Day 3. Amsterdam and Naarden Fortress

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast in the Park Plaza Vondelpark’s restaurant, we checked out of the hotel leaving our luggage to collect later.  We’d decided on a morning’s sightseeing and felt we couldn’t visit Amsterdam without taking a canal cruise.  We therefore took a tram to Westermarkt, close to Anne Frank’s House on the Prinsengracht canal from where multiple canal trips depart.

Circle Line Canal Cruise, Amsterdam
Enjoying our Circle Line cruise

We opted for a Circle Line Cruise, €16 and included in the IAmsterdam Card.  The boat was very comfortable with a glass roof and sliding windows that could easily be pushed open for taking photos.  Our 75 minute cruise firstly took us anti-clockwise along the Prinsengracht canal, beside the Jordaan district with its scenic narrow waterways.  Our informative captain and guide Albert told us that this was once a working class neighbourhood but has since become one of the most charming and sought after parts of the city.

Munttoren, Amsterdam
The Munttoren Tower viewed from the canal

At regular intervals throughout the boat trip we heard a pre-recorded commentary of landmarks we were passing.  This was provided in four languages and supplemented with live chat from Albert.  He told us that at 24 he was the youngest skipper of the Circle Line fleet but was not inexperienced in the least as he recounted interesting stories about the Dutch way of life, Amsterdam and its history.  This created a more personal experience keeping all the passengers on board entertained.

Magere Brug, Amsterdam
Passing under the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) on the Amstel

Our tour continued along Amsterdam’s numerous canals, passing many houseboats along the way as these have become a popular housing option over the years.  Once a cheaper alternative to houses and apartments they have now however become extremely expensive as coupled with purchasing the houseboat one has to pay costly mooring fees for the prime city centre location.

Houseboat, Amsterdam
One of the many houseboats linking the canal banks

After crossing the Amstel River we then emerged out onto the much wider IJ from where we had stunning views of Central Station and the A’Dam Tower on the north bank.  Just beyond Central Station and on our way back to the Prinsengracht canal we then passed the Gouden Reael, or Western Islands district, consisting of three artificial islands.  We learnt that between 1610 and 1615 these were built as an extension to the harbour and contain warehouses that have been there since the 17th century Dutch Golden Age.

Overall our cruise had been a relaxing 75 minute trip, providing us with a different perspective of the city from the water.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Rijksmuseum

After the boat trip we headed to the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands.  Entrance €20 but free for those 18 and under and holders of the IAmsterdam Card.  At the time of our visit (April 2022) it was necessary to pre-book a timed entry slot which worked well as it only took a couple of minutes to have our tickets checked before going inside.

Central atrium Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The museum’s central atrium

This vast museum contains over one million artworks and covers 800 years of the Dutch Masters from 1200 to the present date.  It would be almost impossible to view the entire museum in one visit so we selected brief highlights starting first with the Gallery of Honour, displaying masterpieces by the Dutch Golden Age artists including Rembrandt, Hals, Van Gogh and Vermeer.  The museum’s most famous painting being Rembrandt’s Night Watch which takes pride of place at one end the gallery.

Rembrandt's Night Watch, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Rembrandt’s Night Watch

The Night Watch is currently on display behind glass as it has been removed from its frame by conservationists for the first time since 1975 as part of a restoration project to remove some warping of its canvas.  The painting measures an enormous 3.8m x 4.5m (12ft x 14ft) and we were able to get up close to the glass to inspect it.

Domed hallways in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Domed hallways are a feature of the museum

Not only the artwork but the building itself is a work of art with its tall, domed ceilings, sweeping staircases and stained glass windows.  As a lover of libraries we couldn’t miss visiting the beautiful Cuypers Library on the 2nd floor which can also be viewed from the gallery on the floor above.  The library is both the largest and oldest art historical library in the Netherlands.

Cuypers Library, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The magnificent Cuypers Library

In addition to paintings, the museum houses sculpture and Delft ware galleries, a collection of dolls houses and a World War Two fighter plane.  The 17th century Dolls Houses were interesting as they weren’t designed for children but as collectibles for wealthy Dutch women.  Everything was made to scale using the same materials as in a full sized luxury home.

Delftware on display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Deltware on display in the museum

After leaving the museum, we stopped off for our morning cups of coffee in a leafy square before returning to the hotel for our luggage and then to head back to Central Station to embark on the second part of our stay in the Netherlands.  We boarded an early afternoon train to Naarden-Bussum, a 30 minute journey just 21km from Amsterdam.  Single fare €5.40 and included in our Amsterdam and Regional Travel Ticket which offers excellent value if travelling out of the centre as it is valid on all forms of regional transport.  Naarden is easy to reach on a day trip from Amsterdam but for a change of scene and to learn about the history of the Netherlands I would recommend arranging an overnight stay.

