The Netherlands has come far in time. It rose from the sea and was driven to innovation by the constant threat of flooding waters. You can see traces of its development all over the landscape, but there’s no more impressive mark of its Medieval trials than Muiderslot.
This castle, also known as Muiden Castle in English, is one of the best options if you want to get out of Amsterdam and into the Netherlands itself. Its colourful history and beautiful location make for an amazing day out. No visit to the Netherlands is complete without a romp on its battlements. This guide will help you make the best of medieval Muiderslot.
A Spot of History:
This castle is the best-preserved example of medieval fortification in the Netherlands. Located in the small town of Muiden, Muiderslot guards the mouth of the River Vecht. This strategic point on the trade route to Utrecht made it one of the most important castles in the medieval Netherlands. It was even the seat of the Archbishop of Utrecht before it was burnt to the ground in the thirteenth century.
Luckily, it was rebuilt a hundred years later by the then Count of Holland and Zeeland. In the sixteenth century, famous Dutch author PC Hooft took possession of the castle and hosted a colourful band of poets, artists and historians between Muiderslot’s imposing walls.
Like many other castles and historical landmarks in the Netherlands, Muiderslot was slated for sale and demolition in the eighteenth century. It took the intervention of a monarch and millions of Guilders (the Dutch currency at the time) to restore the castle to its former glory and turn it into a museum.
What to See:
The castle has been fully restored, so you can walk around its wings to experience life as medieval noblemen lived it. Different routes take you through three wings.
The Tower Route shows you how the Castle was defended against enemies. War games dot the route that takes you up to the battlements and then down to the dungeons, where you read about the kind of punishments doled out for things like witchcraft and blasphemy.
The Knight’s Route, on the other hand, takes you through the public rooms of the counts and nobility who inhabited the castle. It takes a closer look at the castle’s history and you can spend some time examining the collection of medieval armour and weaponry. There’s also a game room, where you can joust.
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The Golden Age Tour skips ahead in time to the seventeenth century. It highlights Muiderslot’s days as a space of art and creativity, under the guardianship of PC Hooft. It will also give you a taste of life in the castle. Watch out for intimate details – from the beds in which the counts slept to the utensils they used.
You’ll find a special treat outside the castle. There are tents next to a small enclosure, where you can visit the Falconer. Muiderslot is famous for its falconry because its first and most infamous owner, Count Floris V, was kidnapped during a falcon hunt. You can see the falcons up close and personal here, and you can even stroke them if the Falconer allows. In summer, you can watch the falcons in live demonstrations.
The castle grounds in themselves are worth seeing. Stroll around the castle to see it from all angles and enjoy the vista of the typically Dutch landscape. There’s also a topiary garden, an orchard and a pleasant café to stop by. The gift shop offers an interesting array of odds and bobs, including quills, Italian ink and toy falcons.
There are also many activities for children, from the games set up around the grounds to a special interactive quest that will take them all around the castle.
Check the Muiderslot calendar online to keep an eye out for performances of music, drama, poetry and literature. The castle hosts various special events throughout the year and also acts as a venue for special occasions.
Ways to Get There:
There are many ways to get to Muiderslot. From Amsterdam, you can use the Netherlands’ amazing public transport to get to Muiden, but the route is complicated and I’d advise you to plan it out beforehand. From the bus stop in Muiden, clear green signs lead the way to Muiderslot. Enjoy walking through the town and catching glimpses of the castle’s emposing walls.
Going by boat is also an option, and this is perhaps the best and most enjoyable choice. You can book seats on the ferry that travels between the port of Amsterdam-Ijburg and Muiderslot. Tickets include the ride and entry to the castle, but there are lunch and picnic options as well.
When to Go:
Because of its kid-friendly activities, Muiderslot is a popular destination for school tours. It’s best to go very early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the worst bustle. The staircases and corridors can be really narrow, so navigating the castle can become a trial when it’s too busy.
Summer is the ideal time to visit the castle, because you’ll be able to watch Falcon demonstrations and enjoy the beautiful landscape. The castle is also open for longer during the summer months, so you can spend more time exploring.
In summer, the site is open between 10 am and 5 pm, but in winter it’s only open between 12 pm and 5 pm over weekends and school holidays. On all weekends, it’s only open between 12 pm and 5 pm.
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Muiden and Surrounds:
When you visit Muiderslot, it’s worth budgeting a couple of extra hours to just wander around the small town of Muiden. It sports different kinds of Dutch architecture, quaint bakeries and tea-shops and some lovely parks.
Stroll along the quayside and find a little terrace to sit at. You can enjoy some cold beer (or hot chocolate!) by the water while admiring the Castle’s ramparts.
You could also visit the Muidenfort and Westbatterij. Neither are open to the public, but the Westbatterij is a lovely spot to have a picnic, and there’s a fish stall closeby that sells fresh catches and kibbling, one of the finest Dutch treats you’ll find.