If you’re looking for a gorgeous little town in the Netherlands to visit away from the tourist crowds, I suggest Naarden-Vesting! We’ve gone here for a lovely day-trip in the summer a couple of times because it’s so pretty. Of course, you can visit at other times of the year as well, but I personally really like visiting during the summer so that you can really enjoy the (rare) Dutch sunshine. I might complain about the weather in the Netherlands a lot but the Dutch sure know how to enjoy summer when it’s finally here!
Naarden-Vesting is the ‘old town’ part of the larger town of Naarden. This pretty part of town lies within a star-shaped fort. You can walk along the top of a lot of the casements (like in the photo above) but you need a drone (or to be flying!) to really see the star shape from above. The different fortifications were built over a period of several hundred years as the town had a rather turbulent history (you can read more about it here). Nowadays it is simply a well-preserved and charming town with plenty of fun things to see and do on a day trip!
Things to Do in Naarden-Vesting
My favourite thing to do in Naarden-Vesting is simply to wander around and explore, but here are a list of some of the main things you could enjoy during your own visit. It’s the perfect destination for history-buffs as well as those who just like to relax and savour the sun!
The white building in the photo above is the historic ‘Het Arsenaal’ (translation, the arsenal) which was, of course, originally used as a military warehouse. The building is now a national monument and the home of Jan Des Bouvrie’s (a Dutch interior designer) shop and showroom. Other stores have since opened in the building and it’s now one of the best Dutch concept stores for interior design, fashion, jewellery and lifestyle. There’s also an exclusive restaurant here as well. It’s definitely a great place to browse and perhaps shop or simply have a decadent meal! Have a look at the official website here.
The fortress museum explores and showcases the history of Naarden-Vesting as a fortified town. The fortress museum is especially fun for children but also interesting for anyone with even a slight interest in history. On the first and third Sunday of every month you can also witness the firing of the cannons outside, and you don’t need to enter the museum in order to watch, and hear, this event! But it’s definitely a fun and interesting place to explore during your visit, so make sure you check out the museum website for more information.
Explore the Fortifications
As well as exploring the history of the fortifications in the museum you can also simply wander around the town to admire the fortifications. The main gate (in the photo above) is a prominent sight and the tourist info is just to the right of it if you need to get more information about things to do in the town. Walking through this gate also leads to a cute little shop (the one in the first photo of this section) and the views from the other side are also very pretty.
We also discovered a few different areas where you can walk up on the fortifications to see over the town, or look down into underground buildings! We found one that seemed to be a series of businesses with skylights that we could look down into which was pretty cool. On top of these embankments are also nice spots to sit and relax or even have a picnic.
As I mentioned, the Dutch really know how to enjoy their summer weather, when it finally arrives! As soon as the sun shines the Dutch flock to terrace cafes and restaurants in order to enjoy the sunshine with food, drinks and friends. There are plenty of cute terrace cafes in Naarden-Vesting, some beside the canals (so you can enjoy the water and the sun) and quite a few to choose from on the main street. Pick whichever takes your fancy and enjoy a borreltje (a drink) the Dutch way. I especially liked the look of the one beside the canal (above and first photo below) as well as the one serving people on the terrace through an open window (second photo below).
Cruise the Canals
Something else the Dutch do well is, of course, playing on the water. The moat around Naarden-Vesting and the canals partly within are lovely spots to ‘mess about in boats’. You can go on a guided canal tour (have a look at this website) and you can also rent boats from just outside Het Arsenaal. Of course, you can also bring your own kayaks like the people in the main photo of this article, or simply enjoy walking along the canals or even putting your feet into the water from the steps!
Admire the Architecture
As well as the fortifications and gate there are other beautiful buildings to see, such as the Grote Kerk of St. Vitus pictured above. Really, all the buildings are cute, the streets are lined with gorgeous crooked canal houses and shops. As well as the main church there’s also the old city hall which was built in the Dutch Renaissance style and is pretty impressive. Of course, I just loved wandering and taking photos since all the buildings are historic and pretty. It’s a fairly affluent area to live as well, so we saw quite a few fancy cars parked outside these very expensive homes too!
There was also a series of poems on walls near to the church, and a pretty cool ‘floating’ sculpture outside it. We didn’t go inside the church (opting to stay outside in the sun) but I’m sure it’s just as beautiful on the inside!
Just outside the moat of the town we also discovered one of the ubiquitous Dutch ‘city farms’, as well as a deer park close by! We didn’t go inside but apparently it’s open every day, you can find out some more information here. If you’re visiting with children I’d definitely recommend the petting farm and the deer park. I was pretty excited just to see some deer through the fence to be honest!
We usually visit Naarden-Vesting by car but you can get there by public transport too. Trains from Amsterdam Centraal go to Naarden-Bussum station. From there it’s about a 30 minute walk into the fortified part of the town, or you can catch bus 110, OR you can rent bikes at the station. The website 9292 is perfect for figuring out the best way to get from A to B in the Netherlands. If you are visiting by car then there is a free car-park located at Niuew Molen, but it gets busier later in the day so try to get there early!
Bonus: Visit Blaricum Too!
If you are visiting Naarden-Vesting with a car, and it’s a hot summer day, then I would also recommend you make a stop at nearby Blaricum to try the best ice-cream in the Netherlands! Blaricum is a gorgeous (and very expensive) town in the Netherlands filled with beautiful thatched-roof cottages and home to IJssalon de Hoop. This ice-cream parlour regularly wins awards for the best ice-cream in the country and often has queues across the street! They move quickly though and the ice-cream is definitely worth it. The salon has been there since 1898 and all the ice-cream is handmade. They also have dairy-free and low sugar varieties. A little wander around the village while having your ice-cream is the perfect end to a perfect summer’s day-trip in the Netherlands! It is possible to get here via public transport, you would need to catch the train to Hilversum and then a bus; but it’s a lot easier by car. There is free parking on the street called Bergweg, just around the corner from de Hoop.