This is a guest post about Another side of Amsterdam by Kim – enjoy!
A short flight with KLM brings me directly from Zurich Airport to Schipol. Here, just 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam’s famous bustling city center, lies an abundance of hidden cultural gems to explore, with amazing architecture, rich history and a variety of things to see and do. I get to explore some of the surrounding Amsterdam areas over 3 days, which only leaves me wanting more!
After landing at Schipol Airport my first stop is Ijmuiden beach and what luck! It is a perfect day for a short refreshing walk along the beach, after which I enjoy a light lunch of delicious sandwiches at Zilt aan Zee in Ijmuiden to reenergize for a walking tour through Old Ijmuiden. On the walking tour, standing on Sluisplein, where the oldest buildings of Old Ijmuiden can be seen, it is easy to imagine this former fishing village in its prior days of the 19th century, with fishing boats coming into the locks, the lockkeeper watching over from the harbour office and calls being made to neighboring villages that fresh fish was available, from the old bell telephone building. All along the historical tour are information boards to help one imagine what this then bustling village was like. At the square in front of the Thalia Theater, which was originally a Catholic Church, converted to a basketry and fishnet repair workshop and finally turned into a theater in 1910, as it is today, beware where you walk as standing on the wrong spot can result in a sudden wet surprise, with its playful floor fountains.
If you do make your way to this historical town, it may be worthwhile to check Forteiland Ijmuiden to see if you can plan your trip on a day where you can also take a trip to the armoured fort built between 1881 and 1888, which is one of the largest fortress islands of its kind and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, there were none during my visit.
A short 15 minute drive then takes me to Santpoort-Noord, where just 30 km from Amsterdam’s city center, situated in the dunes of Zuid Kennermerland National Park, is the 4* Duin & Kruidberg Country Estate. I get to spend the night here and enjoy its majestic surrounds. This time I’m travelling solo, and stay in a classic room decorated in a classic English style, which although slightly on the small side, is located directly in the original country estate building and was most certainly one of the original rooms used in the 19th century, for entertaining the many guests received by Jacob Theodoor Cremer, who purchased the estate and ordered the construction of the largest residence in the Netherlands. The estate was lovingly constructed as an English country house for Cremer’s English, home sick wife, Annie, with numerous rooms to welcome her visiting family and their friends, even the beautiful river just outside was remodeled so that it could remind his wife of the Thames when she sat on the patio.
After checking in and having a brief stroll through the estate, admiring the various art works collected by Cremer, I get ready for a relaxing bike tour through the National Park of Zuid Kennermerland. Cycling through the dunes is one of the many highlights on this trip for me. While taking in its serene landscape, I get to snap a picture of one of its impressive employees. Scottish Highland cows who graze freely here, help maintain the grass encroachment allowing the dunes natural flora to thrive, they are also surprisingly friendly despite their intimidating looking horns.
Once back and refreshed, I get to enjoy a delish dinner from Duin & Kruiderberg’s Michelin star restaurant, De Vrienden van Jacob, in the dining room where Jacob and Annie would welcome and entertain their friends in the summer. After a splendid meal, with excellent wine pairing it’s off to bed. Tomorrow has a full day of exploring.
What a treat it is, especially for Nespresso lovers, to wake in the morning and enjoy a delish cup of Nespresso in your room before heading down for an exquisite breakfast, where there is also a Nespresso bar to be enjoyed. After breakfast I take a stroll through the gardens of the country estate, admiring the many art sculptures. These art sculptures are part of the Foundation EVA art productions presented at the estate and constantly changing as they allow new artists to display their work. Then it’s time to say farewell to the magnificent hotel and its majestic setting.
First up on the program is a visit to Muiderslot, a miedieval castle with a historical 17th century garden and UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the castle is undergoing some maintenance, the inside is impeccably preserved, and takes you back to the golden age with its paintings, utensils and original 17th century furniture that give you a clear impression of life for the castle occupants during that time. On the Golden Age tour customs, culture and habits through that time are explained by a knowledgeable tour guide, as well as some of their superstitions. One of which explains their small beds, which were made so they were able sit up and sleep, as they believed their brains would explode out of their skull if they laid!
