Kasteel de Haar – Christmas Market in Medieval Atmosphere

The largest castle in the Netherlands , situated close to Utrecht, is one of the most luxurious castles in Europe, home of many art objects and fascinating towers, suspension bridges and amazing gardens.

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Short History

The first records of the castle date back to 1391, when it was owned by De Haar family. Later on, the castle was passed to the Van Zuylen family, in 1440.

The castle had a rough life, and was burned down and destroyed almost completely, only to be rebuilt in the 1500’s. The last major work done to this fascinating construction was done in 1887 though, restoration which lasted for 20 years, in which the interior and last ruins were brought back to life, by Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt and his wife.

With  200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, the castle is quite an impressive construction. However, a very small part of it is open to the public. Even so, the beauty of the few rooms available to tourists, makes it all worth it!

The Inside

kitchenThe tour starts with the beautiful kitchen, still in very good condition, with all he original kitchen gear on display. To my surprise, all the pots were made out of copper, as a symbol of status and power, regardless of how difficult this would make the cooking and cleaning process.

In a room with an enormous cooking surface, the temperature would be around 40 degrees, all year around, and the stove would always be on, because of the difficult process of restarting the fire. Passion for cooking at a whole new level!

The rooms are decorated with ornamented woodcarvings and finished with old porcelain from Asia, and very old tapestries and paintings. The atmosphere takes you right back to the beautiful times, in which the castle was at its moment of glory.

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Gardens – The Christmas Market Central

You can’t have a castle without beautiful gardens. Kasteel de Haar is no exception from the rule, so the building is situated inside a miniature park, inspired by the French gardens of Versailles.

During the World War II, many of the gardens were lost as the trees were cut and the wood was use for fires, while the grounds were used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their original design.

Even if the Netherlands is not big on Christmas Markets, one of the most beautiful markets are found right in the heart of De Haar gardens. From carolers, to Santa, to beautiful Christmas lights and traditional products, the market sure knows how to get you in the spirit of the winter holidays.

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The castle and its gardens are definitely worth seeing. If you add a Christmas market on top of this, Kasteel de Haar is a place you don’t want to miss!


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Vienna – The Magical Winter City

As soon as you arrive in Vienna, a journey through time starts, where the past and the present combine right in front of your eyes. The architecture is absolutely stunning, and the sound of the horses making their way through the city center, opens a gateway to a different time. A place which screams history!

Some of the world’s biggest musicians (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schuber, Johann Strauss and many others) called Vienna their home, and after a few hours spent in the gorgeous city, I could see why.

Combining a walk through the center, with a visit at Empress Sisi’s palace, and a day of shopping at the famous Christmas Market, this city has something which always makes me want to come back.

Schönbrunn Palace

The Schönbrunn Palace, meaning “beautiful spring“, is Empress Sisi’s former imperial summer residence. Built in the 1740’s, the Palace is currently one of the most important historical monuments in Austria. Starting 1996, it’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage together with its beautiful gardens.

I’m not sure if the picture gives you a correct feeling about how big this place really is, but believe me, a few hours are not enough to see everything the Palace has to offer.

The carriage museum, the roman ruins, the palm house and the desert houses are only a few of the main attractions. Even more, during winter, Schönbrunn garden is also home of a Christmas Market, which is guaranteed to get you into the spirit of the season.

Surrounded by an enormous garden (over a square kilometer), which hosts the oldest Zoo in the world, this place is absolutely fascinating, and definitely worth a visit.

The Christmas Market

Considering that the first Viennese Christmas Market took place in 1298, we can say Vienna has a long tradition of bringing the seasonal joy into our homes. DSCF9589 The most famous Christmas Market takes place during November and December, in front of the City Hall (Rathaus) located on the Rathausplatz. There are a few more markets scattered around Vienna, though, competing with the latter, in Schönbrunn and on Spittelberg. The aromas of the Christmas delights, combined with the seasonal decorations and wood toys displayed in the small wooden market stalls, have their own magical power.

If you love Christmas, there’s no better place to be during winter, than in Vienna. In case you decide to visit, don’t forget to try the famous Wiener Schnitzel, the hot baked potatoes, roasted chestnuts, and a glass of wine, for which the city is so famous for.