Naarden 

At Naarden-Bussum we intended to catch Bus 110 into Naarden but noticing that we had just missed one, decided instead that it would be quicker to walk as it only takes about 25 minutes.  On the way, we passed a small deer park with ostriches and a collection of farm animals which we wouldn’t have seen if travelling by bus.

Ostrich and Deer in Naarden
Animals in Naarden

Naarden is a UNESCO World Heritage star shaped fortress which was built to protect the city from attacks from the east and is one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Europe.  We crossed the moat and entered the town through the Utrecht Gate which dates from 1877.

Crossing the moat to enter the fortress town of Naarden
Crossing the moat to enter the fortress town of Naarden

We’d arranged to stay at the Vesting Hotel located just five minutes away in the centre of town.  The Vesting Hotel (meaning fortress) is a historic boutique hotel offering luxurious accommodation.  We were booked into the Torenkamer (tower room) on the second floor which was very special as it had exposed beams and a very tall ceiling leading up to the top of the building’s tower.  The room was luxurious with a contemporary feel and we knew we would be happy there but it was already mid-afternoon and there was sightseeing to be done so we left relaxing there for later.

Vesting Hotel, Naarden
Vesting Hotel, Naarden

Spring had definitely sprung as it was so warm and sunny for mid-April that we were able to leave our coats behind for the first time in the year as we headed to the tourist office close to the Utrecht Gate.

Utrecht Gate, Naarden
The Utrecht Gate entrance to the fortress

Here we met Roderick, one of the town guides who would be accompanying us on a walking tour of the fortress.

Naarden information board map
An information board showing the intricate star shape

Our guide began by giving us some background history of the fortress which resembles a military piece of art, shaped as a 12 point star with a double ring of moats and an arrowhead at each tip, which served as a defence system.  If only we could have flown over the fortress by helicopter, we could have appreciated the full scale of its beauty from above!

Naarden fortress moat
Walking along the fortress moat

He went on to tell us that the town was founded in 996 as a harbour village on the Zuiderzee and due to its strategic position was later developed into a fortress with double city walls, moats, bastion and city gates.  Our walk then started with a stroll along the ancient city walls which run along the edges of the star shaped moat.  Roderick explained that the fortress had been designed as a star shape with moats and ramparts for added protection following the Spanish massacre of 1572.

Hidden defences of the Naarden Fortress
Hidden defences of the Naarden Fortress

Pathways lead up to the battlements from where we could look down on the disguised casements where soldiers would have lived and worked in cramped conditions.  Some of these casements and the bastion have now been utilised as artisan’s workshops

Listening pipes, Naarden Fortress, The Netherlands
Listening pipes were a feature of the fortress

Metal pipes known as Bastion Promers sticking out of the soil were pointed out to us as we walked by.  These were listening pipes so that people could be alerted of what was happening outdoors.

The Bastion, Naarden Fortress
The Bastion of Naarden fortress

Continuing into the centre of the fortress, most of its beautiful buildings have historic significance such as Het Arsenal dating from 1688.  This is where military ammunition and weapons would have been stored.  This building is now a national monument and the home to a Dutch interior design company and stylish restaurant.

The Arsenal, Naarden Fortress
The Arsenal at Naarden Fortress

Other landmarks in the town include the Grote Kerk of St. Vitus which is famous for its annual performance of the St. Matthew Passion each Easter.  The church was constructed in 1380 and not only served the town as a place of worship but also as a lookout and communications tower for the military.

Naarden Fortress town, The Netherlands
The beautiful town of Naarden

Our tour then took us along Marktstraat, Naarden’s charming narrow high street looking delightful with its numerous upscale restaurants, cafes, shops and galleries.  Another claim to fame of the town is that it is also home to the smallest branch of Albert Heijn, the Netherlands largest chain of supermarkets.  It’s so well disguised that we hadn’t even noticed it was a food store until it was pointed out to us.

Grote Kerk, Naarden
The Grote Kerk in Naarden

We concluded our walk back to the hotel where we viewed the city hall opposite.  The building is from 1602 and is a magnificent preserved example of Dutch Renaissance architecture.  The city council chamber retains its intricate oak panelling and sculptural decorations and is now a sought after wedding venue and centre for cultural events.  The walking tour ended here and had been very informative as we’d discovered much more than just exploring on our own.  If you are interested in join one of these tours they can be booked at the local tourist office.

Naarden City Hall, The Netherlands
Naarden City Hall

Back at the hotel, we had time to relax awhile in our tower room and enjoy a welcome cup of tea.  It was then a treat to luxuriate in our contemporary styled bathroom and get ready for a meal in the hotel restaurant.

Vesting Hotel room, Naarden
Our attractive hotel room

With its central location in Naarden and reputation, it’s very popular and so I suggest making a reservation in advance to avoid disappointment.  The stylish restaurant has a roaring log fire, attractive bar and open kitchen and is the perfect place to round off a day of sightseeing.

