Visit Amersfoort – a small Dutch town in Utrecht municipality with a well preserved medieval town center. It will make a perfect day trip from Amsterdam. There are direct trains running to Amersfoort from Amsterdam (takes about 50 min) and from Utrecht (20 min).
For more ideas on day trips from Amsterdam read our post Top 10 One-Day Trips from Amsterdam.
First time we went to Amersfoort it was actually for a basketball match. Roman and his team played against a team in Amersfoort, and after the game we decided to have lunch in the city and then walked around the town. We instantly fell in love with the old town of Amersfoort. Historical buildings, narrow streets, canals, stone bridges – compact and green the town has charmed us from the first sight.
Visit Amersfoort’s Old Town
If you arrive at Amersfoort by train you can either walk from Amersfoort Central Station to the old town (about 15 mins) or take a bus to Amersfoort Stadhuis stop (5 mins ride) just outside the old town.
If you come by car, park it outside the city center and explore the town by foot. As many other small Dutch towns, the center of Amersfoort is surrounded by canals. You can enter the old town via Bollebruggang – a corridor bridge with a nice view to the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren tower of Amersfoort. It’s just a 3 mins walk from the ‘Amersfoort, Stadhuis’ bus stop (where you arrive if you’re taking a bus from the train station).
Once crossed Bollebruggang you can either walk by Breestraat, or Langegracht along the canal with its old houses and many bridges over the canal.
Reach the Museum Flehite – the historical museum of Amersfoort and Eemland in the Netherlands.
Continue via Nieuweweg towards Grote Spui and Kleine Spui – two small streets over river Eem overlooking Koppelpoort – medieval city gate and watergate.
The inner city of Amersfoort is well preserved since the Middle Ages. It’s worth simply to walk around and explore its narrow streets with old houses and historical landmarks.
The Koppelpoort is an old medieval gate of Amersfoort. It was built in the 15th century and it’s not only a city gate, but also a watergate over the river Eem. Walk around the Koppelpoort, leaving the old town via Kleine Spui and returning back via Grote Spui.
The Hof – central square
City of Amersfoort grew around the Hof – central square. From the Koppelpoort make your way to the Hof via Vijver street to see small Dutch houses glued to each other on the both sides of the narrow street. Alternatively, walk around via Havik street above the canals.
There are many cafes at and around the central square – the Hof. It’s a nice place to have a stop for a lunch or a drink. Right next to the square is Sint-Joriskerk (or St George’s Church).
Huis Tinnenburg (Groot Tinnenburg) and Cohen House
Continue from the Hof towards another historical landmark – House Tinnenburg. The 15th century house that was part of the historical city wall around Amersfoort.
Across the canal from the Tinnenburg on Zuidsingel street stands monumental Cohen House. The 18th century house was built for Benjamin Cohen (Amersfoort banker and tobacco merchant). Later, in the 19th century it was bought by Zusters van Onze Lieve Vrouw van Amersfoort (Sisters of Our Lady of Amersfoort) and converted into a monastery.
Muurhuizen (wall houses) and Plompetoren
Muurhuizen (translated from Dutch as Wall houses) street is a long narrow street around the old town. This is where the first city wall (that also included Tinnenburg house) of Amersfoort was located. In places it truly looks more like a city wall than just a residential street in the center.
You won’t miss Plompetoren at Muurhuizen 47. This medieval tower was used as a city prison back in the 15th century and now is considered a national monument.
Walking along the Muurhuizen street you will reach another city gate – Kamperbinnenpoort. It was built in the 13th century, but was partly demolished a few centuries later, and then rebuilt and restored in the 20th century.
Kamperbinnenpoort was part of the first city wall of Amersfoort and is the oldest gate in the city (another two being Koppelpoort and Monnikendam).
The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren (The Tower of Our Lady)
Last but not least is the historical tower at Krankeledenstraat. The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren is a tall church tower built in the 15th century. This Gothic-styled tower is in fact the 3rd tallest church tower in the Netherlands (1st tallest being Domtoren in our Utrecht, and 2nd tallest – Nieuwe Kerk in Delft). You won’t miss it when walking in the old town.
The Lieve Vrouwekerkhof is a square at the foot of the tower, where you will find lots of cafes with outdoor seating areas, – a nice place to relax after walking around the city.
You can even take a guided tour and climb the tower to enjoy the views from up top.
Museums in Amersfoort
If you have more time in Amersfoort then visit one of its museums.
I would recommend Dutch Cavalry Museum (Cavaleriemuseum Amersfoort) especially if visiting with kids (and especially with boys 🙂 ).
To learn about the history of Amersfoort go to Museum Flehite – the historical museum of Amersfoort. Even if you’re not visiting the museum, it’s worth a stop on your itinerary as the building itself is quite eye-catching.
What to see near Amersfoort
If you are willing to go a bit further from the city, I would recommend the following places to visit. All of them are within 10-20 min drive from Amersfoort.
De Pyramide van Austerlitz
First of all, there are beautiful walks in the woods around the Pyramid of Austerlitz. Plus there is a big playground for kids including a few carousels (playground is free, and rides are for a fee). Of course, there is also a cafe serving Dutch pancakes (among other food) with a spacious outdoor seating area where you can relax while your kids are enjoying the playground.
But the main feature of the area, of course, is the Pyramid of Austerlitz and its obelisk – an early 19th century pyramid on a hill built as a tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon’s brother Louis Napoleon, at that time king of Holland, gave the monument the name “Pyramid of Austerlitz” after the famous battle.
For a small fee you can climb on top of the pyramid to enjoy the views.
National Military Museum
Located halfway between Amersfoort and Utrecht is the National Military Museum. They have a big exhibition of tanks, planes, armor and weaponry. Lots of interesting facts to learn (via videos, information boards and stands) and a nice interactive area for kids.
For more ideas on places to visit with kids in this part of the Netherlands read my Favourite places to visit in Utrecht with kids post.
Kasteel Groeneveld is only 20 min drive from Amersfoort. The castle is built in Rococo style and for an entrance fee you can go and see it inside. The park around the castle is big and it is a nice place for a walk along the trees, to enjoy English style gardens and the historical ice house.
The park, courtyard and shop are free to visit, and there is a castle entrance fee (check their web site for more information (in Dutch).
DierenPark Amersfoort (Amersfoort Zoo)
DierenPark Amersfoort is a must see with kids if you are in the area. Amersfoort Zoo is very spacious, with hundreds of animals, many play areas for children and even a dino park.
Make sure you have at least a few hours to see it and check their web site (in Dutch) to plan your visit.
Read next in the ‘Small Dutch towns you must see’ series – Delft.