Things to do in Naarden: The Netherlands’ Best Preserved Fortress City!

Visit the Naarden Vesting, the best-preserved fortress of the Netherlands can be found in Naarden. The Netherlands is a beautiful country, home to some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. From the breathtaking canals and churches in Amsterdam, Volendam, and Haarlem to the modern and state of the art architecture in Rotterdam and other cities, this small country never ceases to amaze both locals and visitors.

One of these beautiful towns is Naarden. A city in the province of North-Holland, not very far from Amsterdam.


Naarden received city rights in 1351 and is still the only city in the Gooi to this day. Because of its strategic location, Naarden became a military fortress in the 16th century and part of the Dutch Waterline. In the 17th century, it got its distinctive and beautifully preserved star-shaped design with double walls, gate buildings and bastions. Naarden can be likened to an open history exhibition and the whole town proudly shows its military past for all to see. Naarden is the oldest town in the Gooi regions (even though it is no longer a municipality in that region) and is the newest municipality in the Gooise Meren since 2016. Naarden is one of the most beautiful Dutch towns and is bound to wow anyone who visits for the first time. To learn more about the turbulent history of the town, a visit to the Dutch Fortress Museum is recommended.

What to see in Naarden

Naarden is more than just being a fortress. Discover this beautiful picturesque city! You can go shopping, enjoy delicious food and culture at the town’s collection of galleries and museums. And don’t forget to visit the Arsenal!

Naarden also has several other interesting monuments. You will find the imposing Sint Vitus Church, which is not only known for its unique ceiling paintings, but also because of the annual performance of the St. Matthew Passion. You can also climb the tower or go for a walk in the old town. The town hall from 1601 is a typical example of Dutch Renaissance construction and the Burgerweeshuis is also worth a visit.

The Vestingmuseum

Have you ever wondered why the Naarden Fortress has a six-pointed star shape from the air? Or are you curious about the history of the other fortified towns in the Netherlands? Then you should definitely visit this museum. Naarden is a well-preserved fortified town in the Netherlands and the museum is where you get an excellent picture of the history of fortification, the city of Naarden as a fortified town and the Dutch Waterlines.

The Vestingmuseum is located on the Bastion Turfpoort in the mainly 17th-century fortress of Naarden. The museum has an open-air section and underground part. The underground part houses its collection of artefacts and gives an insight into the life of a soldier in the fortress.

The Comenius Museum

The Comenius Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the famous Czech scholar Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670) who was buried in Naarden. The museum and the final resting place of Comenius are located in a former monastery in the fortress of Naarden. The museum offers an overview of his life with the permanent exhibition “Vivat Comenius”. The library contains works by and about Comenius. The mausoleum where Comenius is buried is also a national monument.

Weegschaal Museum

Have you ever thought about the origin of the kilo or the meter? What exactly is calibration and what does Napoleon have to do with it? How is it that a kilo is the same everywhere in the world? Is a kilo a kilo on the moon? Well, it’s possible most of us have never had these questions as shower thoughts?

In Naarden’s Weegschaal Museum, you will find a wealth of educational information on the aforementioned matters. On your visit to the museum, you will discover the history of measuring and weighing things and you will also be shown the different applications of measuring and weighing and how they played a role in the history of Dutch trade and the role they play today. Through a varied collection of historical weighing and measuring instruments, visitors gain insight into the history of measuring and weighing.

The Old City Hall

Even after all these years, Naarden’s Old City Hall remains one to be proud of.  The city hall was built in 1601 in the Dutch Renaissance style. At the top of the stepped gable the image “Motherly Love” and further the double-headed eagle as the insignia of Naarden and the insignias of
Holland, Prins Maurits and West-Friesland. Also on the facade, three figures are sculptured: Faith, Hope and Love. The City Hall is open to the public from 31 March to 30 September on Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.