Vesting Hotel restaurant bar, Naarden, The Netherlands
The restaurant bar

The menu is impressive and with friendly service we relaxed over our glasses of wine and enjoyed a leisurely meal.  All produce is locally sourced wherever possible and beautifully presented.  It was difficult deciding what to select as everything looked appealing and our mains of fish of the day and rump steak were cooked perfectly and very flavoursome.

Dinner menu at the Vesting Hotel, Naarden
Our chosen starters and mains at the Vesting Hotel Restaurant

Staying in the centre of Amsterdam had been lovely but it was equally nice to also experience life in the delightful fortress town of Naarden.

 

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Naarden Fortress

 

46 thoughts on “Day 3. Amsterdam and Naarden Fortress

  1. Pingback: Day 3. Amsterdam and Naarden Fortress – Day Tripper Artist

  2. As a lover of canals, I have done the Amsterdam cruise more than once and I would still love to do it again! on the other hand, I knew nothing about Naarden and I so enjoyed the visit through your eyes. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It feels like you saw so much in your time in Amsterdam. We enjoyed the Rijksmuseum, but found it so big it was hard to take it all in. We didn’t visit Naarden, but it’s on the list for next time 🙂 Thank you for sharing your adventures as always.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We had a lovely few days in Amsterdam Hannah and our night away in Naarden at the Vesting (fortress) hotel was gorgeous! Thank you for taking the time to comment and hope you’re enjoying the warm sunshine this weekend.

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  4. Looks like you had lovely weather and a fantastic stay. A canal cruise is certainly the perfect way to get around Amsterdam! I was there many many years ago and would love to return one day.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great post and wonderful photos from Amsterdam, Marion. I’ve been to Amsterdam many times, but never made it to the magnificent Cuypers Library; I have to put it on my to-do list for when we gonna visit Valters lovely cousin next time. I’ve also never been to or heard about the star-shaped town of Naarden. What a fascinating place!Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Cuypers Library in the Rijksmuseum is stunning Aiva. How fortunate that Valters cousin lives in the vicinity and you can stay with him. Do try and visit Naarden next time you visit as it’s truly beautiful. and only 30 minutes away from Amsterdam. Thank you for your ever welcome thoughts and have a lovely weekend. Marion xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an interesting post Marion. Some of it sparked long ago memories, and other parts introduced me to new things I would never have known about. Recently I read W.G.Sebald’s Austerlitz, and he talked a lot about a star-shaped fortress town. Now I have seen one through your eyes. x Gwen

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Ah a canal cruise from Westermarkt, an essential part of any Amsterdam stay. Enjoyed your tour of Naarden, which I never got round to doing. Great photos and very cool history, I think as you say a birds eye view of the fortress would be amazing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It was a splendid day Leighton taking the canal cruise, visiting the Rijksmuseum and then travelling by train to the fortress town of Naarden. Hope you get to visit Naarden the next time you are visiting Amsterdam as I feel sure you would enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Another wonderful tour of Amsterdam and surrounding areas. Your pictures from the canal tour just look so beautiful. So interesting to read more about the museum and the fortress. Listening pipes- what a brilliant idea for protection! And to get to see such a work of art in more of its original state without the frame I bet was amazing. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Another lovely time in Amsterdam and its surroundings! I also took a canal cruise during my time in the city, and it’s especially lovely during blue-sky weather. Also checked out the “Night Watch,” and according to the description, you can also see Rembrandt himself painted into the artwork! Never been to Naarden, but I’m adding it to my ever-growing list of places to check out when I return to the Netherlands (and Europe, in general!). Thanks for sharing another lovely day in the Dutch capital. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so pleased to read that you enjoyed my morning canal ride and visit to the Rijksmuseum followed by our excursion to Naarden. It was all lovely but Naarden is especially attractive with its star shaped fortress town. Thanks for your ever welcome thoughts Rebecca.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The canal cruise is a must do in Amsterdam. We really enjoyed ours. We never had enough time to go to the Rijksmuseum, so we were sad. Naarden looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh,I’m so pleased to read that you both enjoyed a canal cruise whilst staying in Amsterdam. Hopefully you can return sometime to visit the Rijksmuseum and perhaps visit Naarden and the surrounding area as well Thank you for taking the time to comment. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was wondering whether you would take a cruise on one of the many canals ☺️ … and I’m glad you did, because I really enjoyed taking it with you (lovely pictures). Ah, and so glad you showed the library in the Rijksmuseum – it’s gorgeous!
    What a great (unexpected) visit to the animals on your walking trip. Naarden looks like a charming town to visit. It’s another perfect way of ending a packed day Marion … a tower room and delicious-looking food!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your interest in this post Corna, it was another splendid day in the Netherlands and you are right, a visit to the capital can’t be complete without a ride along its canals. Naarden lies close to the city yet feels a million miles away and is a beautiful place to visit especially for history lovers.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Alison, Naarden is absolutely beautiful and such an interesting fortress town. The Vesting Hotel was gorgeous too and in a perfect spot. We do tend to walk a lot each day that’s why I tend to always wear boring comfy shoes and save nicer ones for evenings etc!

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