Hilversum

Hilversum is a medium-sized city in the Gooi area of North Holland, the Netherlands. Once called the Garden of Amsterdam, most travellers still come over to cycle and hike through the surrounding forests and heathland. The city is also known for its modern architecture, with Dudok's Hilversum Town Hall being the most significant design. For Dutch people, Hilversum became synonymous with the Dutch media industry.

Understand

Hilversum Town Hall

Unlike most of the Netherlands, Hilversum is actually in a hilly area on sand soil. The town is between the major cities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, and most travellers visit it as a relaxing day off from the urban mayhem. The forests, lakes and heathland surrounding the town can best be explored by bicycle or on foot. Most of these lands are property of the Goois Natuurreservaat Foundation (GNR), a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the nature reserves. Another goal is to connect nature reserves that have been separated by motorways and other human-made structures. For this end, the wildlife crossing Zanderij Crailo was completed in 2006, and it is currently the largest wildlife crossing in the world. It connects the Spanderswoud and the Bussumerheide, and is part of a larger programme to connect nature reserves from the Utrechtse Heuvelrug to Naarden.

The city itself is also green and breezy with trees pretty much everywhere. A total of 660 different types of trees to be exact, the largest variety of species in the Netherlands. Typical for the city is the way forests and city building naturally blend into each other. Hilversum is called a villadorp (villa village) because of its many villas with large surrounding gardens. The botanical garden Pinetum Blijdenstein is the most remarkable one with an enormous collection of rare and endangered trees and plants, some of which are exotic. It is home to one of the most complete collections of conifers in the world. Hilversum is nationally known as the media city, and goes by its nickname Hillywood. It is home to the country's broadcasting industry and has the two largest television studios in Europe within its borders. Many Dutch celebrities moved into the area, and their decadent daily lives are often a topic of national interest.

History

Hilversum is one of the firstly inhabited areas of the Netherlands, as shown by earthenware from the early to mid-Bronze Age (1800-1200 BCE). This prehistoric civilisation is called Hilversum culture and is characterised by the use of barrow cemeteries. The urns show similarities with the Wessex culture of Southern Britain, where the population might have migrated from. This people lived in the area from Hilversum to northern Belgium and spoke an Indo-European language of unknown origin, not related to the Germanic language spoken today. In the early Middle Ages, Hilversum was an agricultural area. Around 900, the first bricks were laid, but no official mention of Hilversum was made until 1305. Then called Hilfersheem, ethymologists explain the name of Hilversum to derive from Hilvertshem, which means 'houses between the hills'. First the town was a part of Naarden, which is also worth a visit for its medieval remains, but it received an official independent status in 1424. Daily life was characterised by farming, raising sheep and wool manufacturing.

Economic growth came in the 17th century when Holland became one of the richest trading nations in Europe. Canals were built to indirectly link Hilversum with Amsterdam, though fires in 1725 and 1766 destroyed most of the town. A railway link to Amsterdam in 1874 aided a substantial textile and tapestry industry. Rich traders from Amsterdam built themselves large villas in the wooded surroundings of Hilversum, that still characterise the town. Many of these wealthy families were Catholics, giving Hilversum a relatively Catholic demographic (compared to the Protestant surroundings). As Hilversum never got city rights, locals still refer to the town centre as het dorp ("the village"). In the early 1900s, modern architects W.M. Dudok and J. Duiker from the New Objectivity School placed many remarkable buildings here (and even entire neighbourhoods). Dudok's masterpiece, the Hilversum Town Hall from 1931, features in many architecture textbooks. The transition to a media economy started in 1920, when the Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek (NSF) established a radio factory. Many radio broadcasting organisations settled in the large villas in the leafy areas of the town. The textile industry had by then declined and the last factory closed in the 1960s. Television gave a renewed boost to the local economy and the number of inhabitants grew to 103,000 in 1964. Hilversum became the media capital of the Netherlands, and Dutch television celebrities moved in the leafy neighbourhoods surrounding the town centre. Hilvertshof was opened in 1973, when it was the first shopping centre of the Netherlands.

