Explore - Cycling past tower houses & castles

Cycling past tower houses, castles and country estates

Utrecht has a rich history, evident from the splendid tower houses, castles and country houses and estates in and around the city. Why not spend a lovely late summer day cycling past a few of these gems?

By Dieuwke de Boer

We start in the heart of Utrecht, where you’ll find lots of mediaeval tower houses. These houses were built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries along Oudegracht, which was then an important trading route through the city. You’ll find the 14th-century Leeuwenberg tower house at Oudegracht 307, Drakenburg at Oudegracht 114 and Oudaen at Oudegracht 99. This last tower house, which now serves as a grand café, is the best preserved of all the tower houses in Utrecht. A brewery has been operating in the vaulted cellars of Oudaen since the Middle Ages. The tradition is still upheld and you’re welcome to try one of home brewed beers.

We continue along Oudegracht towards Bemuurde Weerd and Lauwerecht. Pass under the railway line, cross Loevenhoutsedijk and cycle alongside de River Vecht over Jagerskade and Zandpad. You’ll eventually come to Vechtdijk, which you follow until you get the picturesque village of Oud-Zuilen, which is worth a visit in itself. To your right, you’ll see Slot Zuylen, one of the oldest Vecht-side castles. A visit to this castle will teach you all you need to know about how the landed gentry of Utrecht lived from the 13th-century onwards. The castle gardens are also worth visiting. Until 24 September, you can admire some of De Stijl-artist Gerrit Rietveld’s early furniture designs in the Poortgebouw. Don’t miss it as this part of the castle is usually closed to the public

After a cup of coffee or quick lunch in the museum café, it’s time to get back on your bike. We cross the Vecht and cycle along Zuilenselaan. Turn right at the water into Amsterdamsestraatweg, under the motorway and left at the second roundabout into Burgemeester Waverijnweg. The road takes you over the motorway and into Maarssenseweg, along the Haarrijnse Plas (lake). If you’ve worked up a sweat on your bike, you could stop here to cool off in the water and enjoy a drink at the Key West Beach House. Continue along Maarssenseweg and turn right into Thematerweg. When you reach the village of Haarzuilens, you’ll pass a farm called Geertje’s Hoeve. This is a petting farm with plenty to do: feed the goats, give a lamb a bottle, ride a pony or play midget golf.

A bit further on in Haarzuilens, you’ll find the Netherlands’ biggest, most luxurious castle: Kasteel de Haar. It was built between 1892 and 1912, commissioned by Baron Etienne van Zuylen and his wife, the extremely wealthy French Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. Although they only ever used the castle in the late summer, it was fitted with all the latest mod cons: from an enormous kitchen to electric lighting and central heating. Take a guided tour of the castle, gardens and park to see for yourself how the other half lived!

1 – Stadskasteel Leeuwenberg

Oudegracht 307

2 – Stadskasteel Drakenburg

Oudegracht 114

3 – Stadskasteel Oudaen

Oudegracht 99


4 – Slot Zuylen

Tournooiveld 1, Oud-Zuilen


5 – Kasteel de Haar

Kasteellaan 1, Haarzuilens


Take a break

  • Green oasis

Fort aan de Klop

1e Polderweg 2


  • Beach bar

Key West Beach House

Strandboulevard 222


  • Farm

Geertje’s Hoeve

Thematerweg 5


  • Castle park

Koetshuis / Tuynhuis de Haar

Kasteellaan 1


Also worth a visit

On the banks of the Kromme Rijn, within biking distance of the city centre, you’ll find the Amelisweerd country estate. It’s a great place to walk, laze around in the grass by the water or visit Oud-Amelisweerd Museum. From 23 September, this 18th-century country house will host the Made in China exhibition, featuring 18th-century Chinese landscape art from the Guangdong Museum collection, and landscape paintings by the Dutch artist Armando.

Museum Oud-Amelisweerd

Koningslaan 9, Bunnik


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