Wijdemeren is a municipality in the Gooi and Vecht region, province of North Holland, Netherlands. The name doesn't mean much to Dutch people, since it is a merger of the three former municipalities of 's-Graveland, Loosdrecht and Nederhorst den Berg. The area is characterized by beautiful lakes, the picturesque river Vecht, and magnificent estates that you can explore at your leisure by bike or on foot. It is not very well known to foreign tourists, but attracts a lot of daytrippers from the Netherlands because of its proximity to Amsterdam, Utrecht and Hilversum and the opportunities it offers for water sports, cycling and walking. It is well worth a visit, since it captures some of the essential characteristics of the Dutch countryside in a small area, without having all the tourist trade that has spoiled places like Volendam.
The river Vecht, branching off from the Rhine in Utrecht, has been an important connection to the former Zuiderzee (current IJsselmeer) since Roman times. The surrounding area was a swampy peatland, that was drained in the Middle Ages to give way to pasture. The peat was also exploited for fuel, leading to the formation of a string of lakes east of the river Vecht. Further east, the peatlands give way to slightly higher ground with sandy soils. From the 17th century onwards, rich merchants from Amsterdam started to build their summer residences along the river Vecht, and in the sandy area to the east. The estates on the Vecht are mostly still private property - those to the east, around 's-Graveland, however, are now mostly owned by nature conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten, and are among the most beautiful landscape parks that you can visit in the Netherlands. The lakes are now partly nature reserves, and partly open for water sports, in particular around Loosdrecht.
Being somewhat peripheral to the larger towns, the area has no urban centres to speak of. The name Wijdemeren has only been in existence since the 2002 administrative merger of municipalities and literally means "wide lakes".
- Ankeveen, one of the smallest villages in the area, point of entry to the Ankeveense Plassen nature reserve
- Loosdrecht, major centre for water sports on the Loosdrechtse Plassen
- Nederhorst den Berg, located on the river Vecht
- 's-Graveland, point of entry for many of the estates
Coming from Amsterdam, the area is most easily reached from the A1 or A2 motorway, the A1 running to the north side, and the A2 to the west side of Wijdemeren (travel time to Loosdrecht approx. 40 min). Coming from Utrecht, both the A2 and A27 provide easy access (travel time to Loosdrecht approx. 30 min). The N201 runs straight through the area from the A2 in the direction of Hilversum; the N236 runs on the north edge of the area. Byroads in the area are usually narrow and slow and can be crowded in the weekends, especially when the weather is nice.
Parking is free in most places, but during busy weekends parking spots may be hard to find around the lakes.
By public transport
There are no train stations in the area, the closest being located in Weesp, Naarden-Bussum and Hilversum, which all have direct connections to Amsterdam and Utrecht. Buses in the area are not very frequent, and do not serve all destinations, so if you intend to go by public transport, plan ahead through 9292.nl.
The area is close enough to both Amsterdam (approx. 30km) and Utrecht (approx. 25km) to be reached by bike, although it's probably easier to rent a bike in Weesp, Bussum or Hilversum.
Getting around by public transport buses is possible, but complicated. The easiest way to get around is by car or by bike.
The estates around 's-Graveland were mostly built in the 17th and 18th century along the east side of the 's-Gravelandse Vaart canal which connected Amsterdam to Hilversum, boat transport being much more important in those days. Now most of the property is owned by Natuurmonumenten, an organization that buys, protects and manages nature reserves in the Netherlands. It is not coincidental that the organization's headquarters are in 's-Graveland. The magnificent parks surrounding the estates can all be walked (see Do section); the buildings however are not all open to visitors.
The estates on the Vecht river have a somewhat different history, and include a few castles (like the Muiderslot in Muiden and Nijenrode near Breukelen) that go back to the medieval period. This area in the 17th century also became a favourite retreat for Amsterdam merchants, but many of the estates built in that period were demolished in the 19th century. Nevertheless, a few remain and can best be explored by cycling along the river. They are, unfortunately, not open to visitors.
- Kasteel Nederhorst, Slotlaan 4, Nederhorst den Berg, . The castle of Nederhorst dates back to the 13th century. The buildings itself cannot be visited, but the 5 ha castle grounds are opened for walking. edit
The Vecht and surrounding area were an important line of defence for Holland, and some remains of fortifications from the 17th up to the 20th century can be found in the area, although it is less interesting in this respect than Weesp, Muiden and Naarden.
- Fort Kijkuit, Gabriëlweg 6, Kortenhoef. Mo-Th 8:30AM-5PM, Fr 8:30-12AM, Sa-Su closed. Built between 1844 and 1847, completely restored in 2015 and now in use as office space. There is a small exposition room, a viewing platform, and resting places for cyclists and hikers. edit
- Fort Spion, Bloklaan 9, Loosdrecht. Built between 1844 and 1847, now in use as small camp site (see Sleep section). edit
A good way to spend a day is by making a bicycle tour through the area, passing many estates, polders and lakes.
A popular activity with the locals in the summer is to rent a boat and hit the lakes.
Or go swimming at De Strook or Vuntus.
Some estates of notable interest:
- Land en Bosch.
- Schaep en Burgh.
- Schaep en Burgh (Swaenenburgh).
There is nothing of particular interest for sale in Wijdemeren. The few stores in the area only offer daily necessities for the local population. As the locals do, you might want to head over to Hilversum for a better shopping experience.
There's no nightlife to speak of in the area, the locals cycle to Hilversum for a night out. Many travelers cycle around the area at daytime though, so there are plenty of restaurants for a daytime snack or a beverage. Some of the quality restaurants congregated around Ankeveen, known by locals as "the village with 0 shops but 4 restaurants". 's-Graveland also has some posh up-scale restaurants. The eateries in Kortenhoef and Nederhorst den Berg offer cheap daily snacks, mainly aimed at the local population.
- De Molen, Loodijk 30, Ankeveen, ☎ +31 35 6 561 459 (email@example.com), . This restaurant, nicely located next to a windmill, is a nice place to just sip a cup of coffee. Full meals are also served, they have the usual Mediterranean fish and meat dishes, as well as Dutch pancakes. The staff can help you pick a fitting wine. €25. edit
- Osaka, Loodijk 27, Ankeveen (From Ankeveen, follow the Hollands End north till the intersection with Loodijk), ☎ +31 35 6 563 322, . Daily 5PM-11PM. You wouldn't expect it in this rural area, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant. It's a self-service walking buffet, but don't order any extras if you're on budget. The only exception is the sushi, which is excellent, and for a small fee you can have as much as you want of them. €30-40. edit
- Pan & Koek, Stichts End 9, Ankeveen (From Ankeveen, follow the Hollands End north, then take a left the Loodijk), ☎ +31 35 6 563 555 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . W-F 4PM-8:30PM, Sa-Su noon-8:30PM, M-Tu closed. Dutch pancake restaurant mostly aiming at families with children. They serve the usual pancakes, but also some original ones, such as pancakes with shawarma or Parmesan cheese. €10-15. edit
- Veensche Plas, Stichts End 50, Ankeveen, ☎ +31 35 6 566 655, . It's feature is its beautiful outside terrace, next to the water with a view over the rural landscape and the lakes. Their lunch consists of several bread dishes, while most dinner dishes are meat and fish in Mediterranean style. €25. edit
- Berestein, Zuidereinde 206, 's-Graveland, ☎ +31 35 6 561 030 (email@example.com), . Tu-Su noon-10PM, M closed. Housed in two cute typical Dutch houses, which are over 250 years old, this French-European restaurant is well-known as even Queen Beatrix is known to have visited this place. The outside terrace is really romantic with a view over the small canal. It's one of the better restaurants of the area, but the atmosphere is actually quite informal. €35. edit
- Restaurant 't Swaentje, Noordereinde 353, 's-Graveland, ☎ +31 35 6 562 016 (fax: +31 35 685 2183), . Tu-Su 5PM-10PM, M closed. Probably the best of the area, this French restaurant serves strange meals such as pumpkin soup. It's in a small 17th-century house, and it's old-Dutch style interior fits properly. It's terrace outside offers nice views over the rural landscape. The staff is neat, yet personal and caring. Some people never leave, but spend the night at one of it's rooms. €35. edit