The tower route with its narrow staircases and corridors running to dead ends, has interesting games to play along the way to educate guests, in an interactive way, on Muiderslots well thought out defensive construction. The Knight’s route however, has to be the most fun of all, especially for children, who can dress up as knights or noble ladies while exploring and then discover for themselves how heavy swords and armor were, or what it was like to look through an armor helmet. Then there’s a popular highlight of getting to compete on the Medieval Tournament Game!
Also be sure to check Muiderlot before planning your visit, so that you can also enjoy the falconer in the tent on the Bastion where you can learn about falconry at the time of Count Floris V and how these birds of prey were used for hunting. While also getting to view these magnificent birds up close. You can then end your visit in Muiderslots beautiful historic gardens, divided into a vegetable garden and herb garden by a beautiful covered walkway, or perhaps more fittingly, in the plum orchard behind the castle, where P.C. Hooft would bid his guests farewell with his favorite expression, “See you when the plums appear again!”
A ferry then takes me across the Ijmeer to Pampus Island, the manmade fortress island, built in 1887 to help defend Amsterdam and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here I first charge my batteries at Pampus Paviljoen café with a scrumptious light lunch with a mouthwatering zucchini soup made with ingredients from their own garden, scrumptious sandwiches and enjoy the most deliciously refreshing Sauvignon Blanc Viognier, and although it’s a bit overcast, the view from the café terrace is still a wonderful accompaniment to lunch.
Walking through Pampus you can read information boards on its construction and the canons that were once there. There is also still a photo exhibition “tentoonStelling” on display in the dry moat, which consists of more than 40 fortress and batteries that made up the Defense Line of Amsterdam. Interesting artefacts are also to be discovered all around. An audio tour guide over headset, but also available as an app, takes you through Pampus on a 45 minute tour providing you with all the interesting defense systems and other interesting history and facts, like how the outside toilets were once decorated by colourful tiles to indicate which ranks were allowed to use them.
The Fort is also divided into two sections, one renovated and maintained, the other left to allow visitors to see how Pampus has deteriorated over the years. There are video’s on Pampus and its history that can be watched, and a special room where you can learn the meaning behind the famous Dutch saying, “Voor Pampus Liggen” (Lying for Pampus), while lying on big comfy cushions and watching a video shown on the forts ceiling. I find walking around and learning about the fort interesting, and the thought that has gone into it’s construction is incredible. The labyrinth like design without signage and lights so anyone that was not meant to be there would easily get lost, the funny shaped passage ways to allow soldiers to easily reload their guns without changing their stance and the canon that was built in with no opening so that no bombs or the like could be thrown through! With everything to see, watch and discover, one can easily spend hours in this impressive fort. It could also be worthwhile checking out Pampus before planning a visit, as sometimes, like Halloween, they also have fun events on the island.
Then it’s off to Naarden, the fortified town and most ancient town in the Amsterdam area, located only 28 minutes’ drive away from Amsterdam’s popular city center. This charming little town became a fortified area and an important part of the Dutch defense line, The Dutch Waterline, because of its strategic location, and with it being the strongest fortress in Europe with a double moat, walled ramparts and bastions and six retired flanks.
The town and its setting is enchanting with its typical 17th century style that has been well preserved till today! Walking along it’s Medieval streets there is so much to discover. The Arsenal from 1688 used by the military as late as 1987, today a leading concept store for design, lifestyle and beauty, connected to the Oud Molen Bastion, that housed the infirmary and sleeping quarters. The well preserved city hall built in 1601 which functioned as a court with a prison below and where even today people can still get married, with its incredible paintings, and beautiful model of the town.
De Grote Kerk (The Big Church), today a Protestant Church but which was originally a Catholic Church, as can be seen by the magnificently painted wooden vault inside. There you can also climb the tower, in which bullets from a battle in 1813-1814 can still be seen, for an impeccable view of the city, unfortunately it is not open on the day I am there. The tower is only open between May – September on Wednesdays and on weekends. Outside of the church is also a statue in remembrance of the Czech theologian, philosopher and pedagogue, Jan Amos Comenius, who found refuge in Amsterdam from 1656. Throughout the town you can search for the various Dutch poems painted on walls of houses, and of course there is the impressive Utrecht Gate. Here the tourist information centre is also located.
