhouse.
Leiden // Hortus Botanicus