It was a lazy, sunny Wednesday morning when I visited De Haar Castle, said to be the prettiest castle in The Netherlands and only a short drive away from my hometown: Utrecht. De Haar Castle had everything I expected from a castle; towers, turrets, ramparts, moats, gates and suspension drawbridges. Not only was the castle itself stunning, the surrounding gardens and park were also very beautiful. I was completely blown away when I visited this castle.
If you only have time to visit one castle in the Netherlands, you should definitely visit De Haar Castle. Keep reading to find out more!
About De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle (Kasteel de Haar) is located about 15 kilometers outside the city of Utrecht, next to the village of Haarzuilens and only 36 kilometers from Amsterdam. It was only a 20 minutes bicycle ride from my hometown! When visiting the castle, make sure to stop at the village of Haarzuilens. The village is built in the same style of the castle with red and white stripes at every turn and is itself enough of an attraction.
De Haar Castle is said to be the prettiest castle in The Netherlands and I totally agree with this. It’s also the largest castle and most luxurious castle in the Netherlands. Once it was the private residence of the Van Zuylen family, whose descendants still stay here yearly. In the 60s, it became a place where the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family received well known people, from Brigitte Bardot and Coco Chanel to Maria Callas and Roger Moore.
Next to the castle you can find a romantic chapel and beautiful parks and gardens. Without a doubt De Haar Castle is the most prettiest castle in The Netherlands.
The history of De Haar Castle
The history of De Haar Castle is full of mysteries. It is assumed that De Haar Castle was built in the 13th century as that’s when it was first mentioned in writing. The castle you see today is mainly the work of Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt. In the nineteenth century, he inherited the castle in a bad shape. He found the financial means to restore his family domain by marrying Hélène, a wealthy woman. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers, famous at the time for his designs of the Rijksmuseum and Central Station in Amsterdam, who restored De Haar Castle above and beyond its former glory.
In 2000 the van Zuylen van Nijevelt family passed ownership of the castle and gardens to the foundation Kasteel de Haar. The castle and gardens were extensively restored again and now the castle is a very popular museum attraction. De Haar Castle ranks among the top twenty most visited Dutch museums. The van Zuylen van Nijevelt family still retain the right to spend one month a year in the castle.
Inside De Haar Castle
When you enter the castle grounds, you will step back in time, to the 13th century. You enter the castle grounds through what used to be the stables and is now the visitor centre, gift shop, ticket office and café. It’s a beautiful setting.
Kasteel De Haar has 200 rooms, making it the largest castle in the Netherlands. Make sure you allow enough time for your visit, although you will of course not be able to see all 200 rooms. They are not all open to the public, but a lot of them are and many have displays to show what the castle would have been to like to visit in its glory days. Each room has signs with background information in different languages.
There awaits also a guide in almost every room, ready to tell you more. The guides are volunteers that help you with ample enthusiasm to make the castle come alive.
The highlight of De Haar Castle is the unique main hall. The hall is more of a cathedral than a castle with its dramatic Gothic arches and statues. I was also blown away by how opulent and beautiful the ballroom was! Below you can see a photo of the main hall and an object that the Baron and Baroness collected during their travels.
On the second floor you can see the bedrooms. It was the Baroness’s bedroom and bathroom that most made me want to move in myself! The room is large, stunning pink, and has beautiful gold details and decorations. Not to mention her amazing bathroom with a bathtub sunk into the floor.
Back on the bottom floor you will find different kitchens (a vegetables kitchen, a dishwashing kitchen, a dairy kitchen etc.). The one that really impressed me was the huge kitchen that was used to create lavish meals for the residents and guests staying at the castle. All the copper pans and cutlery are emblazoned with the family name.
De Haar Castle’s Garden
While the castle itself is stunning and luxurious, the surrounding gardens and park are also worth exploring. The architect Pierre Cuypers was closely involved in the design of the gardens and the park, together with garden architect Hendrik Copijn. The gardens had to be at least as spectacular as the castle itself and they are!
You can find a rose garden, a roman garden, a kitchen garden, ponds and canals, as well as many bridges, romantic vistas and impressive avenues. Each season in the park has its own charm.
If you want to see the whole garden you will be walking for at least about an hour and a half! You can visit the park and gardens for a cheaper fee if you don’t want to also see the interior of the castle (or if you have dogs since they aren’t allowed inside). My favourite part was the deer park and the maze!
Of course, De Haar Castle becomes even more spectacular during Christmas time. From 6 December the entire castle is cloaked in Christmas decorations. The outside walking paths will also be illuminated, creating a true fairytale land for visitors to revel in.
The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The castle is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last access to 4.15 pm). Always take a look at the Kasteel de Haar website before your visit for the latest information on opening times
De Haar Castle
3455 RR Haarzuilens
030 677 8515
Adults: € 17,00
Children 4-12 y: € 11,00
Children 0-3 y: Free
How to get to De Haar Castle?
Castle de Haar is relatively easy to get to by car or public transport. By car it’s about 40 minutes from Amsterdam and there is parking directly next to the castle that costs € 6 (this is on top of your entrance fee). When you go by car you can plan your route in Google Maps. It takes around 15 minutes to get to the castle from the car park.
With public transportation it takes about an hour and a half to get to De Haar from Amsterdam. There are intercity trains to Utrecht and you can get bus 9 to Kasteel de Haar from Utrecht Centraal station on weekends and during the summer holidays. If you are visiting on a weekday (not during the summer holidays) then you will need to get another train from Utrecht Centraal to the town of Vleuten (with destination Den Haag Centraal) and then catch bus 111 to Kasteel de Haar (stop at Kasteel de Haar)* or bus 127 to Breukelen (stop at Brink in Haarzuilens) and walk for about 15 minutes to the castle. Plan your trip via 9292.
Bicycles can be parked in the bike park on Stalplein.
All in all, De Haar Castle is an interesting piece of architecture and worth a visit! The castle makes you feel like you step back in time. I especially liked the unique main hall and the room of the baroness. The Netherlands has many castles, but De Haar Castle near Utrecht is definitely my favorite.
Have you been to De Haar Castle? Would you like to visit?
If you are interested in more breathtaking castles in the Netherlands make sure you check out my post on the 20 castles in the Netherlands that you should include in your itinerary if you are planning to visit The Netherlands! and don’t forget to pin one of these if you’re planning to visit De Haar for yourself!
This article is part of the GPSmyCity iOS app. You can download it, read this article offline and obtain travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the places mentioned in this article. Click here to download it.