My time in the captivating town is far too short, and I would love to go back to walk the fort walls, take a boat tour with the Vestingvaart, visit the Fortress Museum and enjoy a picnic just outside the Utrecht Gate! Every corner of this beautiful town is well worth exploring and perhaps I’ll even spend a night or two at the new boutique hotel, Vesting Hotel Naarden, which I get to have a sneak peek at, so that I can enjoy exploring Naarden without any time constraints.
It’s already dinner time and in Blaricum, located in the unique nature reserve, Goois Natuurreservaat, with its beautiful fields of heather, I enjoy a delectable dinner at De Tafelberg, which was converted into a restaurant from a former tea house of 1939.
Already checked in at Hotel Nautisch Kwatier, from the Fletcher Hotel group, in Huizen, I look forward to a good night’s rest and breakfast with a wonderful view out over the old harbour of Huizen, overlooking the Gooimeer Lake.
It’s my final day in the Amsterdam area, and after a wonderful breakfast I enjoy a relaxing boat trip down the river Vecht, with its 17th century historical river estate houses and their beautiful accompanying tea pavilions with their large windows, in which tea would be enjoyed with the finest and most expensive silver and china for all to see, in order to show off their wealth. The motto of that time was after all “to see and be seen”.
Of the 200 estates along the River Vecht, only about 50 remain today, but this makes the Stichtse Vecht municipality that with the largest amount of historic estates in the Netherlands. What adds to the Vechts’ scenic charm is that no two estates are alike, the variety in architectural style can be explained partially under the different circumstances in which they were built. The earliest manors started as farms and converted to estates, some were converted into country homes from medieval castles and then the large, square manors with symmetrical façades depict the luxurious modern estates that were then built in their own right as status symbols.
Of course before the Vecht became a popular location for summer homes in the 17th Century it was, for a long time, the fastest route between the Rhine and the North Sea and a bustling connection between Amsterdam and Utrecht. Also with the many farms and factories of brick and roof tiles that were initially purchased there, the river was busy with the transportation of fresh food and bricks to Amsterdam, where the canal belt was just being built. Horses would walk alongside the river, on a towpath, towing boats along. The tow path along the Vecht is still their today, enjoyed by runners, walkers and cyclists. I would love to do a cycle tour down the Vecht, exploring the 7 scenic towns found alongside, like the town of Brooklyn, Breukelen in Dutch, with its very own Brooklyn Bridge.
I then pay a visit to the modern art museum in Amstelveen, CoBrA, acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, the cities of the founding members in 1948, as an international movement for free art, after World War II. While I am by far no art connoisseur, I am moved and captured by some of the pieces on display. Art is after all supposed to move you and not just “look good” as CoBrA portraits. Here members focus on embracing & experimenting with different materials, methods and different forms of expression, a fundament of CoBrA. CoBrA constantly has new exhibitions on display and activities to enjoy. Even the little gift shop at the front offers interesting, fun, and practical items to explore.
After lunch in the garden of Cromhout Huis in Amsterdam, which is inspired by the golden age using ingredients from the time of the Cromhout Family, I head to the newly opened, A’DAM Toren. The 22 story tower designed by architect Arthur Staal, which officially opened in 1971, when it was home to the multinational oil company Shell, till 2009. A reason why many Amsterdamers affectionately refer to it as the “Shelltoren”. Now a home for offices, cafes, an upcoming underground club, a hotel soon to be opened on the 7th floor, restaurants, and its popular revolving restaurant, Moon.
I ride up in the experience elevator, “Goes to Heaven”, to the 360 degree panorama deck with its interactive exhibitions that provide information on Amsterdam’s history and culture. Then take the few stairs that lead up onto the sky deck, providing you with a free birds’ eye view over Amsterdam and its surrounds. Luck is once again on my side, and the day is a bright clear one, in which the view can be fully enjoyed and visitors also enjoy the weather lounging in huge cushions. Finally my trip comes to a thrilling end with a ride on Europe’s highest swing, Over the Edge, which has me swinging over the edge of A’DAM Toren, almost 100 metres above the ground!
I love Amsterdam’s bustling historic city center, with its museums, beautiful architecture and canals, but there is more to Amsterdam than just its popular center! My short trip has opened a whole new world of Amsterdam to me, with so much to discover and explore which has only left me itching to go back and explore more!
This post was written by Kim. Thank you for reading. We are always happy to receive comments and if you like you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you prefer to be notified of new posts via email, you can subscribe by adding your email address here: