Historic Gardens of the Netherlands ~ Discover the Splendour of 17thC Dutch Gardens
Garden Holidays and Escorted Tours
Short City Breaks with a Twist
Historic Gardens of the Netherlands ~ Discover the Splendour of 17thC Dutch Gardens
Celebrate the arrival of summer on this four days/ three nights garden-themed tour in the Netherlands. Based in Utrecht, treats include Amsterdam's most beautiful - and secret- private gardens, the baroque gardens of Palace Het Loo, a guided tour of Hortus Botanicus, Leiden - home to an extraordinary plant collection - and the magnificent Kasteel de Haar.
Hidden behind the stately façades of the houses along Amsterdam’s canals lie some of the city's best-kept secrets: private gardens. For one weekend in June, you can look behind these impressive canal-side homes and enter a quiet green oasis. Presented by Museum Van Loon, these beautifully preserved gardens also allow you to take a fascinating step back into 17th century Amsterdam.
What we love
- The beautiful gardens! You will visit the private gardens hidden behind the Amsterdam’s most elegant canal-side houses, the baroque gardens of Palace Het Loo, and the fascinating Hortus Botanicus, Leiden.
- Utrecht! Based here, you will have plenty of time to explore this beautiful, canal ringed city.
- The history! Treats include Amsterdam’s Museum Van Loon and Kasteel de Haar, the biggest castle in the Netherlands.
- The ease! Our meticulously curated programme includes private coach transfer and an experienced Tour Manager.
Experiences you will treasure
- Discovering the private gardens hidden behind the Golden Age houses along Amsterdam’s Herengracht and Keizersgracht, known as the “best kept secret in the city.”
- Visiting the elegant, Baroque gardens of Palace Het Loo
- Taking a guided tour of Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanic garden in The Netherlands and home to more than 60,000 plant specimens
- Exploring Amsterdam's fascinating Museum Van Loon and its beautiful, formal garden
- Visiting the oldest castle in the Netherlands, Kasteel de Haar
- Staying in Utrecht with time to explore this quintessentially Dutch, canal-crossed city at your leisure
How much is it?
Once a year, in the third week of June, a secret gem is revealed to visitors to Amsterdam – some 25 beautiful, private gardens tucked away behind the elegant, Golden Age houses on the Herengracht and Keizersgracht. Invisible from the street, these gardens are known as 'the city's best kept secret'. What is striking is that almost all the gardens are still in use and look much as they did when first established in the 17th century.
A Deeper Dive
Hortus Botanicus, Leiden is the oldest botanic garden in The Netherlands. Founded in 1590, it is the creation of the pioneering botanist and Flemish doctor Carolus Clusius, who introduced several new specimens to Europe via the Dutch East India Company - including the iconic tulip.
Today, the Hortus is home to more than 60,000 plant specimens, some of which - including the Victoria amazonica in the Victoria Glasshouse - are considered to be 'the crownjewels' because of their importance, beauty, historical significance, or because there's only one specimen left in the world. The Clusius Garden gives an impression of what the Hortus was like around 1600, when the bonds between the Netherlands and Asia were formed. The exchange of plants and knowledge between these cultures can be seen in the Japanese Garden.
Part of the University of Leiden, the Hortus is also an important research centre. Thousands of plants are cultivated in the greenhouses, including tropical ferns, the Custard Apple (Annonaceae), the Periwinkle (Apocynaceae) family and the Pitcher Plant (Nepenthaceae) family.
Known as the 'Versailles of The Netherlands', this Dutch baroque garden was created by William of Orange and Princess Mary behind their magnificent palace both as a visible demonstration of their power and wealth, and a showcase for their exceptional plant collection.
Perfectly symmetrical and filled with rare plants and flowers from Asia and South America, the gardens provided the backdrop to life at the Palace. The King's garden was for playing bowls of 'kolf' ( a forerunner of golf), while the Queen's garden was a shady place for Mary and her ladies in waiting to stroll on summer days.
The Palace and garden have just reopened after a £151m restoration project. Don't miss the orangery with its 200 citrus trees.
Less well-known than Europe’s other canal cities, but just as picturesque, Utrecht has a special charm. Quintessentially Dutch, it offers visitors both an authentic taste of the contemporary Netherlands and also a fascinating insight into its history. Initially designed as a medieval fortified city, the heart of Utrecht is enclosed by an inner canal ring measuring just under 6km so can be easily explored in a few hours. Here are our highlights.
The Dom Tower. At 112.5m high, this is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and is considered the symbol of Utrecht. The tower was part of St. Martin's Cathedral, also known as the Dom Church, and was built between 1321 and 1382, to a design by John of Hainaut on the site of a Roman fortress. Most of the church was destroyed in a tornado in the 1500s, so only some parts remain, including the tower. There are 465 steps to the top, but the views when you get there are stunning! (Please note, you can only visit the tower as part of a 1hr guided tour.)
While you’re here, take a moment to visit the Pandhof garden. Once part of the old monastery garden, it is one of the most elaborately designed courtyards in the Netherlands. You can admire the 15th century cloister surrounding the courtyard as well. (Entry here is free and does not require a ticket to Dom Tower)
DOMunder: Located in the centre of Dom Square, this underground space traces 2,000 of Dutch history. Follow a route with special torch to experience history from the time the Romans built the castellum Trajectum, around 45 A.D, learn why Utrecht was the center of the Netherlands in the middle ages and even experience the destructive tornado that caused the nave of the Dom Cathedral to collapse in 1674.
The Centraal Museum: housed in a medieval cloister on the Nicolaaskerkhof, this museum boasts the largest collection of Gerrit Rietveld pieces in the world, as well the work of the world-famous Dick Bruna, and Dutch icons Jan van Scorel, Abraham Bloemaert and Hendrick ten Brugghen. It also provides a broad overview of 2,000 years of the country’s turbulent history.
The Utrecht canals: the only canals in the world to have wharfs and wharf cellars, the city’s waterways date back to the 12thC when the first canal, Oudegracht, was dug to change the course of the Oude Rijn River. Connecting the river Vecht in the north to the Vaartsche Rijn in the south, the Oudegracht became an elongated harbour. Large city castles were built along the canal and wharfs were added where boats could unload their cargos directly onto the land. These wharfs had deep cellars which served as water level storage spaces and pedestrian walkways, creating a unique two-level street system. Today these cellars are filled with shops, restaurants, galleries and cafes and no visit to Utrecht is complete without a drink or a meal in one of these atmospheric cellar restaurants.
Located slightly outside the city centre, but easy to get to from Utrecht Central Station (which is close to your hotel), The Rietveld Schröder House is a must for anyone with an interest in art and design. Built in 1924 by the designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld for Ms Truus Schröder, this small family house is still strikingly modern. With moveable walls and design elements that connect inside with out, it embodies the principals of De Stijl artistic movement and has become one of icons of the Modernism. (Please note, advanced booking is required.)
And don’t forget Miffy - or Nijntje as this cute white rabbit is known in her home town. Created by the artist Dick Bruna, Miffy is one of the Utrecht’s most famous stars. Visit Nijntje Pleintje, or Miffy Square, to see the statue by Dick Bruna’s son, Marc Bruna, and cross the road at the world’s one and only Miffy traffic light on the Lange Vliestraat.
Here are our highlights for an afternoon in the capital city.
Art lovers should head straight for Museumplein where you will find a cluster of world-beating museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, devoted to modern and contemporary art, and the Rijksmuseum with its stunning collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings such as ‘The Milkmaid’ by Johannes Vermeer, ‘The Night Watch’ by Rembrandt, and ‘Portrait of a Young Couple’ by Frans Hals. The city’s favourite park, Vondelpark, is also here and is a perfect place to sit and digest everything you have seen before setting off for the Rembrandt House Museum at Jodenbreestraat 4 where the artist lived and worked from 1639 to 1658.
Amsterdam’s Golden Age history can be seen in all its elegance at the Herengracht, the first of the four main canals in the city centre’s Canal Belt. Completed along with its neighbours in the 17th century as part of an expansion project that is now UNESCO listed, this is where Amsterdam’s social elite built their grand gabled houses. Look out for the former office of the Dutch West India Company at Herenmarkt, one of Amsterdam’s oldest residences (built in 1590) at no. 81 and, at no. 172, the magnificent 1617 Bartolotti House, considered the finest of all of Amsterdam’s Golden Age merchant’s houses. Museum Van Loon, in the neighbouring Keizersgracht, provides an insight into the splendour these 17th C merchants lived in. A magnificent private residence built in 1672 by the architect Adriaen Dortsman, its first resident was the painter Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt. The interior of the house has remained largely intact and includes a large collection of paintings, fine furniture, precious silvery and porcelain. Behind the house is a beautiful garden, laid out in formal style and bordered on the far side by the classical facade of the coach house. The original unity of the canal house, garden and coach house is unique. You should also visit The Royal Palace on Dam Square. Designed by architect Jan van Campen to reflect the power and wealth of this city in 17thC, this is the largest and most prestigious building of the era.
The Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht preserves the secret annexe where the young diarist hid from Nazi persecution from 1942 until she was captured, along with her family and four other inhabitants, in 1944. The secret rooms are on an enclosed courtyard behind a 17th-century canal house and give a visceral sense of what it was like to live in hiding.
And if you are looking for cafes to watch the world go by, as well as specialist shops and galleries for interesting souvenirs, head for the Jordaan, a grid of little streets and filled-in canals bordered by the Singel. Created in the 17th century, this area was first inhabited by Amsterdam’s working class and an international array of migrants, such as the Huguenots from France and Puritans from England, all seeking the city’s famous religious tolerance. Today it offers a picture postcard slice of Amsterdam life. Don’t leave without dropping into a ‘brown café (a Dutch pub), or tasting a traditional bitterballen (deep fried breaded meatball).
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