Castle de Haar: visiting the prettiest castle in the Netherlands
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Mr. and I decided to turn off those laptops and go on an adventure. What was on our schedule? A visit to Castle de Haar, the largest castle in the Netherlands, not even half an hour’s drive away from our house!
I had no idea the castle even existed until the Australian Brooke told me about it. I feel a bit ashamed because it’s such a fairytale-like castle. It is so grand and beautiful and medieval that I almost can’t believe that this is located in the Netherlands, instead of France. Check it out!
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History of Castle de Haar
No one knows when exactly Castle the Haar was built, but it has probably been around since the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Back then it was merely a residential tower. From 1482 the castle was systematically expanded and strengthened to cope with attacks and more extreme weather conditions. From the eighteenth century on the castle fell in ruin until there was almost nothing left at the end of the nineteenth century.
When Baron Étienne van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar inherited the ruins in 1890, he decided to restore the castle with the fortune of his wife Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. It would become a castle full of grandeur. Renowned architect Pierre Cuypers was appointed to reform everything together with his son Joseph. Even though the castle was big and comfortable (for that time): it was never more than a holiday getaway for the couple, who wanted to receive and entertain guests in the castle during the September month. This family tradition continued until 2005, where the family lived in the châtelet during September (instead of the castle), which was originally used as room for the staff.
The castle itself is already impressive, but together with the castle garden it is nothing less than spectacular: if you want to see the whole garden you will be walking for about an hour and a half! Garden architect Hendrik Copijn turned the lands into an English landscape park in 1895, with French gardens all around the castle. The complex has a beautiful pond and even a deer park!
Sorry for all the pictures, but gosh: it’s so beautiful! Isn’t it just like a theme park?
I was completely blown away when I visited this castle. If you have been a reader for a while, then you know I don’t mind visiting a castle here and there. I love it: the more it’s preserved and decorated in the original style, the better. But I had no idea that such a castle even existed The Netherlands. And so close to where I live!
The whole complex reminded me of French castles, with the big gardens, and the Gothic structures. The castle is completely decorated in its original style, making it feel like you just stepped back in time, being invited by the Van Zuylen family during one of their September celebrations. Amazing! I especially liked the room of the baroness. It was very beautiful and bright, and her bathroom with that sunken bath: #interiorgoals. Mr and I both agreed that this is one of the top three castles we have ever visited. And it’s located in the Netherlands! Why didn’t I know about this?
Lastly, I was very happy to learn more about the couple Etiènne & Hélène in the castle itself (yes, I can call them by their first name, after all, I was at the September celebration ;-)). They married each other despite the fact that both families did not agree due to different religions, they hosted the wildest parties, and traveled around the world where they got souvenirs that are now on display in the castle. Going to Japan in 1890: that is an adventure on a whole different level. So epic. In addition, Hélène was the first woman in Europe to have a driver’s license. You understand: in my mind I was already in 1909, in full swing on the ballroom floor, while I happily exchanged gossip with Hélène after a nice dance with a bachelor baron.
Visit Castle de Haar
Castle de Haar is located in the village Haarzuilens, northwest of Utrecht. There is a bus you can take to the castle, but it is easier to go by car and then park in the parking lot: it costs € 4. You can visit the castle itself every day between 11:00 and 17:00, for €16. If you just want to visit the gardens, it will cost €5. Check the website for the current opening hours (the castle can be closed during events).