In the next decades, there was a decline in the number of inhabitants till an all-time low of 80,000 in 1999. The renovation of the Town Hall, which took place during 1989-1996, almost plunged the municipality of Hilversum into bankruptcy. It took five years to restore the building to its original state, and it was much more costly than originally anticipated. There is a permanent exposition about this renovation in the Dudok Dependance at the Hilversum Town Hall. The decline was further caused by suburbanisation, the economic downturn, smaller households, and the inability to expand as the town is surrounded by protected nature areas. As of the 2000s, there has been a renewed interest in Hilversum. With financial issues a matter of history, many new infrastructure projects and parks have been built. Its main train station has expanded from 3 to 5 tracks and regained Intercity status. Urbanisation has made Hilversum an attractive target for yuppies, who appreciate the town's new hip bars and boutiques, and its image as a green and affluent media town. Nowadays, Hilversum scores highly on national "best town to live in" polls.

Get in

Map of Hilversum

By train

Because of the central location of its train station, Hilversum can best be reached by the NS railway service. Trains run roughly every 15 minutes between 05:00 and 01:00 to and from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Utrecht, Amersfoort and Almere. The smaller train stations Hilversum Media Park and Hilversum Sportpark are within walking distance of the main train station.

Every day, six international trains to and from Berlin and Hanover stop in Hilversum. You can reserve seats at NS International. This is not required, but can be advised as prices are lower and rush hours can be crowded.

By car

Hilversum can be reached by motorways A1, A2 and A27. From the northwest and east (Amsterdam and Amersfoort), take A1 exit 9 at Laren, drive south on N525 and follow the signs. From the west (Schiphol Airport and Leiden), get on motorway A2 and take exit 4 at Vinkeveen. From there, drive east on N201. From the north and south (Almere and Utrecht), take motorway A27 and exit 33.

The provincial roads can be used to get to Hilversum as well. By driving on these smaller roads, you see more of the forests and rural areas around the town. N524 is a ride through the Spanderswoud from Bussum in the north. Two other forest rides are N525 from Laren in the northeast and N415 from Baarn in the east. From the south, the rural road N417 makes its way through farm fields and villages. N201 from Vinkeveen in the west goes through flat farmlands as well.

By plane

Hilversum Airport is the town's airport in the southwest. It's only used for recreational flying and training purposes. The closest international airport is Schiphol Airport. From 06:00 till 00:00, a train leaves for Hilversum every 15 minutes from platform 3. The journey takes about 30 minutes with the direct Intercity train. The Sprinter train takes about 45 minutes and a transfer at the Weesp train station is required. You can also come to Hilversum from airports in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, but expect train journeys to be 1.5 to 2 hours.

Get around

Map of central Hilversum

On foot

As nearly all stores, restaurants and bars are in the centre, walking is a good way to get around Hilversum. From the main train station, it's a short walk through the Leeuwenstraat to the centre and most of the attractions. The streets in the centre are pretty much free of cars and bicycles, except for the Groest on which bicycles and a limited number of cars are allowed.

By bike

If you want to see more of the city than just the inner city core, cycling is the way to go. Hilversum is very safe to explore by bike, as all arterial roads have designated bike lanes, which can be recognised by their reddish-purple appearance. Bikers should follow the red and white signs for directions. Bicycles can be rented for €3.15 per day at all three train stations.

By bus

Connexxion offers bus connections from Hilversum's main train station to the surroundings. You can plan your trip door-to-door using 9292.nl, though results vary. Especially in the evening, buses run infrequently and, for close destinations, walking is often faster than waiting for the bus to arrive. Bus transportation can best be used if you want to visit sights in the outskirts or in the surrounding villages. Fares are €3 for city trips, €5 for regional trips. Having an OV-chipkaart saves money.

By car

Typical Hilversum: lots of greenery and traffic congestion

The road network of Hilversum used to be a nightmare, and still is difficult to navigate through with its one-way roads, traffic congestion and limited parking space. Roads and directions often change, which make old maps unreliable. The roads operate in a double ring system. The outer ring around the city has two-way traffic, while the inner ring around the centre only has one-way traffic. If you miss an exit, you will have to drive around the whole inner ring again for a second try.

