Her name was Scorpio, and she was to take us on a memorable journey along part of one of the Netherlands most charming rivers, the Vecht. For an entirely fresh and fascinating perspective of the greater Amsterdam area, taking a river cruise, aboard a vintage boat is the thing to do, writes Andrew Forbes.
Within half an hour one is away from the bustling streets of Amsterdam, and in the lush green countryside. It’s here we boarded Scorpio, a charming period saloon boat with an elegant cream painted hull, polished wooded seats and a scalloped canopy. The crew member untied the ropes holding us to the quayside, and then the captain started the motor and we gently slipped away through the calm waters of the river.
Much of the Netherland’s finest and most sophisticated architecture dates to the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, when the country was the world’s most successful maritime nation.
It’s here, along the banks of the river Vecht that one is reminded of this decadent era, where still today over 50 grand estates remain, each with a stately home, palace or even castle surrounded by gardens, leading down to the water’s edge.
The villages and towns here are truly charming, such as Weesp with historical houses lining the river that date back hundreds of years. Passing through by boat is such a luxury; the captain takes care of navigating the rover, and you just must sit back and relax. It’s worth allowing time in the day to explore the other notable town nearby including Naardan and Muiden.
By the 10th centre town of Muiden one finds the fairy-tale Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot. It’s a classic fortified building with draw-bridge, towers, turrets and battlements – and don’t miss the beautiful gardens too.
The verdant area of the country was a popular choice for commercial investors in the golden age, where many of the bricks and tiles were manufactured for the booming economy. The merchants chose not only to invest here but to live rare too, building grand summer homes. Each season Amsterdam’s wealthiest households would relocate to the fresh and summery setting of the River Vecht.
So, it seems appropriate that during the cruise one can sip wine and enjoy the sights. Hiring a boat also means you can have lunch onboard – the captain and crew with be happy to arrange a cold buffet, collected from one of the riverside restaurants – it’s a great opportunity to try some local delicacies such as the ‘kroketten’; a tasty croquette served with mild creamy mustard and wholesome bread.
Rustic manors and farming estates were transformed into stately homes; this river cruise takes ne through one of the most desirable place to live in the country. Not only were the homes mini architectural masterpieces but they were surrounded by elegant gardens.
Over the centuries, the fashion for formal gardens evolved into more pastoral estates in the English style. Now in the 21st century this garden has matured into impressive parklands that can be enjoyed by visitors.
As one passes these fine homes, with their elegant pavilions one feels a world’s away from Amsterdam, yet this experience is easily enjoyed as a day-trip.
I was a guest of Boei 26, who offers boat trips along the river on vessels such as the Scorpio, including catering. Visit their website for prices.
To help plan your itinerary, we recommend you visit the Castles and gardens destinations page of the I Amsterdam website.
For details on how to travel around the greater Amsterdam area, visit the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket information page.
Also, click through the links in this piece for information on each of the destinations.
For more details on some of the finest Dutch restaurants and luxury hotels, see our collection of luxury Amsterdam interviews and reviews here.