Earth : Europe : Benelux : Netherlands : Western Netherlands : North Holland : Gooi and Vecht : Naarden
Naarden is a small town surrounded by large 17th-century fortifications, among the best preserved in Europe. The typical star shaped form is a spectacular sight from the air and on a satellite picture. The town centre itself has kept its historic character.
In the 9th Century AD, at the time of the Vikings, a small town of fishermen and traders, called Naarden was first mentioned in documents. But it was not situated on the present location, as the original Naarden drowned.
During the 13th and 14th Centuries a couple of monstrous storms swept over Holland. Hundreds of thousands acres of land were washed away, and a giant inland sea was created : the Southern Sea (Zuiderzee). Like many others places the old town of Naarden, also heavily damaged during one of the many wars of the time, was abandoned and “given to the sea” in the year 1350.
Surprisingly swiftly the refugees created a complete new town, a couple of miles inland on higher ground. It rapidly became the regional capital, and a prosperous merchant town and centre of textile industry.
Being of strategic importance, Naarden suffered much more destruction and misery by war. Like in the beginning of the Dutch Eighty-Years-War of independence, in 1572, when an invading Spanish army on a punitive expedition burned it to the ground, and massacred most citizens. Women and children included.
A few years later the town was build up again, and gradually surrounded by an elaborate defense system to protect the eastern flank of Amsterdam.
The town saw much more fighting, but by miracle the old centre within the city walls has kept intact its unique 17th Century atmosphere. Today Naarden is one of the best preserved fortified towns in Europe, with its typical star shaped form a spectacular sight from the air and on a satellite picture. One of the bastions is home to the Dutch Fortress Museum.
Naarden is easily reached by train: Naarden-Bussum station is 21 minutes from Amsterdam Central, and 31 minutes from Utrecht via Hilversum. The fortified town is about 20-30 minutes walk from the railway station (called Naarden-Bussum). Bus line 101, from Amstel Station in Amsterdam, stops at Koningin Wilhelmina laan, about 10 minutes walk from the old town.
You can cycle from the centre of Amsterdam to the centre of Naarden, at an easy pace, in about 2 hours. Most of the route has separate cycle lanes.