Free parking options are available between the inner and the outer ring, but it's a 10 to 15 minutes walk to the centre. The closest free parking area can be found at the Wandelpad between the main train station and train station Hilversum Sportpark. Be careful not to leave any valuables behind in this area. Parking at the parking lots is more convenient. Signs along the inner ring display which of the following parking lots have space available:

There is one car rental agency in Hilversum:

By taxi

Like elsewhere in the country, taxis in Hilversum carry a hefty price tag. The first 2 km will be around €7.50 with each additional kilometre €2.20. A 10-minute ride from the centre to the outskirts is around €14. Longer distances are more dramatic, a 35-minute ride to or from Schiphol Airport costs around €85. Taxis are generally available at the main train station and at night around the Groest. If you are elsewhere in the town, you will need to call the taxi company to pick you up. There are two taxi companies operating in Hilversum, which generally only accept cash:

See

Willem Marinus Dudok

With a total of 75 designs in Hilversum alone, Dudok is the only Dutch architect to put such a personal stamp on one particular town. Hilversum has been called his life's work. In 1905 he started his career in the Dutch army, but he spent most of his spare time designing buildings. When Dudok became director of Public Works in Hilversum in 1915, he started designing hundreds of buildings and even entire neighbourhoods. His job was his only passion and every detail was carefully thought through. At first Dudok followed the rational style of Hendrik Berlage, but later designs show a distinct mix of styles with influences from Frank Lloyd Wright.

There are many modern architectural masterpieces in Hilversum, but finding these buildings scattered across the town can be a frustrating experience. The modern architect W.M. Dudok shaped most of 20th century Hilversum and approximately 75 buildings still bear his stamp. Dudok's distinctive mix of styles is heavily influenced by the New Objectivity style, a radical movement in urban architecture in the Netherlands, Germany and France in the period 1915-1960. The best way to explore Dudok's designs is by walking or biking the W.M. Dudok Architectural Route, as explained in the Do-section. Start your journey in the world of modern architecture with his masterpiece, the Hilversum Town Hall.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Parks

Churches

Oudkatholieke kerk

Do

Outdoors

Once called the Garden of Amsterdam, most tourists come to Hilversum for a relaxing day off from the hectic city. The best way to spend your time is by hiking or biking in the forests and heathlands surrounding the city.

Forests and heathlands

Heathland at Hoorneboegse Heide

If you want to explore these areas, first head over to the tourist office for some quality maps. It can be found at the Kerkbrink, which also happens to be the beginning point for most hiking and biking routes.

Hiking

If you want to go hiking, buy a map of a particular hike you are interested in for around €1.50 at the tourist office. You can always ask the staff for help, or let them choose a particular hike for you. There are plenty of hiking trails available through Hilversum or its surroundings:

Biking

For cycling, the easiest map is the Toeristische Fietsroutekaart Gooi en Vechtstreek eo (Touristic Biking Route Map Gooi and Vecht Region and Surroundings) for €4. It covers 4 cycling routes through Hilversum and the Gooi area. Unfortunately, the map misses out on the popular towns Baarn and Lage Vuursche, as they are not a part of North-Holland. Another map is the Utrechtse Heuvelrug en Vechtse Plassen (Utrecht Hill Ridge and Vecht en Plassen) map for €8, which features a wider area, but does not include any pre-made routes, so you have to make your own route (most locals do this, it can easily be done with a little research). Of course you can get both maps if you want to be well-prepared. Both are in Dutch and in English, and the routes are clearly marked. Just as with hiking, you can also ask the staff for advice, as they have dozens of different maps for sale. Most biking routes do not just feature Hilversum, but also include many other villages in the Gooi en Vechtstreek:

Mushroom-shaped sign

When cycling in the outlying forests and heathlands, follow the mushroom-shaped signs for directions. In 1919, the first mushroom-shaped sign was placed in the forest between Hilversum and Baarn, but now they are placed in nature areas all over the country. Also bring some food and drinks with you, especially when it's warm, as there are no restaurants or coffee houses in protected nature areas.