- Dynasty, Meenthof 8, Kortenhoef, ☎ +31 35 6 561 156 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Typical to-go Chinese/Indonesian restaurant as every Dutch town offers. Don't expect a fancy restaurant, just good food for not too much. This place does offer spicy dishes from China's Sichuan province which is quite uncommon in the Netherlands. edit
- De Sloep, Moleneind 5, Kortenhoef (From Kortenhoef, follow the Kortenhoefse Dijk southward, then cross the Vreelandseweg onto Moleneind), ☎ +31 35 5 250 087 (email@example.com), . Tu-Su 5:30PM-9:30PM, M closed. It's generally a good restaurant, but even though they seem to want to be a top-class restaurant, it really doesn't qualify for that. It has a nice location at the water, but the service is a bit informal and feels a bit like a simple lunch cafe. €25. edit
- Osaka, Loodijk 27, Ankeveen (From Ankeveen, follow the Hollands End north till the intersection with Loodijk), ☎ +31 35 6 563 322. Daily 5PM-11PM. You wouldn't expect it in this rural area, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant. It's a self-service walking buffet, but don't order any extras if you're on budget. The only exception is the sushi, which is excellent, and for a small fee you can have as much as you want of them. €30-40. edit
- Pronto, Dodaarslaan 6, Kortenhoef (Bus: Parklaan), ☎ +31 35 6 561 677. Italian pizzas, spare-ribs and shawarma. Not much to say about this one, it's a simple budget place for a quick snack. edit
- Solo, Kerklaan 6-8, Kortenhoef (Bus: Kerklaan), ☎ +31 35 6 563 066 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Indonesian restaurant with cuisine from Central Java. The atmosphere is relaxed, but looks a bit old-fashioned (funnily it adds something to the experience). Try the "Rijsttafel", it's the best dish they offer. Don't worry to order some extra rice, it's free. €35. edit
- Restaurant Het Drechthuis, Bloklaan 22A, Loosdrecht (inside the Mijnden camping compound), ☎ +31 294 234 993, . noon-10PM. Restaurant for lunch and dinner near the Loosdrechtse Plassen with terrace view over the water. Do not expect luxury cuisine here, but the menu is extensive and is known for many fish and grill dishes. €25. edit
Nederhorst den Berg
Don't expect any rough nightlife here — the locals step up their bike and cycle to Hilversum. But you might want to grab a cup of coffee at one of the restaurants.
There's only one B&B and one small appartment in 's-Graveland, so it's fair to say that accommodation is limited. Most visitors spend the night in Hilversum, Loosdrecht, Bussum, Naarden or other nearby towns.
- Appartement 't Swaentje, Noordereinde 353, 's-Graveland, ☎ +31 35 6 562 016 (fax: +31 35 685 2183), . Awesome view over the rural landscape. A maximum of three people can spend the night here, which feels like a B&B, but isn't really one as breakfast is not served. They can fill up the fridge with food for €10 extra, then you can make breakfast yourself the following morning. Also has a shower, toilet, kitchen, microwave, fridge, microwave, washing machine and internet connection. €62.50. edit
- B&B 't Zuidereinde, Zuidereinde 30, ☎ +31 35 656 4340 (email@example.com). Freestanding guesthouse at the river with shower, toilet, small kitchen and fridge. They only have place for two guests in total, so be sure to book early. Includes breakfast, lunch can be arranged for €5 extra. €50. edit
There is no post office in the area, but Kortenhoef and Nederhorst den Berg have a small TNT Post branch inside the local supermarket:
- TNT Post Kortenhoef, Curtevenneweg 2 (Inside Super de Boer supermarket), ☎ 0900 767 85 26 (Dutch phones only). M-F 9AM-12:30PM, 1:30PM-5:30PM, Sa 9AM-1PM, Su closed. edit
- TNT Post Nederhorst den Berg, Voorstraat 10 (Inside Albert Heijn supermarket), ☎ 0900 767 85 26 (Dutch phones only). M-Th 8AM-8PM, F 8AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-6PM, Su closed. edit
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