It’s true – one hardly expects to find castles in The Netherlands! But they do exist and there are many of them, along with stately homes of grace and beauty. Few historic buildings in The Netherlands can equal De Haar for its representation of a fairy-tale castle. It is among the top twenty most-visited Dutch museums.
De Haar Castle or Kasteel de Haar in Utrecht has been constructed on the ruins of an earlier castle, and dates from 1892 (architect P.J.H. Cuypers). Records show that there was a building here in 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and its lands as a fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. That family died out and the castle passed to the Van Zuylen family. The castle is mentioned in a list of goods of Steven van Zuylen in the 1500s.
Baroness Hélène de Rothschild
In 1801 the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt, bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques’ grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar. He married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild, whose family promptly disowned her for marrying out of the Jewish faith.
The castle took some 15 years to finish but it is a magnificent work in Gothic Revival style. It boasts 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms. The castle was equipped with the most modern of conveniences, such as electric lights and steam central heating. The kitchen will be the room most admired by those with a passion for all things culinary. Copper pots reflect soft light but it’s the monumental cooking range which will likely command all the attention. One can also visit the dining room where sumptuous feasts confectioned in the kitchen were consumed.
The impression of Kasteel de Haar is that of a cathedral, complete with stained glass, carved wood and stone. It’s still full of family pictures and artefacts. The interior is furnished with many works from the Rothschild collections. A piece of great interest is the palanquin once owned by a woman of the retinue of a shōgun in Japan. There is only one other left in existence and that is found in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to see this charming mode of transport.
The gardens at Kasteel de Haar are magnificent at any time of year. The 135 acres will charm lovers of horticulture. They are restored to their former glory after being dug over during the war to grow food, and wood being chopped to provide heat. There are flowerbeds and water features and plenty of Instagrammable views across lawns to the Kasteel. Take a packed lunch and spend a day here.
For over a century it has been a tradition for the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar family to spend time in the castle each September. They have had celebrated international guests to stay, including Coco Chanel, Maria Callas, Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, Yves Saint Laurent, Joan Collins and Brigitte Bardot – who is rumoured to have ridden a motor scooter around the grand hall.
One can easily see why Kasteel de Haar is such a popular attraction for tourists from both the Netherlands and around the world. It would make the perfect excursion for all the family, offering tranquillity in the extensive gardens, history in the castle and adventures for youngsters who will readily don armour and become Knights for the day.
Ticket office 09.00 – 16.30 hours
Park 09.00 – 17.00 hours
Castle and shop 11.00 – 17.00 hours
Kasteel de Haar
3455 RR Haarzuilens
For travel with DFDS:
Travel with car:
Prices for travel with DFDS from Dover to Calais are from £49 each way, or from Dover to Dunkirk are from £45 each way, for a car with a maximum of nine people.
Prices for travel with a motorhome and up to nine people on DFDS’ Dover to France service start from £57 each way. For customers travelling with a car and caravan, prices start from £80 each way.
All ships in the modern fleet feature a premium lounge, which can be booked for an additional £12 per person each way. The lounge provides a quiet space with free newspapers, fresh fruit, pastries and petits-fours, soft drinks and a glass of Prosecco upon arrival.
Prices vary in line with demand and are subject to change.
Crossings on the Dover-Calais route take 90 minutes each way and Dover-Dunkirk sailings are two hours. Customers are advised to check in at least 45 minutes before their scheduled sailing time, or 60 minutes prior during busy periods.