Naarden’s Arsenal

The Arsenal in the North Holland fortified town of Naarden is a former arsenal from 1688. It was used as a warehouse for military equipment, especially weapons and ammunition. During the First World War, it was used as a guesthouse for the infantry of the fortress and the soldiers of the nearby military hospital. After the war, it went back to being used as a weapons room and for the storage of ammunition. From 1950 it became a depot for military maps. Naarden’s Arsenal is a historic building and is definitely worth a visit. More than twenty years ago, one of the Netherland’s well-known interior architects, Jan des Bouvrie opened Het Arsenaal in the same monumental building to use it as a showroom for his designs. Visitors can pay a visit to the showroom for some lifestyle trends, gastronomy & interior design ideas.

Het Spans Huis (The Spanish House)

This medieval building is an important historical monument with a rich history. It is known as the Spanish House, a reference to an event from 1572 when a large part of the population of Naarden was murdered by Spanish troops. In the course of the 16th century, the building became a town hall.

It was in this town hall that in December 1572, at the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War, the people of Naarden were murdered by the Spanish army. The fortified town was also plundered after the slaughter, after which the town of Naarden was systematically set on fire. This building also burned down. The memory of the catastrophe is kept alive by three façade stones that were installed during the restoration of the building in 1615 and which are still present till this day.

After the renovation of the building, it served as a weigh house for nearly two hundred years. Traders weighed goods they were about to sell for a fee. In 1809, in the times of French rule, the building was handed over by the city to the military authorities for the accommodation of soldiers. Four years later it would become a bakery for the garrison. Two large ovens were installed in the building. Some parts of the ovens are still intact. Don’t forget to pay a visit to this house filled with so much history.

What to do in Naarden

There is definitely a lot to do in Naarden. There’s so much history in the town and for those interested in shopping, food and just relaxation, the town has a lot to offer. Just the act of walking around the town can be fun. The locals are friendly and are always open to answering questions from visitors.

1. Take part in the Naarden’s Garnizoensdagen

Every third Sunday of the month from May to September, the ‘Garnizoensdagen’ are held in Naarden. The fortress is then transformed into a 17th-century garrison town. A group of gunners dressed in historical military uniforms give demonstrations on the loading and firing of the so-called ’12 -ponder’, an old cannon. Sometimes, if visitors are lucky, they can help them. Visitors love being there so they can enjoy the spectacle and also take pictures with the uniformed gunners.

2. Climb the Naarden tower of the Grote Kerk

Enjoy the view of the Naarden landscape from the top of the Naarden tower. Together with a guide from Vereniging Vestingstad Naarden, you climb more than 200 steps of the tower to enjoy a beautiful view of Naarden and the entire Gooi region.

During the ascent, two stops are made so that the guides can tell visitors about the construction and history of the church and tower and there is also a short visit to the clock room.

3. Go for a historic boat cruise with Vestingvaart Naarden

Vestingvaart Naarden was founded in 2005 on the initiative of a group of enthusiasts who wanted to spread the history and beauty of their unique fortified town of Naarden in many ways. From the beginning, many volunteers have been working to make the sailing, organisation and maintenance possible. Vestingvaart Naarden is not a big organisation; the proceeds from the cruises are mainly used to cover the costs of taking care of their boats. For Vestingvaart, above all, the pleasure of boating and enjoying Naarden’s nature and history in a relaxed atmosphere is all that matters. Vestingvaart Naarden currently has two historic ships with room for 20 passengers + skipper and a visit to Naarden is not complete without a boat cruise with Vestingvaart. Tickets can be bought on the Vestingvaart Naarden website Tickets cost € 7,- for persons older than 13 years, € 5,- for children between the ages of 4 – 12 years and free for children below 3 years.

Stationsweg 3
1404 AN Bussum
Tel: (06) 18271436
E-mail: [email protected]

Note: At Vestingvaart Naarden, the boating season starts on the 31st of March and ends 30th of September every year.

