Naarden is a small town in the Gooi and Vecht region of the province of North-Holland, the Netherlands, some 20km to the east of Amsterdam. It boasts an almost completely preserved system of spectacular star-shaped fortifications dating from the 17th century. The town centre itself has also kept its historic character, making Naarden one of the destinations in the Netherlands you should not miss.
Naarden was first mentioned in the 10th century, and received its city charter around 1300. At the time, the town was located more to the north. In the 13th and 14th centuries, disastrous floods washed away large areas of land, leading to the creation of the Zuiderzee. Because of the flood damage, the town was abandoned and relocated to its current location on higher ground in 1350.
The new Naarden prospered and became an important merchant town and centre of textiles industry. During the Dutch rebellion, Spanish troops launched a punitive expedition to Naarden in 1572, burning the town to the ground and massacring almost all the population, killing more than 700 people. This atrocity helped swaying the sentiment in the Netherlands in favour of the rebels, who had not been very successful up to then.
Once the Dutch had taken control of the region a few years later, they started to build the famous fortifications. These proved however of little use during the French invasion of 1672. Louis XIV, obviously hoping to stay, had the fortifications extended, but the French were quickly repelled. The final stage of the fortifications was finished in 1685, making it one of the best remaining examples of 17th-century defensive architecture in Europe.
Later, Naarden became part of the defence line of Holland, the Hollandse Waterlinie. The town however hardly ever had to serve its purpose; only in 1813-1814, French troops remaining loyal to Napoleon managed to withstand a Dutch siege for some time. It was only in 1926 that the military status of town was repealed; the fortifications were restored from 1932 on, and currently it is part of the Protected Cityscape of Naarden.
The town these days has about 17,000 inhabitants, most of whom live outside the small historic centre.
The A1 motorway passes just north of Naarden. Coming from the A10 Amsterdam ring road, take the A1 in the direction of Amersfoort and then take exit 6 to Naarden-Vesting (travel time approx. 30 min). Free parkings are available outside the city walls.
Railway station Naarden-Bussum has direct connections to Amsterdam (approx. 20 min) and Utrecht (approx. 30 min) via Hilversum. From there, it is a 20-minute walk to the town centre. For information on schedules and train tickets, see the NS website.
Cycling from Amsterdam Central Station to Naarden is 25 km (approx. 1h30m), with a possible stopover in Muiden. You can also rent a bicycle at the Weesp railway station and do a round trip of Weesp, Muiden and Naarden from there.
Naarden has a large marina with 1200 berths on the Gooimeer lake, where you can moor your own boat. However, it is not very close to town, so you will have to organize your own transport from there. Bus 110 stops at 5 minutes walking from the marina (stop Gooimeer Noord).
Since Naarden is very small, it is best explored on foot or by bike. Naarden does not have a bike rental. The nearest ones are in Weesp, Bussum and Huizen. Unfortunately, bike rentals at railway stations have become impossible if you don't have a Dutch bank account.
Most of the fortifications are accessible on foot. It is a very nice experience to walk the city walls and admire the views of the bastions and moats. Naarden's centre has a rectangular street plan, and is a Protected Cityscape, with many 17th-century houses.
Just outside town is the oldest nature reserve of the Netherlands, the Naardermeer lake. In 1905 the city of Amsterdam wanted to use the lake as a landfill site, but this was prevented thanks to the efforts of writer and teacher Jac. P. Thijsse, who established the first nature conservation organisation of the Netherlands, Natuurmonumenten (Natural Monuments), and bought the site before it could be destroyed. Today, it can only be visited with a guided tour by boat, but you can walk or cycle the 17 km perimeter to enjoy its wetlands and wildlife. There are five birdwatching stations around the lake where you can observe the many rare birds species in the area, including the egret and spoonbill.
The area around Naarden lends itself very well to cycling. The system of Fietsknooppunten (biking nodes) makes creating your own routes extremely simple. Practical information on cycling in the region can be found here. There's also a list of places of interest on Google Maps.
The Dutch Bach Society stages an annual performance of the Matthäus Passion at Easter in the Great Church, which is broadcasted on national television. It is the biggest event in town, tickets for which are sold out very quickly. If you don't feel like taking your chances, however, they also do other concerts throughout the year.
Being close to the Gooi region, Naarden is a relatively posh place to Dutch standards. The town has its fair share of pricy boutiques, galleries, antique shops and vintage stores, but the thing worth a visit in itself is Het Arsenaal, a shopping centre for classy furniture in the old town armoury, including the studio of famous Dutch interior designer Jan des Bouvrie. It also features a restaurant (see Eat section).
The Naarden marina also has a camp site:
There is also a camp site in nearby Huizen:
Places close by: