A Perfect Day Trip from Utrecht, the Netherlands
De Haar Castle (Kasteel De Haar) is the largest castle in the Netherlands. Its rich history, opulent and extravagant decor, and stunning garden make this renovated medieval fortress a popular Utrecht day trip destination.
This renovated medieval fortress once was the hottest party destination for the rich, international jet setters. Iconic fashion designers like Coco Chanel and Hollywood stars have been guests to exclusive, lavish house parties here.
Lucky you, special invitations are no longer needed to relive the glam moments and experience the splendor of De Haar Castle! It only takes 30-minute driving from Utrecht. And this article will tell you exactly how you plan and what to expect on your visit to De Haar Castle.
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Utrecht Day Trip Series
This article is part of the Utrecht Day Trip series. Be on the lookout for the next ones.
How to Get to De Haar Castle from Utrecht
By Car: It takes 30 minutes to get there from Utrecht.
By Bike: I noticed many people biked to the castle. It is 13km away and should take about 45-60 minutes.
By Bus: From the Utrecht Centraal station, take a train to Vleuten. Take bus 127* to Breukelen (stop at Brink in Haarzuilens) then walk 15 minutes.
* Note: The direct bus line 9 and 111 to De Haar Castle from Utrecht Centraal station have been discontinued.
Once you get there, expect to spend about 3-4 hours. Park & Gardens: 1-2 hour(s), Castle Tour: 1 hour, and rest of the castle on your own: 1 hour.
History of De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle was initially built in the 13th century. In 1892, Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar commissioned the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers (who designed the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam Centraal Station) to renovate the despaired medieval castle. Cuypers designed the entire complex – including the interiors, garden and chapel – and even the village of Haarzuilens. Although not everything is original, every corner of this largest castle in the country is elaborately decorated.
De Haar Castle is no longer the primary residence of the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar family. However, it has been a century-old tradition to spend a month every year in September. In that month, the baron and baroness threw lavish house parties for international guests – fashion icons, Hollywood stars, and producers. Famous guests who left marks here include Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Gregory Peck, Clark Cable, Roger Moore, Brigitte Bardot, etc.
De Haar Castle (Kasteel de Haar)
Castle & Park Admission: €18 [Book your ticket here] or free with Museumkaart, Children 4-12 €12.5, Children under 4 free
Guided Tour: €3.50
Park Admission: €7 [Book your ticket here], Children 4-12 €5, Children under 4 free
Location: Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Haarzuilens [Open Google Map]
Hours: Park 9 am – 5 pm, Castle 11 am – 5 pm (Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New Year’s Day and King’s Day)
Restrooms, restaurants and food stands are available on the property. For more details, visit the website.
De Haar Castle Park & Garden
De Haar Castle ranks among the top twenty most visited Dutch museums.
The medieval fortress with towers and ramparts is surrounded by moats and can be accessed by drawbridges.
The park and gardens surrounding De Haar Castle are nestled on 135 acres. I recommend getting there early at 9 am to enjoy the park and gardens first before the castle opens up at 11 am. You can opt to buy a park permit (€7) if you just want to go picnic here.
The gardens are well-manicured and filled with colorful flowers. (Watch out for the bees, though!)
However, if you haven’t been inside, I highly recommend experiencing the lavish lifestyles of the baron and baroness. Get a Castle & Park admission (€18).
De Haar Castle Interior
Once you get in, look up the lobby area. You will be awed by stained glass windows, elaborated arches and majestic sculptors. It looks as if you just walked into a Gothic church.
The castle features multiple party rooms. Guests were entertained at these chandelier-hanging rooms, adorned with a fancy fireplace, arts and wall decors, and sophisticated marble sculptors.
Upstairs in the more private area, among many rooms, you get to visit the baron room and the separate baroness room. It was typical for a married couple of wealthy families to have their own rooms. They also had separate his & her bathrooms and closets. (If you can afford these, they can save your marriage! Ha!)
The guide explained the Duchess was French and hated the original structure and decor. She recreated her room in the French style and added a separate door to not have to stare at the “ugly” door.
Her pink dress room features a chaise, huge bathroom and closet room.
A study room was intended for their kids to study. The entire tour group mistook it for another bedroom as we saw a bed there. The guide said the secretary used to work there, but I wasn’t sure if it was a Dutch joke or not.
Got a royal fever? Peek into the lives of Belgian Royal family at Royal Palace of Brussels >>
De Haar Castle Guided Tour
I recommend signing up for the guided tour (€3.50) at the ticket office. While the tour is only given in Dutch (supplementary handout in English), you get to access the nooks and crannies of the castle, including the Servant Corridors.
It is essential to explore servants’ areas because they were very well treated for the standard at that time. Their rooms were furnished with order-to-made furniture. They had their separate entertainment room and a bathroom near their rooms (as opposed to one outside the castle).
The linen room used by servants is the highest point of the tower. It had the most fantastic view of the garden.
The castle used a ring system to call servants from where they were. I guess it was pretty high-tech to wire a bell system in the castle for that time.
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Where to Go Next in the Netherlands
>> Amsterdam Itinerary for the First-time Visitors: Explore the charming, liberal Dutch capital in just 4 days
>> Rotterdam: A hip, modern city with funky architecture
>> Delft: Imbibe in artisan Delftware and Vermeer’s masterpieces like The Girl with a Pearl Earring
>> Utrecht: A small laidback college town in South Holland with a 2,000-year history
I enjoyed visiting De Haar Castle from Utrecht. The medieval castle and park is a gorgeous site to spend a half-day whether you want to go picnic or tour the castle (or both!). Take your time to appreciate all the intricate details of the interiors and relive the lavish lifestyle of baron and baroness. A perfect day trip from Utrecht, would you agree?
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