Naarden – discover the hidden Netherlands

Tulips, clogs and windmills – some of the clichéd notions of Holland are never far from our thoughts when planning a trip to the Netherlands. Yet for something truly unique and original, stay in Naarden, one of the most spectacular, historic towns close to Amsterdam, writes Andrew Forbes.

Social media networks like Instagram do much to inspire and inform travellers, yet they can also be guilty of playing to the clichéd perceptions of a country. Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular city-break destinations, served but one of the world’s best airports, yet still has so much to offer the inquisitive traveller, wanting to explore beyond the tourist trail.

A stay in Naarden gives you that very opportunity – to explore and discover a less well- known part of greater Amsterdam area, and to be immersed in Dutch history and charm.

Less than half an hour from Amsterdam, Naarden was built to protect the city from attacks from the East. Now in more peaceful times, this historic town, said to be one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Europe, is a delight to discover. A visit here is easily combined with one of the Castles and Gardens itineraries.

Stroll the ancient walls, along the edge of the star-shaped moats; meander through the stone cobbled streets of the town centre; or simply relax in a street side café.

In addition to the town’s historic sites such as the Grote Kerk church (if you have a head for heights then join a guided tour that takes you to the belfry!) and the Fortress Museum, there are also contemporary places to eat and charming places to stay.

We enjoyed a memorable, gourmet meal at the Restaurant Acquavite.

This upscale eatery is within the city’s historic Promers barracks, so you eat below vaulted ceilings of the historic fortfications. Service is excellent, the food superb and the setting unique.

Although Naarden is easy to reach for a day-trip from Amsterdam; it’s well worth staying over for a night. We discovered the Vesting Hotel. This simply hotel has plenty of old world charm and contemporary styled rooms with good bathrooms.

What’s more the bar restaurant has a great atmosphere, and in the mornings the breakfast is superb!


This stunning fortified town is only 20 minutes from Amsterdam by train! In the time to takes to enjoy a coffee you can be another world. Just head to Central Station and take the train to Naarden-Bussum. Travel to Naarden is covered by the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket.

For more details on some of the finest Dutch restaurants and luxury hotels, see our collection of luxury Amsterdam interviews and reviews here.

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