Naarden is a UNESCO World Heritage star shaped fortress which was built to protect the city from attack and is one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Europe. This unique town is approximately 30 minutes from Amsterdam by car and by train 25 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station to Naarden-Bussum. From there it is either a short bus ride or a 25 minute walk to the hotel in the centre of town.
Arrival and check-in:
First impressions count for a lot, and we fell in love with the hotel even before going inside. Vesting Hotel (translated as Fortress Hotel) is a charming historic gable fronted hotel with a large outdoor terrace where diners were making the most of the spring sunshine.
There isn’t an actual reception desk as such but a sign in the foyer guides guests to the bar/restaurant where one of the staff greeted us as soon as we arrived. After giving our name, she checked us in speedily and explained that she had sent an email with a QR code that would enable us to unlock our room door by phone. We were then asked at what time we would prefer breakfast so that it would be ready for us, and after deciding on 8.00 a.m. we made our way to the lift.
Room 14, the Tower Room (Torenkamer) was at one end of the second floor and on reaching the door we put phone technology to the test and like by magic it activated the door lock and we walked inside.
We’d never stayed anywhere like it, as the historic building had been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel with our room having an extremely high ceiling with exposed beams leading up to the tower at the top of the building.
The room itself was an absolute delight with its contemporary décor blending old and new perfectly. The comfortable bed, dressed with luxurious high thread linen was like sleeping on a cloud and nestled between the sheets we were asleep in seconds.
Along one wall a table/work desk had both a kettle, Nespresso machine and a selection of teas and coffees with complimentary bottles of water in the fridge below.
I loved the cosy window seat with its large cushions and curled up there to relax whenever I was in the room. Spare pillows were to be found in the wardrobe which got a big thumbs up from us, as we both prefer to sleep on two pillows and it can be annoying to have to either phone or pop down to reception to request more.
The contemporary styling continued through into the bathroom and I adored its design and spacious layout with its wet room with a rainfall shower head, raised seating area, luxurious toiletries, towels and bathrobes.
Dinner: We’d arranged a table for 7.30 p.m. in the hotel’s stylish restaurant which is very inviting with its feature glass wall and roaring log fire. The attractive bar has an open kitchen and our table was perfectly positioned to watch the chefs in action. The Vesting Hotel restaurant has an excellent reputation and is the perfect place to round off a day of sightseeing. I would suggest booking a table in advance to avoid disappointment as we noticed numerous people being turned away.
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.
Breakfast: We wandered down to breakfast at our pre-arranged time and were met with a smile from the servers. Rather than a breakfast buffet, the hotel does things slightly differently by serving guests their own breakfast platters complete with yoghurts, fresh fruit, meat, cheese, baked bread and pastries. Our boiled eggs were deliciously soft, the cappuccinos brewed to perfection and it was the best way possible to start our day.
The hotel has 14 individually styled rooms and suites, strong reliable Wi-Fi, air conditioning, large televisions, lift to all floors and cosy guest seating areas along its corridors. Meals are served in the bar/restaurant with a large number of outdoor tables for when the weather is favourable.
In addition to the restaurant there is a beautifully furnished separate room with a large table which can be reserved for private parties and meetings. For guests enjoying a cycling holiday, overnight bicycle storage is available. Whilst the hotel does not have a car park, on-street parking can be found nearby.
Out and About:
Naarden forms part of the historic defence line of Amsterdam, a 135 km long ring of fortification around the city. With its classical town centre still encompassed by two elaborate star shaped moats and historic stone walls, it is one of the most remarkable examples of a fortified town in Europe.
Stroll along its narrow streets lined with historic buildings, many of them now galleries, shops and cafes. Guided walking tours around the fortress can be arranged from the tourist office beside the Utrecht Gate. Vesting Tourist Office.
Other landmarks include the Utrecht Gate to the fortress and 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.
The city hall lies to one side of the hotel. The building dates from 1602 and is a magnificent preserved example of Dutch Renaissance architecture. Inside, the city council chamber retains its intricate oak panelling and sculptural decorations and it is now a sought after wedding venue and centre for cultural events.
Singer Laren Museum, Laren
Visit the Singer Laren Museum (Tues-Sun. 10.00-17.30, standard admission €17), located in the nearby small town of Laren. Either take a taxi or a 15 minute car journey.
In 1902 the American’s William and Anna Singer relocated to the artist village of Laren, building a villa where they entertained their artist friends. Over the years they assembled an impressive art collection and after William’s death his widow had the villa expanded to include a museum and theatre which opened to the public in 1956.
The Singer collection covers the period 1880-1950 with works by French painters, focussing on modernism and of artists who have painted landscapes in Laren and the surrounding area. In addition to paintings and sketches the museum boasts seven works by the French sculptor Augusta Rodin.
Laren – the small town has much to offer with its charming tree lined streets lined with galleries, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. An artistic trail is currently being developed with information boards to be positioned where some of the landscapes were painted.
Located 12 km from Naarden lies Muiderslot Castle which along with Naarden, was a key link in the Amsterdam Defence Line. This fairytale like castle with its characteristic round corner towers and moat is the most famous medieval castle in the Netherlands. The castle is easily reached from Naarden by taking Bus 110, journey time 20 minutes or slightly shorter by taxi.
The fortress stands at the mouth of the River Vecht and was founded by Floris V in 1280. Shortly afterwards in 1296 it was destroyed and in 1380 a new castle was built on the ruins of the old one. Muiderslot was restored between 1895-1910 and over a century later remains in perfect condition. Standard entrance to the museum is €16.50 and included in the IAmsterdam Card. Self-guided castle tours are in two parts, the tower and the castle itself with audio guides included in the entrance fee.
The picturesque small town of Muiden is very attractive with its gable fronted houses overlooking the Vecht river along Herengracht. Wander the streets, then sit out on a cafe terrace enjoying a drink watching the bridge open and close allowing boats to pass through.
The Vesting Hotel in Naarden is the most wonderful place to stay with the characterful old building having been tastefully refurbished to meet the standards of today’s discerning traveller. We were made to feel welcome from the moment we stepped through the doors with everything about our stay being faultless from the bedroom to dining in the stylish restaurant.
Details: Vesting Hotel, Raadhuisstraat, 11411 EC Naarden, The Netherlands
We were guests of Visit Amsterdam and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.
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