Entertainment

Buy

Hilvertshof

Shopping in Hilversum is generally uninspiring, but if you know where to go, there are some interesting shops to be found. Expect a heavy emphasis on clothing and accessories, mostly for women. Due to the upscale demographic, most clothing stores are relatively expensive with luxurious brands. Most stores have similar hours (M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00), but some are closed on Mondays. All stores are closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month, which is called a Koopzondag ("buying Sunday").

The easiest entry point is Hilvertshof. It was opened in 1973 and was the first shopping centre of the Netherlands. Adjacent to Hilvertshof is the Kerkstraat. The shops in this area are similar to those found elsewhere in the country. You can find the department stores V&D and Hema, and world-wide chain stores such as H&M, Mango and Zara. From the Kerkstraat, you can stroll to the Gooische Brink and the 's-Gravelandseweg for some upscale boutiques.

Boutiques

Other stores

Eat

Deli shops

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under €20
Mid-range €20-40
Splurge Over €40

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Groest

Entering bars is legally allowed from the age of 16. However, many bars and nightclubs in Hilversum have their own policies and do not allow people under 18, 21 or even 23 to enter. Keep in mind that those under 18 are not allowed to drink any alcoholic drinks.

Most bars and nightclubs in Hilversum are centred around the Groest. There is something for everyone's taste, from youth bars to bars for older ages, and from dive bars to upscale cosmopolitan places. On weekdays and Sundays, bars are open till 01:00, while some nightclubs will be opened till 03:00. Fridays and Saturdays have longer hours, bars will be opened till 03:00, while nightclubs will be opened till 05:00.

Always bring your passport or official identity papers, as many bars and nightclubs require you to show it upon entry. Also keep in mind that smoking is only allowed in designated smoking areas, and that bar employees won't serve drinks in these areas. Be aware on the streets when the bars close as people are drunk and some might be looking for trouble. Walking around with an alcoholic beverage on the Groest can get you a fine of €60.

Cafes

Bars and pubs

Nightclubs

Sleep

Stay safe

There is not much to worry about in Hilversum. The town does often make headlines with cases of vandalism. Youth groups often hang around the town centre or near the main and Sportpark train stations, especially late at night. As they are often bored and drunk, they may destroy rubbish bins, benches, bicycles, bus stops and other public property.

Another safety issue occurs after the bars and nightclubs close, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 02:00 and 05:00. Large amounts of intoxicated people gather on the streets, which can lead to fights and confrontations with the police. Do not get involved, as the police sometimes uses dogs to temper the masses. Also avoid snackbars and other eating facilities at this time, as they are usually packed and are not allowed to sell food after 03:00. This causes anger with the hungry crowd waiting outside, thus a fight is easily initiated.

Stay healthy

Staying healthy is probably the least you have to worry about. Tap water in the Netherlands is among the cleanest and safest in the world, and tap water in Hilversum tastes even better than elsewhere in the country. Research from consumer authorities have shown that customers get tricked when ordering mineral water in bars or restaurants. One in three of them actually serve tap water instead of mineral water!

If you are hiking or biking in the forests surrounding the city, be careful of ticks and tick-carrying diseases. It is advisable to wear long sleeves and long trousers. If you want to be completely safe, tuck your trousers inside your socks. If you discover a red ring on your body in the weeks after, be sure to visit a doctor to check for Lyme disease, which can be lethal without proper medical care.

Connect

The country calling code for the Netherlands is 31, the area code for Hilversum is 035. If you want to surf the net, Doppio Espresso has free Wi-Fi and most seats come with electrical outlets for charging your mobile phone or laptop. Most hotels and bars nowadays offer free Wi-Fi.

Go next

Listed by distance, the surrounding area has plenty of interesting towns and villages.

Routes through Hilversum

Amsterdam Laren  W  E  Amersfoort Enschede
Almere Laren-Blaricum  N  S  Utrecht Breda


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, September 10, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.