Vechtstreek

The Vechtstreek is a scenic region in North Holland and Utrecht. It is a popular get-away destination known for its natural beauty, castles, parks and stately homes. Muiden and Weesp, while a part of the Vechtstreek, are covered in separate articles.

Understand

Vegtvliet, one of the dozens of castles and estates along the Vecht

The Vechtstreek is known for its many vestiges of the Dutch Golden Age, including castles, homes, parks and tea houses. They are remnants of the greatness and wealth of that period, the important commercial role played by the Vecht and the area's history as a residential area for the nobility and wealthy.

The landscape east and west of the river is also remarkable. Peat extraction in the 17th and 18th century turned vast low-lying fens into a collection of shallow, man-made lakes and bogs. Water lilies, reeds, swamps and wooded areas have developed spontaneously from the old peat canals (trekgaten) where the peat was extracted. A total of about 70 square kilometres have been designated as a series of nature reserves and are part of the European Natura 2000 scheme.

Orientation

The Vechtstreek is the area between Amsterdam and Utrecht, and many travellers sleep in the region to be close enough to visit those cities. Orientation is difficult, as there are many small villages in the area but no definite central place to go. Maarssen is the largest town by inhabitants, but it's an outlier in terms of geography. Many travellers would spend the night near Loenen or Loosdrecht, as they are centrally located and have plenty of water sport facilities. If you're reliant on public transport, stay near Breukelen as it has a train station on the Amsterdam-Utrecht line.

If ignoring Muiden and Weesp, the Vechtstreek is administered by three municipalities: Stichtse Vecht, Wijdemeren and De Ronde Venen. Stichtse Vecht is a merger of the former municipalities of Breukelen, Loenen and Maarssen. Wijdemeren is a merger of 's-Graveland, Loosdrecht and Nederhorst Den Berg. And De Ronde Venen is a merger of Mijdrecht, Vinkeveen, Wilnis and Abcoude. If that wasn't complex enough, Stichtse Vecht and De Ronde Venen are in the province of Utrecht, while Wijdemeren is in North Holland. 's-Graveland and Kortenhoef are both in the Vechtstreek and a part of the Gooi area.

Get in

By train

The main Amsterdam-Utrecht railway line runs right through the Vechtstreek, but fast Intercity trains do not stop here. Only the slower Sprinter trains do. Maarssen, Breukelen and Abcoude have stations along the line. Depending on the village you leave from, reaching Amsterdam or Utrecht will take about 20-30 minutes. Trains to Woerden and Gouda do not pass Maarssen.

By bus

Buses are infrequent and unreliable, and it's hard to reach certain places, but if you don't have a car, you don't have a choice. Generally, buses leave from the train stations and go to the surrounding villages without a station.

's-Graveland, Loosdrecht and Kortenhoef are reached via Hilversum. First go to that town by train, then take either bus 105 or 106. Bus 105 has Bussum Station as its last stop and leaves every 30 minutes from 07:00 till around 00:00. It takes around 10 minutes to reach bus stop Smidsbrug at the centre of 's-Graveland. Bus 106 ends at Weesp station, but it only leaves once per hour. After 10 minutes, get out at bus stop Kerklaan, also in the center of 's-Graveland.

Bus 38 runs between Maarssen train station and Utrecht Centraal, but not through the centre of Maarssen. Other buses that run through Maarssen are the 35 and 36.

By car

The Vechtstreek is well connected by road. Motorway A2 runs between Amsterdam and Utrecht and is the main access road for all important villages in the Vechtstreek. From Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Leiden and Utrecht, drive onto the A2 and then take exit 3 for Abcoude and Nigtevecht, exit 4 for 's-Graveland, Kortenhoef, Loosdrecht, Loenen aan de Vecht, Mijdrecht, Vinkeveen, and Wilnis, exit 5 for Breukelen, and exit 6 for Maarssen. This is a busy road with a lot of traffic jams during peak hours.

Get around

Getting around by public transport buses is possible, but complicated. The easiest way to get around is by car or by bike. Bikes can be rented at the train stations.

See

Castles and estates

Most visitors come to the Vechtstreek for its magnificent 17th and 18th-century estates (Dutch: buitenplaats or landerij). Estates are dotted along the complete course of the Vecht.

Off the Vecht, 's-Graveland has many significant estates. The village became a popular getaway among rich traders from Amsterdam in the Dutch Golden Age, who constructed, bought or inherited large estates at the eastern side of the s-Gravelandsevaart, which used to be an important trade route that connected Amsterdam with Hilversum. As the road wasn't hardened on most places, boat transportation was popular at that time. Now most of the property is owned by Natuurmonumenten, an organisation that buys, protects and manages nature reserves in the Netherlands. It's not a co-incidence that the organisation has its headquarters in 's-Graveland.

Museums

Gapers (Black Moors Head)

These are an ancient symbol of pharmacy in the Netherlands. They look like people yawning (gapers means yawners in Dutch), but really they have their mouths open to take medicine. Sometimes a pill can be seen on their tongue. These symbols were once common in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam. Today they are very rare on buildings.

Usually the head is of a black or Moor man. This is because in the 15-17th centuries, pharmacists would travel through the country with an assistant trying to sell their medicines. Before an audience the pharmacist would give a pill to his assistant. These were often Moors. The assistant would act better. So pharmacies became known by the assistant's head.

Do

There are lakes and waterways on both sides of the Vecht. These lakes and interconnecting waterways are referred to as the Vechtplassen ("the Vecht Lakes"), a series of man-made lakes resulting from the peat extraction. The lakes near Loosdrecht are especilly popular for sailing. West of the river Vecht there is another important area of man-made lakes, the Vinkeveen lakes.

A good way to spend a day is by making a bicycle tour through the area, passing many estates, polders and lakes.

Botshol, a lake area between Abcoude and Waverveen

A popular activity with the locals in the summer is to rent a boat and hit the lakes.

Buy

Breukelen's historic town centre has some nice shopping options.

Eat

Due to the affluent demographic, there are some high class restaurants in the area. There are also plenty of restaurants that cater to the many cyclists, so finding a day time snack or beverage should not be too difficult. Ankeveen is known by the locals as "the village with 0 shops but 4 restaurants". 's-Graveland also has some posh up-scale restaurants. Eateries in Abcoude, Kortenhoef and Nederhorst den Berg are generally cheap and aimed at the locals.

Ankeveen

's-Graveland

Kortenhoef

Loosdrecht

Drink

There's almost no nightlife to speak of in the area, the locals go to the surrounding cities for a night out. It is, however, possible to grab a cup of coffee at one of the restaurants.

Sleep

It's fair to say that accommodation is limited; most visitors spend the night in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Hilversum or other nearby towns. But as the area is a popular getaway destination among the locals, there certainly are options.

Go next

Muiden and Weesp are a part of the Vechtstreek, and each have a lot to offer the visitor. Muiden has a historic river quayside and the magnificent Muiderslot. Weesp was once fortified and several of the bastions, moats and forts have survived till this day.

Routes through Vechtstreek

Amsterdam  N  S  Utrecht Maastricht


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