🚴 Route by Bike
The Netherlands isn’t only water canals, sand dunes, windmills…. This country hides a beautiful secret: its castles. Do you know that there are more than 100 castles in The Netherlands? Don’t worry, this route doesn’t go across all of them 😛 but along 3 nice castles surrounding Utrecht: Hamtoren, De Haar and Zuylen Castle. It is possible to visit the last two.
The most famous, luxurious and biggest is De Haar Castle. You will fall in love with it and will feel that you’re in a fairy tale. If you don’t believe me, look at this picture:
Before getting there, on the way, it is the Den Ham Castle, locally known as Kasteel Den Ham or Hamtoren. Hamtoren evolved from a tower house to a square castle, and now it’s a private place, so it can’t be visited.
The last one is Slot Zuylen, this is like a mixture of medieval castle and a country mansion. It’s totally different to the others. In fact, the three are different and special in their own way so don’t miss any of them!
Another nice part of the route is the Máxima Park (after the queen’s name). It’s a large green area with a playground, boat renting, bike paths and some animals (rabbits, ducks and other birds).
✦ Hamtoren: There’s not too much information about this castle, but you can read about its history on these websites:
Den Hem Castle – A Medieval Marvel in Modern-Day Utrecht
Den Ham Castle – Castles.nl
✦ Kaastel De Haar – Official web. The best way to visit it is through the guided tour, you need to buy a special ticket. This is the only option to see the rooms on the first and second floor. Do you have the Museumkaart? Then you only pay a few euros for this visit! 😉 (the rest of the castle is free with the card). The garden can be visited as well. There are picnic tables, so you can bring a sandwich to eat there. It’s necessary about two hours to see all the complex.
✦ Slot Zuylen – Official web. It’s needed to book in advance (the English website doesn’t say it, but the Dutch version does it). The only way to visit it is a guided tour. The Museumkaart is also valid (check Dutch web version) Check the opening times, prices and guided tour here (English version) but to make a reservation click here (Dutch version) or send them an email. I don’t know why but the English web version has less information than Dutch version.
🗺 More Information: Are you curious about the castles? Do you want to know where are all of them? You can check these websites:
List of castles in the Netherlands – Wikipedia
Castles in the Netherlands – Castles.nl
🚍 The route starts at Utrecht Central Station. It is easy to get there by train 😉. Google maps can provide you with timetables or you can check also the local public transport site.
➤ How to do the route?
On the next map, you can observe the complete route and all the waypoints. Take a look at the map to know where each place is. The route starts at the Utrecht Central Station and goes in a clockwise direction.
There is a point called Beach (the route doesn’t go that way, but it is nearby). The Beach is next to a lake and a restaurant, so if the weather is good maybe you can cool off 😀 or make a break there while drinking or having lunch.
Click on the next link to download the route we did, this includes the mentioned points. Keep in mind that on the map you see different colors and icons but on your phone app these characteristics are unavailable. In your phone, points only have one color and one icon.
Route GPX: Castles Route Hamtoren, De Haar and Slot Zuylen – Utrecht.
How do you use the GPX on your mobile phone?
First, you need an offline map app which allows the GPX format. I use OsmAnd. The app hasn’t maps so you should download the map of The Netherlands following its options. Next, you open the file with the app (you can send it by email and when you open it, the app will appear). You should check that you can see the route with your device. Now, you’re ready to use the phone as GPS (and with no Internet)!
Now, the last important thing: the bike. We took our bike from home but, if you want to rent, there are two options:
1. Renting an Ov-fiets at Utrecht Centraal Hoog Catharijne or Utrecht Centraal Jaarbeursplein. If you don’t have a personal chipkaart you can’t rent these bikes but don’t worry the next option is valid in your case.
2. Renting a regular bike at Rental & Repair Laag Catharijne (check the opening times). I’ve indicated the shop on the map as well. The price is 7’5 euro and maybe you need to leave something as a deposit (for example the ID or money, I left the ID the one time I rented a bike there).
➤ My Experience
I had already been at De Haar Castle but I wanted to see it again and use the opportunity to visit other castles nearby. The beginning of the path goes through a nice neighborhood, beautiful canals, houses and a windmill! After crossing the Maxima park and a short stop to see the Hamtoren, we went to the most famous castle.
There was a queue when we arrived at the Haar Castle (we went in August, the high season), but we didn’t wait too much (10 minutes). It was my second visit and it was different. I visited several rooms on the first and second floor, but not the same as the last time! After the guided tour we saw the rest of the castle: the ground floor and the gardens.
As you can see in the pictures, we did the route on a sunny day. A perfect day to go by bike but we started late, around 11 am. Therefore, we couldn’t visit the inside of the Slot Zuylen because of the time (we arrived just 10 minutes after the last tour guide) and also because It’s necessary to book in advance!!! On the English web version doesn’t say it!! They told us at the ticket office…too late ☹️. We were only able to visit the garden and see the castle from outside. So I’ve added it to my bucket list.
From my experience, I suggest you to start the route before 11 am, maybe 10 am is enough. Besides, book in advance the Slot Zuylen.
➽ More activities in the Netherlands on Extra Netherlands.
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