Spending a week of my summer in the Netherlands was one of my greater decisions. The weather was great, it wasn’t too crowded, and we were able to visit tons of cute places around the country! One such place was Muiderslot, a medieval castle dating to 1280 AD. Muiderslot stands in Muiden at the mouth of the Vecht River, only about 15km from Amsterdam! It’s the perfect way to spend half a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
History of Muiderslot
Muiderslot’s story begins with the Count of Holland Floris the V way back in 1280 AD. Floris V saw the location on the mouth of the Vecht River, the most important waterway to the diocese Utrecht. He immediately took control of the area! Unfortunately, Floris V downfall (and that of his castle) came quickly. Floris V’s own nobles kidnapped him while on a falcon hunt and locked him in his castle in 1296. Obviously, Floris didn’t like being imprisoned very much and tried to escape; he was caught and stabbed by his men 20 times – et tu, Brute? After Floris V’s death, Will van Mechelen, the Archbishop of Utrecht, took over and the castle was basically destroyed by 1300.
Fortunately for us, you can learn ALL about Floris V construction, short reign, and Game of Thrones style murder while touring the castle! They even have a super fun cartoon about all the times the castle has changed hands over the years – including a surprisingly bloody depiction of Floris V’s death.
Now, no one in their right mind would ever let a castle sit in ruin, especially when it sits in such a strategic location! Albert I, Duke of Bavaria and Count of Holland and Zeeland, rebuilt Muiderslot in the late 1300s. The new structure used the original plans, only changing the direction that the residential wing faced.
Muiderslot’s Golden Age
Muiderslot was strengthened with earthen walls and bastions in 1576. One of Muiderslot’s more famous residents, PC Hooft, moved in shortly after this expansion. Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, a famous writer, lived in Muiderslot for 38 years while serving as sheriff of Muiden and bailiff of Gooiland beginning in 1609. PC Hooft redecorated Muiderslot to the prosperous style of the Dutch Renaissance and expanded the plum orchard and gardens.
PC Hooft’s father was Mayor of Amsterdam, so PC was pretty used to a packed social schedule. That all changed when he moved to Muiden, which is isolated in comparison to Amsterdam! PC Hooft started feeling pretty lonely, so he began inviting his friends to spend extended periods of time at Muiderslot. Some of the periods best authors, writers, and scientists took to the grounds, including Maria Tesselschade Visscher and her sister Anna Roemer Visscher, Joost van den Vondel, Constantijn Huygens, and Casper Barlaeus. The group became known as the Muiderkring, or “Muiden Circle”, which was basically THE group to be in at the time. Each of the members, including PC Hooft himself, wrote poems, sonnets, plays, and more, composed music, and theorized many ideas while staying at Muiderslot.
Needless to say, the castle tour really goes into the inner workings of the Muiderkring! Much of the artwork hanging around the castle features members or was created by members, writings by members are on display, and, of course, rooms are decorated like they would’ve been at the height of the Muiderkring!
The 1800s to Now
Muiderslot was turned into a prison in the late 1700s before being abandoned and falling into disarray. The once glorious castle was put up for sale in 1825, with the intent of being torn down after purchase. Thankfully, King William I stepped in and saved the castle from destruction! It took 70 years for enough money to be raised to restore the castle to its former glory. While this was going on, Muiderslot was designated as a national museum in 1878.
Muiderslot has undergone 3 major restorations since becoming a national museum. Now, the furnished rooms are decorated and the garden fashioned to resemble the Dutch Golden Age, while medieval weapons and armor displays illustrate the importance of Muiderslot under Count Floris V.
Muiderslot is open most days from 10 AM until 5PM. Adult admission is €15.50 and children are €9. I really recommend getting an iAmsterdam card, as it allows free admission to Muiderslot and a number of other museums and tourist spots around the Netherlands!
Admission includes an audio tour in either English or Dutch that gives you so much information about the castle! I especially loved the “bonus” tracks on the audio tour that talk about various artwork, including one that depicts humans with cabbage heads sitting waiting for new heads (you really have to see it for yourself!).
Muiderslot is super easy to get to via public transport. We took the train from Amsterdam to Weesp, then Bus 110 towards Brandweerkazerne Muiden, then walked 10 minutes through picturesque Muiden to Muiderslot. All we had to pay for with our iAmsterdam cards was the bus, which was around €6 each roundtrip. It took us about 45 minutes total to get out there! There’s also a ferry that operates seasonally and you can drive or bike yourself. Of course, things like Uber and taxis are always a more expensive option!
I had such a lovely day touring Muiderslot Castle (and, okay, lowkey pretending to be one of the cool people who used to live there). I’m a sucker for a good castle and man did Muiderslot deliver! The exhibits are so well done, information is presented in an easy to absorb and entertaining way, and it’s super easy to get to. Not to mention, walking around picturesque Muiden was a great addition to the day. I honestly believe Muiderslot is a must for anyone looking for a quick getaway from Amsterdam!