Magic is real. I know this because the minute we arrived at the beautiful De Haar castle (just outside Utrecht), it started snowing.
And not just snowing, but SNOWING. Big fluffy flakes that gathered on top of the spirals and turrets, making it look like something out of a fairytale.
Or as I prefer to think of it: Hogwarts.
DE HAAR CASTLE
The original foundations of De Haar castle go way back to the 13th century. The De Haar name died out, it was inherited by the Van Zuylen family, and in the late 19th century, they hired Pierre Cuypers (the architect behind the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) to redesign and rebuild it.
It took 20 years, but the end result is STUNNING: stone towers, tall turrets, medieval drawbridges, and funky red and white shutters.
Inside, the archways are beautifully carved, the floor tiles are hand-painted, and the walls are hung with velvet. Every inch is decorated with precious antiques, including porcelain from Japan and China, Flemish tapestries, and old master paintings.
It’s as close to a fairytale castle as you can get, with one liiiiittle difference: it’s REAL.
THE DE HAAR FAMILY
The Baron and Baroness who oversaw the redevelopment of De Haar castle in the early 1900s were an absolutely kick-ass couple.
Baroness Hélène was a lesbian Jew, from the verrrry wealthy Rothschild family. They disinherited her when she married Baron Etienne, because he was a Roman Catholic. She still had a ton of money though, so she paid for the redesign of De Haar castle. She was also a published writer, and the first woman to compete in an international motor race.
The Baron included things in the castle decorating plans to specifically honor his beloved wife. For example: the six-point stars on the ceiling beams, and a beautiful History of Dance mural around the walls of the ballroom, that represented their love of dancing.
There are loaaads more little facts to learn, including a GREAT story about how the staff scared the Nazis away from the castle in the 1940s. It’s definitely worth booking the proper tour so you can hear all about it!
DE HAAR CASTLE TODAY
Wondering about all the modern dresses and electric lights? Well, until recently, the family still lived at De Haar castle for one month of the year.
They would hold parties and banquets, where famous faces from all over the world would gather to eat, drink and dance the night away. Some of the celeb guests who were invited include Coco Chanel, Roger Moore, Joan Collins and Brigitte Bardot!
Even now, there are still private parties held in the castle every year. The staff wear the same uniforms they’ve worn since 1912, the table settings are carefully recreated, and there is dancing in the Ballroom.
All this and modern plumbing too. You gotta admit, that’s pretty cool for a castle over a hundred years old!
KOETSUIS DE HAAR (THE RESTAURANT)
Once you’ve finished exploring the castle and the gardens (which we didn’t – because snow), head to Koetshuis de Haar for lunch.
Housed in the beautiful Coach House building, the restaurant offers a small but delicious menu. We ordered the potato and asparagus soup, which was hot, creamy and utterly moreish. I ate a lot of great Dutch soup on our trip, and this was 100% my favourite of them all!
Then we also got beef croquette sandwiches, which our lovely guide told us were traditional in The Netherlands. Crunchy golden croquettes, filled with a creamy beef mix, and served on soft brown bread, with lots of butter. Delicious.
They had some great vegetarian options, the service was quick and friendly, and the prices were very reasonable. A perfect end to a magical day!
*I was a guest of De Haar castle as part of a press trip with Stena Line ferries.