Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.

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Founded: 1391/1892
Category: Castles and fortifications in Netherlands

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sara Gomes (3 months ago)
What a lovely day and it was raining! Can’t wait to go back when it’s sunny and warm to explore the park more! Please go and visit you won’t retreat the money spent! It’s a beautiful really well maintained castle. Just a warning to parents with small children I can’t bring your buggy inside, you can’t there are to much stairs, so please prepare in advance and bring your comfy sling, baby carrier so you won’t end up your your child in your arms the whole time. The eating areas cafes are nice and cozy but always a bit crowded.
Holland Decoded (3 months ago)
I was very enthusiastic about the visit. It looks nice but it is a relatively modern reconstructed place which seems to have been in use till a few years back. It belongs to a very wealthy family in the Netherlands. Therefore, it is not a historical place. There is an introduction video which does not tell much, it is never mentioned how these people made their fortune. The entrance fee is high: 17,50 and for kids up to 12, 13, 50. Parking : 6 euros. But if you want to see a water castle and walk in the garden, your choice.
Anna Palinkas (5 months ago)
Enormous park surrounding the castle, you can spend hours there if the weather is nice. Even in the winter it was lovely, an elegant lake with swans, friendly deer that came up to the fence to say hi and a nice maze for children to get (actually) lost in. The castle looks like it came out of picture book. Inside was a different thing though.... if you blur your eyes you might see the old splendour of the rooms but you don't have to look close to see the dust covering the plastic fruit, the wallpaper crumbling, the hideous mannequins in cheap clothes sitting on moth eaten sofas. Carpets rolled up to be out of the way, paper stuck under the feet of furniture.
Marco van Greevenbroek (5 months ago)
Nice to have visited Holland’s biggest castle. Great to be able to visit some of the rooms inside the castle although I wished some more rooms would have been available for visitors. The staff in the castle are great just ask them what you would like to know and they have the answer. Beautiful big park. Nice to visit.
M. Massé (5 months ago)
A beautiful castle with interesting things to see on the inside. I liked how they profiled the castle as it was in the 60s/70s and its film background. Cards in each room also gave interesting details about the history. Perfect for a touristy day out with family.
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