Latest update: 31 March 2021
Have you ever hear of Amsterdam Castle? You may have heard it called this, but the Dutch call it Muiderslot Castle. Though it’s confusing as the famous castle is not in Amsterdam – you can find it in the fortified city of Muiden. Still pretty close to Amsterdam. Visit the iconic (Amsterdam) castle and discover what else you can do in Muiden.
Muiden by the sea
Muiden once was right on the Zuiderzee. With the arrival of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, Muiden suddenly found itself on the other side – meaning on the IJsselmeer.
Fort Island Pampus also lost its function as a passageway to Amsterdam for ships coming in from the sea. Meaning it could no longer guard that entrance and ships had to re-route south to Rotterdam to come inland.
A mini-city walk
Muiden has a small city center. Most of the action takes place around the sea lock. Next to the locks are terraces where people-watching is a great pastime, and you are regularly treated with the sight of impressive boats. From here, you have a perfect view of the locks and see how they clear the passage for the ships. A little further down, the harbor hosts the chic speedboat/yacht of the Dutch king Willem-Alexander – friendly-priced at only 2 million euros. This yacht is supposed to make its way to the Royal family’s holiday home in Greece soon.
Because Muiden has such a compact city center, you can easily see a lot of the city in only an hour. Take any street around the locks to the left or the right. You can hardly get lost and the picturesque streets are worth a stroll. You will encounter photogenic houses for sure!
Defense lines in Muiden
Muiden has been a rather important strategic place for the Dutch for centuries. The proximity to Amsterdam and direct access to the sea ensured this.
In the 16th century, the Dutch established a defense line from Muiden to Gorinchem to fight against the Spaniards. This is called the Old Dutch Waterline (Oude Hollandse Waterlinie). The line was expanded at the end of the 18th, and the beginning of the 19th century, and from then on it was called the New Dutch Waterline (Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie). The combination of locks, dikes, and forts makes it possible to flood part of the country. If inundated with only 50 centimeters of water, it is already impossible for soldiers to walk, and it’s too shallow for boats.
Muiden is also part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam (Stelling van Amsterdam). This water line is based on the same principle and is intended to protect Amsterdam. The Defense Line of Amsterdam quickly became obsolete when the first aircrafts appeared in warfare.
Visit the Muizenfort (Fort C)
Muizenfort is actually called Fort C. Muizenfort (mouse fortress), is named after the mouse-gray uniforms of the soldiers who stayed here when the defense lines were active. Now, creative companies have moved in, and there is an escape room in the fort and a visitor center. It is an unmanned visitor center where you learn about the history of Muiden and the lines of defense. There are also many leaflets with cycling and walking routes in the area. The Visitor Center Vesting Muiden is free and you can park in the parking lot in front.
The old barracks (Fort D)
Near the Muizenfort is the old barracks of Muiden. It is a building no less than 70 meters long. The officers used to sleep, cook, and eat here. The Dutch army owned it for a long time. Nowadays, it houses the library and some other organizations.
The old barracks on Google Maps
Visit medieval castle Muiderslot
Muiderslot Castle claims to be the toughest national museum in The Netherlands. After all, the castle has been through quite a lot: from robberies and destruction to endless summers and the plum period.
The Muiderslot castle is impressive in its simplicity – the outside has few frills. It is located by the water, and there is a well-kept castle garden in front. At the back is a small orchard. The audio tour guides you through the garden while you learn more about the self-sufficiency of Muiderslot and the inhabitants of the castle. A famous poet lived on Muiderslot: Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft – the fancy shopping street in Amsterdam is named after him. He is the inventor of the Dutch phrase “see you in plum season.” He meant the summer period when the plums are ripe. In those months, he liked to receive his friends from Amsterdam at his castle and tried to tempt them to visit with the promise of sweet, ripe plums. Although it’s not very common to use it in a conversation nowadays, the phrase now roughly means “see you someday, not sure when.”
There are two routes in the castle itself, which you follow with an audio tour. There is a knight route (45 minutes) and a tower route (20 minutes). I just do both to see all that the Muiderslot castle has to offer.
So, what can you expect inside? You will learn about Count Floris V, who ordered the construction of the Muiderslot in 1285, and about the destruction and the reconstruction in 1369. You will also get to know P.C. Hooft and his family better. Inside the castle, there are furniture from earlier periods, armor, paintings, and more. To put it all in context, the audio tour is really useful.
What I found most interesting was the way of life in the castle at a time long past. How the castle was defended, how people cooked, and even how people pooped. Thanks to my best friend for the demonstration!
Nice layover from Muiden: visit Pampus
From Muiden you can easily visit the fortress island of Pampus. You just need to take the boat near the Muiderslot Castle. Make sure to reserve online in advance to book passage.
Spend the night in Muiden
Parking in Muiden
Paid parking is available almost everywhere in Muiden, including at the Muiderslot castle. But, you can also park for free in Muiden – that sounds better right? It is only a short walk to the center. This is the location of the free car park in Muiden.
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Want more travel advice? Do check all my blogs about beautiful places and fun activities in my home country. Also nice: buy the Lonely Planet of the Netherlands as it has lots of practical information. Available at Amazon and Book Depository. The latter is usually the cheapest but often has a slightly longer shipping time.