4. Take part in ‘The Police’ (Live Action Role Playing Game)

The Police is a live game scenario about moral choices and responsibility in extreme circumstances, inspired by Dutch history (especially in WWII). The live action role-playing game takes place in the Vesting Museum and is about the ambiguity of the police units in the Netherlands during the Second World War. The Nazis needed the Dutch police for law enforcement and a lot of police officers had to choose between helping them or joining the resistance. Sadly, lots of police officers choose to help the Nazis in tracking down and deporting Jews. In order to effectively use the Dutch police, the SS General in charge of the police in the Netherlands had to train the officers in National Socialist ideology. This happened at the police school in Schalkhaar near Deventer. The name Schalkhaarder would still stand for ‘bad’ police officers many years after the war.

In this game, all the participants play recruits at a “police school”. They do not know much about each other and the aim is to see what kind of choices they will be making.

Note: Please make enquiries about this game and the ticket price at the Vesting Museum.

5. Go get a walk around the old town

Don’t forget to bring your walking shoes! The walk is 17 kilometres long. The Naardermeer consists of large ponds such as the Groote Meer and the Wijde Blik. Around it is slushy meadows with shallow puddles. Numerous birds come there to brood and find food! If you like birds, you should definitely visit the Naardermeer.
You can walk 3.5 kilometres around the city and each time, you see something different and before you know it, you are back at your starting point. Of course, you can also walk through the fortress itself. At the VVV (in the Utrechtse Poort) you can buy a map with a detailed description of how to do this walk. It is also possible to do the walk with a guide and experienced guides can tell you all about the history of our beautiful fortress city.

6. Go for a drink and some food in the old town

For good food and drinks in Naarden, there are plenty of options-  from star chefs in monumental buildings to cosy restaurants. Naarden may be small but the town boasts of a large number of places to eat, drink and relax. Despite the fact that nightlife is not exactly “bubbly”, it is always possible to have a nice beer or wine in the various cafes in the fortress. Discover the old town by drinking in some of the old bars and also tasting the local food.

7. Go shopping in the old town

Naarden Fortress is ideal for a pleasant day of shopping. All the streets and alleys in the Naarden Fortress are easy to walk in and there is a wide range of shops. From clothing stores to bakeries and cookie shops to estate agents, almost everything can be found in this beautiful fortified town. Walk through the beautifully decorated main street or get lost in many of the small alleys. There is always something unique to find even though most of the most interesting shops are located in and around the main street.

How to get to there

Naarden is partially bordered by the A1 motorway, making Naarden very easily accessible. With its own station and many bus stops, Naarden is also easily accessible by public transport. The best way to visit the town is by train. Naarden is approximately 30 minutes by car from Amsterdam, or 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Naarden-Bussum.

Train to Naarden

There is a regular train connection to Naarden from Amsterdam Central Station. The trains depart every 30 minutes and it takes approximately 20 minutes to get to Naarden-Bussum train station. Take the bus line 110 from Naarden-Bussum station to Naarden Fortress. If you travel with OV-chipcard, a single one-way trip will cost you €4,90.

From Amsterdam to Naarden by Car

Take the A1 towards Amersfoort. Take the Naarden Vesting exit (exit 6). At the end of the exit turn right (direction Naarden-Vesting). Then turn left on the road towards Naarden-Vesting. Follow the road along the water (with the water on your right). You drive straight across the bridge and thus enter the fortress city.

Getting To Naarden Island From Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

The best way to go from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Naarden is by train. Trains depart from the airport for the fortress city every 15 minutes. The train goes via Hilversum towards Naarden-Bussum and costs €8,60 for a one-way train ride.

For real-time travel information from wherever you are to Volendam, please check out this link;


Parking in Naarden

There are areas in Naarden where free parking is available. These parking spaces are open to cars and coaches.

In Naarden, you can park free of charge and on a number of parking lots in and outside the fortress. Within the fortress, it is Adriaan Dortsmanplein and Bastion Nieuw Molen. Outside the fortress, this is on the Abri near the captain Meijerweg. There are three disabled parking spaces on the Adriaan Dortsmanplein – two on the Kooltjesbuurt and one in the Gasthuisstraat.

Are you interested to take a look at other places for a day trip in the Netherlands? We made an overview of the very best places for a day trip while you’re visiting Holland.

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