History of castles in Utrecht goes back to the 12th and 13th century. Once the main city in the Netherlands, Utrecht has gathered an impressive collection of the castles. Today some of them serve as high-end stores. Other castles still relate to the former splendor of Utrecht and its richest residents.
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Castles in Utrecht
Smaller than Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, Utrecht gets its break as the city with the largest number of castles. The past of this place plays an important role in it. Formerly the biggest city in the Netherlands, Utrecht was home to some of the richest people in the country. And as the story goes, the wealthy residents of Utrecht kept building castles for their families.
Over time, majority of these fortresses transformed into homes to such popular brands as Zara and Hollister. Some of these castles became museums that tell you all about rich history of Utrecht and its former residents.
HERE IS YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE FAMOUS CASTLES IN UTRECHT:
Anything but the Castles in Utrecht
It’s hard to believe, but many buildings in Utrecht are former castles. This is especially true in the area near the Oudegracht, the most beautiful canal in the city.
And the first stop along the Utrecht’s famous canal includes Oudaen Castle. Locals know it better as Stadskasteel Oudaen, a castle with a story. The historic tower house is located just a few minutes away from Utrecht Centraal. This fact alone makes it one of the first places to explore during one-day trip to Utrecht. Moreover, as home to a restaurant, grand café, and brewery, Oudaen has more to offer than just a quick glance into the past.
Fresenburg Castle, one of a few former castles in Utrecht turned stores, is also nestled along the Oudegracht. This castle was built in the 13th century. Later it went through a major renovation that completely reshaped its facade. But the long story of the castle didn’t end on this. In the 20th centuries Fresenburg accommodated a few business such the Landbouwbank, Chinese fast-food restaurant, and music store. Today, it’s home to the Hollister clothing store.
Once one of the biggest castles in Utrecht, Groenewoude also houses one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, Zara. Moreover, similar to Fresenburg, the facade of this castle has nothing left from its original medieval look.
Blankenburg also joined the castle boom in Utrecht in the 13th century. Like majority of the castles or resilient houses of that time it had one main and a few side houses. Over the centuries, the city castle endured many changes. However, its facade, especially the rear one, is still largely preserved. One of the latest residents of Blankenburg included De Slegte bookstore. Today the building is used as a clothing store.
For one of the oldest castles in Utrecht, look no further than Drankenburg Castle. This national heritage site was built in the 11th century. Three centuries later the castle belonged to the Knight of Drakenburg. Today it displays contemporary furniture of the Strand West store.
“Real” Castles in Utrecht
De Haar Castle
De Haar Castle is considered a prime jewel among all castles in and near Utrecht. Located near the village of Haarzuilens, the structure astounds with its majestic look and size. The charm of the famous De Haar Castle extends to its park and gardens that spread over 135 acres of land. Once a private residence of the Van Zuylen family, De Haar is regarded as one of the largest museums in the Netherlands.
Less popular than De Haar Castle, Zuylen Castle doesn’t cease to impress visitors with its 18th-century charm. Set in the village of Oud-Zuilen near Utrecht, the castle was originally built in the 13th century as a simple donjon. A few major renovations took place in the next centuries. Finally, in 1752 Zuylen Castle was rebuilt as a country manor with a large park in English landscape style.
Not all castles near Utrecht are open to the public. So, for example, you can admire octagonal shape of Drakensteyn Castle, but never step inside. This small castle about 30 minutes away from Utrecht is a private property of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the country’s former Queen.
Not a private residence, Duurstede Castle is also not ready to open its doors to the public for touring. Nevertheless, visitors of Wijk bij Duustede in the Utrecht province can still admire this historical building from outside. Like majority of other castles near Utrecht, Duurstede Castle allows you to walk in the surrounding park and admire its stunning views from afar.